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It’s a small world at the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad

The Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is a big dream on a small scale.

The model railway, just off Highway 3 West in Osoyoos, is a massive display, covering more than 370 square metres in an indoor space. 

The railway is the largest Marklin railway display in North America. The 45 computer-controlled trains are HO scale (meaning they are 1/87th of full size) and run on a course of more than two kilometres. If the trains were life-sized, the course would require more than 174 kilometres of track.

The display comes alive with towns, houses and people along the route. There are more than 1,900 homes and more than 26,000 people in this miniature world. The scenes include ski slopes, residential neighbourhoods, bustling downtown areas, industrial sections and highways. There are night scenes and day scenes, winter themes and summer themes. The detail is remarkable. Look closely and you can see a working ski gondola and a moving ferris wheel. The houses, trains, vehicles and people have all been painted by hand. 

“There are now closer to 30,000 little people, and my wife Ulla hand painted them all.”

Poul Pedersen, owner
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad

While the history of the railway has played an important role in the development of Osoyoos and other communities in southern British Columbia, the Osoyoos Desert Model Railway does not recreate this area. Instead, it is a contemporary, European-style railway and the displays have a strong European look.

We learned the background on this during a discussion with one of the owners, Poul Pedersen. Poul explained that he and his wife Ulla started this as a hobby over 50 years ago, in their home country of Denmark. They moved to Osoyoos 40 years ago and started building the displays in 2001 and opened the business in 2003.

The indoor attraction is perfect for cool, rainy days, or as a reprieve from the summer heat in Osoyoos. It has been an iconic attraction since it opened its doors.

Annually, since 2012, the model railway has been the recipient of the TripAdvisor Award of Excellence, and in 2020 they received a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award recognizing the business in the top 10 per cent of attractions worldwide. The model railway was featured in the 2015 season of Amazing Race Canada, where participants had to find a miniature figure of host Jon Montgomery among the many miniature people in the display to get their next clue.

“The decision to do so has been a hard one for us to come to, but after 18 years of having fun running the business, it is time for a new chapter in our lives.”

Poul and Ulla Pedersen, owners
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad

One visit to this model railway is not enough. There are plenty of details to notice on each return trip, and some vacationers have stopped at the model railway each year as they have visited Osoyoos. It’s amazing to see how they have been able to continually update and modernize the displays. See if you can find the couple taking a selfie.

This summer will be the last year the model railway will operate. After 18 years, Poul and Ulla Pedersen have made the decision to close the doors on Sept.  7, 2021.

If you have not yet seen this remarkable attraction, there is still some time before it closes its doors. 

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