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updated: 12/9/2010 2:03 PM

Trains roll through land of Legos at Cantigny

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  • As model trains chug past, visitors can explore a Lego world  complete with bustling cities  created by the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club.

    As model trains chug past, visitors can explore a Lego world complete with bustling cities created by the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club.
    Courtesy of Cantigny Park

  • Northern Illinois Lego Train Club members like Dave Herring take a full day to set up the train layouts and displays for their annual show at Cantigny in Wheaton.

    Northern Illinois Lego Train Club members like Dave Herring take a full day to set up the train layouts and displays for their annual show at Cantigny in Wheaton.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • The Northern Illinois Lego Train Club's locomotives roll past everything from buildings and vehicles to trees and flowers  all made from Legos.

    The Northern Illinois Lego Train Club's locomotives roll past everything from buildings and vehicles to trees and flowers all made from Legos.
    Courtesy of Cantigny Park

  • Visitors will have more room to explore the displays this year as the Lego Train Show has expanded throughout the Cantigny Visitors Center.

    Visitors will have more room to explore the displays this year as the Lego Train Show has expanded throughout the Cantigny Visitors Center.
    Courtesy of Cantigny Park

  • While children might just be happy to see the Legos and trains, adults are sure to find something humorous in the plastic brick world the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club creates.

    While children might just be happy to see the Legos and trains, adults are sure to find something humorous in the plastic brick world the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club creates.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • A Lego recreation of the Willis Tower stands 12 and a half feet tall in the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club's display at Cantigny.

    A Lego recreation of the Willis Tower stands 12 and a half feet tall in the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club's display at Cantigny.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

"Dispatch, we've a 10-50, truck vs. truck. Property damage only."

"10-4."

"Umm, it appears to be a Krispy Kreme truck and a Dunkin Donuts truck."

"10-4."

"There are doughnuts all over the road. I'm going to need to clear the area. Please send in back up. Everybody. Send everybody."

"10-4."

"Oh, and ask somebody to pick up some coffee, too."

"10-4?"

Lego enthusiasts never know what they're going to find within the Lego city constructed from millions of little plastic bricks each year by the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club at an event at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

Maybe they'll find doughnut-eating Lego police somewhere throughout the show Saturday and Sunday. Maybe they'll find something equally as silly to give them a laugh, builders say.

"The group as a whole loves to put stupid little humor items everywhere for the adults," said Jamie LeBlanc of Virgil, president of the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club. "We've got some inept robbers robbing a bank with a SWAT team nearby. We've got a doughnut crash."

The ninth annual show features a world built of Lego bricks that spans from villages to skyscrapers, as well as scenes with kid-favorites Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Batman, to name a few.

The event has expanded this year throughout the Cantigny Visitors Center and includes a trackless outdoor train for children to ride, as well as a Lego design vendor selling unique construction plans.

Northern Illinois Lego Train Club members gather a day in advance to begin building the display. Each design is unique to the builder, meaning they don't come with instructions like store-bought kits, LeBlanc said.

As many as seven to 10 trains run along two full loops and connect each of the displays.

"Most people think it's going to be a couple of guys with a couple of Ping-Pong tables," LeBlanc said. "We have trees, flowers, typography, streets, streetlights. It's truly a town that is shrunken down with all these little plastic Lego bricks. Most people … think, 'OK, my kid plays with Legos,' and then they come in and they're like, 'Oh, my God.'"

For example, he said, the show features a 12-and-a-half-foot Willis Tower that usually impresses people.

By using more of the Visitors Center, the show will better accommodate the crowds it attracts, organizers said. More than 6,000 people attended the show in a smaller space last year.

"There will be more walking space for everyone to look at all the exhibits," said Laura Evans, director of visitor services. "So having it a little bit more spread out will make it a little bit more enjoyable as well."

For parents of curious kiddos, no fear, Plexiglas protects the displays from being dismantled by little hands.

All ages can love this show, LeBlanc said.

"It all revolves around this little plastic brick," he said. "I sound like a commercial. I wish they would pay me."

He got his first Lego set when he was 6. Every year he still gets Legos for Christmas and his birthday.

"This allows my brain to do creative stuff and get away from spreadsheets and inventory stats," he said. "It lets that side of my brain go crazy."

New this year, the Great Chicago Kiddie Express, a trackless train, will chug outdoors around the visitors center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ride tickets cost $1 each, free for kids younger than 2.

Lego kit builders Brickmania also will have unique kits for sale that aren't typically found in stores. Brickmania has created new designs ranging from castles to World War I and World War II kits to Wild West trains. Recent design instructions include the M4A2 Sherman tank and Type 97 Shinhoto tank.

Doughnut eating-police and inept robbers aside, first-time visitors to the show should imagine a child's Lego construction and then multiply the details by, oh, say, thousands, LeBlanc said.

"It's just like your kids putting something together except we have a lot more Legos," he said.

The show runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Cantigny Visitors Center, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton.

Admission is free with a $5 parking fee. The parking fee is waived for anyone who brings a new, unwrapped toy for the Marine Toys for Tots drop boxes inside the Cantigny Visitors Center.

For details, call (630) 668-5161 or visit cantigny.org.