I built an HO Gauge train layout as a child with my father. We called it the Sand Hills Short Line. This name came from the area of South Carolina where we lived (the Sand Hills) and the fact that the train was a local run or “short line.” Later in life, I joined the North Carolina LEGO Train Club, started building MOCs [My Own Creation] and started participating in shows around the area. Below is a small timeline of shows and displays that eventually led to the current iteration of the Sand Hills Short Line LEGO History Museum.
The First MOC
In 2004, I participated in the Great American Train Show (GATS) in Raleigh, NC with the NCLTC. I built a Train Station whose foundation would eventually become the bottom of the Sand Hills Hotel.
Top of the Mark Hotel
Later that year, I started designing a hotel. All I knew at the time was I wanted it to have a revolving restaurant at the top, so I started building just the top part. When I went to BrickFest that year, I had built the restaurant, the kitchen area and an open air library/bar. This would eventually sit on the top of the hotel. I took it to the show just so I could get feedback from others. The MOC ended up winning best building.
The hotel begins its life
In 2005, I participated in the NMRA’s National Train Show. There were 13 different LEGO Train Clubs from all over North America and we set a world record for the largest LEGO train layout.
The Big Show
One month after the NMRA show, I packed up the hotel, along with other parts of the “city of Sand Hills” and headed to BrickFest. This was a pivotal show for me. The LEGO Group and the National Trust for Historic Preservation joined forces to hold a contest for building designs. They had prizes for two categories; MOCs that represented real historic landmarks, and MOCs the represented fictional buildings that (if real) could be considered historic. The Sand Hills Hotel took first place in the second category.
The Micro MOC
By the time this show was done, I was also getting interested in designing micro-scale MOCs. I started off with a version of the hotel. The picture to the right was created from an LDraw rendering of the hotel. I did not build an actual copy in micro scale until after the next version of the hotel. That copy is currently a part of the museum.
The Final Hotel
I spent the next few years working on several LEGO projects and the hotel was only part of it. The new version was finally finished in time for a show called ScanFest. This festival highlights the culture and passion of Scandanavian countries (including Denmark). Since it was being hosted in Charlotte that year, I was asked if I could bring a MOC, so I finished the hotel and it made its debut.