Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad & Village reopens Thursday with new model
Carnegie Science Center will reopen its beloved Miniature Railroad & Village® exhibit on Thursday with a brand-new historic replica: Kaufmann’s Department Store and clock. The department store was founded by a family of Jewish-German immigrants in the 1870s as a simple men’s clothing shop in the South Side and eventually grew to be the downtown mammoth many Pittsburghers affectionately remember. Visitors to the Miniature Railroad, which will open for its 100th season on Thursday, will get to see a replica of the original downtown store, known as the “Grand Depot,” complete with 15 window displays, a Swarovski crystal chandelier, and delightful details that bring the magic of Kaufmann’s to life in miniature. Visitors will be intrigued by the original version of Kaufmann’s clock as well.
“For the exhibit’s centennial anniversary, we knew this year’s model had to be extra special, a place Pittsburghers feel a sentimental connection to, the way they feel connected to the timeless Miniature Railroad,” said Carnegie Science Center Interim Deputy Director Kim Amy.
“Pittsburghers have a very deep-rooted ownership of their cultural institutions,” said Curator of Historic Exhibits Patty Everly. “The Kaufmann’s model brings to the Miniature Railroad a sense of activity, life, and local pride. Visually it’s very captivating because it is such a big piece. It brings diversity to our display and helps us tell the immigrant story.”
The model’s unveiling served as a kick-off to the Miniature Railroad’s Centennial Celebration. The sprawling layout was first created by Charles Bowdish in 1919 and displayed at his home in Brookville, PA to entertain the guests at his brother’s wedding. In 1954, the display moved to Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Relocated to Carnegie Science Center in 1992, the Miniature Railroad is as popular as ever. It includes more than 100 cleverly constructed animations, 250,000 handmade trees, and replicas of historic western Pennsylvania landmarks, such as Primanti Bros. in the Strip District, Forbes Field, Donora’s Cement City, and Gobbler’s Knob.
One-hundred years is a long time, and the train display needs significant repairs. In the spring, the Science Center will launch All Aboard! The Miniature Railroad & Village® 100th Anniversary Campaign, a crowdfunding effort to help keep this treasure on track for another 100 years.
The public’s support will help the Science Center repair wear and tear on the layout, renovate the gallery, digitize the Miniature Railroad’s archives, and enhance the visitor experience. More information will be announced via the Science Center’s social media channels this spring.
The Miniature Railroad is open during the Science Center’s regular operating hours and is included with general admission. The exhibit will re-open to the public on Thurs., Nov. 21.
Carnegie Science Center is dedicated to inspiring learning and curiosity by connecting science and technology with everyday life. By making science both relevant and fun, the Science Center’s goal is to increase science literacy in the region and motivate young people to seek careers in science and technology. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center is Pittsburgh’s premier science exploration destination, reaching more than 700,000 people annually through its hands-on exhibits, camps, classes, and off-site education programs.