British Columbia

Okanagan man finds fame in retirement with model railway 50 years in the making

Paol Pedersen, 79, has been collecting model trains and making figurines for his mini railroad since the 1970s. His Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad was named Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice for specialty museums.

Paol Pedersen's Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad was named Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice for specialty museums

Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is named by U.S. online travel company Tripadvisor as Travellers' Choice for specialty museums this year. (Submitted by Paol Pedersen)

Osoyoos, B.C., man Paol Pedersen has grown a childhood passion into a retirement project that has earned him global recognition.

Last week, his Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad museum won the annual Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice award for specialty museums. The U.S. online travel company says only 10 per cent of the destinations featured on its portal can receive the honour.

"That was absolutely a big surprise. I didn't even know that we could get that," said the 79-year-old to Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South.

Pedersen established his little wonderland in the desert five years after his retirement.

Since he opened the museum to the public in 2003, the collection has grown to four times its original size with 45 computer-operated mini trains running on two kilometres of tracks.

It also has 2,000 model buildings and over 20,000 hand-painted figurines occupying a 4,000 sq. ft. (372 sq. m.) floor area.

Paol Pedersen has been using his carpentry skills to make frameworks and figurines for his mini railroad. (Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad)

Visitors may spend only an hour to watch all the tiny treasures, but it took the curator 50 years to build his imagined world.

Growing up in rural northwestern Denmark, Pederson was fascinated with the trains that ran past his parents' farmland.

He began to live out his dream at the age of 30, using plywood stocks at his furniture workshop to make frameworks for train tracks, and figurines that his wife Ulla would paint.

The museum has a distinct Bavarian flair, which is due to Pedersen's proclivity for Germany's Märklin toy cars and buildings.

He and his wife have travelled to southern Germany to purchase them, even after immigrating to Canada in 1981.

Pedersen's daughter Lotte and her husband help curate the museum and he says he's glad it has earned more than 500 top five-star reviews from tourists.

The plan is to keep it expanding it for another decade. "A long time. I can hang on," he said.

Pedersen's daughter Lotte joins her father to expand the mini railroad collection. (Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad)

Other specialty museums in B.C. named among Tripadvisor's Travellers' Choices for 2020 include the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre and the Revelstoke Railway Museum.

With files from Daybreak South

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