PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In anticipation of what is the busiest time of the year for the Miniature Railroad and Village, the Carnegie Science Center shut its popular display down.
After a week of renovations, it is set to re-open tomorrow, but KDKA-TV’s Rick Dayton got a have a first look behind the scenes at some fascinating new additions.
For nearly 100 years, the train display that now lives at the Carnegie Science Center has thrilled Pittsburghers.
“People are mesmerized. You know, the kids, depending on their age, the little ones really love to follow the trains around, just count them. They are just going where the train is going — sometimes not watching where they are going, but that’s a lot of fun,” Patty Everly, of the Carnegie Science Center, said.
At any given time, no fewer than six trains make the rounds. Through the logging camps, clattering past the steel mills, all around western Pennsylvania.
“As far east would be Fallingwater. We go up to Punxsutawney. We have Punxsutawney Phil. We have Oil City. We have Drake’s Well on,” Everly said.
And it’s now under construction.
“We spend a lot of the year deciding what that is going to be, and researching that piece and then of course build and modeling it,” she said.
The focal point of this year’s addition is the atom smasher built by Westinghouse in Forest Hills in the mid-1930s.
“The atom smasher was so exciting of a project too because it visually is very, very different from anything else you see. It looks very futuristic,” Everly said.
But something as unique as an atom smasher is not readily available on the miniature market.
“I don’t think it’s ever been modeled,” Everly said.
So, they went to the Westinghouse archives at the Heinz History Center and made their own model.
“We merged technology and art in a big way. The atom smasher bulb itself, the framing and the stairs and ladders were all 3D printed, and then, we lent the artistic touch to make it look like the smasher did,” Everly said.
The real piece ushered America and the world into the nuclear age. The replica will be part of a new section of the Science Center layout along the back wall.
“This is a building under construction in this area This whole area is sort of our light industry area. This is going to be a glass house because of course, glass making was so prominent in Pittsburgh,” Everly said.
The additions to the layout will be done in only a week, but the lessons learned by watching the trains rumble past will last a lifetime.
“I think it’s so exciting when I will hear the middle school children or high school children pointing out Fallingwater and Forbes Field and talking about it with them with their friends or parents,” Everly said.
An estimated 60,000 people will come see the trains in the next six weeks. It’s their busiest time of the year.
“They find their little stories where, the Isley’s down the street, or where their dad worked or the street they lived on and then they learn from us too,” Everly said.
It all shows how a child’s toy — the miniature train — is still proving to be a fast track to history.