Pittsburgh is full of kid’s activities (Children’s Museum, Science Center, etc) and full of grown up activities (Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History, Warhol Museum, Arcade Comedy & SCIT), but it can sometimes be tricky to find an activity that will be fun for both grown ups and kids. I had never heard of the Western PA Model Railroad Museum in Gibsonia, PA (about a 45 minute drive from Pittsburgh) until just recently. When my mom and Poppy Sam came to visit, I suggested this as a good activity for all of us and Baby Beez.
The museum really is something special. It’s just the right size for about 1-2 hours of an activity, without being two large or overwhelming. It is two stories. The lower story is a kids area, featuring the silly model railway pictured above, and some Brio train track playsets for little kids.
The second floor features the massive model railroad, which is truly exceptional. It’s a model of the “Mon Valley Railroad,” which is a fictitious combination of the Western Maryland, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroads. The decor is set to the early 1950s, with plenty of steel mills and industry.
If you like the seasonal railroad at Phipps or the model railroad at the Science Center, you will love seeing the Western PA Model Railroad Museum. It is amazing to me that the whole thing is volunteer built and run. My favorite part of the museum was seeing the control panel. A “conductor” watches the progress of multiple trains from multiple computers, and can identify all at once when there is any derailment or trouble.
Because the whole museum is volunteer run, it is actually closed for most of the year. It is open for a Holiday Show from November through Mid-January, and the last day it is open for the 2014/14 holiday season is January 12. This is a truly unique space in Western PA, and was a charming afternoon for adults and children alike.