The San Diego Model Railroad Museum features several exhibits, all of which showcase California railroads, and the trains come in different sizes. For example, a G-scale engine is 13 inches long by 6 inches wide and 4-3/4 inches high. It is 6.9 times bigger than a Z-sale engine, which is only 4 inches long, 2/3 inches wide and 3/4 inches high.
The Cabrillo Southwestern
The O-scale Cabrillo Southwestern has a double-track mainline as well as a narrow-gauge branch line set into a mountain-town backdrop. The layout represents California in the mid-1950s. Among the details is a church with a small cemetery. The headstones here are engraved with the names of deceased SDMRM members.
The San Diego & Arizona Eastern
Another layout modeled after the 1950s is the 142-foot-long San Diego & Arizona Eastern featuring the all-wood Goat Canyon Trestle. This layout shows visitors the route from San Diego to El Centro, CA, where a drive-in movie theater is the town’s main feature, a nostalgic memory for baby-boomers. The San Diego Model Railroad Association operates both this layout and the Cabrillo Southwestern.
Plan your Visit
The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 10 AM - 4 PM, Saturday & Sunday 11 AM - 5 PM and is closed on Mondays.
The Southern Pacific-Santa Re Tehachapi Pass Layout
The La Mesa Model Railroad Club operates this HO-scale, single-track mountain railroad. The model layout is true to reality in that the steep mountain grade in the Tehachapi Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is replicated. Everything in this layout is done to scale, including the types of trains, their speed and their operating times.
The Pacific Desert lines
In approximately 1,500 square feet, this is a model of a route that was planned in 1855 but never built. Operated by the San Diego Society of N Scale, the layout shows the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad in N scale that runs past local landmarks from the Carlsbad Flower Fields to the downtown area.
The Toy Train Gallery
Operated by the San Diego 3-Railers Club and featured by Classic Toy Trains Magazine in 2012, the Toy Train layout has “Lionel-size” trains that chug along on 3-rail, O-gauge track. The Toy Train Gallery provides visitors with the “Choo-Choo Cam” on a running train that offers a virtual view of the layout.
The Centennial Railway Garden
Here is a G-scale garden railroad that is one of the few “green” exhibits in Balboa Park. Opened in 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the park, this solar-powered model railroad runs through a landscape of drought-tolerant plants. The trolley cars in the exhibit depict the streetcars that were built for the 1915 Exposition.