Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Train In Tehachapi Pass - San Diego, California
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum has been open to the public since 1982, but its history goes back all the way to when Milton Cronkhite built a large model railroad for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. The museum is in the basement of a building constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. With ties to two different World Fairs, the museum is interesting from a historical perspective.
Santa Fe At Bealville - San Diego, California
There are five large model railroad layouts in the museum--two HO, two O and one N scale. Each one is constructed and operated by a non-profit club. There is also a railroad reference library that is open on most days and a small gift shop. The museum is the largest model railroad exhibit in North America!
Cab Forward Steam In Tehachapi Pass - San Diego, California
The largest model railroad in the museum is a reproduction of the Tehachapi Pass, which includes the famous Tehachapi Loop. They've done an amazing job of recreating each scene, not overlooking even the fine details. The Caliente scene is especially impressive! The layout is not completely finished (I don't think any of the five are 100% finished), but it is 85% or so complete. 
Freight Train At Caliente - San Diego, California
My two-year-old son could spend all day in the museum. He loves to stare at the long trains as they pass through a scene. My four-year-old daughter was not bored even after two hours. Besides the model trains, they also have a wooden Thomas train and some other train toys for the young kids to play with. This is a child's dream land!
Santa Fe In The Mountains - San Diego, California
If your kids are like mine, they'll be fascinated for hours. Thankfully, there is a small (but good) breakfast and lunch cafe right upstairs from the museum. They make a pretty good latte, too! So you don't need to leave the building for lunch or snacks. (There's also a photography museum in the building that you may want to check out...).
Union Pacific On Three Rails - San Diego, California
The hardest part is getting the kids to leave, because they don't want to! My son, especially, could spend all day there. Even after two hours, I felt like I had rushed through the place. It's not just impressive to children, but it's impressive to adults, too. The details and workmanship are amazing!
Southern Pacific Through The Crossing - San Diego, California
I suggest giving yourself two hours to visit. If your kids love trains like mine do, you could spend three or four hours in the museum. If you arrived at opening, you could visit for an hour, go upstairs to the cafe for lunch, and then go back downstairs and spend two more hours in the museum.
Burlington Northern Highway - San Diego, California
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is located in the basement of the historic Casa De Balboa building in Balboa Park (near the science center and natural history museum). It's open Tuesday through Friday 11 am to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is $8 for adults and children 14 and under are free with an adult. There are discounts for seniors, students and military. If you live in San Diego county, you can get in for free on the first Tuesday of every month.
Tractor And Fast Train - San Diego, California
If you have young children and you're in the San Diego area, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is a must-see! This is one of those places that they'll talk about for a long time to come.
Boy Watching Trains - San Diego, California

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