Working on the railroad, brick by brick

A display made entirely of Lego (even the trains) sets the standard for this year's Holiday Festival of Trains at the B&O Railroad Museum

November 26, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

Yes, Lego makes trains. And no, there's no telling how many thousands of bricks went into the making of this particular train garden.

Abe Friedman smiles as he recounts the most frequent questions he's hearing this weekend at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, where an amazingly intricate and wondrously expansive Lego creation is kicking-off this season's Holiday Festival of Trains.

Each weekend through the holiday season, different model railroading clubs will be setting up train gardens in the museum's roundhouse. Some will remain up just a few days, others a few weeks. By the time the festival ends Jan. 2, three gardens will be up and running simultaneously.

The Lego folks are clearly setting the bar high for everyone else.

"This is certainly the biggest display we've ever done," says Friedman, a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Lego Train Club. "Everything is made of Lego, except for the table and the Plexiglas."

That everything includes not only the trains themselves — six trains run concurrently on the tracks, which are stretched over several tables — but some 60 buildings, a grove of pine trees, even a giant snowman that stands taller than some of the buildings.

OK, so not everything is built to scale. That doesn't make the garden any less impressive. Just ask 5-year-old Ryan McCandless.

"They're awesome," says Ryan, who was visiting from Annapolis with his mom, Cara.

"We came here last year," his mom says with a laugh and roll of her eyes, "and then we spent the rest of the day building Legos."

For Harry Bruggman, 87, seeing the Lego garden brought back memories of long-ago Baltimore, when his passion for trains was first kindled. He was part of three generations of Bruggmans touring the roundhouse Friday afternoon — joined by his son, Thomas, 59, and grandson Twill, 5 — and the whole clan was having a blast.

"Train gardens in Baltimore were always a big thing," says Bruggman. "Almost everybody had a Christmas train garden in their house."

Maybe, but not like this one. The Lego garden, which will be up through Sunday, Nov. 28, includes a CVS store and a Macy's, a movie theater playing "The 50-Year Brick" and a six-story "Oriental Adventure Inn." There's even a suspension bridge carrying the track from one table to another.

Museum spokeswoman Dana Kirn says this is the seventh year the Lego locomotive lovers have set up under the roundhouse dome, and they have yet to disappoint. "It changes every time they come," she says, "and it blows our minds, just what they add to it."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

If you go

The Holiday Festival of Trains continues through Jan. 2 at the B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St. Admission is $8-$14. Call 410-752-2490 or go to borail.org.

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