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A revved up collection

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Museum featuring huge toy vehicle display opens in Boerne

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Steven Leary looks at his massive parking lot display that’s filled with some of his 20,000-plus collected miniature die-cast vehicles inside his museum and gift shop. Star photo by Keith E. Domke
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Steven Leary holds one of his all-time favorite cars – a 1968 Cougar. Star photo by Keith E. Domke
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Steven and Cheryl Leary are ready to greet customers at their Turnpike Toy Museum. Star photo by Keith E. Domke

Steven Leary went on his routine rounds one day recently and found yet another treasure to add to his already massive collection.

It was a Matchbox Texas DPS highway patrol car.

“I don’t have one of those,” he said.

Leary and his wife, Cheryl, opened The Turnpike Toy Museum and Gift Shop in mid February at 1020 N. Main St. Inside, thousands of Matchbox, Hot Wheels and other classic, vintage and newly die-cast vehicles are on display, as well as many other collections Steven has gathered over the decades.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s my hobby.”

Several display cases show off the collections, most of which are vehicle-related. However, he also has trains, Star Wars, Smurfs, airplanes, military figurines and others to show off.

And to relate how large his collection is, dozens of tubs full of vehicles and other things sit underneath the display cases waiting for their turn to be spotlighted.

“There’s a lot here,” the 52-year-old Steven said. “There’s a lot to look at. It’s way too big to put everything on display.”

The Learys, who live in Kerrville, got the idea for a museum after a trip to New Mexico and a stop at Tinker Town Museum near Albuquerque. That museum features an assortment of miniature, animated Western scenes.

“After we stopped there, Cheryl and I started talking,” Steven said. “We knew we had a lot of cool and interesting things and Cheryl asked why couldn’t we make a little money. That was about 12 years ago. It’s taken us more than 10 years to put it all together.”

Like many boys, Steven started playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars when he was young.

“I always liked cars,” he said. “I liked a lot of other things, too, and I easily could have gotten into them, but I stuck with cars.”

Steven’s mother gets some of the credit as well.

“My mom liked toys,” he said. “She bought me a lot of cars when I was little.”

Steven also credits his brother, David. The two played together with the cars as youngsters and continued to get more and more vehicles through their elementary school-age years. And whether the car was heavily or lightly used, it was saved.

“They were small and easy to store away,” he said. “Some of them aren’t in the best shape. But I still have them.”

One of his all-time favorites is a blue, 1968 Cougar he has had since he was a boy. His favorite display in the museum is a large parking lot filled with various vehicles.

During his high school and college days, David took a break from collecting. Then, in about 1995, he got the itch again.

“It really kicked back in then,” he said.

Today, David continues to help Steven hunt for vehicles.

“He’ll find one, take a picture of it and text it to me,” Steven said. “If I like it, I’ll tell him to get it for me.

“He’s the hunter.”

Part of Steven’s routine is to visit Walmarts, Targets, H-E-Bs and other stores regularly and browse through their offering of Hot Wheels, Matchbox and other vehicles. His brother does the same. Steven also attends toy car shows and hunts online.

So far this year, he said he has purchased in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 vehicles.

“You sometimes can even find cars at things like train shows,” he said. “You never know.”

Today, Steven has more than 20,000 vehicles. Many of them come with stories attached.

“We’ll shop after something good happens to celebrate,” Cheryl said. “And we’ll shop after something bad happens to get our mind off of it. There are a lot of memories to look at in here.”

As he has aged, Steven has rekindled his interest in other things, including Smurfs, My Little Pony, figurines, action figures, Batman vehicles, boats, planes and trains.

Cheryl’s favorite is the Volkswagen collection.

“I’ve always loved the Beetle,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a vintage one to drive.”

Steven said he plans to add more displays as space allows. In order to show off more of his collection, he said the plan is to rotate pieces on and off the floor.

“That way, people can come back and see different things,” he said.

Steven also said with some advance notice, he can put together a specific display request.

The couple is planning an official grand opening celebration later this month.

“We’ll never be done collecting,” he said. “The collection will never be finished.”

Steven keeps an inventory of all his vehicles and other collectibles. He has photos of many of the pieces he keeps online.

The gift shop features duplicate vehicles and other collectibles, both new and used.

Individuals can tour the museum, which is housed in a large back room, for $9. Children ages 5-12 are $7 as are veterans, active military and first responders. However, In March, the Learys are running a discounted admission price of $7 for adults and $5 for children.

The Turnpike is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 830-388-8326, email contact@theturnpiketoymuseum.com or visit www.theturnpiketoymuseum.com.