Matchstick art creations make Matchstick Marvels unrivaled

Steampunk Locomotive at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

There are hobbies. And there ARE hobbies. Pat Acton of Gladbrook, Iowa, has taken hobby to a new level. He is a world-renowned matchstick artist. Say what?

Acton, 62, started making matchstick models after college graduation. He started making small-scale models of churches, barns and windmills. He eventually graduated to larger scale models. The matchsticks are about 1/8-inch wide and 2 inches long. For beginners, Acton recommends buying boxes of matches at a store and cutting off the sulfur heads.

Barn at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

But, using 1 million matchsticks to make a steampunk train engine? Yep. The model, along with a few others, are located at the Matchstick Marvels museum in Gladbrook. The small town is a bit off the beaten path. You have to drive for an hour or so off Interstates 80 or 35 to visit, but, man, is it worth the drive. The museum is a hidden gem on the prairie.

Steampunk Locomotive going to Ripley's Believe It Or Not from Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

The train model – 21 feet long, 5 feet wide and 9 feet tall – has a 13-foot wing span. Wing span? It’s a steampunk version of a train, so Acton channeled his inner Leonardo da Vinci and added the wing design.

“Plane Loco” is the 22nd creation Acton has provided Ripley’s.

Acton has a contract with Ripley's Believe It or Not for his Matchstick Marvel creations

The train model is on display through the end of July. It will then be shipped to Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Orlando, Florida, for assignment. Acton has a contract with Ripley’s to create a huge model annually. In 2014, he created a model of the International Space Station for Ripley’s. The 282,000-stick creation is currently on loan to the Houston space center by Ripley’s.

While the train has been attracting visitors this summer, the museum offers more of Acton’s work.

The Capitol building is built out of Matchsticks in Gladbrook, Iowa

A 12-foot long version of the United States Capitol Building illuminates. It is breathtaking to view the detail of Acton’s work on his models.

Impressive size structures made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

The Notre Dame Cathedral model required about 300,000 matchsticks to create over a two-year period. The imagery he created is second to none.

Notre Dame Cathedral out of Matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

Another major piece of major work on display at the museum is a 13-foot long detailed version of the USS Iowa. It’s a popular attraction for the museum.

Detailed version of the USS Iowa out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

Matchstick Marvels has a model of the SR-71 “Blackbird.” This plane is my all-time favorite of the Air Force inventory.

Sr71 made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

Acton used thousands of matchsticks to create a brontosaurus.

Brontosaurus made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

A Conestoga wagon is also on display.

Conestoga Wagon made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbook, Iowa

A P-51 Mustang fighter is detailed, including a paint job and decals.

Fighter jet made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

Another favorite of ours at the museum is a model of the space shuttle at the launch pad.

Challenger Space Shuttle  made out of matchsticks at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa

How long Acton will continue to make matchstick marvels may be known only to him. Apparently, as times change, matchsticks are getting more difficult to obtain. They’re not produced as much as in the past.

Matchstick Marvels is open daily 1-5 p.m. You can’t beat the admission of $5 per person. They have a small gift section, too. Besides the required post cards (Lisa’s obsession), they sell an amazing locally-made mustard. I bought a bottle and have used it.

For more information on the museum, please visit


  1. THIS IS SO AWESOME! Wow! I can’t even imagine the patience…
    Wandering Educators recently posted…5 Beautiful Places to Volunteer Around the WorldMy Profile

  2. Very impressive. I can’t even begin to imagine how much patience one must have to sit down and work on such a creation. The Notre Dame and Capital are stunning and the USS Iowa? Very impressive. What talent.
    Tonya recently posted…Newport Aquarium Anticipates Shark Week with Big NewsMy Profile

  3. These are super-cool! What a find!
    Melissa recently posted…Waterfall Glen {Darien}My Profile

  4. This art is AMAZING. My kids would love it. Of course, I would too …
    Gretchen Garrison recently posted…Nebraska Bucket List by Odyssey Through NebraskaMy Profile

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