A lively room filled with tiny trains zipping to and fro is probably the last thing you’d expect to see upon walking into a barn in rural southern Wisconsin, but at the Toy Train Barn in Argyle, an abandoned barn is the perfect setting for an elaborate train diorama.
In June 2001, a small cattle barn on Wisconsin Highway 81 was decaying, with its agricultural future in limbo. But ex-train engineer Buck Guthrie, along with his wife and son, set out to change that. The family repainted the barn, placed a massive train display inside, and acquired other train sets from generous colleagues and friends, and in just six months the Toy Train Barn was born.
As you enter the barn, you’ll be overwhelmed by hundreds of moving parts—trains of all shapes and sizes whizzing about, a burning house, Dubuque’s Fenelon Place Elevator scaling up the hillside, an airplane being spun in circles by a chicken rotisserie machine, and a million other objects in motion. A unique control panel made up of microwaves, VCRs, and toasters starts the diorama, and visitors can even control the trains themselves by pushing buttons alongside the display. Guests can even play the Toy Train Barn’s version of I Spy, searching for children flying kites, people polishing cars, and other hidden gems.
Surrounding the display is a cute, rideable train, known as “Little Toot,” which traverses the 18 acre property on a 12-inch track from Memorial Day to Labor Day. For such a grand paradise for model train enthusiasts, it would be the least you would expect.