I say, give it a try!
I breadboard just about every circuit I intend to build first. First of all, resistor values (when using the non precision type) can vary quite a bit. This way I know the components are all working together. Secondly, I have on occasion gotten ahold of some bad info on the pinout of general purpose transistors for example. This is especially important when using substitutions. Last, but not least, I tend to get a feel for how I might lay the circuit out when I solder it all together. etc... etc... etc...
The output transistor does turn on when the IR detector is conducting. The output is held high by a resistor (R4) until the transistor turns on - which pulls the output signal low.
Double check your E-B-C pinouts on the BC548 if you decide to try it again. You can test the transistor using a multimeter on the ohms setting much like you would test a diode.