LEGO City-Scape and Trains Join the Holiday Show
A Lego train plan and cityscape at the Cincinnati Museum Center combined local landmarks with superheroes, including Batman and Spiderman.
The train setup and the Lego cityscape were built by OKILUG, the Ohio Kentucky Indiana LEGO User Group. The exhibit is part of the museum’s Holiday Junction, which also houses the historic Duke Energy Holiday trains.
The layout measures 12 by 24 feet, or, in Lego terms, 448 by 768 pips and uses 336 base plates, each with 1024 pips, according to a press release.
Meet the builders
The builders of OKILUG include: Nick O’Donnell, Andy Mollmann and Mark D. Clark. Primarily as a club, the group builds large city type screens for big shows.
O’Donnell has been building with Legos since he was little, and Mollmann said he had been using Legos since before he could speak. O’Donnell focuses on train and city parts, while Mollmann’s main priority is trains specifically.
Clark said his main focus at OKILUG was to make historic pieces, such as the Music Hall and the Roebling Bridge. The Lego layout includes landmarks such as the Mainstrasse Village Clock Tower, Washington Park (1911), and Albee Theater (1927).
“When you look at the city buildings along Washington Park, I recreated the entire 12th Vine Street scenery just off Liberty, which is all from the period 1860 to 1905,” Clark said.
O’Donnell described OKILUG as a group of artists.
“We design and build our own little things from our imaginations,” he said.
About 95% of the pieces used in the display are personalized, according to O’Donnell, which means they can’t be purchased at most stores and are even rare to find online.
As a group, OKILUG participates in four major trade shows per year, including BRICKmas in Newport on the Levee and the Kentucky Brick Expo which is held in the spring.
Superheroes invade Cincy
Clark said that one of the things you’ll find in hardcore builders is that they love to squeeze little Easter eggs into everything we do. For example, a plumber entering a building with flowing water.
“Things that no ordinary person will see,” he says. “It engages our visitors and allows them to participate and try to find all the nuances and little gags that we put into our work.”
O’Donnell said they really like to have a little fantasy.
“I also feel like comic book heroes and Star Wars characters are bringing kids there, to help them feel more connected to the screen,” he said. “It’s really fun to see Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker take the carnival tour.”
An artist’s dream
O’Donnell said that the fact that OKILUG’s Lego layout is shown in the center of the museum is the biggest difference from the group’s previous displays.
“They’ve been nothing but complacent and friendly to us,” O’Donnell said. “We really enjoyed being here and being a part of Holiday Junction. We look forward to doing this for many years, and adding more builds as well. … Bigger and better for next year.
Clark said every artist wants to see their work on display in a place like the Cincinnati Museum Center.
“It is a world class facility,” he said. “Especially with the tradition of Duke Energy trains. For us as builders… It’s unbelievable. “
O’Donnell can’t wait to bring his kids to the museum, as his grandmother and parents took him to see the trains as a child, before they were called Duke Energy trains.
“I think it brings back some of that nostalgia that we lost,” said O’Donnell, referring to families who go downtown and watch trains and vacations through store windows.
O’Donnell is also happy that the Cincinnati Museum Center now owns the trains. “They put all of their time and effort into taking care of themselves, so they will be here for another generation.”