PENTICTON - An Osoyoos entrepreneur’s model train hobby has become a major tourist attraction in the South Okanagan.
The Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad has been fascinating visitors to the area for 12 years. The 4,000 square foot display depicting a European style landscape is Canada’s largest Marklin model train layout.
"It’s more than a railroad. I’ve been playing with it for 50 years,” laughs owner/operator Poul Pedersen. “It’s a hobby that became a business. When I retired, I decided to open it up to the public."
You may have seen the model railroad featured on the last season of The Amazing Race Canada on CTV. The competitors had to find a tiny figurine of the show's host Canadian Olympian Jon Montgomery.
Pedersen’s whole family is involved in the display, which he says is rated as one of the top 20 things to do in B.C. in Trip Advisor’s list of B.C. attractions.
Poul’s wife Ulla and daughter Lotte constructed most of the display’s landscaping while Poul puts the trains together. His son-in-law Joe Mendes looks after most of the day-to-day operation. Ulla individually painted each of the 18,000 “people” enhancing the layout.
The display is based on German landscape and infrastructure, but doesn’t depict scenes in reality.
Every detail has been painstakingly assembled by a member of the family. Hundreds of scenes, urban and rural, are on display, some with interactive capability. The layout contains 1,800 different buildings alone.
“We see lots of people from all over the world,” Pedersen says.
He says it doesn’t matter how old or young you are — the oldest visitor Pedersen he is aware of was 103 years old — everyone seems to enjoy it.
The display itself takes up the top floor of a large building in an Osoyoos industrial park. Pedersen operates 45 computer controlled trains in addition to vehicles running on roads, a feature unique to Pedersen’s setup.
Throughout the display are buttons viewers can press, which activate a scene. In one, chickens suddenly start pecking the ground for food, while in another, one pair of the 18,000 hand painted figures on display start fighting. A third activates public works personnel fixing a road.
The display depicts hundreds of both urban and rural scenes and activities, everything from downtown office towers to underground and open pits mines. There’s even a forest fire that lights up a mountainside when the display lights are dimmed.
Pedersen laughs when asked how many visitors have passed through the display.
“We have to have some secrets,” he says, adding it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions south of Kelowna.
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids two to 12.
The model railroad is also holding a Food Bank Fundraiser on Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free in exchange for a cash donation or a non-perishable food item for the food bank.
The railroad is located in the Buena Vista Industrial Park on Osoyoos’ west side at 11611 115 Street.
For more information check out the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad website.
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