COVID-19 business slowdown leads to permanent closure of South Okanagan model railway museum

·2 min read
The 18-year-old Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad museum is closing after the Labour Day long weekend. (Zameer Karim/CBC - image credit)
The 18-year-old Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad museum is closing after the Labour Day long weekend. (Zameer Karim/CBC - image credit)

An award-winning South Okanagan museum showcasing miniature trains and figurines will permanently shut its doors after the Labour Day long weekend.

The Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is closing on Sept. 7, a year after the B.C. museum received a Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice award for specialty museums.

Curator and owner Paol Pedersen said he expected to keep operating and expanding the museum for another decade, but because of reduced foot traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, he reluctantly has to shut down his business.

"We had a fantastic 18 years with the public, and [have met] people from all over the world," he told CBC's Zameer Karim.

Established in 2003, the 372-square-metre museum boasts a collection of 45 computer-operated miniature trains running on two kilometres of tracks, decorated with 2,000 model buildings and more than 20,000 hand-painted figurines

Pedersen took 50 years to build his wonderland.

Zameer Karim/CBC
Zameer Karim/CBC

Fascinated with the trains that ran past his parents' farmland in northwestern Denmark, he began to live out his dream at 30, using plywood in his furniture workshop to make frameworks for train tracks, and figurines that his wife Ulla would paint.

Since immigrating to Canada in 1981, the couple has travelled to southern Germany to purchase their favourite Märklin train cars and buildings, which give the museum a distinct Bavarian flair.

Pedersen, 80, says he enjoys running the museum, which he opened five years after his retirement.

Zameer Karim/CBC
Zameer Karim/CBC

Osoyoos resident Ernie Westfol said he has witnessed the collection growing from the basement of Pedersen's house to the current museum, and every visit has made him feel like he's home in Germany, the country of his birth.

Westfol said the museum's closure is a big loss to the local community.

"Maybe somebody else will take over, and hopefully [Pedersen] gets somebody that has the same enthusiasm for this and the interest in it and the imagination," he said.

WATCH | CBC's Zameer Karim visits Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad museum before its September closure

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