San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Posted on July - 3 - 2015

To put it mildly, winter in Minnesota can be long. If you get an opportunity to go somewhere warm…you take it. My wife and I were invited to a wedding in San Diego during FebruarySan Diego Model Railroad Museum so we made the most of it. Six days away from the cold and an opportunity to see some sights in Coronado and San Diego that we haven’t seen in about 20 years. One of the sights in San Diego was Balboa Park and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (SDMRM).

Balboa Park, of course, should be on every San Diego visitor’s itinerary. The link above to the Balboa Park website shows that park is a cornucopia of places to see and things to do. You could spend weeks visiting the park’s various attractions. But, let’s not get distracted!

The SDMRM is a good stop for any model railroader and for those contemplating getting into the hobby. There are several very, very large HO scale layouts on display (as well as other model gauges that I will not address in this trip report). These layouts are intended to demonstrate the mission of SDMRM – “To preserve the heritage of railroading through a series of miniature representations of California railroads, as well as research and preserve the history of model railroading.”  They have done a good job in fulfilling that mission.

The HO scale displays in the SDMRM are as follows:

(a) The San Diego & Arizona Eastern. The display models the prototype railroad of the same name connecting San Diego with El Cajon and El Centro. The San Diego – San Ysidro and San Diego – El Cajon portions are now part of the San Diego Trolley. This layout features an impressive 10 ft. high model of the Carriso Gorge (north of Jacumba in eastern San Diego County) and the Goat Canyon trestle. The actual trestle was the largest timber railroad trestle in the world at the time of its construction in 1932.

(b) The Tehachapi Pass (pictured above). This display involves the entire 70 miles of railroad between Bakersfield and Mojave and models the joint Southern Pacific – Santa Fe line with nearly curve-for-curve and switch-for-switch accuracy. Building a replica of this line has challenged modelers just as the pass itself challenged the railroad barons of a century ago. Two of the most attractive things about the Tehachapi are the mountain scenery and the nearly continuous series of sharp reverse curves forced upon the railroad by the rugged terrain. The famous Loop is located at Walong siding, where an engine of a 100 car train spirals up to cross directly over its caboose 70 feet below. In several places the line doubles back upon itself, making it an ideal candidate for modeling.

Although I primarily focus on HO scale railroading, there are other scales and exhibits to see at the SDMRM. Be prepared to pay an entry fee. Savings can be had by researching in advance the various discounts and packages available. (For example, there may be a senior citizen and/or military discount available.) Click this link to the SDMRM to find out more. I enjoyed the several hours I spent in the SDMRM and I am sure you will also. Try to take the time to strike up a conversation with one of the train operators. Each of them have a great knowledge about the operations of the display and may turn out to be interesting folks!


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