Train diorama teaches local history

April Cambero
Staff Writer

On Sunday model locomotives charged through the Fairplex Garden Railroad diorama.

Visitors of all ages trickled into the exhibit.

Children were excited to see the model trains running across the tracks while their guardians captured the moments on camera.

“This is the biggest diorama I’ve ever seen,” said Nate Dubbs, a visitor at the Fairplex Garden Railroad.

Some families there Sunday are frequent visitors.

“Pretty much every month, when we can, we come here,” Dubbs said.

The Garden Railroad diorama has some intricate and familiar detail. Among the local buildings scattered throughout is the Fox Theater. 

“Most people will say, ‘Oh that’s here in Downtown Pomona’,” said Maribel Quesada, a parent volunteer at the Fairplex Garden Railroad.

Volunteers paid close attention to the tracks and made sure each locomotive was running smoothly. 

The exhibit was almost disassembled more than 20 years ago, when the Fairplex Association considered tearing down the Garden Railroad, which originally was built in 1924. 

In 1997 the exhibit was falling apart, and the Association wasn’t sure it was worth preserving. 

But with support from Southern California Garden Railway Society, the exhibit was restored. Today the improved diorama has over 10,000 feet of operating tracks.

“Everyone got together, and it’s like restoring a liberty ship,” said John Collins, a Fairplex Garden Railroad volunteer.

The Fairplex will celebrate the garden railroad’s 100th anniversary next year.

The exhibit is open to the public every second Sunday of the month, and during the Los Angeles County Fair in May.

April Cambero can be reached at

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