First, it was the Lego System 
That's how the first Lego city sets looked like. They were called Lego System. Different dimensions of the buildings, flat pastel trees. This is how it all began! Full freedom. The first set I've found was the small house with sloping roof released in 1969. Subsequent sets were released in the early 70's. Cars were various, sometimes without a driver's seat, with a windscreen only, once with a full cabin. Cars with different sizes were released, one as big as the ambulance, and another time smaller size like the Shell truck. I suspect that in those days different ideas were tested. It is worth noting that most of the bricks used for the construction of these houses and cars are still present on the market. However, in another form already, because the bricks evolved over 45 years too. Nevertheless, the size and shape remain the same. The evolution proceeded predominantly in the process of clamping bricks.  The form of interior changed mostly. In addition, the material composition has changed at least twice during these years. It can be seen by comparing a brick from the 70s, 90s and quite new from 2015.
It is worth to mention about few sets released before Town series. Different patterns were used back in those days and they do not always match each other. Generally, good thing was that the structures were made from universal building bricks. Maybe they were more rectangular, but they fulfill the main goal of Lego - joining bricks! Figures, which began to appear in later years were also different. Once appeared to be simple figures without moving hands or legs and once bigger figures appeared very similiar to those present in current Technic sets.
I will not elaborate on the topic of Lego sets before the 80s, but as you can see, there is no consistency in sets and sometimes ratio differs. Cars are smaller than minifigures or there is a lack of space for the driver, etc. Sets were simply different from each other and lacked determined patterns.

The beginnings of Town series

A series of Town dates back to the late 80's. Exactly in 1978 the first sets were released. At the beginning it was a bit like a Lego system, because sets were similiar. For example, medical helicopter without figurines but with cabin fully built using transparent bricks (Lego 626).
The same goes to the cars. The Lego 642 set was interesting. Tow truck, which has a large windscreen with no driver's seat towing a car with small window made of transparent bricks. Although the quality of the bricks was also as high as always, released sets were not consistent and proportionate. Some sets have ordinary figures and vehicles with fully built small cabin, while other vehicles were released without figurines but with small windows. Whatever the sentiment was, those toys where not very functional and very practical. It seems, that Lego tested different concepts.
In the above picture you can see the presentation of the town from the early 80s. Here you can see all kinds of cars available in this period. Small windscreen built with transparent ordinary bricks or tanker with a large windscreen, but still without the driver's seat. In the 80s, car front was made using stickers imposed on ordinary 1x4 brick. This presentation also shows a fire truck from 1980, which already has a place for the driver. Nevertheless, the designers quickly choose what is the best and moved on. Next years brought new better sets. In 1981, vehicles with driver's cabin began to win and more of them came up.
The above picture shows a few of these vehicles. This is much better already, toys are beginning to be functional, more and more cars has an openable roof and doors. The proportions are preserved automatically because of the driver's seat, where a figure must fit. Cars begin to look interesting. Some of you would probably say that there is still something wrong here. Why every car has room for one person only? That is good remark. Well, on the other hand, the car with two seats would have to be wide at least for 6 or 8 studs. Cars like those were also released, but mostly alone. It was Model Team series (Creator grandfather).
Such large vehicles would enforce larger buildings and other structures. It would lose its charm. A car with one seat was in my opinion the best choice.

In 1983 first sets with buildings in Town series were released using road plates or special plates with driveway, such as the Shell station, holiday villa or police station. However, they are not the first such structures released by Lego. In a Lego System series in 1979 Lego 381 police station was released. It had even a normal driver's cabin with a seat in the police car. Normal figures were present as well. 
One of the most interesting things created by Lego are sectional garage doors, which were used in Lego 6384 for the first time in Town series. 
Personally, I think that the turning point in the Town series was year 1985. In that year most of the interesting sets were released in comparison with previous years. Buildings such as airport Lego 6392, Lego 6385 firefighters and many other smaller sets of police, fire brigade or airplanes.
Excellent set of vehicles such as ambulance Lego 6688 or even a 6368 jet plane, it was all the beginning. The following years were simply brilliant. Each set has its charm, its goal. They were refined as much as it is possible. All sets were proportioned and for the creation of cars, planes or boats the same patterns were used. All sets can be easily joined together to form one great city. That's what happened over the next few years. I think it was a golden period of Lego. Many city sets were available at the market till the year 1988. Lego catalogs were getting interesting, and these showed the magic of this period. Ingeniously placed buildings and vehicles, showing several events taking place between peoples. Everything fits together, where vehicles and buildings have been designed with a large degree of diligence. Just look at the presentation of the 1988, which I was able to recreate in the Retor scenery.
Here we have everything required in a small town. Police, fire station, parking garage or gas station. It is worth to pay attention to several details that are usually omitted. Lego designers definitely took to heart to design sets in certain patterns, so it would be possible to combine them all together. Holiday Villa has the same mailboxes as the post offices sets. Postman delivers the same letters that were available in houses sets and they match every mailbox. Recycle bins available in all buildings sets were also the same as in the refuse collection trucks. Petterns were visible at every step, and that was great. It was like a giant puzzles, when you collect hundred sets, then you can create one big great city! For over 10 years the those patterns were used and it would seem that all the vehicles, boats or airplanes look the same. None of these things. You will not find the same two small cars, small boats or aircrafts in sets of Lego from Town series, although one pattern was used to design them.
The photo above shows all small cars from Town series. You will not find two identical cars.
I have noticed, that one iron rule was in place - if you can do it with existing bricks then do it and do not design new ones. Another brilliant thing. The fact that most of the structures used universal bricks which gave the possibility to create alternative constructions. Each set in a series of Town had available at least couple of alternative proposals at the back of the packaging.
It has stimulated the imagination even more and gave us another couple of play-hours. No instructions were available for the alternative proposals, but the pictures were taken in so good angle, that on its basis it is possible to recreate the structure without major problems. Not only the quality of the bricks was high, but also instruction and project of the set. Manual was always colorful and easy to understand. Believe me, this is very important. Once I got a set from another company where manual of the long truck was on one page only (sic!), where all bricks were sketched in a few levels and connected by arrows. That is not all, because it was in black and white colors! I could understood more from a photo on the packaging than from such manual. When it comes to the Lego structures, they were always designed so that the building bricks overlap creating a very stable structure. There was no chance when you press on one side of the building it will collapse. In addition, the designers took a great deal to create alternative constructions and making them available on the back of the packaging. It was all served in a large box with cardboard tray, easy to open from both sides. Larger sets had openable tab at the front of the box, under which you could see the box interior behind the transparent foil. It was simply maginificent. Some time ago I described a set of Lego 6349 Holiday Villa, where you can find more information about what I've just wrote.

The following years of Town series

The following years were getting only better. The beginnings of the 90s brought new great ideas, such as the brilliant monorail train or international airport
The monorail train is sought until now and is very hard to get, as the price can reach up to 300 EUR. The idea of the train was to combine the city with the airport.
On the one side, the train has a station on the green plate, which leads to the airport. While on the other side, it is a gray concrete plate leading to the city. The train was electric powered by 9V battery on board. Raised monorail was designed as you can see on the photo, what gave additional possibilities with building the path of the train. Most important thing is, that this set was another great element of big city puzzles. The train with the stations can blend in the scenery of the city without any problem. Special set with monorails Lego 6347 was released as well giving the possibility of expanding the city even more!
In 90s a number of great sets were released, such as a police station with port, container ships, docking port with a crane, an international airport and a new fire department building. Lots of water sets, airplanes, vacation homes and other houses, city services like a police, fire department or medical. In addition there was also a large series of trains and railway stations. Construction vehicles such as excavators, dump trucks and bulldozers were also released and not forgotten. For a period of 11 years Lego created approx. 440 sets, all were created using the same patterns. Every set was simply great, very well designed with much care. They fit together perfectly and you could easily arrange them in many city or any other sceneries.

Subtheme Paradisa

In 1992 subtheme Paradisa has been started, which was a kind of paradise. It reflected a certain level of luxury, a land flowing with milk and honey. Sets were released as subtheme of Town series and it is worth mentioning. The colors used in sets of Paradisa was mostly pink and white, based on light green plates. It did not fit too much into the scenery of the city from Town series, but the design of buildings was quite similar. Such a paradise town fits more as a separate holiday resort away from the city.
Just look at the photo and everything speaks for itself. Fun, beach, luxury, simply paradise! Definitely this subtheme had its own magic. 18 quite interesting sets were released between 1992 and 1997. It is worth noting that Paradisa was made using ordinary bricks and figures. Paradisa could also be played by boys, despite the fact that color scheme would indicate those sets was only for girls. Personally, I owned several sets of Paradisa and I have very good memories of them, the same as series of Town. The counterpart of this series are currently Lego Friends, however, new paradise sets are definitely designed just for girls. Friends have new figures, more pink and special bricks designed for girls mostly. I don't think any boy would like to have them.

Lets go back to the Town series again. It is worth mentioning about petrol stations in Lego. Since the beginning of the Lego bricks, Shell company was promoted in all possible fuel sets. In the 70s and 80s lots of them were released.
This changed in 1992 when the licence to use the Shell logo expired and both parties agreed not to extend it. A fictitious Octan corporation, which exists to this day was created. This has brought several benefits such as the lack of need for licensing and the requirements for doing so, such as the need to sell in specific places. The first quite interesting set with new logo appeared in the form of 6397-1: Gas N' Wash Express shown in the picture above. Color scheme was changed as well for fuel sets. Prior to 1992 a yellow-red pattern was used, which actually came from the Shell logo. Octan, however, adopted the colors of red and green. Green bricks were not specially used in previous years. The new color scheme definitely gave them a new purpose. Many interesting Octan sets were released using red-green color scheme in the following years after 1992.

Town series was continued until 2000. However, in my humble opinion, the magnificence of a Town series ended in 1996. At the end couple of interesting sets were released such as 6335 Indy Transport with a very clever mechanism to lower the upper deck for the racers or a set of Lego 6581 Dig 'N' Dump created based on a real Volvo truck. Those sets were created using usual Town patterns and they fit naturally in the Town scenery. Unfortunately, in 1997 subtheme Juniorised was released in a series of Town. Those sets can be viewed here.
Personally, I think it was a very poor idea. I'm not sure what were the foundation of this subtheme, but after the name we can guess that it was about these smaller kids who allegedly had problems with assembling of sets previously released. The move to simplify sets and release such series as Juniorised killed completely Town series and it was like a shot in the foot. Vehicles were very simple, made up from no more than 20 bricks sometimes! Basis under the car shown in the picture above is one big part of where such a basis could be made from 5 universal bricks. Instead of transparent bricks as lights, one brick with drawing of car's front were used just like a sticker in the 70s. Generally, in my opinion it was very bad idea. Cars do not even have fenders to minimize the number of parts. The main advantage of Lego was, is and will be the power of assembling and connecting bricks! Minimizing bricks is like a silent killer! Fortunately, this subtheme did not stay long because until the year 2000, after which it was canceled and I suspect no one specially miss it.
In 1998 one subtheme was created worth mentioning - Res-Q. It is, unfortunately, in certain sets a bit similar to Juniorised, but generally this subtheme has its own magic! Sets are mainly rescue boats and cars, bringing coastal and water help. There was even the building of the marina and port.
In later years couple of sets were re-released, such as for example the Breezeway Cafe Lego 10037 in 2002 as a the same set as Lego 6376 from 1990. In the years from 2000 to 2005 there was no adequate series to Town. There were small sets of World City or Creator theme, but that's not the same. You could say that it was quite a big break in the city series, particularly since 1997 nothing really interesting were released. Fortunately, City theme was started in 2005 and is being continued to this day.

City Series

I have the impression that the City series went simply forward with the world. As in the 90s real cars were mostly squared, as in the twenty-first century cars have become more round and the same happened with cars in new Lego sets! Cars have also been enlarged to the width of 6 studs. In a Town series was a pattern to create cars wide to 4 studs.
New vehicles in the City series does not look bad, they are pretty cool. Several additional bricks have been created to achieve the effect of oval body. Rounded fenders, rounded roofs of cars or small slopy 1x1 bricks, which were used as headlights of a doctors car showed above.
Definitely City series has introduced a fresh ideas and new perspective, at least partially. A slight difference is that the models became larger, but mostly cars! Fortunately figures remained the same, and I hope that this will never change.
In contrast, a series of City buildings as police, did not grow much. Floor height is equal to 6 studs, not like most of the Town buildings - 5 studs. This is not the rule though, because tall buildings with height of 6 studs also occured in Town series, for example the fire station buildings. It is interesting that in a City series residential buildings are missing. In a Town there was a range of holiday houses or other urban buildings like storey car park. It was not all, because stables and horses were also present. In a City series mainly buildings and vehicles of public service are available. Does this mean that the city is built without any other buildings? Actually it is not. Since 2007 series of modular buildings are available that are similar to series of Creator. These buildings are fully built around and resemble ordinary urban buildings.
Source: minifigpriceguide.com

But this is not the same though, because the police building from City series has back opened just like the buildings in Town series. It may look strange to put modular building fully closed right to the police department with back opened. This is not the same as to place stables next to the police station created in the same pattern with back opened as it was done in 1988.
In addition, the modular buildings are great sets consisting of more than 2,000 bricks! In a Town you won't find a set with more than 1,000 bricks. It sounds sensational, but the price of the set is adequately high. The first set I've checked of modular detective building from 2015 - Lego 10246 costs 200 EUR! Of course I'm not saying that it should cost less, but not many people can afford such an expense immediately. How can it be compared to eg. Lego 6349 Holiday Villa consisting of 350 bricks which costs 30 years ago at least 5x less? Exactly. At the moment it is quite difficult to construct your own city, where usually you need at least couple of these buildings. This is not all, because you would need police buildings, fire station, etc. I think that it is quite a serious shortage. There are no sets of ordinary houses in a City series with back opened, consisting of a regular amount of 300-500 bricks. Theoretically, you can use the sets from the Creator series, for example, this very nice 4996 Beach House set.
However, it is not the same, because the house does not fit into the City patterns, it is similarly fully built around as modular buildings and have no figures. Although, this set is more affordable because consists out of 500 bricks.

Summary

The article presents the evolution of the city series in general way. A series of Town and City has much more curiosities, but this article was supposed to be a brief overview of the evolution in the short form. I could write a lot more about water sets, airport, airplanes, vehicles, houses and many others. I'm trying to do it slowly by writing detailed descriptions of classic sets on this page. If you are interested, feel free to check the Lego database in menu above. I have not written much about trains, but technically speaking it was a different series in the 90s at least, which is called Trains. One day I will write article about trains too, because there is a lot of interesting things as well.In conclusion, I personally think that the best sets were released during Town series. Sorry, but City even though it has a cool models of vehicles and some pretty nice buildings, it has shortcomings and worrisome differences. Im trying to be objective here, even though I know Town series a lot better than City. Nevertheless, the last few months I could get to know a little bit more about City series and I generally know what is now on the market. I have basic overview and that should be enough to draw conclusions. Thanks for reading this long article, I hope you have learned something new!
Many thanks for brickset.com and toysperiod.com crew for creating the great databases at your websites. This article would be much harder to write without them.

In the next article I will describe differences between Town and City series in greater detail.

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