A lifetime of model railroading
ALGONA – The train station taking shape at the Kossuth County Agricultural and Motorsports Museum could be described as “a lifetime in the making.”
That would be the lifetime of Arlen Benschoter, of Algona.
Benschoter, 76, grew up on a farm northeast of Algona. He graduated from Algona High School, and worked and lived on the family Century Farm. He continues farming today, raising seed for Pioneer’s Algona facility.
Of retirement, Benschoter said, “I haven’t quit altogether. I might have slowed down.”
Benschoter’s daily schedule this spring, however, is more focused on construction of the Benschoter Train Station at the Algona museum, than the new crop year.
The goal is to have the entire display ready for the 2014 Kossuth County Fair.
Benschoter said his interest in model trains started at age 4 or 5 when he received a Lionel train set for Christmas. He still has that train and it still works.
Recognizing his enjoyment of model trains, his parents continued buying trains and during his high school years, the trains had over taken the living room floor.
His parents decided his trains must be moved into his bedroom. His father built a table for the trains.
The table followed Benschoter to town in 1995 and displays one of two train layouts in his basement.
Benschoter’s interest is a lifelong hobby, but it was in 1995, he stepped up his interest in collecting and displaying them.
Benschoter subscribes to “all kinds of train magazines,” he said, and uses them to locate locomotives, cars and accessories.
He has a computer in his basement, but said he seldom uses it and then only for non-train subjects.
He said he enjoys attending model train gatherings and auctions within the Midwest.
He said he attended an auction in Leon, years ago. He was such a frequent bidder, he said, he was instructed to wait until the auction was done so he could back his pickup in to load everything he bought.
Benschoter only buys. He does not sell or trade any items of his collection. Model trains and accessories occupy almost every square foot of Benschoter’s basement.
The Kossuth County Ag and Motorsport Museum was formed in 2012 with a new building constructed a year ago. Benschoter was active during the planning stages when he was approached with the idea there could be a room for his trains to be on permanent display.
The new building and displays of farm and dirt track racing cars, history and memorabilia were shown for the first time during the 2013 Kossuth County Fair.
It included a small display of Benschoter’s trains.
The layout rests on a table approximately 40-by-60-feet according to the museum website, kossuthmuseum.com.
Since the 2013 fair, the Benschoter Train Station has been under construction – laying track, installing a landscape that includes mountains, a lake, a village with buildings that show activity, a farm and a railroad yard.
In addition to the mountains with a tunnel and a lake at one end of the building, the other end will feature a carnival with a working merry-go-round and Ferris wheel.
While he has not seen it, Benschoter understands a group is working a scale model of the State Line Co-op elevator, north of Algona to be part of the display.
They have been to the museum and taken measurements so they could build it to scale.
Besides Benschoter, the construction crew includes his cousin, Dean Benschoter, whose specialty is miniature buildings; Don Frideres; and Robert Barber, all of Algona.
Barber is retired and from his interest in the museum, has taken an interest in Benschoter’s model trains.
“I want to see this get off the ground,” said Barber.
Besides a way to display his collection, Benschoter sees the model train layout as a way to introduce model railroading to children for the next generation of train hobbyists.
Even when ready for the fair, Benschoter said, the layout will not be complete.
Benschoter said he has many locomotives, rail cars and accessories that will be brought to the museum in a rotation, with some equipment leaving the display and others taking their place.
“I’ve got lots of stuff,” said Benschoter.
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