Train displays, rides celebrate the holiday season
In Western Pennsylvania, the dawn of the yuletide season means that trains pop up everywhere -- the toy-train displays that are so popular in the region, and real-life rides on tracks.
Starting this weekend, train enthusiasts young and old can visit whimsical displays -- like the Carnegie Science Center's Miniature Railroad & Village, a longtime Pittsburgh favorite -- or hop on an antique trolley decked out for Christmas at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. If you want to take a three-hour road trip, you can head east on the turnpike to the East Broad Top Railroad and ride on the Polar Express, in a ride modeled after the movie of the same name.
There's something about trains that just fits with the spirit of the holidays, and makes them so popular, says Ron Baillie, co-director of the Carnegie Science Center. The center debuted the village -- originally created in 1920 in Charles Bowdish's home, then displayed starting in 1954 at the Buhl Planetarium -- in 1992, after an extensive re-design and expansion.
"Carnegie Science Center has kept that holiday tradition alive," Baillie says. "Our visitors can experience the true magic of the season when they come to the science center during the holidays."
Following is a list of many of the trains in the region:
• The Miniature Railroad & Village re-opens at the Carnegie Science Center on Friday, after being cleaned and updated. A new feature this year is the historic Manchester Farms; models of the buildings and its landscape stand in the spring section of the four-season display. Included with general admission of $17.95; $11.95 for ages 3 to 12. 1 Allegheny Ave., North Side. Details: 412-237-3400 or www.carnegiesciencecenter.org .
• The 24th Annual Holiday Train Display at the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum features a giant railroad display -- 40 feet by 100 feet -- that shows the tracks between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., the way they looked in 1952. The North Hills museum also keeps a collection of historical model-train sets. The holiday show runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays, and 11 a.m. tp 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. The museum is closed Dec. 24 and 25, and re-opens on Dec. 26, and will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 30 through Dec. 31. The museum will re-open on Jan. 6, and stay through Jan. 22, on the pre-Christmas hours. The requested donation is $6; $4 for children younger than 12. 5507 Lakeside Drive, Gibsonia. 724-444-6944 or www.wpmrm.org .
• The McKeesport Model Railroad Club will host its open house, featuring its holiday train set, on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 23. Hours are from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays. 2209 Walnut St., McKees?port. 412-664-5626 or http://mckeesportmodelrr.org .
• The Mid-Mon Valley Model Railroad Club opens its Annual Holiday Open House, showcasing three or four trains over the entire layout, this week. The event will be from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18, and Jan. 7 and 8. Suggested donation: $1 per person. 159 Main St., New Eagle. www.mmvmrrc.org .
• The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is kicking off its holiday festivities this weekend with Santa Trolley, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. Children and adults can take a trolley ride with Santa while singing Christmas carols, and ride the Yuletide Shuttle with Mr. Conductor. Trolley and Toy Trains, a big toy-train layout, will be on display on Santa Trolley days, along with Monday, and Dec. 2, 5, 9, 12, 16 and 19. Admission is $9; $8 for age 62 and older, and $6 for ages 3 to 15. Details: 724-228-9256 or www.pa-trolley.org .
• All aboard! You and your kids can ride a train to the North Pole on The Polar Express, a real-life train ride based on the hit Christmas movie. The event is held at the East Broad Top Railroad in Rockhill Furnace, Huntingdon County, about 160 miles east of Pittsburgh. On the train, you will meet Santa, sing carols and drink hot chocolate. Each kid will get a special treat, and railroad officials encourage them to wear pajamas. Train rides are held at 4:30, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and Dec. 2 to 4, 9 to 11, 16 to 18, and 23. Tickets are $30; $24 for children. Details: 814-447-3011 or www.ebtrr.com .