Whether you are awed by the iron...


Whether you are awed by the iron horse or charmed by the chug of a choo-choo, the Belmont Shore Model Railroad Club’s open house at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro should fan your romance with the railroad.

The weekend-long miniature train show, to benefit the park, ends today. It features 3 1/2-inch steam and diesel engines pulling freight and passengers over thousands of feet of tiny track. As they wend over mountains and through desert, past small-town general stores and pastoral country scenery, and rumble into busy metropolitan train stations, there is a feeling that these are not simply toy trains.

This is art.

“It’s more like putting on a performance where the trains are the actors and the modelers are the director/producers,” explained event co-chair George Johnsen, who began his love affair with trains at age 11. “It’s a moving painting. A three-dimensional painting with animated objects moving through it.”


This Lilliputian locomotive-filled land, hand-sculpted and painted by the club’s 42 members, is set in 1954, giving viewers a window into a world when the lonely sound of the outward-bound train meant adventure.

“It’s a child’s dream (that’s been) realized by adults,” Johnsen said of the layout.

The N Scale, or 9-millimeter, track system of the Belmont Shore Lines partly replicates the Southern Pacific line from Los Angeles to Bakersfield and features tributes to the trains of days gone by, such as the fiery Shasta Daylight that once ran from Portland to Los Angeles, Johnsen said.

In addition to the train layout, the open house will include contests for the finest models and best train photograph. A railroad museum, workshops on train safety, and clinics on topics such as how to build a tiny tree or detail a locomotive will round out the show.

“Train nuts will find us all on their own,” Johnsen said of the open house. “This is for the general public and people who appreciate art. It’s for people with a little wonder in their soul.”

All aboard!

The show will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in Building 824 of Angels Gate Park, 36th and Gaffey streets, San Pedro. A donation of $1 per person or $2 per family will be requested at the door. For information call (310) 519-9013.