Columbia River Model Railroad Show

A Portland Hidden gem! See what make the annual Columbia Gorge Model Railway Show so popular.

Did you know the entire Columbia River Gorge, from Wishram, Washington to Portland, Oregon is on display in perfect miniature at the Columbia River Railroad Club?  Every weekend in November they open their doors to the public staffing the room with more than 3o conductors to put on a show.  The space is impressive with over 3 miles of track, 500 miniature people and 300 miniature cars and includes famous local landmarks like Multnomah Falls, Union Station and the Vista House.

Model railroad town & train

Model railroad union station

Model railroad multnomah falls

Model rail road table

There were a few things that really stood out for me at the show.  First, it was packed with people of from tiny toddlers to the elderly.  Everyone love trains!  Many times I had to wait to even get close to the glass for a peek at the action.  So glad to see this event is so beloved and supported.

Model railroad crowd

Second, there were a LOT of people operating the trains.  Knowing nothing about model trains, I was surprised at how many people it took to run the place: 35!  The group of guys at the top (it appears to be a male dominated hobby, I never saw any women working) reminded me of NASA’s Mission Control, everyone was wearing headsets and very focused.  

Model railroad operators

Model railroad lumber & operator

While most of the models are representations of real-world trains and locations, there were some fun touches added in for the kids.  The big one is a train featuring Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the kids loved it!   There is also a scavenger hunt  with a list  “easter eggs” hidden all over the display like the Starship Enterprise, a Dr. Who TARDIS, and a few dinosaurs.  To top it all off, on the way out, they had a really great lego display.

Model railroad circus

Model railroad machinery

model railroad legos

For me the most charming effect was the day/night lighting.  Occasionally the overhead lights would dim and the nighttime lighting would fade up.  Street lights in the towns would come on, store windows would glow… then slowly the sun would start to come up, glowing behind Mt Hood.  It was beautiful and really showed the level of creativity and care that goes into this space.  

Model railroad town night

Model railroads bridge

Model railRoad skyline

The show is over for the year but if you want to check out their space you can stop in on Tuesday nights.  The first Tuesday of the month is a “Run Night” so that is your best bet to see the trains in action.  Choo Choo!

Model railroad tavern

Model railroad mt hood railroad


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