Where is the Largest Model Train Museum?

Searching for the Largest Model Train Museum could get several responses you aren’t looking for. One of the most obvious things is that marketing gurus have placed World’s Largest or Best around almost any sizeable product to drum up interest. So, where is the Largest model train museum?

The Largest Model Railroad Museum is located in San Diego, California. It houses trains of different gauges running around a tiny town complete with bridges and tunnels. In addition, some galleries and exhibits entertain and educate.

Model train museums come in all shapes and sizes, and there are a few World’s Largest museums have special caveats like outdoor or single track. But, don’t worry about it! Just read on and learn everything you need to know about how to find the World’s Largest Model Train museums.

The World’s Largest Model Train Museum

The World’s Largest Model Train museum is in San Diego, California, nestled beneath the Casa de Balboa building. It is a popular attraction for families, and spending a day bouncing around San Diego wouldn’t be complete without watching the model trains.

Some reasons to visit the World’s Largest Model Train museum are:

  • History – Not only does the Model Train museum honor the legacies of model trains, but they have substantial records regarding the California rail system. These records are used alongside the models to instruct children about how the rails work and give them a glimpse of toys from the past.
  • Gauges – There are several different gauges for the model train. Seeing the different train sizes could give the inexperienced perspective and remind them of simpler childhood times. In addition, the gauges are fun to see roaming the track no matter what size you prefer.
  • Antiques – Inside the Casa de Balboa Model Train Museum are some of the most prized antiques from the model train’s history. Taking your time to examine all the antique trains is the primary goal of the exhibit. In addition, they hope for kids to be inspired and keep their love of model trains going.


The Model Train Museum in San Diego has several other exciting things for families to do and try. The staff’s primary goals are to get kids and parents excited about model trains, and by giving them a quick glimpse of the history and some fine examples from the past, they have solid teaching tools ready.

trains on model railroad benchwork

The Galleries are the Biggest Draw of the Museum

One of the reasons that people go to the Train Museum is because of the galleries they offer. Galleries are the names for exhibits that could be permanent or just a seasonal area for holidays and events. These galleries are rotational, but some are permanent fixtures in the Model Train Museum.

The Railway is a Main Draw of the Model Train Museum

Surprisingly, the most extensive gallery in the Museum is the trains. This set is unique because it combines several real-life lines running through California in the 1950s. The recreation is magnificent, and the areas are produced with meticulous precision.

Some pieces that stand out on the Model Train Museum railway are:

  • Lines – The railway comprises the three lines that service San Diego County and the surrounding areas. The Cabrillo Southwestern and the San Diego and Arizona Eastern railroads are set in 1/48 scale, and kids and adults will be amazed by the realistic nature of the gallery.
  • Tehachapi Pass – One of the most iconic pieces of the California railway is called the Tehachapi Pass. It was first used back in the 1850s by the Southern Pacific Railroad and crossed an ancient Native American trading route. The landscape and the railway are recreated meticulously and worth seeing.
  • Pacific Desert Line – Often, plans are made for sprawling railroads that would have been the height of fashion and technology. The Pacific Desert Line was a planned but never built line that is a hot attraction at the Model Train Museum.

The galleries are great exhibits that will keep the family entertained throughout the trip. Unfortunately, most people say they can only get their children to leave by promising them they will return. However, the galleries are just the tip of the iceberg, and the most beloved part of the museum is yet to come.

The Toy Train Gallery is the Most Popular Exhibit at the Model Train Museum

The toy train gallery is one of the most popular attractions at the Balboa Model Train Museum. The trains in the gallery are representations of toys produced throughout history. Some trains are laid on the tracks inside and run on special occasions, while others are constantly on the march during operating hours.

Some exciting things about the toy train gallery exhibit are:

  • Trains – Let’s face it, whether you are four or forty-four, model trains are fun to watch. The amount and type of trains they have on-site are astounding. Each is restored to like-new quality, and some are bound to strike a nerve with older visitors.
  • Town – There couldn’t be an epic model train museum without a scaled-to-size city to go with it. The town surrounding the toy gallery trains was created and maintained by a local model train club, and it is modeled after American cities from the late 1950s.
  • Models – One thing that is often overlooked by the patrons of the Model Train Museum is the models themselves. The people involved in creating and maintaining the exhibits have a love for models and trains that create an ambiance that transports you to the tiny town and makes the real world melt away.


The epic scale of the toy gallery at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is not to be missed. The details placed in the town are exceptional, and you can tell they were created with love for model trains. Don’t treat this as a short trip. Planning for a full day allows you to see other trains on the track and various lighting cues that change during the day.

Planning Your Trip to the Model Railroad Museum is a Breeze

San Diego is a city that is not short on things to do. There are sports teams and the ocean, which draw millions to the West Coast this year. Going to the Model Train Museum can be a big part of a fantastic day that the family will never forget.

Some things to remember when planning your trip to the Model Train Museum are:

  • Erwin Welsch Research Library – If you want to know anything about model trains making a stop at the Erwin Welsch Research Library will help you complete your mission. They have information on every train and thousands of others produced by Lionel in its heyday.
  • Traveling Exhibits – Another thing to plan for when attending the Model Train Museum is the traveling exhibits. These exhibits will be in the areas surrounding the Balboa and could be anything connected with the history of model trains or the railroad.
  • Go San Diego Pass – One of the best things to do when traveling to San Diego and hitting the sites is a Go San Diego Pass. These passes offer discounts on all the hottest attractions around San Diego at a deal.

When planning a trip to the museum or San Diego, following those simple rules will make your day less of a hassle and one for the record books. Remember that the San Diego Model Train Museum is located in the basement, and the elevator is in the west lobby. The Model Railroad Train Museum is busy, and planning before you go is essential.

Honorable Mention Model Train Museums

The Model Train Museum in San Diego is the largest museum of its type, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few other notable model train museums. Around the world, people go nuts for model trains and the time and detail placed into some museums is on par with any of their peers.

The Minitaur Wunderland in Germany is the World’s Longest Model Train

One of the bright spots when traveling to Hamburg, Germany, is the Minitaur Wunderland. The tracks are just over nine and a half miles, with some impressive stops along the route. As always, checking the crowd forecasts before taking this trip is highly advised.

A few things to check out when you see the trains at the Minitaur Wunderland are:

  • Buildings – The buildings inside the massive train setup are created with detail and resemble parts of Germany. There are over 4,000 miniature buildings along the length of the tracks, and each one is unique and individual.
  • LEDs – The amount of LED lighting along the track and buildings boggles the mind. There are over 385,000 LED lights inside the Minitaur Wunderland, each installed by hand.
  • Trains and Cars – Trains run the length of the rail during the hours of operation. Over 1,000 cars are hauling over 9,500 different cars in the museum. While they might not run at once, the number of trains and cars inside the Wunderland is a sight to behold.
  • Dedication – Another thing about the Minitaur Wunderland is the amount of time that has been dedicated to its creation. There have been over 760,000 hours spent on the creation of the Wunderland.
  • Planes – The Wunderland has planes. There are 42 planes inside the model, and all are embedded in the scenes, just like the houses. They thought that adding low-flying jets and crop dusters give the train perspective, and when the trains run, the planes are lit with LEDs, and some even move along solid tracks.
  • Track – The Wunderland track has more than 16,000 feet of track. That’s just under three miles that the network of trains circles and traverses the amazing landscapes created around them. 

The Minitaur Wunderland is highly trafficked. Before leaving, you should take the time to see what the peak hours are and if special seats are available on their behind-the-scenes tours. The tour is exquisite, and you get a glimpse of what makes the tiny Wunderland tick.

model train backdrop

The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad is an Exceptional Track

One of the biggest model train enthusiast clubs is in Chicago, Illinois. The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad club is a model railroad group with a profound web presence and a comfy home in one of America’s most enjoyable cities.

Some things to do when you visit the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad are:

  • History – One of the best things the Garfield Railroad does is have a rich history of model trains. Since the late 1940s, the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad has been making tracks and displaying trains.
  • Education – Another thing to enjoy at the Garfield is the educational exhibits. The trains are a fantastic mix of engineering and technology that combine electronics with mechanical energies. Learning how the trains work is a crash course in STEM fun for kids of all ages.
  • Virtual Tour – Something that the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad does that not many others do is have a virtual tour. Having a virtual tour means that people worldwide can see all the trains and tracks they have to offer without ever leaving their homes.

Going to the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad is an exciting way to spend the day in Chicago. The trains are available online, but nothing is like seeing them in person. When planning, check the webpage for special events as different galleries appear every few months.


Model trains are a part of our history that is slowly slipping away. There are places like the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. The Railroad Museum is the largest of its kind in the world, and people from all over flock to the Casa de Balboa basement to see their amazing recreations and models.

Just because something is the biggest doesn’t mean there aren’t competitors. There are model train enthusiasts around the globe, and they have created miniature worlds. These trains and model towns are restored with meticulous detail, and pictures don’t do them justice. 


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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