Locomotives owned by Andrew Garcia. About the San Diego Division

The San Diego Division of the Pacific Southwest Region (PSR), of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) is a group of model railroad enthusiasts holding monthly meetings every 2nd Saturday of the month. One of the many benefits of joining the NMRA is learning about the model railroading hobby. We welcome new members to join the NMRA and be part of the San Diego Division. Our first meeting was held in December 1955.

The National Model Railroad Association is a world-wide organization with over 18,000 active members, associates, families and clubs dedicated to the hobby of scale model railroading in all its facets, helping to educate its members in modeling techniques, to learn more about the hobby and to meet others with your same interest. The National Model Railroad Association also develops standards for scale model railroad equipment for model railroad manufactures, to facilitate the interchangeability and operation of equipment between modelers, clubs and others.

Our local Division and the National Model Railroad Association's main headquarters has many benefits for its members. The information below details what the San Diego Division offers to model railroaders. Please find links to the National Model Railroad Association membership rates on our website. 

We have a diverse group of members, modeling many different railroad scales, using multiple types of power sources, controllers, some having home layouts and some holding regular operating sessions on their layouts. We also have members who have a stronger interest in the modeling aspect of the hobby, such as making buildings and scenes, with a slightly lower interest in trains and layouts. Our members are also rail fans of the real railroads and enjoy learning about past and current railroads, taking pictures of videos of trains, and traveling on trains.

Mission Statement
The Mission of the San Diego Division is to foster the model railroading hobby through our monthly meetings and activities, to advocate and teach good modeling techniques and standards, be supportive to members new to the hobby, hold contests, promote the Achievement Program and Master Model Railroader® programs, participate in informal rail fanning trips, encourage the comradery of model railroad enthusiasts and to have fun with the hobby.

Vision Statement
Our Vision is to help foster the growth and interest in model railroading in the San Diego Division for generations to come. To increase the enjoyment of the hobby through education, NMRA standards and good modeling techniques for our members which ultimately leads to new friendships among fellow model railroad hobbyists.

The San Diego Division Holds Monthly Meetings

The San Diego Division holds meetings every 2nd Saturday of the month, has quarterly "Meets" (February, May, August, November), attends layout tours, has an annual BBQ, an annual holiday party, has swap meets and participates in other activities. We call our meetings, "Meets".

Our Quarterly "Meets" Include Some of the Following Items

  • Pot luck (everyone brings a dish) or a lunch (provided by the Division), when we meet in person. Currently our Meets are Zoom Meets.
  • Show and Tell. This is a time when any member can show and talk about anything about the hobby they are working on or helps them with the hobby. Some examples of a "Show and Tell" are showing their modeling projects they are currently working on, such as a building, or bridge or talk about a useful tool they use, or show a helpful electronic device. The list of "Show and Tell" subjects seems endless. These usually last for about three to five minutes per person.
  • Clinics. A clinic is where a member will explain a technique to accomplish something in the hobby. Clinic examples can include how to make realistic water on a layout, how to weather rolling stock or how to tune a locomotive. This list of clinic topics is endless is always useful to our members. Clinics take more time due to detailed information being given about a particular subject. A clinic could be a half hour or hour presentation.
  • Model Railroad Swap Meets. People will display their wares for people to buy and it's a chance for members to buy products from members of the San Diego Division.
  • Model Railroad Auctions. Some Meets have a model railroad auction. People in our Division bring items they want to donate to the auction, then tickets are sold and all the items are given away to the winners. Auction items can be anything that has to do with model railroad or the real railroad, such as books, rolling stock (built or kits), railroad trinkets and things of this nature. The purpose of the auction is to have fun, win prizes and raise money for our Division.
  • Bingo for Trains.
  • Contests.

Additional San Diego Division Activities and Types of Events 

Layout Tours

  • One of the many railroad yards at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club in San Diego, California, USA.Layout tours are a fun time for all because everyone can see in person, the skilled work which modelers have spent money and time including benchwork, laying track, scenery, operating the model railroad and more. Layout tours are a good time to ask the owner of the model railroad, questions about anything on the layout.

Other events

  • Depending upon the year, the San Diego Division will hold other events such as visiting a local railroad museum or visit another railroad related venue. 

Rail Fanning

  • Rail fanning (taking pictures and videos of trains), is something most of the members enjoy. Rail fanning is usually not a scheduled event of our San Diego Division but an optional independent activity, based upon people's schedules and interest in taking time for this type of activity. 

Summer BBQ

  • Every August.

Annual Holiday Party

  • Every December, we have an annual Holiday Party.

PSR NMRA San Diego Model Train Convention

  • The San Diego Division sponsors the PSR NMRA model train convention located in San Diego once every four years. Please scroll down to see some of the past years convention names and years.


  • Being part of the National Model Railroad Association allows everyone in our group to learn from our Master Model Railroaders® and also participate in and achieve multiple model railroading awards and contests.

Golden Spike and Merit Awards

  • The Golden Spike and Merit Awards are the easiest, and for many people, and are the first Achievement Program award that they earn. It is designed to demonstrate familiarity with different areas of the hobby, rather than expertise in a particular area.

Achievement Program

  • The Achievement Program also provides incentive to learn and master the many crafts and skills necessary in the hobby of model railroading. With the completion of each category, you will be issued a certificate acknowledging your achievement.

Master Model Railroader®

  • A National Model Railroad Association member qualifies as a Master Model Railroader® when he or she has obtained at least seven of the eleven Achievement Certificates provided that he or she has earned at least one Achievement Certificate in each of the four areas of the Regulations. Earning the title of Master Model Railroader® is the ultimate goal for many participants in the Achievement Program.


San Diego Model Railroad Club, 1942.Some History of the National Model Railroad Association in the West Coast

The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) was formed on September 2, 1935 (in Wisconsin, USA, with its current headquarters in Tennessee) and during its early years, the NMRA did not have regions. For the first nine years of the NMRA, members lived in many areas across the United States, but most of the membership was clustered in the northern mid-west and the east coast. Therefore, for members on the west coast to travel to national events, one had to travel great distances to be part of NMRA meetings and events.

Then due to World War II travel restrictions and west coast members wanting to make it easier to travel to NMRA events, they proposed to divide the NRMA into regions. In January 1943, west coast members created the first region of the NMRA called the Pacific Coast Region. It's formal constitution being adopted in June 1944.

Initially, the Pacific Coast Region was composed of the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. In 1949, the Pacific Northwest Region was chartered and the Pacific Coast Region became California, Arizona and Nevada. However, members of the Pacific Coast Region still had a long distance to travel for all its members to gather in one spot for meetings or events. In February 1952, the Pacific Coast Region proposed several options to its members on how they could divide the region into smaller areas. One of the options was to divide  the Pacific Coast Region into five divisions. This option was chosen by its members in late 1952. Division 1 was comprised of San Diego, Imperial County and the state of Arizona. 

Seeth L. “Corky” Thomson of San Diego (in Pacific Beach) was appointed the first Superintendent of the San Diego Division. While it existed in name, the San Diego Division was not truly organized and didn’t hold its first meeting until December 1955. At this meeting, George Walsh was elected Superintendent and Charles Underhill was elected Chief Clerk and it was agreed to hold the annual business meeting in March and two other social gatherings during the year. In late 1954, a constitutional amendment was approved creating Division VI to be comprised of the entire State of Arizona.

In 1982, it was decided to divide the Pacific Coast Region into two regions. It was proposed that one would be called the Pacific Central Region and other called the Pacific Southwest Region. However, at a NMRA Board Meeting (at its main headquarters), it was decided to retain the Pacific Coast Region's name and to simply add one new name, the Pacific Southwest Region, as the new name of our Southern California region. 

Listed below are the San Diego Division's Pacific Southwest Region model train convention names which are held every four years in San Diego:

  • Mission Possible 2002 - TimeTable 19 (September 11-15, 2002)
  • Back To The Future 2006 - TimeTable 23 (October 11-15, 2006)
  • Clear To San Diego 2010 - TimeTable 27 (September 15-19, 2010)
  • Uniting Railroad Modelers 2014 - TimeTable 31 (September 3-7, 2014)
  • Beach Ops 2018 - TimeTable 35 (September 12-16 , 2018)
  • Back On Track In 2022 - TimeTable 39 (September 7-11, 2022)
  • Convention name and dates to be determined for 2026 - TimeTable 43

Fast forward to 2020, and the San Diego Division is a very active Division of the National Model Railroad Association. We hold 12 meetings or events each year. We also have a very talented and diverse group of model railroaders who also enjoy rail fanning. Our members model in multiple scales and many have completed multiple categories in the NMRA Achievement Program and multiple members have completed all the requirements for the coveted NMRA Master Model Railroader® title.

When the Coronavirus pandemic began to quarantine the entire world in late March and early April of 2020, our Division had a hiccup in holding our regular monthly meeting and our April 2020 meeting was cancelled. However, our leadership quickly got Zoom meetings up and running. Since May 2020, have held very successful meetings (and planning meetings) through Zoom and look forward to using this technology for, most likely, every meeting in the future. Our first in-person meeting, since the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic began was held in August 2021.

The San Diego Division sponsors a model train convention every four years. In 2022, the San Diego Division organized the "PSR NMRA Back On Track In 2022" (model train convention) held September 7-11, 2022. If you notice on our Meets & Events web page, our calendar for 2023 and 2024 is full. We continue to hold model railroad layout tours each year and have started to find more new modelers with model railroads we've never seen before. In 2025, we expect to tour multiple new model railroad layouts in the San Diego County area.

The four Divisions (Arizona Division, Cajon Division, Los Angeles Division and the San Diego Division) of the Pacific Southwest Region of the National Model Railroad Association has established and has adopted the following bylaws (As a PDF and dated June 7, 2023) to govern their operations.