Who Needs to Fly?


The Inside Track exhibit contains several simulated layouts as well as a vast expanse of individual locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and accessories.

Knowing that fans of San Francisco’s vintage streetcars have lots of related interests, we’ve been venturing a bit afield on this blog … last post was vintage amphibious vehicles. This time it’s toy trains in an airplane palace. That would be the International Terminal at SFO, where through early April there’s a great exhibit of toy trains spanning the 20th century, mostly Lionel, but with plenty of variety thrown in.

While I was a Lionel kid myself (and still set ’em up for my kids every Christmas), I never knew that the company made toy trolleys early in the century. As the exhibit notes:


A 1916 Lionel model Pay-As-You-Enter trolley.

“At the turn of the century, trolley cars served as the major form of mass transit in many American cities, and Lionel mirrored this trend by selling a variety of toy trolleys. In 1916, the Pay-As-You-Enter Trolley [pictured here] came in motorized and trailer versions in cream, olive green, or orange. Lionel abandoned its extensive trolley line by the mid-teens due to the increasing popularity of toy trains.”

But not completely. The exhibit also includes the Lionelville Trolley from the 1950s, modeled on a Birney. Overwhelmingly, though, the exhibit is trains, and it is glorious to see. It’s only up through early April, so don’t delay.


Interior of the Louis Turpen Aviation Museum at SFO’s International Terminal.

While you’re there, walk a few steps to see the Louis Turpen Aviation Museum near the train exhibit, set in a wonderful recreation of the passenger waiting room at old Mills Field, SFO’s predecessor. The current exhibit is called, “Painted Wings, A HIstory of Airline Identity” with great brand and marketing materials from such bygone carriers as PanAm, PSA, Braniff, and Hughes AirWest. The Turpen Aviation Museum is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Sunday through Friday, but closed on Saturdays.

Combine the two museum exhibits with a BART ride direct to the International Terminal, and who needs to fly?


Comments: 1

  1. It’s good to see the SFO museum get a good review. They are the repository of much of my airline memorabilia collection.

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