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San Diego 3-RailersSan Diego, California

In perhaps the country’s best model railroad museum, hosting over 100,000 visitors annually, the San Diego 3-Railers’ layout — one of four in the museum — is the hot spot. It’s the only place where trains run fast, kids are encouraged to touch and operate trains, and whistles, bells, and smoke fill the air.

Museum visitors can watch and interact with four mainlines operating amidst a number of push-button accessories: a car wash, a gas station, a McDonald’s, a fire station and Mel’s Diner. Additional push buttons allow toddlers to start trains moving around two 3’ x 4’ layouts. Day-to-night overhead lighting at 15-minute intervals gives visitors a perspective on nighttime toy train operation. And an overhead TV monitor broadcasts the view from a Budd Car that’s either parked on a siding or traveling around the rails, to show everyone a close-up of what it would be like to ride in 1/48 scale.

Just as important, the San Diego 3-Railers operate a marvelous and well-organized Kids’ Club. More than 400 families have participated over the past decade, with activities ranging from setting up carpet layouts to constructing buildings, receiving gifts of rolling stock, and operating the 4-mainline museum layout by themselves.

Learn more about the Club’s activities on their website at www.sd3r.org, which features a live-camera view of the layout during museum hours, or visit the museum’s site at www.sdmrm.org.

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