Balboa Park Point of Interest: San Diego Model Railroad Museum

If you know my dad well, you would know that visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum at Balboa Park was his suggestion. My dad is a model train hobbyist, enthusiast, and just all-around “train guy”. He knows everything you could ever want to know about trains, particularly the Southern Pacific Railway, and especially if you are talking about the HO gauge version of it set in California in a specific timeframe…

We. of course, took my dad’s suggestion and visited the SD Model R&R Museum and it ended up being Matt’s favorite place we went to. I also really enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and it also made me feel more akin to my father–as I saw the artistry, time, passion, love and talent that goes into building a model train layout.

I guess I owe my dad for the little knowledge of model trains I already had going into the museum…because I can tell you without even looking at the brochures that there was a Lionel-style train layout, a Lego one, one “N-gauge” layout, an “O gauge” layout and a few of my dad’s preferred “HO gauge” layouts. This letter-gauging system tells what scale compared to a real train the models are–and the Lionel and Lego models are more “for fun” and are more loosely time-period-specific and scale/size-accurate. They were still very fun to look at, don’t get me wrong. But the true artistry could be seen in the N, O, and HO gauge layouts. The beautifully painted backdrops and meticulously researched and assembled buildings, cars, and terrain are awe-inspiring. My dad mentioned that he has “operated” on the double-decker HO layout at the museum so I made sure to pay attention to that one and even had the pleasure of talking to the guy running the operating session that was going on while we were there. I even saw him throw a switch, which reminded me of when my sister and I were young and my dad would take us along to his train club and we’d get into all kinds of mischief trying to throw switches to re-route traffic and turn things on and off.

I guess the long and short of this post is I love my dad and understand him better for having visited this museum. I would highly recommend visiting it even if your dad is not a model train enthusiast! It was very neat and the attention to detail of the layouts and models is astonishing and the people that work/volunteer there are all really friendly and nice and want to tell you more about the displays…

Here are some photos of the layouts:

HO Scale

HO Scale work in progress: Turn-table (this is what Walter Payton’s RoundHouse in Aurora, IL used to be used for…)
Lego set:
Lionel Set:

O-Scale:

And I did not take any photos of the N Scale but we were very amused we were to see a little scene within the layout of a shark inside a residential swimming pool with police and firetrucks on their way. A lot of the layouts have little stories within the big picture–usually featuring men at work and their equipment failing or a car sliding into a ditch, logs rolling off a cart and down a hill, etc. Little stories that make it more fun to look at. :)

I have to thank my dad again for recommending the San Diego Model R&R Museum! Thanks Dad!

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