HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. — A family tradition, dating back to 1924, has sparked something truly special at a little wood building nestled in Heber Springs: The Ruland Junction Toy Train Museum.
It all started with Wayne Ruland, who took his father's love for toy trains and made it into what it is today -- a two-story museum filled with trains he and his father had collected for nearly a decade.
"Dad started about 1924 when he got involved in trains," Ruland said. "And my brother and I got involved around the early '50s. Once people found out we like trains, they started donating as many trains as they could. We just took them all in and loved them and got them going again."
But he's not the only great mind keeping the trains on track. Daniel Hipp, the museum's trainmaster, was once an admiring visitor, but now he keeps things running smoothly.
Ruland and Hipp have created an entire world in this museum, including hand-made houses, bridges, and schools along the track.
The collection goes beyond the track, though. The second-floor layout is meant to be an educational experience for its viewers.
"It's meant to have a child on the throttle with an adult standing next to him to help the child make wise decisions. The adult takes all these orders from the child. It's meant to run like a real railroad."
Ruland said the exercise teaches kids cooperation, coordination, teamwork, and planning.
The museum is open during the daytime from Tuesday through Saturday and can be found at 401 S 12th Street in Heber Springs. Plan to stay awhile -- there is lots to see!