Science Center train exhibit reaches milestone


Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center

The Miniature Railroad & Village exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center features 105 animations of area attractions. 

By Ed Skirtich

Visitors from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland have enjoyed visiting the Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad & Village exhibit, which opened Nov. 28 with a new addition.

“They came as a child, now they bring their kids,” Curator of Historic Exhibits at the Science Center Patricia Rogers said of the visitors.

To commemorate the Buhl Planetarium’s 75th anniversary the iconic domed-topped structure was added to the already expansive landscape just in time for the usual holiday surge.

The Miniature Railroad & Village originated as a creation of Charles Bowdish at his home in Brooksville, Pa., where lines would form around the block each Yuletide to view his miniature wonderland. The crowds became so overwhelming that he sought a new home for the miniature railroad, and it moved to Buhl Planetarium in 1954. It’s been at the science center since 1992, and in all, has been open to the public for more than 90 years.

Rogers explained how the staff and volunteers try to make the sprawling scenes as realistic as possible. The exhibit features over 250,000 trees, 105 animations and even an incline (Monongahela Incline).

Forbes Field, which used to be the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is also featured. Rogers said volunteers painted 23,000 cotton swabs to replicate fans in the stands.

“Everyone tries to make the exhibit look as real as possible,” Rogers said.

As a loud train sounded at the exhibit, Jack Early, a train operator, explained the different trains and lighting, saying the five trains carried five to nine cars each on long loops of track.

Early also mentioned the display’s lighting system has settings of early morning, afternoon, sunset, and evening.

In the autumn scene at the exhibit, Luna Park features an amusement park complete with a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and roller coaster.

In the winter scene, snow lies on the ground and mountain tops while the trains come through a tunnel.

Other attractions at the train exhibit included Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house, Rodgers Air Field, and Sharon Steel Mill.

For more information visit the official website. The exhibit is open most of the year with the exception of general maintenance and upgrade closures.

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