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101 Things To Do: Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum in Fountain City, Wisconsin

Inside Elmer Duellman's barn near Fountain City, Wis., a wide variety of toys line shelves from floor to ceiling on May 26, 2019. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 10
Vintage bicycles give visitors a vision on a different era. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 10
One room of the Elmer and Bernadette Duellman family house is open to the public and contains this doll collection. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 10
Car and motorcycle models spanning several decades have found a home at Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 10
This barn, original to the farmland where the Elmers Auto and Toy Museum now sits, is stacked to the rafters with a wide assortment of toys. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 10
Model cars are part of Elmer's collection of things with wheels. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 10
Elmer's is open 11 weekends during the summer of 2019, and the cars get a cleaning before each weekend of visitors. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 10
In addition to the toys and cars inside the museum, Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum provides visitors with an excellent view of the Mississippi River from its location on top of Eagle Bluff outside of Fountain City, Wis. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 10
Elmer and Bernadette have had their Auto and Toy Museum outside Fountain City, Wis., open to the public for 26 years. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 10
Three large metal barns house most of the cars in the collection, and pedal cars, such as these, line the walls behind the full-size cars at Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia10 / 10

If it has wheels, Elmer Duellman probably owns it.

For 56 years, he and wife Bernadette have collected race cars, muscle cars, delivery trucks, station wagons, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, high wheel bikes, snowmobiles, wagons, pedal cars and a host of antique dolls, toys, and tools. The collection was private for the first 30 years, and 2019 is the 26th season open to the public.

"I don't know of any other place like this," Elmer said. "You won't find two of anything here. Most of this is one-of-a-kind."

Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum spreads across the top of Eagle Bluff outside Fountain City, offering excellent views of the Mississippi River. His collection fills five buildings and visitors could spend an hour or a day looking at everything on display.

Three large metal buildings house most of the cars and motorcycles. Each car has a sign identifying the make, model, and year, as well as anything unique about the car. Many of Elmer's cars have extremely low mileage and several are rare finds.

The original barn now houses rooms of antique tools and features shelves of wagons, tricycles, and other toys rising up toward the rafters. A smaller building next to the barn is home to thousands of toys, marbles, magazines, cap guns and more.

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"I never started out to make a collection this big," Elmer said. "I always liked cars and motorcycles. As I would get some money, I would buy another one, and it just added up over the years. This is more than I ever thought would happen."

Melissa Baker, daughter of Elmer and Bernadette, grew up on the property and watched the collection increase each year. She said several volunteers show up each weekend the museum is open to answer questions and help visitors.

She said the collection represents a wide span of history, but she added that many of the pieces also have a family story behind them. For example, Elmer and Bernadette drove one car while they were dating. After they got married, they sold it, but then decided they wanted it back. It took seven years, but they finally bought it back and added it to the collection.

The collection is constantly in motion, according to Baker. "Every year we add things, change things, move things around."

If you go...

Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum

Address: W903 Elmer's Road, Fountain City, Wis.

Phone: 608-687-7221



Hours: Opens 11 weekends during the 2019 season. See website for exact dates. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on scheduled dates.

Admission: Adults $10. Seniors 65+ $8. Students 6-17 $5.

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872