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NRHS Convention 2022 A Trip to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum 5/17/2022

by Chris Guenzler

This year's National Railway Historical Society convention was in Buena Park, California and therefore was very close to where Elizabeth and I live. I signed up for all the convention activities as Elizabeth was a bus host and member of the convention committee. We stayed at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel and checked into a room on the sixth floor on Sunday, May 15th. Elizabeth is now the Acting Secretary of the NRHS Advisory Council and was therefore involved in Monday's business meetings. Convention activities began on Tuesday morning when Elizabeth and I woke up early and had a hotel breafast of pancakes in the Amber Waves Restaurant. After I returned to the room I checked the Internet before going downstairs to get in line for the bus trip to San Diego this morning. I boarded Bus 1 and sat with NRHS friend James Harris from North Carolina and pointed many items to him on the way there. We made great time until near Claremont Avenue where there was a fatal motorcycle accident which limited traffic to the two right lanes but our bus driver did an excellent job of getting us to the museum on time.

NRHS San Diego Model Museum trip information

On today's event we will travel by chartered motor coach directly to the famous San Diego Model Railroad Museum located in Balboa Park. The Museum and its Research Library are not normally open to the public on Tuesdays or on a regular schedule. The museum features over 27,000 square feet of tracks, trains and trestles on five different operating layouts, ranging in gauge from N, HO, O, 3-rail O to G. The museum's gift shop and Research Library will also be open for our group. At the end of our visit, we will take a short bus ride to the classic former Santa Fe Station in downtown San Diego, where we will board an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train for a ride to the Fullerton Station. Motor coaches will take us from Fullerton back to the hotel.

San Diego Model Museum information

Spanning over 27,000 square feet of trains, trestles, and tracks we are in the heart of natural beauty framed by the majestic backdrop of Balboa Park. The San Diego Model Railroad Museum (SDMRM) is a space where imagination is beautifully engineered. SDMRM features both indoor and outdoor exhibits and programming for all ages.

Our mission is to research, collect, preserve and present the heritage of American railroading using educational programs, displays, toy trains and scale models of California railroads. At every twist, turn and tunnel, we spark curiosity with developing educational programming that includes education milestones like critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. Our exhibits transform little engineers to modelers who tinker with engines and nail down track to build and transform something from nothing.

The Cabrillo Southwestern and the San Diego & Arizona Eastern by the San Diego Model Railroad Association

The San Diego Model Railroad Association operates the Cabrillo Southwestern O Scale layout and the San Diego and Arizona Eastern HO layout. O scale is 1/48 actual size, or one modeled inch to forty eight real life inches. HO Scale is 1/87 actual size, or one modeled inch to eighty seven actual inches. The Cabrillo Southwest O Scale layout features a double track main line, a narrow gauge branch line and a mountain district! The layout is 120 feet long and covers 13 scale miles in mainline track. It represents California circa 1955. The San Diego and Arizona Eastern HO Layout, models San Diego to El Centro in the 1950's. The layout is 142 feet long and covers 15 scale miles in mainline track. You can follow the line from the Mexican border all the way down to El Centro, where club members expertly recreated a drive in Movie Theater.

The Tehachapi Pass by the La Mesa Model Railroad Club

The La Mesa Model Railroad Club operates the Southern Pacific-Santa Fe Tehachapi Pass Layout. This exhibit is a highly accurate replica of Southern California's busiest single track mountain railroad and is HO scale. The Tehachapi Pass runs through the Tehachapi Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is famous for the Tehachapi Loop, where because of the steep mountain grade the railroad was designed in a spiral loop. You can see this replicated on the mezzanine level of the Tehachapi layout. Everything on this layout operates to scale. Including the types of trains run on the track, the times of operation and the speed.

Pacific Desert Lines by the San Diego Society of N Scale

The San Diego Society of N Scale maintains the Pacific Desert Lines layout. In approximately 1500 square feet, the layout models the original 1855 route that was surveyed and planned for the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad but was never built. N Scale is 1/160 actual size, or one modeled inch to one hundred and sixty actual inches. The layout models a number of San Diego landmarks including the Carlsbad Flower Fields, Carrizo Gorge, and the Downtown. Throughout the layout there are quirky hidden surprises. See if you can spot the pool shark!

The Toy Train Gallery by the San Diego 3-Railer Club

The San Diego 3-Railer's Club operates the Toy Train Layout in the Toy Train Gallery. This fantasy layout features O Scale "Lionel Type" toy trains running on 3 rail O gauge track. One of the highlights of the gallery is the "Choo-Choo cam" fitted onto a running train which provides visitors with a first person virtual view of the layout. The exhibit was rated one of the top ten layouts by Classic Toy Trains magazine in 2012.

The Centennial Railway Garden

This exhibit was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park in 2015. The G scale garden railroad is modeled after Balboa Park as it existed in 1915. G scale is about 1/32 to actual prototypical scale. The exhibit is solar powered and the plants are drought tolerant, making this display one of the only green technology exhibits in Balboa Park. The trolley cars that run on the layout are modeled after the Class 1 Street Car which was created specifically for the 1915 Exposition. The buildings were made using laser cutting and 3-D printing. The Balboa Park Online Collaborative created the interactive i Pad and smart device elements which allow you to control lighting and sound on the buildings.

Our Visit

We walked from the bus parking area to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and entered the museum, where Anthony Ridenhour, the Museum's Executive Director, was waiting for us.

These signs were around the museum, making us feel quite welcome.

MCRR 0-4-0 2 on display in the entrance to this great museum.

The first layout I looked at was of Pacific Desert Lines.

The next layout was of the Cabrillo Southwestern and the San Diego & Arizona Eastern. I talked with plenty of our NRHS members as I toured the museum.

Museum scene.

Model trains in display cases showing the various scales.

The next layout I encountered was the Southern Pacific-Santa Fe Tehachapi Pass. From here I went into another new room.

Model trains and china on display. I continued my stroll around this extremely impressive museum and entered the Toy Train Gallery.

The Toy Train Gallery buit by the San Diego 3-Railer Club. From here I ventured outside for the Centennial Railway Garden where you press a button to get one of the two cars to move around the layout.

The trolley cars move across the Centennial Railway Garden.

Another garden railway under construction. It was then announced that lunch was available and I returned inside and joined others in the Pacific Beach room where I enjoyed my bag lunch with no cheese on the roast beef sandwich and a delicious chocolate chip cookie. Thank you, Eileen, for taking care of this.

I could not resist another picture of the Southern Pacific-Santa Fe Tehachapi Pass layout.

More pictures of the Pacific Desert Lines layout.

Final views of the Southern Pacific-Santa Fe Tehachapi Pass layout. I spoke with a few of the members of our group before I walked back to the bus.

I would like to thank the San Diego Model Railroad Museum for hosting the NRHS 2022 Convention here today. Once everyone was back on the bus and had been checked off the manifest by the very capable bus hosts, we left Balboa Park and took city streets to reach the Santa Fe station. People were turned loose and there were plenty of photographic opportunities inside the station although others went trackside to see the private car "America", but some, including me, stayed with John Goodman, the convention chairman. John called everyone back and we made a line to pre-board the train.

Pacific Surfliner 583

I led the way to the cab car, one of two cars are group was using today, and sat with James for the return trip to Fullerton. With everyone onboard, the train left San Diego at 3:01 PM and we were off. I pointed out places of interest to James throughout the trip. The train stopped in Old Town, Solana Beach and Oceanside before making a stop at the San Clemente Pier.

The San Clemente Pier. We stopped at San Juan Capistrano, Irvine, Santa Ana and Anaheim before detraining at Fullerton where Elizabeth and Steve were waiting with the bus drivers as they had ridden the dead-heading buses from San Diego. They returned us to the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel, ending our first trip of the 2022 convention.