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The Kid Should See This

The biggest model railroad in the Northwest

The Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club‘s HO Scale model railroad is a wonder for young and old alike. A re-creation of locales around Portland, Oregon, and the city’s 1950s-era railroad tracks, the club’s ever-changing masterpiece is captured in this video from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Founded in 1947, the CGMRC is the biggest model railroad in the Northwest and one of the oldest in the country. Housed in a North Portland building constructed to look like a train depot (and given to the club by Kaiser Permanente in a land swap of sorts), the model has served as the site for music videos and commercials, and according to members, draws big-name model-train-lovers like Neil Young and Rod Stewart when they pass through town.

“There’s no way in the world I could build something like this in my house. Couldn’t afford it,” said club chairman Isaac Harpole Jr. “So you join up with everybody else, you come down here and have a blast…”

Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club
Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club

The club chose to set the model in the 1950s because that was a golden era when steam and diesel locomotives overlapped (and when cars still went to drive-ins, like the one in the model with a working screen that shows classic movies). Members make most of the scenery themselves, from buildings to trees, working off photos. One of the model’s biggest structures, Union Station, was actually built to scale according to the original architectural plans, and a new re-creation of the re-creation of Stonehenge on the Washington side of the Gorge was made using dimensions off Google Earth and a 3D printer.

Via the club’s site, enjoy this ride around the model from the train’s POV.


To see the CGMRC model in person, visit during the club’s annual open house in November. Read more about their work at OPB.org.

Related videos: Explore the Miniatur Wunderland model railway with Google Maps and Northlandz: One of the world’s largest model railroads.

Bonus: Epic stunts by a toy Thomas the Tank Engine.

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