A couple of miles north of Colfax on State Highway 117 is Trainland USA. It’s a must-see if you’re a railroad buff—and fun even if you’re not.
Farmer Red Atwood began collecting Lionel O-gauge model trains back in the 1960's, and as his collection grew, so did his dream of building one of the world’s largest layouts to display them.
So he built a home just to house the trains. It then took Red and some friends and neighbors 4-1/2 years to build backdrops—ranging from miniature farms, villages, mountains and seacoast scenes—through which the model trains run.
In total, the display area covers 2,600 square feet and 4,000 feet of track! It includes trains from the frontier days, and the steam and diesel-powered locomotive eras.
The day we were there, Red’s wife, Judy, was the “engineer” operating the control panel. She told us it took an electrical engineer to wire the setup, which operates up to 25 trains at once, as well as sound effects and lights to create nighttime and daylight effects.
Newton is home to Maytag Dairy Farms and its world-famous Maytag blue cheese. So we stopped at the sales office north of town, had some samples and learned that Maytag has been making its blue cheese since 1941 from a special process developed by Iowa State University.
The cheese, noted for its creamy mellowness, is still made mostly by hand and aged in specially built caves right on the farm. They sell 1,000,000 pounds of it a year…ahem, make that 1,000,001 after we stocked up!
To promote tourism, Newton also has a self-guided public art tour—with more than 70 murals painted on downtown buildings and sculptures scattered about the city. Armed with a map provided by the Chamber of Commerce, we set out to find some of them…including Old Lonely, a statue of the famous Maytag repairman, which we found at Fred Maytag Park.
No way were we going to leave Jasper County without stopping at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Sully. According to USA Today, the Coffee Cup, owned by Robin and Darin Morvant, is one of the top 10 places in the nation to eat pie. Robin bakes ’em fresh every morning.
We bought slices of Robin’s apple and raspberry-rhubarb pie to go. We ate them for a bedtime snack when we got home—a perfect way to end our day in Jasper County.
This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine and has been reprinted here with permission. Learn more about the publication by visiting www.OurIowaMagazine.com.