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Train Your Sights on the San Diego Model Railroad Museum!

Published by Cathy Hendrie

Cathy Hendrie
PassPort to San Diego

Engineer a day devoted to miniature heaven at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. Both San Diego locals and out-of-towners love this impressive venue, which spans 27,000 square feet of space in the lower level of the Casa De Balboa building.

The museum features six bustling train exhibits and an unparalleled attention to detail that has to be seen to appreciated. Chug along and be transported to real and imaginary railway lines with weathered and modern trains running through them.


The main exhibit loops you around fascinating displays featuring various O, HO and N scale exhibits. The large dioramas are completely landscaped to represent actual railway scenarios found in California and Arizona. Tiny towns, figurines, vintage vehicles, a carnival, trestle bridges over huge gorges, mountains and deserts, grazing lands, are all constructed with fine detail and accuracy.

A fifth operating display devoted to rare and modern toy trains is for the child in each of us. The Toy Train Gallery is a nostalgic trip for visitors remembering Lionel Type trains and the cute lighted villages set up at Christmas time, and a delight to little ones discovering the Lionel trains for the first time.

Outside the back door, find the newest exhibit, a small fenced-in garden called the Centennial Garden Railway. It is dedicated to the electric street car lines designed for transporting the masses who visited the San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. The miniature street cars run past scale models of some of the original buildings like the Balboa Park’s famous Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the California Tower.

A labor of love, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is operated and maintained largely by volunteers, and a must see for rail fans. General admission tickets include access to all indoor and outdoor exhibits and daily programs. On the first Tuesday of each month, show proof you are a San Diego County resident, and enjoy free admission!

The museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call (619) 696-0199 or visit the museum online.

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