There was once a time when traveling by train was the image of American romance— galloping across the open plains on the back of a steaming steel horse. With the advent of planes and automobiles, however, the era of train travel in the United States has long since passed its twilight. Unless, of course, you’re at the Model Railroad Museum, where the power of locomotives is as clear as the trains are timeless. Here at this 27,000 square foot enclosure inside of Balboa Park, railroad clubs have created artistic scale models of classic American trains. Follow a train as it plies the rails of the historic Tehachapi Pass, and look at models for the Pacific Desert Line—a track that was planned from San Diego to the east but never came to fruition. The meticulous craftsmanship that’s gone into the models is nothing short of astounding, and in addition to the models and trains themselves, visitors can learn about the legendary history of traveling the U.S. by train.
The museum is open on Tuesday-Friday from 11am-4pm, and from 11am-5pm on weekends. Admission is $9 for adults, $4 for children, and ages 5 and under are free. The museum is located in the lower level of the Casa de Balboa building inside of Balboa Park, and it’s possible to see workers constructing the trains on Tuesday and Friday nights.