A visit to the Old Town Model Railroad Depot will take you back in time to the 1950’s, where various trains travel over a 2,000 sq. ft. custom-built layout. The highlight is a city at night including over 100 buildings with lights and flashing neon signs, a ballpark, zoo, depot, industrial district, and even a working drive-in movie theater. Continuing on your journey, you will pass a large farm, a quaint country town, a beautiful mountain range, a large lake (complete with sharks), and a dam with trestles traversing over a large gorge.
The Depot also includes a retail store featuring model trains and supplies, train-themed gifts, books, toys, and apparel.
And now for the Old Town Model Railroad Depot story…
In September 2019, our family (David Lizerbram, Mana Monzavi, and our (then) 2-year-old son, Miles), stopped into a charming museum called the Old Town Model Railroad Depot for the first time. We’d heard about it in passing and just wanted to check it out. All three us fell in love with the Depot at first sight. David grew up in San Diego, enjoying the model railroad hobby and sharing Lionel trains with his father. He had left the hobby behind, but having a young child had rekindled his love of anything related to trains. Our family had spent many weekends finding train-related activities to do around town, and we planned to add the Depot to our list of regular spots to visit with Miles.
Unfortunately, the Depot’s founder, Gary Hickok, shared with us that the Depot was set to close in just a few months. We were heartbroken to hear this. We had busy lives and no plans to buy a business, let alone a model railroad museum. But we couldn’t stand the thought of letting the Depot disappear. Fast forward a few months and we found ourselves the proud new owners of the Old Town Model Railroad Depot! We’re thrilled to be able to help keep the Depot alive for generations to come.
Going back to the Depot’s beginnings… Gary grew up in the 1950s in Western New York where his father worked for the Erie Railroad. Lionel trains were the mainstay of hobbies at that time and Gary built his first layout at the age of 9. Returning to the hobby with his son rekindled the attraction and Gary began collecting trains over the next two decades. In 2014, he had the opportunity to build his dream layout in Old Town San Diego where his collection and vision could be shared with the locals, visitors to Old Town, as well as model railroad enthusiasts worldwide.
The Old Town Model Railroad Depot was built by Gary and a team of six volunteers over 66 days.
Since it first opened, our trains have run over 25,000 miles!
After five years of running the Depot on a daily basis, Gary decided it was time to retire. He was initially unable to find anyone to take it over and it looked like the Depot was going to close when we happened to walk in at just about the last minute and give our beloved Depot a new lease on life.
We’ve had the great fortune of sharing the Depot with our outstanding, hardworking team and with visitors from just down the road and from all over the world. We look forward to spending many more years at the Depot bringing joy to kids of all ages. Thanks for taking a few moments to learn about the Old Town Model Railroad Depot! We hope to see you soon and we appreciate your support for our labor of love.
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