Enjoy Model Trains and Remodeled Trains in Atlanta, Indiana

Mr. Muffins Train Store in Atlanta IndianaIf you are a person who loves model trains, there’s a pretty good chance you already know about Mr. Muffin’s Trains. The store has a big online following, but lovers of trains, big and small, real and play, should find their way to Atlanta, Indiana to meet the real Mr. Muffin and take a ride on the Nickelplate Express.

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Model Train Shop in Atlanta Indiana

I love little towns like Atlanta, Indiana. About 40 minutes north of downtown Indianapolis, it’s just a cute little speck on the world’s road map. About 750 people call Atlanta home, including Steve Nelson, aka Mr. Muffin.

Actually the original Mr. and Mrs. Muffin were characters that Steve Nelson made up to tell stories and impart life lessons to his children. My father-in-law’s made up character was “Old Gus.” Almost every family has such a character.

Mr. Muffins Train Store interiorTo keep his life balanced during a career sitting behind an executive desk, Nelson began collecting trains and building a railroad village around his house. It seems everyone wanted to come by and see it, which created some problems of its own. Eventually, Steve’s train lay-out got too big for the house so he bought an empty storefront in Atlanta and named it Mr. Muffin’s Trains — “The Layout.”

I asked Steve how many miles of tracks he has and he doesn’t have a clue. But the 2,400 sq ft room is filled with 13 separate O-guage tracks. It’s crazy when they all get going on the same time.

Nelson has more than 6,000 trains in his collection, including something that is a big deal in the model train collector’s world. Mr. Muffin’s Trains has the original Lionel engine and Trainmaster Command Control designed by the musician Neil Young so that his physically disabled sons could play with trains more easily.

Ride the Nickel Plate Express in Atlanta Indiana

Nickel Plate Express on the rails in downtown Atlanta IndianaIf all of this isn’t reason enough to visit Atlanta, the little community is also home to the Nickel Plate Express, a 1956 Santa Fe high-level El Capitan. Again, if you know anything about trains, you know this is pretty cool. The train once served the Santa Fe Line from Chicago to New Mexico. But then, as train travel declined in the U.S. in the 1980s, this diesel engine and four passenger cars sat silent in a junkyard until the city of Atlanta came calling.

The Nickel Plate Express crossing over a river in central IndianaThe weekend-only train rides follow a 24-mile path of the old Nickel Plate Road. It was a real railroad that operated throughout the Midwest around the turn of the 20th century. The train never gets above 10 mph or so, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the central Indiana scenery while you enjoy lunch. Yes, the Nickel Plate Express has its own dining car.

Where to Eat in Atlanta Indiana

Cinammon roll and coffee at ChooChoo Cafe in Atlanta IndianaOR, you could wait until you disembark in Atlanta and visit the Choo-Choo Cafe. Guess who owns in?  Yep, Mr. Muffin himself. The muffins on the menu at the Choo-Choo Cafe are to die for.

In a town of 750 people, that’s enough commotion to keep most people happy. Yet Atlanta is a place that never sits still, especially the third weekend in September each year for the annual New Earth Festival. It started as a little craft show in the 1970s but now brings nearly 100,000 people to town, as well as food trucks and music and more fun.

If you’re taking a child with you to Atlanta, and you should, make sure they are dressed appropriately for the occasion.


Oh heck, make sure the adults traveling on the Nickleplate Express are dressed appropriately as well: 

Create your own model train collection at home with these items

 Tip: While you are in the area, you may enjoy a visit to the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel Indiana.