DEL MAR — The Great Train Expo brought together 10 model railroad clubs, hundreds of feet of track, and Z scale to large-scale trains at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Dec. 3.
Railroad villages appointed with tunnels, forests and complete towns filled O’Brien Hall for the expo.
The North County Model Railroad Society of Oceanside had a portable HO scale track set up at just the right height for four pint-size engineers to work the controls at the same time.
The portable track is laid out in four concentric ovals. First-time operators can control the stop, go and speed of the train without worrying about traffic on the tracks.
“Kids can operate it,” Jay Sarno of North County Model Railroad Society said. “It’s a simple layout.”
Back at the club’s headquarters is a more complex train layout. It is operated by a computer control system that allows club members to control lights, bells and train operations.
The setup lets operations be much more complex. Members run trains through operation sessions in which they follow a schedule for train car pickup, operation flow and delivery. It is a lot like operating a real train.
“It’s like realistically recreating the real world on a small scale,” Sarno said. “The joke is the only real difference is if we screw up we’re not required by federal law to take a drug test.”
The North County Model Railroad Society is located on the second floor of Earthgrown Market at 1820 Oceanside Blvd.
The club has 38 family memberships. Members authorized to run club trains range in age from 7 to 80 years old. New members and entry-level member are welcome to join.
Open house hours for the public to view the trains are on Thursdays and Saturdays. Spectators who want a peek at the trains ring the elevator bell on the first floor of the market and are brought up to the club.
There they can walk around the track layout and talk to train operators.
The Great Train Expo is one of the club’s primary outreach events.
Some club members are also volunteers for Operation Lifesaver. The organization gives train safety presentations to children, teen drivers, professional drivers and transit drivers.
“We’ll talk to anyone,” Sarno said. “We worked a lot work with North County Transit District when the Metric (train) came in.”