All aboard LEGO train display at Oak Lawn Library

  • Written by Kelly White

katie harney photo 4-12

                                                                            Photo by Kelly White

Katie Harney (from left), of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, looks at the giant LEGO display at the Oak Lawn Public Library on Saturday afternoon with her mother, Sue Atzhorn, of Orland Park, and her son, Andrew Harney, 2. 

The third annual LEGO Train Display was held this past weekend at the Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., and was created by the Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club. 

Oak Lawn brothers Kenny and P.J. Mulligan enjoy building with LEGOs in their free time. One of their favorite LEGO exhibits visited Oak Lawn Public Library this weekend for the LEGO Train Show.

“This is our third year coming to this event,” Kenny, 9, said.

“I like to come every year to look at the different LEGO displays to get ideas of things we can build at home,” P.J., 11, said.

The display was held free of charge at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., in Oak Lawn, and was created by the Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club. It featured a 50-foot-long-by 15-foot-wide display of running trains, pop culture references and original creations on Saturday and Sunday.

“I love hosting the LEGO Train Show here at the library because of the reaction of the crowd, both young and old,” said Jim Deiters, director of the Oak Lawn Public Library. “It is so much fun to see adults pointing out the imaginative castles and skyscrapers and trains to their children. I am never sure who is having more fun. The exhibit inspires creativity and imagination through play and the benefit of the caregiver-child shared experience bringing them closer.”

The Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club is a LEGO fan-built group made of 25 active adult members, ranging from their mid-20’s to mid-50’s who enjoy building, designing and displaying LEGO creations for public display. Club members are encouraged to create buildings, trains and more in any genre they prefer. They currently display six to seven times a year at various venues including public libraries throughout the Chicago area.

Some specific items in the layouts at the Oak Lawn Public Library included towns, space, cities (including Chicago) and medieval castles, along with Star Wars and Harry Potter references. A train was used to connect all the different areas together into a cohesive display.

The group’s love of LEGO and the opportunity to be creative is what keeps them participating in shows, according to Jamie LeBlanc, president of the Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club.

LeBlanc, of Virgil, Ill., has been an active member of the club for 16 years.

“We spur each other on to build and outdo one another,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a healthy one-upmanship and we are always encouraging each other to try something new and different.”

This was the library’s third time hosting the event with the Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club. The previous two displays were held in 2014 and 2016. However, the library also held the Illinois LEGO Train Club at the library in February of 2010 and 2012. 

“Oak Lawn has always been good to us and the library is very accommodating,” LeBlanc said. “Everyone that works there is nice and welcoming. All of the patrons of Oak Lawn’s Library are also very supportive of this event. So many people come out and have nice things to say about our display. That feedback is always greatly appreciated.”

Library staff and patrons agreed with LeBlanc’s positive perspective.

“My daughter loves LEGOs, so this was perfect for us,” said Amanda Pletsch, of Oak Lawn.

“I enjoy not only looking at the overall magnitude of the display, but the small items hidden in plain sight that are fun to notice,” said Emily Kenny, youth services associate at the library. “It is amazing to see the build and I think the kid in all of us will be inspired to be a little more creative in life.”

The event never fails to draw in a large crowd and continues to grow in popularity every year among fans and residents. In 2014, library staff recorded a little over 2,000 people for the two-day event. In 2016, there was over a 100 percent increase in attendance with 4,800 visitors for the two days, according to Erin Foley, marketing and communications manager for the Oak Lawn Public Library.

“This is my first time here and it’s definitely a lot cooler than I expected,” said Katie Bickett, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. “I will definitely be back again next year.”