The San Diego Model Railroad Museum, located in Balboa Park, is the only accredited railroad themed museum in the United States. At 27,000 square feet, it is also one of the largest museum’s of its kind in the world. There are extravagant layouts of trains of different gauges and exceptionally detailed dioramas throughout the museum. This reasonably priced museum will provide hours of family entertainment and education.
One fascinating aspect of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is that the layouts are the result of the dedication of four local nonprofits who volunteer their time for the design, construction, and operation of each display. The San Diego Model Railroad Club, La Mesa Model Railroad Club, San Diego Society of N-Scale, and San Diego 3-Railers are the primary exhibitors in the museum. These nonprofits are also responsible for funding their exhibits.
The San Diego Model Railroad Club is responsible for creating the most popular exhibit – San Diego And Arizona Eastern. It is a scale model of what was dubbed “the impossible railroad,” because of the difficult terrain the train had to pass through from El Centro to San Diego. It features amazing impressions of Carriso Gorge and the Goat Canyon trestle.
The La Mesa Model Railroad Club designed and operates the Tehachapi Pass, a loop layout that replicates the 70-mile loop between Bakersfield, CA and Mojave. The original railroad cuts through the Tehachapi Mountains and provides almost all north-south between Southern and Central California. Thousands of photographs have ensured the accurate replication of the real deal.
One of the most meticulous displays at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum was designed and constructed by the award-winning San Diego Society of N-Scale. The intricately designed layout with laborious attention to detail includes several authentically detailed buildings and over 500 hand-soldered rail turnouts. This hi-tech display is computer operated with the ability to run multiple trains with no human intervention.
The Cabrillo Southwestern is the model of an imaginary line and is currently under construction by the San Diego Model Railroad Club. The layout features an electric trolley line and an operational water fountain. Visitors can catch this layout in mid-construction and get a glimpse of just how it’s done; modellers can get ideas for their own projects too.
The Toy Train Gallery is operated by San Diego 3-railers and is the most kid-friendly of the exhibits. It features four remote-controlled main lines, an engineer’s view broadcast on a television screen, and interactive kid-operated coal cars. The gallery also displays toy train art and a collection of rare toy trains.
The newest project the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is in the process of funding is the Centennial Railway Garden featuring a miniature Balboa Park from the original 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Over 300 model railroad volunteers are working with the San Diego Garden Railway Society and the San Diego History Center to make the dream a reality. The display is in honor of John Sprekels’s contributions to the city of San Diego. Don’t miss a moment of it; take a step into the wonderful world of trains at this intriguing museum.
1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 696-0199