This is part of an e-mail that I received from club member Mike Aplet:

“[This] is a video of an excellent hillside model train layout that very much approximates our west wall. I didn’t bother to check on which scale it is. I simply was impressed by the realistic landscape details including rock and foliage. The scale doesn’t matter.”

Hope the link works as it is to Facebook:


FIRST TIME i MET GEOFF NOTT IN 1998. tHIS IS VERY OLD ANALOG FOOTAGE OF THAT DAY. LlAYOUT HAS SINCE BEEN DESTROYED..Enjoy "what was" , but was recorded for an inspiration to others

Posted by Miniature Dioramas, Modelling, Structures & Scenery on Thursday, January 25, 2018

Great layout …… I got several ideas for our layout whilst watching.


Club Member Mike Aplet and wife Laura’s visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and its Model Train

The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is located in Chicago, Illinois.It is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Among the museum’s exhibits are a full-size replica coal mine, German submarine U-505  captured during World War II , a 3,500-square-foot model railroad (The Great Train Story), the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (Piomeer Zephr), and the Apollo 8 spacecraft that carried the first humans to orbit the Moon.

The museum had an earlier model railroad layout, dating back to the early 1940s when Minton Cronkhite built the original Museum and Santa Fe Railway; a 2,340-square-foot layout in O Scale. This layout had over 1,000 feet (300 m) of track and over 20,000 hand-laid ties. Cronkhite began construction in 1939 and the exhibit made its public debut in January 1941. Much of the rolling stock and locomotives were hand built from scratch by Cronkhite using original Santa Fe plans. It featured Santa Fe’s southwestern freight and passenger operations, including a depiction of the Grand Canyon and quickly became a favorite with children and adults visiting the museum.

In 1953 Central Locomotive Works owner Bob Smith rebuilt the layout and added several diesel locomotives to the steam loco roster. It was updated again in 1988. Wear and tear from six decades of continuous daily use gradually took its toll, and by the time of its demise the layout had only a couple of operating loops. The layout was closed in May 2002. 

It was this layout that I visited in 1970 when I went to Chicago for a week long teaching assignment.

The current layout, The Great Train Story, was conceived by museum exhibit designer John Llewellyn. The layout took a year to build and made its public debut on November 22, 2002. The development team studied visitor interaction with the former layout and designed the new display in a Serpentine shape in order to bring guests into the exhibit to enhance the visual experience. Guests can also avail themselves a bird’s-eye view of the layout from the balcony that surrounds it.  The Great Train Story presents 2,200 miles of scenery and stories from Chicago to Seattle along 1,400 feet of winding track.

There are seven interactive points around the layout provided for visitors to operate various functions including a lumberjack chopping down a tree, blasting for a future mountain tunnel, and an operating drawbridge over the Chicago River.  Street building lights turn on when the exhibition hall’s lights are dimmed during periodic demonstrations of the Boeing 727 suspended overhead.

Alas, I have not seen the new layout. Mike and his wife Laura did see the layout when they visited Chicago during the summer. Laura was really kind and took photos of the layout. Laura told me that she was fascinated by the buildings. Here are her pictures:

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

Suburbs - superb modelling

Suburbs – superb modelling

The Elevated Commuter Train in Chicago

The Elevated Commuter Train in Chicago

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

This vid was taken by the Museum staff to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the The Great Train Story. A small camera aboard one of the model trains to capture a track-level view of the towns, crossings and scenery recreated in the exhibit’s Seattle-to-Chicago ride.

If you want to get some idea of of the size of the Museum and have 12 mins to spare check out this vid – I found it fascinating:

Oh, by the way, I’ve moved a visit to the Museum MUCH higher on THE LIST!!


G Scale layout at the Living Desert Zoo. Palm Desert, California

Earlier this year I “went south” to visit with good friend and life member of our club (The Mendocino Model Railroad & Historical Society) Bill Shepherd at Joshua Tree. I arrived on a friday evening and over supper Bill said he had a four model train weekend lined up for me. After breakfast on Saturday morning Bill and I set out for our first port of call – The Living Desert Zoo and the G Scale Layout therein.

The layout is just inside the entrance and it is huge. Living Desert volunteers built the railroad along with the world’s longest wooden “G” scale trestle measuring 202 feet and 8 inches. Currently there are more than 3,300 feet of track laid. With six different loops of track, each varying from 150 feet to over 900 feet long, the railroad has grown to 3/4 acre. The mainline train travels on 940 feet of track and runs through Old Indio, past the Grand Canyon and along side the mining and logging areas. The trains are driven into a workshop each night.

I have been sitting on this blog for quite some time. It wasn’t till i looked at the mass/mess of photos that I took for, maybe,  the fifth time that I got a handle on why I wasn’t raving enthusiastically about the layout. These four photos put me in touch with why:

Click on a photo to enlarge and set the slideshow running.

Look at all the hundreds of people crowding around – do you see them all? It took Bill and I about 40 minutes to circumnavigate the layout and we were virtually the only ones looking at the layout.. Why? The layout is a masterpiece in design and the execution is excellent but somehow it is barren – there isn’t enough activity to occupy the eye. Our layout is loaded with eye candy – this one – well it just doesn’t bustle. Perhaps the fact that you have to search the Living Desert website for even a mention of the layout tells its own story.

Well, as I said, I did take a lot of photos ………

And the zoo itself. Very large and quite good.

And it was HOT.



Madurodam (Dutch pronunciation: [maːdyroːdɑm]) – The little city with the smile

Madurodam is located  in the Scheveningen district of The Hague in the Netherlands (Holland). Having had a week’s holiday in Amsterdam you would have thought I would have learned of it whilst I was there. No. it didn’t happen like that. I learned of it from a farmer who asked me hold his two ton black Angus bull whilst he “visited” at the Royal Suffolk Agricultural show in England!!!! Life IS strange isn’t it.

I wrote the name down in my notepad having promised him I would look it up when I came down. Well, I am glad I did.

Madurodam is home to a host of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, historical cities and large developments. It also has extensive G scale track and trains. I was intrigued because 1:24 is the scale of our layout in Fort Bragg (CA). Having looked at the vids below I don’t think one needs to traipse all over the Netherlands looking at their famous landmarks – just go to Madurodam. The place has, I found out from Wiki, a very interesting history:

“Madurodam was named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student from Curacao who fought the Nazi occupation forces as a member of the Dutch resistance and died at Dachau concentration camp in 1945. In 1946, Maduro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Knight 4th-class of the Military Order of William,  the highest and oldest military decoration in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for the valor he had demonstrated in the Battle of the Netherlands against German troops.”

Hence the name. But how did it come to be? Again, I quote Wiki:

“Mrs B. Boon-van der Starp was a member of a foundation for the Dutch Students Sanatorium. In the sanatorium students with tuberculosis  could get cured and study. Their care cost a lot of money, but the money was not available. Financial support was necessary. Mrs Boon-van der Starp heard about a miniature park in Beaconsfield  England – Bekonscot. This park made a lot of money and much of it was annually donated to a hospital in London.

After a meeting between the parents of George Maduro and Mrs Boon-van der Starp the parents of George donated the funds necessary for the Madurodam project. By donating the money they created a memorial for their son. The architect of Madurodam, S.J. Bouma created a plan for Madurodam and came up with a theme: Het stadje met de glimlach (The little city with the smile).

It’s second on THE LIST for when we go back to the Netherlands.


Del Oro Modular Group – G Scale Layout

Many, many moons ago in the dark ages before this website was started club member Dan Fessler and I trooped way down south to attend the The Big Train Show at the Ontario Convention Center. We had heard about this train show which, until the year we visited, had been located on the Queen Elizabeth. The show itself was a bit of a bust with one exception – the finest modular layout I have ever seen. And, it was a G scale layout – the Del Oro Modular Group’s layout.

Rather than me warble on about how great it was have a look at this vid:

Not only is the layout large the quality and detail in the dioramas is simply amazing:

Del Oro Pacific Layout - Baseball field

Del Oro Pacific Layout – Baseball field

Del Oro Cemetary

Del Oro Cemetary

The layout generally only goes on show about six times a year in Southern California. If you are “down south” check out their website to see if the layout is “up” when you are visiting. Just a hint when visiting their website the menu is in the smoke from the engine on the left side of the page.

A visit to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park – Part 3

My previous two blogs have been about the enormous HO layout at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. In addition to the HO layout there is a very large O scale layout, an O Scale Lionel layout and a large N scale layout.

The N scale layout had not changed from my first visit many, many years ago. Daughter Holly who was with me asked if the shark was still in the swimming pool. It was.

The shark in the swimming pool.

The shark in the swimming pool.

The O scale layout was under construction. The track was in place and trains were running. An idea of the size of the layout can be seen in this photo.

Look at the size of the room

Look at the size of the room

A couple of mini scenes caught my eye and camera.



Beautifully modelled ship and quayside

Beautifully modeled ship and quayside

Note the lights on the top of the chimneys and on the truck backing up

Note the lights on the top of the chimneys and on the truck backing up

The last layout was a large Lionel 3 Rail layout totally dressed up for Halloween. The train had open freight cars which contained sweets and if you pressed a button the train stopped in front of you and you got to take a sweet.

Best Halloween layout ever?

Best Halloween layout ever?



I liked how the post had been painted to make it part of the sky

I liked how the post had been painted to make it part of the sky

If you are a model train nut and you are in San Diego you just have to visit here.