Saturday, May 20, 2017

Carnegie Science Center Miniature Railroad and Village

View from entrance
I recently visited Pittsburgh and made some time to see the Miniature Railroad and Village display, and I am glad I did!
Forbes Field and early Pittsburgh from the 1920s
We have recently started a modular club The Austin Model Railway Society and so I am now paying particular attention to the presentation of model railroads to the public. The Carnegie layout held some interesting items for me.
The first was its height. It was not more than about 24" off of the ground with a continuous rail surrounding the entire layout. Perfect for kids and for giving a tremendous overview of the entire layout. It is a three rail O scale layout that is about 2500 sf. of island layout with generous 10 foot space around the layout for large group and excited children viewing space.

Andrew, the docent on duty, did me a solid and showed me the back shops and a few of the items they were working on including some 3D printed items he is doing. The back shop is not a huge space, but it is very well organized and has a couple of great work surfaces and lots of storage.

Andrew also showed me a couple of the animated items they are working on. The layout currently sports over 100 animations, and they are very nicely integrated into the landscape. Most are very subtle that are not noticable until you stand and stare at a scene for awhile. I really liked this approach. Of course they had more obvious animations like hot air balloons, a circus, floating boats in real water (they just had a minor leak that they were still drying out from), steel mill cranes, etc. But mostly they were small animations like children swinging, people dancing in living rooms, hand cranking old automobiles, sawing wood, and the like.

The layout was well signed with informational plaques at each scene.

The oldest structure on the layout from the original display

Happy to see Frank represented. I think this is one of the more recent additions according to Andrew. I love seeing this in 1/4"=1'-0" scale - it's like a drawing come to life!

I will freely admit that I am usually disappointed by public-oriented displays like this, but this is an exception to that rule. There were very well thought out scenes, subtle animation, well-composed view angles, good documentation, just plain excellent modeling all over. Plus it was fun for kids and adults alike. What more could one ask for? 


  1. A great layout and a great set of photos. Thanks for posting them! I especially like the airfield in photo #36 with its variety of aircraft models. There's even what looks like an early airship in the back, down by the river.