Pittsburgh is rich in history. From the ancient oaks that line the streets of its old steel mill towns to the Revolutionary War landmarks; there is much for Pittsburghers to take pride in. This past week, one of Pittsburgh’s smaller-scale historic attractions reopened for its 100th season at the Carnegie Science Center. The Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad & Village reopened on November 21st with a new addition: the Kaufmann’s Department Store and clock.
After months of hard work, the team working on the Miniature Railroad was finally able to show off what they’ve worked so hard on. “For the exhibit’s centennial anniversary, we knew this year’s model had to be extra special, a place Pittsburghers feel a sentimental connection, the way they feel connected to the timeless Miniature Railroad,” said Carnegie Science Center Interim Deputy Director Kim Amy.
The Kaufmann’s Department Store and clock includes a Swarovski crystal chandelier and 15 intricate window displays. Each window was carefully crafted by Nikki Wilhelm, even down to the Victorian wallpaper she found online and was able to print for the display, “It was fun! All the furniture is quarter scale dollhouse furniture. I like making the scenes,” she said, explaining that it’s interior design on a smaller scale.
Andrew Spate was another team member who helped with display. He and the team began researching the project in February of 2019 and began the 3D designs in April, “I spent a lot of time looking at photos and counting the bricks to make sure we got it right.” Mr. Spate pointed out that all of the work for the display is done in-house, and Patty Everly, the head of the team, worked hard on the painting and making sure everything came together.
Initially started in 1919 by Charlie Bowdish, he continued to add to his display, until it filled the second floor of the Bowdish family home. In 1954, he moved the display to the Buhl Planetarium, where he continued to work on his railroad. Even in 1954 Pittsburghers knew it was special, according to the Carnegie Science Center, it received nearly 24,000 visitors that December.
It was in 1992 that the Carnegie Science Center received the Miniature Railroad & Village. Every year, the team at the Carnegie Science Center adds a new piece to the display that represents a part of Pittsburgh’s past. Some of the pieces extend beyond Pittsburgh and represent the region, including the replica of the S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel, located in Bedford County.
Not only do visitors get to see a variety of what makes the region special, such as the Sharon Steel Mill, or Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood House, they’re also taken on a seasonal journey. The display is divided into the four seasons. The display begins with Punxsutawney Phil in the winter, progressing through each of the seasons as viewers wrap their way around the room. A baseball game can be seen at Forbes Field, while the fall foliage provides the perfect backdrop to Fallingwater and at the Leap-the-Dips Rollercoaster at Lakemont Park in Altoona.
A three-inch deep river fills the center of the display, and boats float in the water as the trains zip by, adding to the magic. Nearly 100 animated features bring the display to life, including a Ferris wheel.
By: Bianca Labrador