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California Southern Model Railroad Club

12140 E Firestone Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650 (562)863-3156

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Building/Club History

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The California Southern Model RR Club is located in what was a vacant building in the center of Norwalk's historical downtown, adjacent to an old Southern Pacific (now U.P.) branchline that runs down to Anaheim, CA. This string of downtown stores, dating back to the 1890s, are now some of Norwalk's oldest and are registered Historical Landmarks. Originally, this was one of Norwalk's local Markets and Drug Store. In the late 1940s the market closed down and the room was turned into a dance studio. A few pieces of the dance floor are still visible around the layout area.

The Calvary Chapel stepped in during 1960s and was last occupant leaving in the early 1980s before the train club took over the vacant space in 1985. The historical entrances to all the shops face Front Street which was formerly Firestone Blvd. before it was realigned to the north around the downtown district in the 1940s. Today, Front Street is commonly used as a Hollywood movie and TV film set due to it's generic Smalltown-USA feel. Recent features of Front Street and the train club building include scenes from the movies Hot Chick, Best Men, Another Day In Paradise, NBC's TV series Heroes, Pennzoil (TV commercial), and the 2007 film "The Comebacks". The Heroes cast & crew filmed on loacation again in August 2009.

Front St. as it appeared in 2007. The club is just left of the Bank building.

The green outlines below show where the club is today.

City of Norwalk, 1903 Looking East from Front St.

Norwalk in 1928, looking East again.

Looking West now, in 1926.

Same angle as above, shortly after the club moved in, 1985

Here is an aerial photo of the area around the club from the early 1970s. This photo was on display at the end of the Whittier Narrows earthquake renovation. You can see the used car lot in the lower corner of the boxed area. The faint green box is where the club is located today.

As stated earlier, what the club and most of the other current stores use as the main entrance today is actually the original back door to the buildings. In the late 1970s, a used car lot behind the club closed down leaving a large open lot between the old downtown strip and modern Firestone Blvd. alignment.

Located just a few miles away, the magnitude 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquake on October 1, 1987 caused considerable structural damage to many of the un-reinforced masonry structures around the club. In reading the notes from the time, there was great concern following the Whittier Narrows quake. From what was written, the members were not allowed back into the building for about two weeks and had no idea what had happened to the layout.

Also, during that time other parts of the building were declared unsafe and slated to be demolished and members feared that same fate would happen to the layout. Concerned about the future of it's old downtown, the city of Norwalk stepped in and declared the block of buildings historical landmarks. The city repaired and earthquake retrofitted many of the brick structures, and turned the backs of the buildings into the new fronts complete with new walkways, landscaping and signs. The old used car lot was transformed into a large landscaped parking lot facing Firestone Blvd.

And a view from 2007.

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