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Houston Tinplate Operators Society: Model Trains

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Houston Tinplate Operators Society and Model Trains in Memorial City Mall of Houston

Houston Tinplate Operators Society and Model Trains in Memorial City Mall of Houston

Model Railroading

The Houston Tinplate Operators Society has a permanent location site within Memorial City Mall, where people can see model trains in action twice-weekly. HTOS is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

On the days when the doors are open to visitors, there is no entrance fee. Donations are always welcome.

We are fortunate to have this site in Houston. There are a few exceptions to this bi-weekly operating schedule. Occasionally, when they are attending other train shows, they might be closed to the public.

Smiles and Memories

When I was a child, my dad had a model train layout that covered an entire ping pong table. It was in a recreation room in the basement of our home in Wisconsin.

Every year, around the end of the year holidays, we would forego playing ping pong for about a month, and he would put his model train layout on top of the table. To a child's eye, it was fascinating to see the train in action. It was a seasonal treat for all of us to enjoy.

Model Trains

The Houston Tinplate Operators Society began operation in 1988. Model train enthusiasts are invited to join their membership roles. Meetings are held Tuesday evenings at their location in Memorial City Mall. Visitors can also attend those meetings and see the model trains in operation.

What is nice is that owners of model trains can bring them to the mall, have them put on the tracks, and run them through their paces. Getting to view them with all of the many attendant objects such as people standing outside of various places of business, street scenery, signs such as those seen along highways, etc. makes for a great experience. There are so many items to look at that it would be hard to see all the details in just one visit.

Below you can view some photos taken by me as well as a short video of one of the smaller permanent displays.

Seasonal Window Layouts

At different times of the year, the Houston Tinplate Operators Society puts seasonal train layouts on display. That display is right by one of the windows, so mall walkers can look in and easily see it. It was around Halloween when my husband and I first entered their suite 617 when it was open for visitors.

For those familiar with the stores in Memorial City Mall, suite 617 is off of a hallway near the Target store. It was fun to view all the imaginative decorations such as the spooky graveyard, pumpkins, witches, bats, skeletons, ghosts, and more.

Tourist Attractions for Train Enthusiasts

One of the smallest tracks within the most significant model train display is supposed to remind people of the miniature train ride in Hermann Park. I have been on that train in Hermann Park as a passenger as well as straddling a 1/8th scale miniature train going through parts of Zube Park. For tourists as well as residents in our Houston metro area who are miniature or model train enthusiasts, these are sites to see and enjoy.

If you are a full-sized train enthusiast, be sure to visit these sites. The Galveston Railroad Museum, the Rosenberg Railroad Museum, and even the small but informative MKT Railroad Museum in Katy, Texas, is well worth a visit.

Put Memorial City Mall on your list of places to visit to see these three elaborate O-gauge and the one S-gauge model train layout in action. The Houston Tinplate Operators Society members are there to greet you, talk about the trains, or even help you with your models if you so desire.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 08, 2020:

Hi Larry,

It is lovely that reading this brought back some happy memories for you. My dad also had a model train layout in the basement that was up seasonally using the top of a ping pong table.

Larry on September 07, 2020:

This brings back happy memories of observing my uncle's model train layout in one full room of the basement. Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

I don't think that I have ever seen a model train that has smoke from an engine car. Too bad your brother's train became inoperable.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2020:

Hi Bill,

We have seen prices of those cars and all the accouterments that go into the building of a model train set. It would assuredly add up!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2020:

Hi Diana,

Like your dad, I think that mine also had more fun with the train set than we did. Haha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

This is a really nice setup in one of our major malls. Many people can view these model trains and talk to experts regarding that subject.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 11, 2020:

My brother used to have a model train with smoke. He didn’t build it out extensively because “someone” added too much smoke and it would not run. The displays above are inspiring, creative and full of imagination.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 11, 2020:

I don't have a hobby, but this is a hobby I've always wanted to have. I'm afraid I would spend far too much money on this if I started it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2020:

Hi Liz,

My dad also liked his model train layout. It is nice that you get to share those outings with your grandson.

Diana Carol Abrahamson from Somerset West on April 10, 2020:

Great article. My Dad bought us a Hornby train set when we were about seven years old. He enjoyed it more then we did!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 10, 2020:

I have always thought these type of trains to be very interesting and fun to see them run. It is nice that Houston has a place like these, especially for the children.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 10, 2020:

My Dad would have loved this. He had a layout that he was working on in the loft. It was always a work in progress though and was never completed. Our grandson was fascinated by seasonal train layouts in a garden centre we visited in December.

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