Holiday magic at the Model Railroad Museum!

Need some holiday magic?

It can be found in abundance at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park!

The huge, detailed train layouts are amazing by themselves, but during the Holiday Season, additional surprises await around the museum!

There are beautiful Christmas trees, a talking, animatronic Santa to excite kids, and tiny holiday scenes placed in several of the scale train layouts.

But by far the most magic can be experienced in the Toy Train Gallery!

In the Toy Train Gallery, young and old gaze wide-eyed at a lively city filled with holiday figures and bright decorations. Trains illuminated with colored Christmas lights pass through happy winter scenes. Snowmen and Christmas trees perch on rooftops. It like a dream world one might see in a snow globe–filled with life and activity!

In addition, the Toy Train Gallery’s walls are filled with holiday artwork that will make old-timers nostalgic for years gone by.

A few photos provide a small taste…

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Trains and Rails at Del Mar’s Powerhouse Park.

Visitors to Del Mar’s beachside Powerhouse Park might easily miss this very interesting sign.

The sign is unobtrusive and badly weathered and stands across the walking path from the “Tot Lot” playground. When you lean in close to read the sign, you discover it concerns the nearby railroad tracks.

If you’re lucky, while you’re standing there, an Amtrak or Coaster train, or even a freight train, might rumble by.

I had to add contrast to these photographs, to make reading the sign a little easier.

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner roars by, heading out onto Del Mar’s coastal bluffs. (I took this photo as I walked south of the sign through Sea Cliff Park, which is immediately adjacent to Powerhouse Park.)

Trains and Rails. Ribbons of steel that link our country.

The origins of the San Diego Northern Railway date back to the late 1880s, when Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) built tracks along the Pacific coast from Orange County to San Diego…

…Several different train operators use this railroad. The NCTD carries more than 1.1 million passengers on a total of nearly 5,000 Coaster commuter trains annually. Amtrak carries more than 1.5 million passengers on more than 8,000 Surfliner trains annually. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway also runs approximately 2,500 freight trains along this coastal railroad every year…

The sign contains fun facts concerning local train history, including:

On July 7, 1881, the first ship arrived in San Diego with iron rails from Europe.

On November 17, 1885, the last spike was driven in San Bernardino connecting San Diego to the national line.

The last steam train left San Diego for Los Angeles on August 23, 1953.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fun for kids in La Mesa and Campo!

Do you know any kids who love trains? If you do, there are many opportunities for fun coming up in both La Mesa and Campo!

Yesterday I was passing the La Mesa Depot Museum when I noticed it was open and someone was working inside.

That someone was Station Master Timothy. He was building a new HO scale train layout in the old depot’s baggage room!

After showing me a few nearby historical exhibits, he explained this new layout will eventually be a fun, free activity for visiting kids. There will be a dynamic little town named Kerville (the tracks curve), and a module that can be added that includes both desert and mountainous terrain!

Meanwhile, the La Mesa Depot Museum has a curvy, twisty toy train layout in the adjoining ticket and passenger room that small kids can play with by hand.

Cooler yet, there are those real life train cars outside that one can explore up close and personal! If you’ve ever driven down Spring Street at La Mesa Boulevard, you’ve no doubt seen them.

You can see more photographs in and around the La Mesa museum here.

The La Mesa Depot Museum is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00 to 3:00 pm and Saturdays 1-4 pm.

. . .

The old La Mesa depot is a satellite of the much larger Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, located out in Campo. There kids can ride historic trains through San Diego’s scenic backcountry. And big kids (adults) can even take the controls of a big, honest-to-goodness diesel-electric locomotive and run it for a short distance!

Need something fun for the family to do next weekend before Halloween? Reserve a ticket for a unique Campo train ride out to a pumpkin patch. It’s called the Pumpkin Express.

Then, before Christmas, kids will enjoy meeting Santa during an incredible train ride on the North Pole Limited!

If you’d like an idea of how awesome this all would be, check out two of my past blog posts. This one has photographs from the train ride out in Campo. And this one shows the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum during its the big 100th Anniversary of the San Diego and Arizona Railway event!

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often, so you might want to bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and check back from time to time.

You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

New beauty inside historic Santa Fe Depot.

I believe that efforts to revive the life and beauty of historically important buildings should be celebrated. So today let me celebrate a project underway inside San Diego’s historic 1915 Santa Fe Depot.

Earlier this week, as I was waiting for Jimmy at the Santa Fe Depot concession stand to microwave a burrito, I noticed some yellow tape. The enormous Waiting Room’s wooden benches were being sanded down and newly varnished!

When I walked through the depot this morning, the work had progressed. More of the benches were richly shining! Jimmy had informed me it took about one day to complete each bench.

The interior of an amazing space in downtown San Diego is becoming even more beautiful.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Seeing the future by looking backward.

These old train tracks pass south over the Sweetwater River on a bridge that is no longer in use.

Do you like ghost stories?

Do you like riding trains?

Answer yes to either question, and you might enjoy a new short story that I published this morning. It’s titled Backward Man.

Is it possible to see the future by looking backward? That seems like a reasonable assertion, right?

If a little strangeness and horror are your cup of tea, you can read the story by clicking here!

Original streetcars from Balboa Park’s 1915 exposition!

Do you want to see an incredible, important part of San Diego history? Then head over to the National City Depot Museum, which is operated by the San Diego Electric Railway Association. Last year they obtained the three only remaining streetcars that operated in the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park!

As you step into the depot museum, you’ll see a sign that describes the history of these historic cars. To summarize:

In 1910 the Class 1 streetcars were designed in San Diego and ordered from the St. Louis Car Company. Twenty four cars were built, and they began operations in San Diego in 1912. These cars would operate on various streetcar lines until 1939.

In 1939, a couple residing in El Cajon bought three streetcars that weren’t scrapped; in 1996 they were acquired by a local antique dealer and moved to storage on Adams Avenue; and in 1997 the cars were designated San Diego Historical Landmark #339.

Between 1997 and 2013 extensive restoration work was performed on car 138 by San Diego Historic Streetcars, as you can see in my photographs. There had been a plan to operate the cars during Balboa Park’s 2015 Exposition Centennial.

Finally, in 2021, the three historic streetcars were donated to the San Diego Electric Railway Association in National City, where the public, on open weekends, can freely observe them up close!

The plan now is to obtain wheels for car 138, and to fully restore the car so that it will endure for future generations.

Anyone who is intrigued by San Diego’s history, and what life might have been like around the time of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, must see these three original streetcars!

With a little imagination, one can picture the colorful cars running up rails that once existed near today’s Park Boulevard, transporting crowds of excited visitors to the exposition grounds!

The book Rails of the Silver Gate by San Diego railroad historian Richard V. Dodge provides a description of cars 125-148.

At the other end of the National City Depot Museum’s large outdoor yard stand the two unrestored streetcars, numbers 126 and 128.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

An amazing San Diego museum few know about!

One of San Diego’s most amazing museums is little known to the public. But if you are interested in our city’s history, it’s a place you absolutely must visit!

The San Diego Electric Railway Association’s historic National City Depot museum is positively jam packed with fascinating exhibits. I last visited the old train depot six years ago, and I posted this blog with lots of photos and interesting information. On a whim I swung by the museum yesterday–and was wowed once again!

Display cases are filled with artifacts and ephemera from a century ago when a growing San Diego was crisscrossed with streetcars. And, of course, there are the many outdoor exhibits, including old trolleys, streetcars and railway equipment.

As I entered the depot, my eyes immediately fixed upon something astonishing. A sign described how three of San Diego’s original streetcars were added to the museum last year! I’ll be blogging about that shortly!

If you have kids and need something to do on a weekend, they’ll love the museum. I bet you will, too! And it’s free!

Take a look at just a tiny bit of the San Diego history you’ll see…

There are important out of print reference books available at the museum, too, including one titled Rails of the Silver Gate that I purchased. Published in 1960, it provides a complete detailed history of entrepreneur John D. Spreckels and his creation of the San Diego Electric Railway. The incredible book includes many photos, plus descriptions of every car that ever operated, and route maps that became increasingly extensive over the years!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Sunrise over San Diego’s trolley and rail yard.

I was walking around the San Diego Convention Center this morning, looking for cool stuff popping up for this weekend’s Comic-Con Special Edition, when I had to pause on the Harbor Drive pedestrian bridge and marvel at the brilliant sunrise.

I took these two photos of sunrise above downtown’s trolley and rail yard.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Unique architecture at the Solana Beach train station!

From any angle, the Solana Beach train station appears unusual and interesting. The architecture of this Coaster and Amtrak station makes it one of the most intriguing landmarks in San Diego’s North County.

The Solana Beach station opened in 1994. The building was designed by Rob Wellington Quigley, who is also known for the San Diego Central Library and its iconic dome, The New Children’s Museum, the Ocean Discovery Institute in City Heights, Bayside Fire Station No. 2, and the Beaumont Building in Little Italy. It seems all of his architectural work is just as surprising and visually stimulating.

The last time I rode the Coaster to Solana Beach I walked around the train station, taking these photographs. To my eye, there’s something undefinably attractive about the building’s sharp lines and simple curved shape, and its singular symmetry.

I particularly like the passenger waiting room. Those artfully arranged windows on either side are bright with outdoor sunlight, as if beckoning travelers to venture out into a magical, multi-faceted, welcoming big world.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Working on the trolley tracks at America Plaza.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed that MTS is working on the trolley tracks in and near the America Plaza station. As you can see in the above photo, old wooden railroad ties are being replaced with new concrete ones.

I’ve always loved trains. I did as a kid. I still do today. That’s one reason I like riding the San Diego Trolley.

So it has been fascinating to watch this work whenever I walk through downtown past America Plaza.

It will also be interesting to watch another upcoming project by the Metropolitan Transit System: the America Plaza and Santa Fe Depot Pedestrian Enhancement Project. Navigating between these two adjacent stations will be made easier and more welcoming. I use both stations a lot, so I’m excited!

I took these photos over the last couple weeks. You can see progress is being made as the aging trolley tracks are improved…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!