SIGOURNEY ó I should have brought binoculars. Thatís the only way to see from one end of Lyle Dumontís new model railroad to the other. Itís 90 feet long, nearly a third of a football field.
"This IS the crazy manís project," laughs Lyle, 72. "Iím not done yet. This is something I always wanted to do so I decided to do it."
Yes, itís a Lionel model railroad thatís 40 feet wide, meaning it covers 3,600 square feet ó about the area of three houses ó at Dumont Museum three miles south of Sigourney on Highway 149 just west on 255th Street.
Six years ago, when I stopped here for the first time, Lyle had satisfied his childhood dream of owning a model railroad by building a 25-by-30 foot layout in the front room. It includes a six-foot tall mountain and plenty of cars, buildings and scenery to match.
This new layout, started in 2008, features a 13-foot tall mountain. Trains circle it on two levels. In all, if the track was laid end-to-end, it would stretch more than a mile.
"Yep," Lyle grins. "A mile. Thatís what it is and Iíve laid every piece of it myself."
But, this is about more than model trains. This is about creating a fantasy world. Lyle is good at that.
His museum began with life-size Oliver tractors, farm equipment, Roy Rogers memorabilia and an extensive doll collection by his wife, Helen. The entire thing is housed under 30,000 square feet of roof after another recent addition.
The first layout, begun a decade ago, used that dayís technology, from the wireless remote controls for the trains to animated displays (a fully-operational amusement park) to a scale-model drive-in theater showing DVD movies.
This one goes well beyond that. Lyle can run 30 trains at once. Bridges elevated above your head connect one side to another. Mount Rushmore is incorporated in the mountain. Check out the spinning wind generators, shushing line of snowmobilers, operating tramway.
Yes, a woman mows her lawn while nearby ostriches turn their heads. Over yonder, lifelike flames lick the inside of a two-story building while smoke rolls out above the flashing lights of the firetrucks.
"Every new thing that comes out, he has to have it," says Helen. "He keeps Lionel and MTH (Mikeís Train House in North Carolina) in business."
At the annual Christmas open house, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, you can see the front room layout free. For $5, you can tour the entire museum.
Next on Lyleís agenda is a pair of operating roller coasters, each six feet long and two feet wide."Itís just fun to see what you can do," Lyle says. "And when you get done, it all works. How about that?"