By Dee Goerge
Ardell Van Wettering displayed early signs of being a farm toy collector. His mother, Gladys Van Wettering, 83, laughs when she recalls how Ardell, at age 8, would take his farm toys off the shelf, play outside in the dirt with them and carefully wash them in the sink before putting them back on the shelf for the night.
At 45, Ardell no longer washes his toys in a sink every day, but he still frequently "plays" with them on 64 square feet of real estate set up in the basement of his Luverne, Minn., home. After a hard day of working at the feed mill and spending quality time with his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Brooke, 19, and Ashley, 15, Ardell likes to head to the basement and work on the miniature fields, dealership and farmstead he's created in 1/64 scale.
Though farm toys are the heart of his display, Ardell notes it all started with a train.
"Since I was 14 or 15, I've wanted to have some kind of farm display," he says. "It was always my thought to have a farm scene outlined by a train."
Everything started to come together about three years ago after the Van Wetterlings remodeled the basement to make a toy room for Ardell, and he purchased a Lionel train set he found while holiday shopping.
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