There are quite a few places I have traveled to in search of something worth writing about for Kosher Road Trip, but that I ended up not writing about. Sometimes because there just wasn’t much to it (like the tour of the official home of the Tournament of Roses), and sometimes because my husband said: “you CANNOT tell people to drive four hours for this,” even though I thought it was kind of neat (like the town of Boron.)

With Jewish Life Magazine now entering its fourth year of publication, B”H, it hasn’t escaped my attention that I’ve written about a lot of railroad museums in California (and there’s at least ten more I haven’t been to—yet.) So, it was kind of intriguing when I was taking the kids to the Cabrillo Aquarium in San Pedro one day and I saw a sign along the highway that said, “Lomita Railroad Museum.” After driving around trying to find it myself with no luck, we went to the aquarium, but I was determined to locate that mystery museum someday.

The fact that I’d never heard of this museum before was already an indication to me that it was probably kind of tiny, but then, small museums can be fascinating and house nearly priceless items you wouldn’t expect to find in such remote locales. The Lomita Railroad Museum is a very, very small museum, with only a few train cars on the premises. Housed in a replica of a Wakefield, Massachusetts train depot, the museum has a very modest collection of railway treasures like dishes used on the dining cars and conductors’ pins. The best part was being able to walk around in an old caboose and also stand in front of all the knobs and levers in the engine. This was satisfying even to those who can barely say the word “train” (but say it repeatedly.) You could have a picnic lunch there if you like—it’s a nice little neighborhood—and then head off to another activity perhaps.

We got back on the 110 Harbor Freeway and took it right through downtown and then to the 5 North to visit the “Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum” in Griffith Park. You wouldn’t guess from the name that this museum is really something of an amusement park that only offers rides on miniature trains. Or would you? The passenger cars are those padded seats you straddle, but the engine and the caboose look pretty authentic and they run on little train tracks. Sure there’s lots of places that offer little train rides, but this one is surprisingly long. It keeps going and going—into the woods and under tunnels, and past tiny gold mining towns and old west main streets. It’s the closest I’ve come to actually riding a toy train through a miniature village. And the trees and hillsides that you roll past are something special, too.
Since these tiny trains only run on Sundays, there’s a line to board the ride, and if you come at noon, as we did, there’s an even longer wait because most of the conductors have gone to lunch. But for a suggested donation of $3, it’s well worth it. Just watch out if you are under 34” tall. The smallest member of the family almost wasn’t allowed on, but the miniature train officials brought out the official ruler and, wearing his white leather Stride Rites (detailed with trains, by the way), he managed to squeaked through.
The live steamers at this museum are actually “1/8th scale miniature steam, diesel or electric locomotives” and are run by serious train enthusiasts who work on all the trains as a hobby. They’ve probably been to a lot of train museums themselves.

P.S. Look for a report on my website about the places I didn’t write about. Perhaps Boron is your kind of town.

Notes:

Lomita Railroad Museum: 2137 West 250th Street in Lomita, California, (310) 326-6255, www.lomita-rr.org, admission fee, $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for children under 12.

Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum: 5202 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, California 90027, (323) 661-8958, www.lals.org, suggested donation (they ask you what you want to pay): $3 per person.