Three model train exhibits in San Francisco

See recent posts by Debbie Abrams Kaplan

At the Randall Museum

[Flickr/Orin Zebest]

For train enthusiasts young and old alike, San Francisco has several model trains exhibits worth seeing this season.

San Francisco Library Holiday Train Exhibit: Through January 7, this fourth annual Holiday Train Exhibit at the San Francisco Library attracts both out-of-town visitors and locals. Library Facilities Director Roberto Lombardi and his staff put it together, using Lionel O scale replicas. You’ll find favorite story-book trains including a six-car Polar Express, Thomas the Tank Engine (with friends Clarabel and Annie), plus Hogwart’s Express. Look for the trains on the 2nd floor, by the Fisher Children’s Center. 100 Larkin Street. You’ll be walking distance to the library when staying at the Phoenix Hotel.

Golden Gate Express – Conservatory of Flowers: This second annual train show created by the Bay Area Garden Railway Society and hosted at the Conservatory of Flowers has a unique San Francisco flavor. Not only do the model trains go by San Francisco landmarks, the set itself is made partly of recycled items. Look for wine corks, cheese graters, a computer keyboard and more. As for city landmarks, you’ll see City Hall, the Chinatown Gate, the Transamerica Pyramid, Ferry Building, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Ghirardelli Square. The fog rolls in twice daily, at 11:15 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. The exhibit runs until April 10, 2010. 100 John F. Kennedy Drive. Enjoy your stay at Union Square at the Handlery Hotel, and head to Golden Gate Park for the day.

Randall Museum: While kids love watching this model railroad work, adult enthusiasts will go nuts. A variety of trains run through tracks winding around — and through — mountains, over bridges, by McDonald’s, through towns, by burning buildings and though miniature industrial areas. The Golden Gate Model Railroad Club operates the trains in the basement of the Randall Museum, where it’s been since 1961.

While the rest of the museum features a myriad of non-train exhibits, it just opened Riding the Rails, a scale model of a caboose that kids can climb on. In the works: an urban rail exhibit with famed San Francisco buildings – you’ll be able to move streetcars on the railroad tracks. While the Randall Museum is open Tuesday through Saturdays, the model railroad is only open on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 199 Museum Way. Stay at the Hotel Palomar, and you’ll be one bus ride away from the museum.

–Debbie Abrams Kaplan of and Kaplan Ink.

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