Discovering a Miniature World in Osoyoos, British Columbia

 Miniature ferris wheel at the Desert Model Railroad in Osoyoos

With my eyes and camera delightedly pressed against the protective glass wall, I could barely believe what I was seeing.

At the Desert Model Railroad in Osoyoos, there is an entire miniature European world, complete with a magnificent circus, fearless bungee jumpers, fruit stands, high-end and low-end restaurants, a nude beach (yes, with nudists), vast forests, a zoo, grocery stores, hotels, apartments, young skateboarders, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, soccer fields, a snowy ski resort, railroads, cars, motorcycles, a Monster Truck rally, and a wharf with fishing trolleys, scuba divers, and a photo-ready mermaid (I could go on and on).

I wanted to spend hours here, to stop and photograph every tiny scene. However, since I arrived near closing time, I had to speed up my visit to take in as many details of the Desert Model Railroad as I possibly could.

That afternoon, I knew I had found something quite extraordinary, something completely unexpected that left me with a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day.

I suspect a visit here will do the same for you.

 Miniature rural scene from the Desert Model Railroad
 Desert Model Railroad

Stepping into this miniature fantasy world, I found a vast expanse of mountains, cities, railroads, and tiny citizens who inhabit this fantasy place. It’s a huge room – 4000 square feet to be exact, with over 1900 houses and more than 19,000 hand-painted people!

Family owned and operated, the Desert Model Railroad has been a lifelong love affair for Danish-Canadian founder Poul Pedersen. As a child, Poul fancied having his own train sets, but his whimsical boyhood dream didn’t materialize until later in life when he began collecting Marklin trains (the Desert Model Railroad now happens to be Canada’s largest Marklin train set-up, with computer controlled trains running through intricately detailed European landscapes).

 Desert Model Railroad

During a visit, you'll find that Poul regularly turns down the lights in the room so that guests can also view the miniature scenes at nighttime. After all, it is meant to be a lifelike world.

As the room darkens, a whole new world appears to be magically revealed. Illuminated only by street lights and the electrical glow emanating from buildings, there are countless nighttime scenes you might have missed with the lights on.

Peek into the window of one particular house and you’ll find the city’s infamous Red Light District, complete with a prostitute and her client. Nearby you’ll find an outdoor wine garden serving late night revelers and very much in love couples on dates. Look a little further and you’ll find teenagers improving their skills in the city skate park. Be sure to also check out the underwater scenes.

 Miniature European marching band 

When he’s not busy manning the computerized control station in the exhibit room, you’ll most often find Poul enthusiastically revealing tiny hidden scenes with his laser pointer for curious visitors. Through his warm demeanor and eagerness to involve guests, it’s easy to see how much passion Poul carries for his extensive miniature collection.

While you’ll find Poul to be the friendly train buff, it’s his wife Ulla who’s the meticulous artist. Over the last thirty years, she’s painted more than 25, 000 tiny people!

With the growth of the collection, Poul and Ulla have enlisted the help of their daughter and son-in-law to assist with maintenance, painting, and the setup of new scenes. The whole operation is truly a family affair.

 Winter scene at the Desert Model Railroad

As a traveler with an insatiable desire to see more and more of the world with each passing trip, it’s unexpected gems like the Desert Model Railroad that make traveling so blissfully addictive.   

Not to mention, it's amazing to know I can find a little piece of Europe here in Canada.

 Punks on a patio at the Desert Model Railroad

Visiting the Desert Model Railroad

Admittedly, if you’re not familiar with the area, finding the Desert Model Railroad can prove somewhat difficult. You’ll find the warehouse type building located in an industrial park just off Highway #3 (Crowsnest) West. From Osoyoos, take the turn off onto the highway and after a few minutes you’ll find the industrial area on your left hand side.

The Desert Model Railroad is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm. Admission for adults is $8 and children are $5.

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 At the Desert Model Railroad in Osoyoos, I knew I had found something quite extraordinary, something completely unexpected that left me with a huge smile on my face. I suspect a visit here will do the same for you.