SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Railroad collectors and history buffs meet in La Crosse for tri-state sale

The event is ideal for “armchair historians,” as well as collectors and enthusiasts of all stripes, president Mark Hamre said.

Railfair 5.jpg
Photo from a previous Tri-State Rail Sale by the 4000 Foundation in La Crosse
Contributed / Brian Wopat
We are part of The Trust Project.

LA CROSSE — The 4000 Foundation holds its 30th Great Tri-State Rail Sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at the La Crosse Center.

The sale, held by La Crosse’s 4000 Foundation, benefits the city’s Short Line Railroad Heritage Museum. Its summer Rail Fair, held Saturday, July 16, in Copeland Park, will do the same.

The 4000 Foundation was formed in 1989, and held its first winter sale in 1992.

President Mark Hamre grew up in the railroad hobbyist community, in a city with deep ties to the local railroad industry.

Railfair 6.jpg
Photo from a previous Tri-State Rail Sale by the 4000 Foundation in La Crosse
Contributed / Brian Wopat

“I’ve been interested all my life, in one form or another,” he said. “I’m a retired railroad employee.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The “ railroadiana ” will take up around 300 tables at the Tri-State Rail Sale this year. It’s the largest area sale/flea market/swap meet, Hamre said, with collectors from six states. Early meetups were spread out over just about 100 tables, he remembered.

Railfair 3.png
Photo from a previous Tri-State Rail Sale by the 4000 Foundation in La Crosse
Contributed / Brian Wopat

It’s not just model trains, either.

The scale model hobbyists are there, of course, but so are toy trains, antiques and memorabilia from old train cars (signs, lanterns, badges, or even dining china from train cars), Hamre said.

All participants will have the opportunity to buy and trade railroad memorabilia, books and magazines, and more. The event is ideal for “armchair historians,” as well as collectors and enthusiasts of all stripes, Hamre said.

Children younger than 12 enter free with an adult ($5 admission), which Hamre said could spark a lifelong interest.

“A lot of kids are attracted to model and toy trains, and that’s an entry to the hobby,” he said. “Some go on to toy train modeling or collecting.”

Hamre recommended that visitors take the time to view wares from hobby dealers, as well as the “fraternity” of collectors who’ll display “I would encourage anybody who has any interest in all in railroading … with a curiosity for the subject or the history, to come down, it’ll be worth their while,” he said.

There will also be plenty of deals for bargain-hunters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There’s satisfaction in seeing people come and have a good time,” Hamre said. “And it’s a way of sharing my passion for the hobby with other people. And we’ve come a long way over the year.”

If you go

What: 30th annual Great Tri-State Rail Sale
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29
Where: La Crosse Center, intersection of Second and Pearl Streets, La Crosse, Wis.
Cost: $5 for adults, free admission for ages 12 and younger, when accompanied by an adult.

Email: ahalliwell@rochestermagazine.com
What to read next
The documentary "Bring Her Home" helps bring awareness to the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Leya Hale hosted a screening of her documentary at Pioneer Public TV in Granite Falls in early May.
The Iraqi American Reconciliation Project uses art to foster understanding between the two cultures.
Serendipitous weather
A new novel by Kathy Gilsinan looks at the pandemic from all levels of the battle.