105 animations, 250,000+trees, 14 aircraft, a Pittsburgh incline, 85 automobiles, 60 trucks, 22 horse-drawn vehicles, & 23,000 fans in Forbes Field. What do all of these stats add up to?
The Miniature Railroad and Village at Carnegie Science Center! Built on a huge platform, the display depicts small town America (and Pennsylvania!) in each of its four seasons.
On Christmas Eve in 1920, Charles Bowdish, a war veteran disabled in WWI, created the original train and village in honor of his brother’s wedding. News of his amazing train display spread though his hometown of Brookville, PA. The train display was an annual holiday tradition in Brookville until 1954 when The Buhl Planetarium took the display over. In 1991, the Buhl Planetarium became The Carnegie Science Center and the train display was moved to it new permanent home.
I remember my father setting up his childhood Lionel train on the floor, meticulously snapping the tracks together, adding the locomotive and train cars, and crossing his fingers that the train would make more than three revolutions before jumping the tracks. I would lay on the floor and stare at the train cars for hours, examining the paint and lining up the wheels on the tracks.
|Kids are allowed to blow the train whistle!|
So, you can imagine my exuberance in visiting The Miniature Railroad and Village with the kid. The Carnegie Science Center has an entire room dedicated to the exhibit on its second floor. On a platform that’s 83 feet by 30 feet, the trains weave and motor along 1,500 feet of track. They wind around lakes with actual water, through tunnels, and past villages and a baseball field that are brought to life with animated people, animals, and cars. The boats in the lakes are powered by magnets, and each animated piece has its very own motor.
What’s the best way to view a miniature train exhibit? Let’s just says that young children have the best view! Ducking down to the same height as the platform gives the best perspective and allows visitors to catch details they would otherwise miss. The trains and village follow the “O” scale in which 1/4 of an inch is equal to one foot.
A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood
|Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’s famous house|
A tribute to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is on display at the back side of the platform. His house, porch swing, and even Mr. McFeely are beautifully designed. Did you know that Fred Rogers’ real name was Fred McFeely? Yep.
Trees Made From Dried Flowers
There’s a good reason why the trees like so vibrant and lifelike: each year the science center harvests hundreds of thousands of hydrangea flower tops that are dried and then glues onto the trunk and painted green, yellow, or even red depending on what season the tree’s setting is.
What to Look For
My daughter and I loved slowly walking around the platform, and even stopping and crouching down when something really caught her eye. For example, check out the chimneys looking weathered and worn and depicting years of use through snowy, cold Pennsylvania winters.
The signs on the water tower and coal bin are from McKinley and Roosevelt’s presidential campaign. The car and truck in the background are also native to that time.
|Three-inch deep bodies of water and Fallingwater on the right|
Built by Frank Lloyd Wright for Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., a prominent Pittsburgh businessman in the retail industry, the house was built on top of a beautiful area in Bear Run. Tranquil, cascading water and picturesque views bring thousands of yearly tourists to the house.
|No washing machines for these guys!|
Throughout the display, figures of people depicting their daily life and duties add special touches to the exhibit and really bring the village to life.
Women hanging out the freshly cleaned wash, men working in various duties, and children playing, flying kites, or watching a baseball game were a few of my daughter’s favorite details.
There is no extra cost for visiting the Miniature Railroad and Village with paid admission to The Carnegie Science Center. The amount of time you spend at the exhibit will depend on just how much detail you want to take in. It’s fun to enjoy the display at a leisurely pace and take in all of the details, but be prepared to want to visit over and over again!
Ok, time for the disclosure. I have been a member of Carnegie Museums in the past and many of the photos are from previous visits. Last week, however, I was given complimentary admission to Carnegie Science Center for the purpose of giving you fine people the scoop on our visit. I was definitely not asked to state a specific opinion and my opinions are all my own.