Our final stop during our San Pedro day out last Saturday was the Angels Gate Hi-Railers Model Railroad Club (AGHR). Established in 1995 in collaboration with the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department, AGHR promotes the hobby of O-gauge model railroading. We found out about AGHR from a very understated advertisement aboard the Red Car not just an hour or so before deciding to head over and see what it was all about.
What’s O-gauge model railroading, you ask? It’s a hobby with a focused interest around running certain sized model trains that run on a certain sized track known as O-gauge. Manufacturers such as Lionel and MTH make several products in the O-gauge model railroading size and have for several decades running, making this hobby one that’s been passed down from generation to generation with ease and enthusiasm.
Club members regularly head down to the AGHR clubhouse at the old Ft. MacArthur military base to, well, play with their trains. I don’t know how to put it any simpler than this, and I don’t mean any disrespect, but this is what they do. These are people who’ve had a lifelong love of trains who are enthusiastic, eager, and extremely willing to share their train love with anyone who will listen. And if you are a good listener, they just might even let you play with their trains, too.
Trust me when I say that T was thrilled beyond belief when a club member handed him a remote control to drive one of the handful of trains chugging around the tracks the day we stopped by. In fact, he was so enamored with the setup that we stayed nearly two hours!
So why does a model train club require an outbuilding for a clubhouse? Can’t they just meet at friends’ houses or something to run their trains?! Well, for anyone who lives in the Southern California area and who happens to have a model railroad obsession, you probably know first-hand that it’s very easy to run short on room to thoroughly enjoy your hobby.
In fact, remember the train that T got from his Grandpa over Christmas? While C lovingly constructed a train table where we can enjoy running the Lionel, we’ve stowed away about two-thirds of the track and all of the scenery as there’s just not enough room to display all of it. It’s model railroad clubs such as AGHR that make it possible for train-o-philes (sorry, I can’t find the actual, official term there) to set up more than just a handful of their collection. And for many railroad club members, it’s the first opportunity in a long while that they’ve been able to run their childhood trains again.
Along with running the trains, hobbyists also put forth grandiose efforts on building and creating scenery, structures, and towns in the O-gauge scale, both from kits and from scratch. The photos herein don’t do a lot of the scenery justice, RMT’ers. The roundhouse above was built completely from scratch. Interior lighting inside of many of the structures was discovered after much trial-and-error experimentation. Many of the pedestrians on the exterior of the town scenes are delicately hand-painted. AGHR consists of members with varied interests and specialties in these areas, as well as members who just love showing up week after week to run their trains.
Interested in discovering the “train angels” of San Pedro for yourselves? AGHR holds public viewing hours twice-weekly on Wednesdays 2 p.m.-to-8 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-to-5 p.m. It really is a heavenly train experience. Admission for the public is FREE, but donations are always welcome.
To find the AGHR clubhouse, please follow the directions below. I do not normally post directions on RMT, but trust me when I say that these will come in very handy, including the helpful photos that we only wish we had our first time out!
Directions (Map Also Available on the AGHR Website):
In San Pedro, take Gaffey Street south toward Point Fermin.
Turn RIGHT at 32nd Street (stop light).
The entrance sign reads “San Pedro High School”; go up the hill.
At the top of the hill, turn LEFT at the end of the green fence on your left, just past the open green field and parking stalls; turn LEFT again on the dirt road.
*NOTE: You’ve passed AGHR if you get to the point on the main road to turn toward the high school, Korean Bell, the Marine Mammal Care Center, or dead-end into a small park.*
The layout is in the building you pass on the right as you enter the dirt parking lot.
Angels Gate Hi-Railers Model Railroad Club is always looking for new members! Membership dues are $30 per month to cover the use of the building, utilities, insurance, and supplies. For more information, please go to AGHR’s website. And for other train-spired activities locally and worldwide, do remember to check out T’s Train List.
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One of our members spotted your blog entry today during a web search. Thank you very much for the kind words. We built the layout specifically to be kid-friendly, hence the lower viewing height. It’s great for children to see at eye level (not so great to work underneath, though.)
We’re glad you enjoyed the layout. We’ve since finished the engine service area near the roundhouse by installing the machine shop (another scratch-built structure) complete with fully-detailed interior, power tools, boiler and drive belts. Its base is the cover panel that normally covers the access hole by the roundhouse as seen in the photo.
Additional new construction is taking place on the mountain branch where a narrow gauge operation is being added. Hopefully that will be finished by Spring 2014.
Thanks and drop by and see us for next month’s Open House October 19th and 20th, 2013.
Matt Jackson, Vice President
Angels Gate Hi-Railers Model Railroad Club
Angels Gate Park
San Pedro, California
Matt: Thanks so much for leaving a comment on this post! I am so glad the AGHR folks (along with a few others) have found the blog post to be a positive way to promote all of the wonderful work and art you are doing inside of your club and for the the train hobby community in whole!
I also have an ongoing page devoted to our family’s train outings over the years. It includes links to different working railroads, hobby train displays/ ride-ons, and other destinations that are train-oriented. You can go read more about all of that at this link:
Keep on chuggin’… and thanks again! 🙂