Record crowd expected for annual Lego Train Show

A 9-foot tall model of the Willis Tower that took two weeks to build using about 14,000 little plastic bricks was among the many buildings created for a Lego cityscape, for the annual Lego Train Show at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

“It’s amazing,” said Adam Mohr of Naperville, who with his two sons and the rest of Cub Scout Pack 889, visited Sunday on what was expected to be a record weekend crowd for the show’s 10th anniversary.

A city scene by Bartlett resident Roger Snow was among several themed displays that also included Indiana Jones Brick Adventures, A Toy Story, an exact replica of the Cantigny visitors center, a medieval village and even a bright blue Rickenbacker bass guitar — all made of the iconic Lego blocks.

“I was going to become an architect but I became an engineer instead,” explained Snow, who has displayed at the show since 2004.

He added that a true scale model of what he still calls “the Sears Tower,” would have been 27 feet tall and a bit difficult to erect, except maybe in a gymnasium. That wouldn’t have been his biggest project, though. Another building in his fanciful city took four weeks and 28,000 bricks to assemble.

Snow was among 18 members of the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club to display their intricate creations connected by a model train to an appreciative audience that stood two and three rows deep to get a look.

“I don’t know man, that’s unbelievable,” said Andy Johnson of West Chicago, looking at the detail in the medieval town display. Johnson, who brought his son, Michael, 6, said it was the fourth Lego show he has attended at Cantigny.

“I have to admit, they’ve outdone themselves this year,” Johnson said.

That’s good news for Jamie LeBlanc, a logistics planner by profession and president of the Northern Illinois Train Club for the past several years. Ten years ago, the enthusiasts paired with Cantigny to fill an idle winter weekend. One display was featured at that first show attended by about 700 people.

“Every year, we keep growing,” LeBlanc said. “We take it to the Nth degree. They’re just amazed we are building something from scratch.”

About 10,000 visitors were expected this weekend, well above the 6,000 last year, according to Laura Evans, director of visitor services for Cantigny.

“People just connect with Legos, no pun intended,” she said. “It’s fun for children, it’s fun for families, adults love it too. Everybody can relate to Legos.”

LeBlanc said the club holds six or seven shows a year but this is the most popular. The models are built elsewhere in sections and assembled on site. Members are given free reign of what genre to pursue. He equates the work with artistry and a break from the day to day life spent in cubicles and on computers.

“This is what keeps the other side of the brain active and alive,” said LeBlanc.

  Jan Foster and her grandchildren Payton, 10, Troy, 6, and Colin Foster, 8, check out one of the many train layouts Sunday at the Lego Train Show at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Mark Black/
  Cousins Nathan Riess, 6, and Emma Liptak, 8, check out one of the many train layouts Sunday during the Lego Train Show at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Mark Black/
  Lego enthusiasts attend the Lego Train Show Sunday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. A record crowd was expected for the weekend event. Mark Black/
  Joe Fedinec and his daughter, Hannah, 5, of Woodridge peer up at the skyscrapers made of Legos during the Lego Train Show Sunday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Mark Black/
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