Los Angeles Union Station replica sells for $8.2 million

Culver City building was once home to Allied Model Trains
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The building's entrance mimics the classic look of Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal.
Charles Freericks
LOS ANGELES – One of Southern California’s best-known railfan edifices has been sold to be converted into creative office space. A near-replica of Los Angeles Union Station, the Allied Model Trains building in Culver City has been sold for $8.2 million to Tova Capital. Immediate plans for the tenant Samy’s Camera and a timeline for interior renovations are unknown. While the interior updates are unknown, Tova has stated that its planned renovations will keep the facade of the building as it is today.

The building, which first opened 30 years ago when the real station was still known as Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, was once one of the largest model railroad stores in the country, and for decades was a mecca of model railroaders and railfans where enthusiasts, kids, railroad employees, and some of Hollywood’s most famous stars came together to enjoy railroading in a cathedral to the romance of rail travel.

The building’s concept came together in the mid 1980s when Allen Drucker, the fourth owner of a small model railroad store on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, realized that he was outgrowing his walls. Drucker found land for sale in Culver City and showed it to contractor friend Charles Licha, who was also a train enthusiast. Licha sent Drucker to architect Jim Mount to talk through ideas for a building. Mount then sent Drucker out to take photographs of old buildings he liked. On his way home from shooting pictures in Pasadena, Drucker had some shots left on his camera. He got off the freeway in downtown LA and snapped a few pictures of LAUPT, both because he loved the building, and to finish the roll. After a trip to the one-hour photo, Drucker showed the pictures to Mount, who flipped through until he came to the station pictures and enthusiastically said, “That’s it.”

With his team of the genius of Mount and the passion of Licha (and his wife Bea, who insisted her husband build the LAUPT replica, and worked hard on the bid to make it affordable), Drucker bought the land for $1.5 million, and spent another $760,000 on the building. The result was a landmark that made the previously nondescript commercial stretch a destination.
Allied Model Trains' last day in the station-inspired building in 2007.
Charles Freericks
Business grew and reached an incredible point in the period of 1998 to 2002, which included an expansion of the 1989 building. During that time Allied was bringing in $5 million a year in retail sales and had at least five different operational layouts – if you include the one running through the rafters. By 2005, even though the building was busting at the seams, business was starting to taper off. Drucker bought a store across the street and renovated it to expand his retail operations to include other hobbies.

With a terrible commute and his life virtually owned by the store, he brought in a commercial real estate agent and asked what he could get renting the small new store instead. The amount was staggering. Out of curiosity, Drucker pointed back at the main Allied Trains and asked what he could rent that for. Suddenly handed the ability to abandon his commute and make a living as a landlord, Drucker made the difficult decision to let Allied go.

In May of 2007, Drucker sold the business to a local competitor (who moved into the smaller store he had renovated) and rented the LAUPT replica to another Los Angeles iconic retailer Samy’s Camera. One of the layouts was kept and the railfan community still headed through the doors, albeit now for cameras instead of books, magazines, shirts, and caps. Meanwhile, the new owners of the smaller Allied Trains ran into issues and that business shuttered.

While the sale of the replica building removes Drucker from his last connection to the business he remains a train enthusiast. He still has memories of a time when any and all railfans on the west side of the country’s second largest city all came together at Allied Model Trains.
The view from the street corner shows the immensity of the structure.
Charles Freericks
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