Original Whistle Stop

Best Model Train Store, August 2009

High on the walls of the Original Whistle Stop are lanterns, locomotive headlights, oilcans, metal signs, and other traces of an age of travel that has all but disappeared. These longtime fixtures of the 58-year-old Pasadena shop are not for sale, evidence that the proprietor, Fred Hill, who also co-owns Allied Model Trains in Culver City, is as much of a collector as his customers. The Original Whistle Stop specializes in small-scale model railroading, serving the hobbyist who needs a Southern Pacific caboose, four-inch artificial birch trees, rail joiners, or a laser-cut-wood station for a homemade layout. Rows of polished brass trains beckon like jewels from glass cases and can sell for several thousand dollars. There are more inexpensive pieces for everyday play and a children’s section that features Thomas & Friends toys, whistles, and engineers’ caps. It’s not unusual to find customers on their hands and knees, peering at kits and accessories (water towers, liquid smoke) or browsing the books in the back corner (about 1,000 volumes covering everything from railroad recipes to scenic bridges).