Central Iowa Model Railroad Club the ‘Biggest Secret’ at Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Visitors to the Iowa State Fair may not be aware of a special display tucked away on the southern side of the fair.

“I think it’s the biggest secret on the Iowa State Fairgrounds,” said Larry Lamb, president of the Central Iowa Model Railroad Club. “Most people, they don’t understand how much fun it can be to come in and watch this stuff going on.”

The club started back in the 1960s over in the Drake neighborhood.

“They had a fire there and so we moved about 1985 from there over here to the fairgrounds,” said Lamb. “We were up on the hill in an old log cabin-type building and we had problems. In the winter, broke a bunch of stuff, so the fair wanted us to move down here. We moved in here in 2005.”

For $2 adults can come and watch the huge layout of trains running. There are 30 members in the railroad club. Some come from outside Iowa as far away as Florida.

“The first fair we had just a little tiny layout and we've been working on this ever since, making it bigger and bigger and better every year,” said Lamb. “We run everything during the fair, steam engines, whatever the member has he likes to run, that’s fair game.”

The club includes young and old members. They spend lots of time to make sure the display is ready for when the fair opens.

“We spent all year working on this and probably ten to 12 hours a day for probably the first month before the fair to get everything ready,” said Lamb. “That’s so we’re up and running and have something great for people to see.”

The display is located next to the Snakes Alive building south of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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