Lego train pulls into town

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New display and science show examine transport history

Trains, planes and automobiles will roll into St. Albert this weekend as a pair of Lego exhibits show off the science of transportation.

Wheels, Wings & Waves: a Lego World of Transportation opens today at Edmonton’s Telus World of Science. A travelling exhibition, it features 20 huge models that depict key moments in transportation history.

Also featured in the exhibit are massive models built by the Northern Alberta Lego Users Group (NALUG). The group is coincidentally exhibiting a store-sized train model of the European landscape in Grandin mall this week.

Lego is all about engineering and creativity, says Frank Florian, director of public programs at Telus, and he hopes this exhibit will encourage people to think about how they get around. “Our modes of transportation have always changed. Who knows what the future holds?”

Travelling show

Robin Sather, a Lego certified professional from B.C., was clicking the last few pieces into place Thursday morning at the science centre. “Transportation’s fun,” he says, “and kids love wings, wheels and waves.”

The show celebrates the history of transportation by modelling moments such as Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe and the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, Sather says. “It really made the world a smaller place.” Panels next to the displays help put them in context.

Sather’s contribution is the landscape in the centre of the exhibit. Depicting a coastal mountain town, the display features a moving train and hot-air balloon, flashing lights and a crashed UFO.

NALUG originally planned to have their model of Europe at the show, Florian said, but couldn’t find transport for it. Instead, they’ll have their scale model of the Edmonton High Level Bridge on display.

The European model was unveiled at the Great Edmonton Model Train Show on Sept. 18 and 19, says St. Albert’s Laszlo Szojka, who helped build it. At six metres by 18 metres, it features about 500,000 pieces and took four months to build.

One of the biggest challenges was simply moving it, Szojka says. “We rented a 26-foot truck,” he says, and mounted the model to seven tables. It took 14 hours just to set the display up.

The display melds many European nations, including France, Britain and Ukraine, into a single rail-connected landscape. Eleven trains rattle past mountains, Ferris wheels, and the Eiffel Tower, and travel under the waves through the Chunnel past moving fish. At the far side of the display, working cranes load shipping containers onto a three-metre long cargo ship in a Hong-Kong style shipyard. Look close, and you’ll also see pigs playing soccer, Santa taking the train, and Darth Vader fishing with his happy animal friends.

“The kids and adults [at the show]couldn’t believe it,” Szojka says of the model. NALUG now has it on display across from the helicopter ride in Grandin mall.

More to come

Telus will add more to the exhibit in weeks to come, Florian says, including guest speakers from local car and aviation clubs and a Lego contest with cash prizes. Visitors will also have the chance to build and race the cars of the future. “Will we have hover cars like Luke Skywalker drives in Star Wars?”

Szojka and NALUG plan to add more landmarks to the train display (such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa). “What we want is to make it even more detailed.” It’s behind glass for now, but the group hopes to open it to the public in the near future.

Call 780-451-3344 for more on the Telus exhibit.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.