The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club

This small, but long-running hobby club has built one of the largest model rail lines in the US. 


Like a physically impossible space right out of science fiction, the humble Clarendon Community Center in Illinois would seem to be much bigger on the inside than the outside. It contains the sprawling landscape created by the rail enthusiast demi-gods of the The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club.

Known as the Garfield Central, the massive miniature world features an entire railway eco-system ranging from passenger travel to coal transport. The winding, looping tracks are actually the fifth such project undertaken by the The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club which has been painstakingly recreating tiny worlds since 1947. This most recent creation was inspired by their move to the Clarendon area (which also changed the name). The little landscape features all manner of detailed features ranging from water towers to blasted rock mountainsides to general stores, all built to such detail that they could all but be the real thing.

Visitors are welcome to drop by Garfield Central during their Friday night “operating hours,” however all other times of the week are seen as work time, since maintaining an entire world takes a great deal of oversight. Amatuer enthusiasts are even allowed to bring their own model trains to have them run the track (under supervision of a club member of course). With interest in traditional modeling on the wane, it’s important that groups like the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club keep the tiny little fires burning so that amazing miniature landscapes like Garfield Central will continue to exist for another 50 years.

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Update as of February 2023: The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club is closed for renovation until 2024.

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February 18, 2015

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