Watch CBS News

Carnegie Science Center Miniature Railroad Celebrates 100th Anniversary

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –- For a century now, millions of children and adults have taken a step back in time back to the turn of the 20th century in Western Pennsylvania.

It's all been part of the miniature railroad and village at the Carnegie Science Center.

"My father used to take us the Buhl Planetarium when we were little tikes and waiting in line at Christmas time," volunteer Al Bialek said.

The display started in Brookville, Jefferson County, before going to the Buhl Planetarium in the 50s.

In the early 1990's, it moved to its current home in the Carnegie Science Center.

The display is set in the years between 1880-1940.

That's when Bialek became a volunteer.

"There's a lot of things that people who live here in Pittsburgh did not know were part of Pittsburgh. I enjoy showing them that and telling them the history about that," he said.

Bialek has been surrounded by trains in his life. His grandfathers worked on the local railroads, and he had displays when he was a child.

In his almost three decades of volunteering, he's seen several new models added to the display. Many of them take him to his childhood in the region.

"My favorite part is Forbes Field," he said while pointing to the display. "I grew up going to Forbes Field to watch the Pirates years ago."

Even today with the advent of technology and gizmos, children and adults still flock to see trains, the animated figures, and the details that go into every model.

"The kids get so excited to see something they know so well, and they see every day depicted here in the miniature railroad and village," Science Educator Andrews Spate said.

The simplest models can take up months to put together and assemble. Each one is to represent buildings from across the region.

"Some of the places just maybe aren't known as much. We may have this little house from a company town along the Monongahela River," Spate said.

They have more than one hundred models including the ones in storage.

The display which is bigger than several homes in the region at about 2,300 square feet hopes to live for another century.

"It's truly such a special gem in the Pittsburgh region that I think it deserves to last another 100 years if not longer," Spate said with a smile.

"I have to go back. I have to spend time with the people that come through. That's what makes it all worth it," Bialek said.

To keep it going, the Science Center is crowdfunding to raise about $30,000 to support sustainable upkeep on the display.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.