Farm Toy Museum Features 1/16 Scale Toys

Minnesota couple expanded home to create 37-room farm toy museum with 700 1/16 scale toys

| August 2010

It’d be understandable if the sprawl of Greibrok’s Mini History Farm & County Fair Museum, a farm toy museum, generated some confusion. The home-grown attraction has grown like Topsy. But owner Dorothy Greibrok keeps a fairly tight grip on the facts and figures. “We only have 37 rooms, I think it is,” she says.

Dorothy’s late husband, Carlyle, was the driving force behind the museum. His interest in farm toys dated to the Great Depression of the 1930s, when few farm families could afford toys – so he made his own. As a child, he built farm tractors, machinery and other toys out of cardboard. “We took the cardboard off the back of a paper writing tablet, and used maybe a piece of wire, part of a pencil or a Tinkertoy to make the axles,” he said in an interview before his death in 2003. “It wasn’t great, but it killed time during long winter evenings.” He made Fordsons or 10-20 McCormick-Deerings, the tractors most common in his farm neighborhood at the time.

As an adult, Carlyle farmed, following in his father’s footsteps. He enjoyed buying tractors to use on the farm. “You could buy them and use them, and with inflation maybe you could get your money back later, and maybe even make a buck,” he said. His toy collection grew as well. “In the process of buying the tractor,” he explained, “I’d have the dealer give me or one of my boys one of those little ones.”

A confirmed workaholic, Carlyle had little time to devote to toys until a 1982 diagnosis of throat cancer. Reluctant to encounter friends during the time when he was struggling with the disease, he followed solo pursuits, like out-of-the-area farm toy shows. “That was great fun,” he said. “I discovered I could haggle with dealers over the price of the little tractors, cars or airplanes, just as I had with tractors for the farm. That’s half the fun of buying them in the first place. Because I was raised during the Depression when money meant so much, if you can save a buck or make a buck, it’s even more fun.”

The first room

Before long, storage and display became a challenge. Carlyle started thinking about creating a room for his toys in his house. “Our furnace room ceiling was very low so you had to bend over to walk in there,” he said. He cut a trench in the floor, making it easy to walk through the room and see toys displayed on either side.