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(Written by Mark H. Avery)

In this series, I have been sharing my own personal story in the LEGO hobby, including slowly building up a collection of sets from the 1970s to the 1990s, and constructing our own LEGO city called “LEGOland”. If you would like to read the previous parts of this series, you can find them here: My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 1 I and My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 2. And now, let’s continue…

A MAJOR SETBACK AND A NEW BEGINNING…

In February of 1999, disaster struck our family. The upper part of our house went up in flames. Thank God, nobody was in the house and nobody got hurt. But LEGOland (see picture above) took the brunt of the fire. There is nothing more disgusting than burned up and melted LEGO, mixed with the rubble of collapsed ceilings and walls. Remember, most of the layout had been built on the floor. Firefighters in heavy boots stepping on everything and pouring water on the flames didn’t help the situation.

A colleague of mine, Robert, decided against my objections to write a letter to the LEGO Company about what happened, with some pictures from before the fire. They wrote back to him a polite letter that they were sorry, but they were only able to help nonprofit institutions with LEGO. But a few weeks later, the #4217 LEGO Playdesk & Bricks Basic Building Set with 200+ pieces and a playtable/storage unit came in the mail. As I remember, there wasn’t even a cover letter with it.

My son, Jeremy, spent hours at a time for months picking through the rubble of LEGOland. He salvaged parts of buildings, broken trucks, even semi-intact train cars, and, most importantly, minifigures. He saved hundreds of minifigures’ lives; many still in good condition, and some with permanently melted together legs. Several large tubs of random bricks were also collected by Jeremy, as well as train tracks (some broken, some still usable). Eventually, we separated out the pieces from ash and dirt, sorted them by color, and started washing and drying them (white bricks were the worst, as many got badly stained). Baseplates that were placed flatly on shelves mostly survived. Those that extended past the shelves had their sides melt and fold. Most of the few unopened sets I had at the time were in cartons in the basement. They were quickly moved to a neighbor’s house to escape further water damage.

We found a temporary house around the corner to live in. LEGO was the least of our concerns at that time. There were endless issues with the insurance company (because of inflation, we didn’t have enough insurance), and later the contractor. We went looking to buy a new house in the neighborhood, but eventually decided to rebuild. We lived in a small rented house for about two years until we could move back in (December, 2000). Our almost all new house was extended in the front by about 15 feet, giving us an extra room on each level. It also had a full third floor with eight-foot ceilings rather than an attic. There was even a small crawl space above that, where I now store empty LEGO set boxes. My two oldest children had large bedrooms up there, and myself an office with a full wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

From the beginning, the center room on the upper floor was planned to be a LEGO room with a small picture window between the room and the hallway so people could see the town without actually walking in (see picture above taken through the window). Several electric outlets around the room were connected to a master switch near the light switch, so that I could turn on various plug-in devices from the doorway. The room measures about 13 feet by 15 feet, and, except for some filing cabinets and storage boxes in the corner, it is fully dedicated to LEGO. The walls were painted light-blue to match the sky, and a darker blue carpet covers the floor to use as “water”. Eventually, all of the children left for college and to live their own lives, and while they are always willing to help, the LEGO town became really only my project to plan and play with.

SLOWLY REBUILDING THE CITY…

We started rebuilding on a bridge table, then added a six-foot table for town buildings. In some cases, I used old instruction booklets and random pieces to rebuild sets that had been destroyed. Twenty-five years ago, LEGO City sets seemed to have had much less specialized pieces. And, often, a different or more common piece was a reasonable substitute for any specialized ones. Thanks to the instructions, many of the sets lost in the fire have been replaced over the years – albeit in a modified versions. The agreement I had with my spouse was that all the miscellaneous boxes we had (most of which were mine) when we moved back in would go into the LEGO room until they were unpacked. This was a great motivation for me to get the boxes unpacked and stuff put away. Another feature of this room is a set of deep shelves along one wall. Unfortunately, someone had misadvised me, and I used one-quarter inch plywood for the shelves – a mistake I am still paying for. Even though there is only lightweight LEGO on the shelves, they still sag.

The tables disappeared fairly quickly, and the town got set up on the floor. Soon, another set of home-built shelves was added on one wall, then two deep shelves under the windows. Two plastic shelves placed on a hollow-core door under the picture window looking into the room came next.
About five years ago, when just about all the storage boxes were finally moved or disappeared, the far wall got two industrial shelving units, each with four shelves and about twenty inches deep. More room to build! Just like with the first version of the town before the fire, the layout first came up to the doorway and then out into the hallway (see picture below). For a short while, that section was raised on low box tops to distinguish “land” from “water”. But with little grandchildren visiting the guest bedroom down the hall, I felt that I was asking for trouble. I cleared both the hall and doorway, so the LEGO room door can now close (and lock).

Referring to a large public model train exhibit in Florida, someone once wrote (Model Railroader Magazine, June 1988) “If one individual, working at home, were to build a railroad like this, by the time he got halfway through, the first part would have to be overhauled. It would take an entire lifetime to complete the project. If we (in Florida) had started out planning the project by putting diagrams on paper instead of just jumping in and doing it, it would have taken us longer to plan it than to do it.”

There are times I feel the same about my LEGO city. But that’s my own doing. It’s partly because much of the layout is on the floor, partly because I am sometimes a klutz (all thumbs), and partly because I allow ten-year-old grandchildren to play, build, and move things around. When I fix one thing, I knock over something else. Just trying to deal with the accumulating dust is a major challenge.

TYPES OF BUILDINGS IN THE LAYOUT…

The current layout consists of various types of buildings and vehicles, both from official sets and custom builds. Here is a breakdown of the type of buildings and other creations in the city.

  • Models that come out of the box and are built according to the instructions. I do this with most vehicles.
  • Models with minor variations from the official set. I may move buildings from plates to baseplates, add or remove backs to buildings, etc.
  • Models with major variations. I’ve taken two or even three of the old LEGOLAND sets and built one on top of the other (changing the door on the upper levels into windows).
  • Models that I’ve seen at LEGO events, in LEGO stores, or online that I’ve tried to reproduce at home with whatever parts I have. In other words, I’m “borrowing” other peoples’ MOCs (My-Own-Creation).
  • Models of structures that I’ve seen pictures of in a newspaper or magazine, a train catalog, or online that I’ve decided would make good buildings for my layout, and I’ve tried to reproduce.
  • Models were I’ve sat at the desk and built from total scratch.

If I count only the last three categories as MOCs, I have over 100 MOCs on my layout, which is certainly less than majority of the structures. I don’t claim to be especially good or creative with MOCs. Most of my buildings are modern, which means, almost by definition, no intricate brickwork.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Next time, I will discuss the current layout, and what’s included in my LEGO city today. Your comments, questions, and feedback are welcome. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Mark H. Avery is a LEGO Town/City builder and collector for over 30 years. This is the first of a series that will trace his personal LEGO experiences and offer his personal insights on LEGO related issues. All opinions are his own.

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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LEGO Ideas 10th birthday & new contest!

by admin on November 14, 2018

in Community News

LEGO Ideas celebrated its 10th birthday on November 8th. It all started in 2008, through a partnership with Cuusoo System in Japan, as an opportunity to make LEGO fans’ ideas a reality. Fast forward to today, LEGO Ideas has over 1 million members, over 26,000 submitted ideas, almost 200 ideas with 10,000 supporters, and 23 official LEGO sets. Moreover, earlier this year, contests for teen and adult LEGO fans migrated from LEGO ReBrick to LEGO Ideas, bringing even more activity to the platform. LEGO designer Mark Stafford shared on Twitter a photo of the birthday cake the LEGO Ideas team had to celebrate the event. Check out that awesome frosting! Yum! 🙂

Currently, there are three contests on LEGO Ideas, two of which we already talked about before: the LEGO James Bond Contest with an entry deadline of November 27th, and the LEGO Creator Build An Add-On Contest with an entry deadline of December 4th (see links at the end of this post for more details). In addition to those two, a third contest was added recently for LEGO Harry Potter fans. Since we haven’t talked about this contest yet, I’m including the details below.

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – OVERVIEW: It’s time to do your magic! Have you ever imagined being a part of the Wizarding World? The LEGO Ideas team invites you into the LEGO world of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, but be aware that you need to use your magical, creative powers to enter. If you are a fan of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, you probably have considered how cool it would be to have your own wand, broomstick or suitcase filled with magical creatures. Now is your chance! Let out your magical building powers to bring your favorite item or creature from the Wizarding World to life in LEGO bricks!

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – HOW TO ENTER: You can enter this magical contest by building within one of the following categories: 1.) Creatures from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, and 2.) Hogwarts items and icons. In your entry headline, the first word must state which category you have chosen to build within. If you have chosen to build within category 1, please include “Creatures” as the first word in your headline, and if you have chosen to build within category 2, please include “Hogwarts” as the first word in your headline. Submissions may be in either physical bricks or by using a digital building tool such as LEGO Digital Designer. You’re welcome to use image editing tools, such as Photoshop, to enhance your photos/presentation. Take up to five photos of your creation and submit them to the contest. Make sure to show off your model from all angles and any particular features or functions of your creation. Add a title and a short description. Upload your entry to the contest using the blue Submit Your Entry button on this page.

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – RULES: Entries must only contain LEGO system elements (no LEGO DUPLO or LEGO Technic elements). These LEGO elements must be genuine (not cut, glued, drawn on or otherwise modified). Entries should relate to the Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts Wizarding World and not consist of or contain copies of any other existing third party work or creation or infringements of any third party intellectual property right. This means all entries containing third party IPs, such as printed parts or minifigures accessories from Marvel and DC Comics Super Heroes, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. will not be eligible for the contest – this also includes The LEGO Movie. Please don’t use any minifigures in your entry. No custom artwork (stickers/prints). Entries may only contain official LEGO-made stickers or printed elements from non-licensed sets, with the exception of Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts. You must be the original creator of all creative work you submit (the model, images, photographs, description text, etc.) and you must have the exclusive right to submit your model to this LEGO Ideas contest. You may not submit a model made by, or on behalf of, someone else. Entries must be new creations and not previously posted online or submitted to any other contest. You must be at least 13 years old to participate and enter. Please note that there are other rules and restrictions, so make sure you read through the contest page carefully.

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – DEADLINE: You must submit your entry by November 29th, 2018 at 6:00 a.m. EST. You can use an online time-zone converter to make sure you don’t miss the deadline.

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – JUDGES: A panel of judges consisting of members from the LEGO Harry Potter team will choose a grand prize winner and two runner ups based on: overall coolness and originality – 25%, most inspired details – 25%, relevance to contest theme, 25%, and best use of LEGO elements – 25%. In addition, one bonus prize winner will be randomly selected from a bonus pool of high-quality contest submissions.

LEGO HARRY POTTER CONTEST – PRIZES: One grand prize winner will receive the following: the #71043 Hogwarts Castle, and the full 2018 portfolio of LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Fantastic Beasts sets (#75950, #75951, #75952, #75953, #75954, #75955, #75956). Two runner up winners and a bonus winner will each receive the following the #71043 LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.

LEGO CONTEST – WINNERS ANNOUNCEMENT: Potential winners will be contacted via the entrant’s email address after December 13th, 2018. Winners will be announced on LEGO Ideas when all winners have returned the signed Winner’s Certification Documents. A winner who does not return their Winner’s Certification Document within one week (5 days) of receiving it will be disqualified, and a new winner will be selected.

I was really hoping that LEGO is going to run a contest for Harry Potter fans, as there is so much talent in the LEGO Harry Potter fan community! It’s a great chance to build your own magical creatures, items and icons. I’m certain that this contest is going to have some great entries! If you would like to get some inspiration, you can take a look at the LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Fantastic Beasts sets at the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? How do you like the three contests currently running on LEGO Ideas? And, which one is your favorite LEGO Ideas set so far? Are there any projects you are currently supporting? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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LEGO in China newsroom announcements

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A couple of interesting pieces of news came out a few days ago, both related to LEGO’s presence in China. The LEGO Group has been making great effort to expand into the Chinese market, as it is a mostly untapped territory with the potential of a millions of new customers. Back in 2016, LEGO opened […]

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LEGO Overwatch preorder & other details

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As we discussed a couple of days ago, six new LEGO Overwatch sets are available for preorder, and according to the details at the Online LEGO Shop, they will be shipped on January 1st of next year. This new theme is similar to other novel collections LEGO tried out in the past, with small to […]

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LEGO Double VIP Points, free set & more!

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LEGO is running a couple of specials right now that weren’t announced at the beginning of the month when we talked about the November 2018 – New LEGO Sets & Promotions, so I wanted to make sure you are aware of them. 🙂 ➡ FREE LEGO HARRY POTTER DIAGON ALLEY SET: From now until November […]

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Brick Breakdown: Winter Village Fire Station

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(Written by William) Ever since the #10199 LEGO Winter Village Toy Shop was released in 2009, I’ve been enamored with the LEGO Winter Village seasonal series. In more recent years, we got the #10254 LEGO Winter Holiday Train in 2016, the #10259 LEGO Winter Village Train Station in 2017, and the #10263 LEGO Winter Village Fire Station […]

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LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars TV show series!

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The relationship between the LEGO Group and the Star Wars franchise is not just about producing awesome LEGO sets, but also releasing fun games, and entertaining television shows. In 2011 we got the LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, in 2012 the LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out, in 2013 the LEGO Star Wars: […]

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LEGO City Arctic sets review – Part Three

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(Written by Geneva – gid617) In the last part of my review of the LEGO City Arctic sets (see LEGO City Arctic Sets Review – Part Two) I mentioned that the explorers needed somewhere where they could take a break from their exploration and get a bite to eat, a nap, maybe a game of […]

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