Principle Exhibits

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum contains four massive scale model layouts, a toy train gallery, and numerous educational and informational exhibits. With 24,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, we are proud of the fact that we are the largest such attraction in the world.

Cabrillo & Southwestern

The Cabrillo & Southwestern is the O scale (1/48th actual size) model railroad being built by the San Diego Model Railroad Club. It is a freelance model of an imaginary prototype running between San Diego and Sacramento. The layout was redesigned in 1986 and is being built in place, section by section, giving visitors a first hand view of model railroad construction. The layout features a electric trolley line which actually receives power from the overhead catenary system. There is also an operating brass sculptured water fountain in front of the main terminal.

San Diego & Arizona Eastern

The San Diego & Arizona Eastern is the HO scale (1/87th actual size) layout of the San Diego Model Railroad Club. HO is the most popular scale in model railroading . The SD&AE 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. Because of the rough terrain, the SD&AE has been coined "The Impossible Railroad".

Tehachapi Pass

Tehachapi - the name conjures up images of The Loop wherever railfans and modelers gather throughout the world. But railroading in Techacapi is much more than just the loop alone; it involves the entire 70 miles of railroad between Bakersfield and Mojave. Building a replica of this line has challenged modelers just as the pass itself challenged the railroad barons of a century ago.

The La Mesa Model Railroad Club has responded to this challenge by building an HO scale (1/87th actual size) model of this joint Southern Pacific - Santa Fe line with nearly curve-for-curve and switch-for-switch accuracy. This single track railroad, built through a notch in the Tehachapi Mountains, carries nearly all north-south rail traffic between central and southern California. It is also the eastern outlet for most of the produce grown in the San Joaquin Valley.

Two of the most attractive things about the Tehachapis 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 it's caboose 90 feet below. In several places the line doubles back upon itself, making it an ideal candidate for modeling. The model is unique not only for its size but for its geographic fidelity. Literally thousands of photographs of the prototype have been used to ensure that each detail closely models the features of the real area.

Pacific Desert Lines

The San Diego Society of N-Scale's Pacific Desert Lines is an N scale (1/160 actual size) model railroad. It is based on historical plans and documents which detail a turn of the century proposal for building a major railroad from San Diego to the east.

Meticulous craftsmanship has gone into the creation of the structures and track work in this exhibit. Many club members have won awards for their painstaking effort. The model of San Diego's Santa Fe depot was constructed using the actual blueprints of the building. The adobe roof tiles were cast with epoxy resin from hand carved moldings. The Carlsbad power plant has fiber optic strobe lights atop its chimney. Many buildings have detailed interiors, right down to the napkin dispenser and placemats on the tables at the corner cafe. If you look real close, you'll even spot some surfers in the water off the coast. A word of caution however, beware of the pool shark!

The track work is all code 40 rail, each piece only 0.0040 (forty one-thousandths) inches high. Every fifth tie is copper and the rail is soldered in place by hand. There are 10 scale miles of mainline track on the layout. Turnouts are also hand made. It takes about an evening's work to complete one turnout and there are aprox. 500 turnouts on the 1200 sq. ft. layout.

The railroad is computer controlled and several trains can run completely unattended. In addition, a single operator can control the layout with the click of a mouse button

Toy Train Gallery

This gallery features operating toy trains of Lionel O-Guage and LGB of America G-Scale.

Remember that Lionel train set under the Christmas tree or in the department store window? Now kids of all ages have a chance to operate it. Hands-on throttles allow control of a Lionel 1950's era department store Christmas layout. A collection of rare Lionel and American Flyer cars from the 1920's through the 1950's are also on display.

G-Scale or Garden railroading is one of the fatest growing segments of the hobby. The San Diego Garden Railway Society and LGB of America is sponsering the presentation of a modular G-Scale layout. Watch as these large locomotives toot, chug, huff and puff their way around the gallery. Garden railroaders will be on hand on the first Tuseday of the month throughout the summer to give a demonstration and answer any questions you might have.

Operation Lifesaver

Started in Idaho in 1972, Operation Lifesaver is a public information and education program to help prevent and reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities and improve driver performance at the nation's 300,000 public and private highway-rail grade crossings.

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is proud to participate in this program through exhibits and educational training. The museum's education department meets weekly with a group of elementary school students to inform them about rail safety. Since its inception, this program has spread the message of rail safety to thousands of children throughout San Diego County.

Every year hundreds die and thousands are injured in nearly 6,000 highway-rail grade crossing accidents. Many tragic accidents can be prevented if you follow these simple tips:

Know what your warning signs mean
Expect a train at anytime
Don't get trapped on a grade crossing
Never drive around crossing gates
Watch out for a second train
Get out of your vehicle if it stalls
Never race a train
Don't misjudge the train's distance and speed
Trains can't stop can

Operation Lifesaver reminds you to Look...Listen...and Live
For more information call (800) 537-6224

Southern Pacific Semiphore

The word semaphore derives from the Greek meaning "to bear a sign." Each blade represents a man with a flag. STOP is signaled with arms outstretched and PROCEED by arms dropping to the side. The Semaphore in the lobby came from Wolf Creek, Oregon where it had been in operation on the SP's Siskiyou line. The chain driven control mechanism is visible through the a clear plexiglass cover and operates the blades every five minutes.

Robert Sherman Retrospective

Come experience first hand the magic of model railroading through the artwork of technical illustrator Robert Sherman. During the late 1940's and early 1950's, Sherman drew illustrations for the Lionel train catalogs and was a prolific contributor to Lionel's monthly magazine, Model Builder.

The exhibit uses his illustrations, along with photos of the artist at work, to trace his life. An interactive portion of the exhibit gives visitors an opportunity to browse through reproductions of the famous Lionel catalogs. These exciting examples of public relations art facinated a generation of children and their dads, too. They made Lionel Trains and model railroads a symbol of American family fun for an earlier generation.

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Museum and Toy Train logo copyright (c) SDMRM
Crossing gate logo copyright (c) Operation Lifesaver
All photos copyright (c) Pentrex