One piece at a time

A tour of Brickmania

Credit: By Linda Koutsky

No, you’re not too old to play with toys. Really — it’s OK, what else are we supposed to do with all these house-bound winter hours? Plus, many toys and games were invented right here in Minnesota. Our history includes Twister, Cootie and Magnetic Poetry … all Minnesota-made and our creativity just continues to blossom and grow; it’s in our genes.

Did you love Legos as a kid? Do you have a stash of colorful plastic bricks in your desk drawer? Do you have a table piled high with your own medieval castle surrounded by a mote with a drawbridge and protective ninja warriors on the perimeter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is the place for you.

Kids of all ages were swarming throughout the vast warehouse space when my friend Roz wandered into the building. We went up to a guy working the nearby snack bar and said we had never been there before and wondered what to do. He said, “Welcome to Brickmania.” Then he pointed around the open space and said, “You can look at the models over there, buy kits over there, and that’s the play area.”

Brickmania Toyworks is the brainchild of Daniel Siskind, a designer of limited-edition Lego kits. Though he was originally known for designing Lego-produced Blacksmith Shop #3739, today he has an international following for historically accurate military models including Jeeps, tanks, helicopters, and artillery pieces.

The nondescript Northeast Minneapolis building is home to Brickmania’s office and warehouse, but one day a month the space is open to the public. There’s a small retail area and a play area for kids, but the gargantuan, colorful, amazingly detailed Lego constructions blew us away! There’s apparently a large contingent of adult Lego-builders. And they like trains too. So inside the warehouse are huge model railroad displays by two different local groups: Twin Cities Lego Train Club and Greater Midwest Lego Train Club.

Freight trains, passenger trains, streetcars, and light rail — entirely built by Lego bricks — chugged through landscapes textured with mountains and lakes, passed over bridges and into dark tunnels, and glided in front of urban districts built with architectural precision. We recognized Landmark Center, the Hiawatha light rail station, Main Street, a snowy Alpine village, Copenhagen Square, and a Japanese pagoda with blooming cherry blossom trees. The level of detail and visual puns were exhaustive. It was a breathtaking amount of work — millions of tiny plastic pieces each clicked into place. Members of both clubs were happy to talk with visitors about construction techniques and their life-long interest in Legos. Smaller side displays showed military reenactments from WWII and Vietnam complete with helicopters with rotating blades.

Boys, girls, young, and old can’t help but be captivated by the displays — we were there nearly two hours. And if you’re ready for more, pick up Brickmania’s WWII German tank with rotating turret and opening hatches that you, yourself can assemble from 681 Lego parts — retail price $120 (tank commander sold separately). For more information, visit



Brickmania Toyworks, 1620 Central Ave. NE, Suite 117 (enter on 18th Avenue NE)

Open the second Saturdays of the month, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., free admission.

Upcoming events: April 13; May 11; special Art-A-Whirl weekend, May 17–19 (check Brickmania’s blog for guest artists and attractions) 

LUNCH BREAK: The best egg rolls on Central Avenue are at Sen Yai Sen Lek (2422 Central Ave. NE)


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