NOTHING MINIATURE ABOUT IT: Spying an impressive full-scale model train set-up can be a surreal sight, for it boasts a knack for knocking the socks off the observer, whether that person is a model train buff or not. Consider the thrill of seeing a world in miniature, from a bird's-eye view, where various locomotives move and pass through tunnels, then pause to recall the toy trains you might have owned when you were a kid. Miss them still? Wish you'd kept them? There's a way to find that bird's-eye thrill again, at least for an hour or two. Look to The Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society, a group that oversees the Diablo Valley Lines, a mountainous, room-filling setting where trains that "represent the mid-20th century through today" choo choo along to the delight of visitors.
"DESERT TO SNOW-COVERED MOUNTAINS": The society members put on a few "whistle stop" presentations during the year, shows that incorporate the "elaborate 34 by 56-foot layout" that includes "a composite of the mountainous area of the Western United States, bridges, tunnels, terrain from desert to snow-covered mountains, towns, train yards, electric street cars, wind turbine, ski lift gondola" and several details beyond. Is this all a bit further than you went with the track that wrapped around the base of your Christmas tree when you were a tot? Have you thought about getting back into trains, or starting your young'uns with this happy hobby? A visit to Walnut Creek may be in order.
BIG STUFF: To see a model railroad that's often billed as one of the largest in the country, make for Larkey Park on designated days. There's a monthly show but some months have multiple view dates (see: November 2015). Cost? Three bucks for an adult to get in, two bucks for seniors and kids ages 6 to 12. Discovering that the love you had for a long-ago pastime is still very much alive and thriving via passionate practitioners? There's no price tag on that, of course. It's a pretty nifty feeling, as nifty as seeing multiple trains pass along small mountains before your very eyes.