It’s hard to imagine a more unusual—or overlooked—local treasure than the Golden State Model Railroad Museum (GSMRM) in Point Richmond, along the Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline and officially a facility of the East Bay Regional Park District.
The cavernous venue is home to three extensive train layouts of different scales, all of them hallmarked by intricately detailed landscapes with extremely realistic trees, mountains and rivers as well as countless structures and “man-made” wonders. The layouts are operated by the East Bay Model Engineers Society (EBMES), an organization dating back to 1933 with a presence at the GSMRM since its 1985 unveiling.
A truly nice touch about the trio of expansive train layouts is the sense of place they capture in portraying various Northern California locales. While perhaps not true to every detail, they’re inspired by historic takes on settings like Donner Pass, the city and harbor of Point Richmond, and the Port of Oakland.
The quirky venue holds somewhat unusual hours, with free admission currently on Wednesday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Saturday (12 p.m. to 5 p.m.) when no scheduled trains are running. The best day to visit most likely is Sunday, when trains are slated to chug along the tracks all day from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; there is a small admission of $5 for adults and children of 12 and over, which dips to $3 for senior citizens and kids from four to 11. Children under four always get in free, and there is also a special family rate of $10.
There are also some special added operating dates during the winter holiday season, plus special Friday “work nights” year-round on the first and second Friday of each month. Held from 7:30 p.m to 10 p.m., these evening affairs give visitors the chance to meet and chat with some of the train operators from the EBMES—perfect for someone who might want to join their society or create a model train wonderland of their own.
The museum is located 900-A Dornan Drive in Point Richmond. For directions and additional information, visit the GSMRM website (http://www.gsmrm.org/).