Colfax, Iowa. There are only a few reasons you’d know about Colfax, Iowa. First, you may be from or around Colfax, Iowa. Second, perhaps you have driven past Colfax, Iowa while driving on west on I-80. Third, may have gone and visited Trainland USA.
You read that right, Trainland USA. On my journey to the West Coast, manifesting destiny along the way, I saw a sign for Trainland USA. It claimed to be America’s Largest Toy Train Museum. Naturally, I had to see it for myself.
I initially had trouble finding the place. It was only supposed to be a short ways off of I-80 but the journey seemed longer. Perhaps it was the lack of topography in Iowa, the endless sprawl of flat farm land. Perhaps I was expecting something the size of a natural history museum. What I found was a small house next to which rested an old dining car from a passenger train. It looked like something out of a movie about the Apocalypse. In any case, I wandered into Trainland USA (thinking it was free admission) and while I stared at a complete Pullman Palace Car Conductor’s uniform, a friendly old lady came over and talked to me.
First she pointed out Andy Williams’ toy trains that were in the museum. Then she told me about the founding of Trainland USA. The founder (an old man with a penchant for toy trains) wanted to make a toy train museum. His wife said he could so long as he built her a house. So he built her a house…and opened his toy train museum in the basement. I was fascinated by her story and thanked her for the information. Then she asked me for $10. I was flustered since I thought, I am not sure why, that the museum was free! I begrudgingly gave her the money and wandered around the surprisingly small exhibits. I dont know what I was really expecting. I saw toy trains running through carefully built American landscapes. I saw the USA the toy train way (as their website suggested I would). It was a surreal experience.
To this day, I am not sure I can fully explain what it was that I saw. However, should you find yourself near Colfax, Iowa visit this strange museum. And when you do, flip through the guest book (yes they have one) and see if you find my name in their annals sometime during June of 2010.
~The Traveling Lorax