San Francisco: Chan’s Trains & Hobbies

Address:2450 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco
CA 94109
United States
Date visited:February 2016Items purchased:Kato fishplates / Labelle oil

The idea when undertaking “Around the World in 80 Model Shops” was to keep it strictly model shop focused, resisting the pull to write about and photograph anything else. However, with San Francisco, how could I resist!

Ascending the elevator to street level from the Bart Transit System at Powell St. Station in central San Francisco, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the feeling that you really are in a “different America” from the East Coast. I’m not one for cliches, but this really is a city where “East meets West”. Immediately upon exiting the station you meet the streetcar (cable car) turntable at the bottom of Powell St. Climb Powell St. and you discover Union Square with it’s “Spanish aura”, setting for the opening scene of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in which we are introduced to Tipi Hedren – one could almost go back in time and envisage bumping into her on the “sidewalk”.

Continuing my walk to Chan’s Trains and Hobbies (come on now, let’s keep this model railway related!) the streets become increasingly hilly, up – down – up – down, through China Town, with its hustle and bustle, vegetable markets and feel of being in another land, past the church and park where the Chinese ladies are taking their Tai Chi class (it’s still only 8.30am), and finally of note, past the very first Swensen’s ice cream parlour – apologies if that’s lost on most readers here, but outside of the UK it’s to be found in reasonable abundance. Each scene told a story with a common theme, a theme of “coming to America”, putting down roots and making a home. It really is where “Europe meets Asia”.

Reaching Chan’s Trains & Hobbies, my poor old feet were in need of a well earned break. It had taken the best part of the morning to find it, and I’m glad I did – a real Alladin’s cave for the modeller, a “good old model shop” from the past. The shop was stocked with many plastic kits and also offered quite a range of Kato track. From one of the pictures you can see that they were also well versed in loco repair – as I said, a “good old” model shop! I sometimes have to push myself to eek out model shops when visiting foreign cities – often when my body tells me it would rather sleep! In this case, I’m glad I did. Chatting to the most friendly sales assistant (I hate that word, it sounds like I’m in a department store – no, chatting to the most friendly model railway hobbyist), I learned of some sad news, news which made me appreciate even more the walk that morning, news that made me realise partly why I’m undertaking this quest … Chan’s Trains & Hobbies was closing the week after my visit.

Note: Other pictures added to this post are purely for interest and show the cable car museum in San Francisco (a must, free, and doesn’t take long), the BART station sign at San Francisco International Airport (my route into town) and a few pictures of the Caltrain (my route out of town).