Saturday, February 2, 2013

Trains and Legomania Return to Wenham Museum

                                           photo by Stephanie Francis

By Stephanie Francis
Gordon College News Service
January 31, 2013
(This story appeared February 1, 2013, in the Boston Globe, Your Town edition.)

Ever since he was a little kid Jonathan Dallas liked making cities. Dallas, who is now a member of the New England Lego Users Group (NELUG), remembers discovering the joy of laying out a model train and adding the details to make it more real.

One of NELUG’s almost two-dozen members, Dallas will be helping set up the Lego Train Exhibit at the Wenham Museum. The exhibit and Legopalooza are part of the Lego-themed events that the toy museum will be hosting again this winter during school vacation from February 15th to the 19th.

NELUG was founded in 1999 by five adult fans of Legos (also known as AFOL) in the New England area. These Lego enthusiasts met through LUGnet.com—which is where many members find NELUG—and started NELUG. They partnered with the Wenham Museum in 2009 after a show in Wilmington where a Wenham Museum volunteer encouraged them to take their act to Wenham. The exhibit has been a staple of the museum since then. The train exhibit will only be open on the 16th and 17th and Legopalooza is a one day event on the 19th. Both are free with admission.

“The Lego Train exhibit has a broader audience. It is really for all ages,” said Mary McDonald, educator of the museum. “Legopalooza is geared toward kids.” This is why the museum planned the event during February school vacation.

A member of NELUG since 2001, Dallas has been an executive committee member twice as well as helped convert the organization to a non-profit in 2011. Each member of the group must be over the age of 18, pay the annual dues and live in New England. Though the organization does not own any of the trains, members build every part of the display and use models from their private collections.

Legopalooza is an opportunity for playtime. At one and three p.m. children can create Lego masterpieces much like the Lego trains that will be on display. Though children cannot take their creations home, they can take a picture with it for their keepsake. 

“Legopalooza is supposed to be a time of very pure play,” said McDonald. The free time is designed for children to express themselves creatively without being restricted by the burden of a step-by-step kit. Carolyn Nenart, the education director of the Wenham Museum, hopes that children will see the trains and understand “the true meaning of what Legos are, to be a creative building tool.”

“Every year the NELUG come up with a different design and theme,” said Nenart.

Usually for their displays NELUG has three to four train models running at a time on various tracks. Several workers of the museum thought that last year’s monorail train, which had a record breaking layout of 730 feet worth of track, stood out the most, especially considering the NELUG volunteers were still setting up the train when the doors opened to the public.

The exhibit is not as interactive as Legopalooza, but it does still seem to get children’s attention.

“Trains are a big part of these displays,” said Dallas, “because kids love to see things move.”

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