The Walnut Creek model railroad

Fun & Games
The Walnut Creek model railroad

Now this is a train layout, 1,800 sqaure feet of it. It’s the pride and joy of the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society, Walnut Creek, CA, who’ve been at it since 1975. I like how the piece on opens:

Before SimCity — even before Dungeons and Dragons — back when “computer” was a job title, people still found ways to vaporize countless hours of free time designing and maintaining private universes. In the analog world, such parallel realities were built with tweezers, glue and a spouse’s permission to cover the basement with papier-mâché massifs and plywood plains.

And this, on the system that runs the layout:

The society’s control systems are a steampunk fantasy: a roomful of vintage 1930s magnetic relays once used to route phone calls, clacking like mechanical dominoes with every move the amateur engineers make. A full complement of 30 members can run 10 individual trains simultaneously on the layout, though only a dozen or so are required for basic operation.

Giant Model Railroad Is an Analog SimCity [via Boing Boing]

Rod Stewart in Model Railroader Magazine

6 thoughts on “The Walnut Creek model railroad

  1. AP says:

    Wired writers ought to understand that there’s nothing Steampunk about “a roomful of vintage 1930s magnetic relays”.

  2. Sky Jack says:

    Does anybody else feel dizzy and terrified looking at that?

    1. Chris says:

      Yay!! My grandma used to take me to their open house YEARS ago. It’s a private club, but around the holidays and a few other times a year, they open things up. It’s pretty epic!

      They also have a sign near the door: “Lost children will be given candy and a new puppy”

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).