Trains and Thomas the Tank Engine: The Obsession

My son loves trains.  He loves to watch trains and trolleys on their tracks.  He loves to build train sets in the living room or on the porch and drive his trains.  He loves to watch Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs at nearly any chance he gets.  He has three different kinds of Thomas engines and tracks and they are *always* in the middle of my floor.  He even has a set of Thomas Pez dispensers that came in a Thomas lunch box, courtesy of Gram E.  He just loves trains.  While it may be close to an obsession, I know that there are other little boys that love trains even more, so I'll classify my son as only mildly obsessed with trains and Thomas.  And I suppose that makes me feel better as a mom, too.  

So to feed, or not to feed, my son's mild trains and Thomas the Tank Engine obsession?  I let him watch the Thomas DVDs only half the time he asks, only because I really prefer most other kiddie DVDs to Thomas.  Like, I prefer almost every other DVD we own to Thomas.  I guess I'm just not that into trains.  But I have found a very nice way to enjoy my son's mild train obsession without losing my own mind or constantly tripping over tracks in my never-clean house.  The Carnegie Science Center.  One of their year-round exhibits is the Miniature Railroad & Village, which has been open for over 90 seasons!  My son loves it, and every time we go to the Science Center, we go around the exhibit an average of 2.5 times...

Monongahela Incline
This miniature railroad exhibit is truly quite an amazing and interesting sight to see.  It contains buildings, structures, bridges, sporting fields, and famous sights from western Pennsylvania from the 1880s to the 1930s.  Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood House, the Monongahela Incline, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Forbes Field, Isaly's Dairy Store, and Fallingwater are just a few of the historical structures that you can look for within the village.  The exhibit covers all four seasons and the lighting in the room that contains the village cycles through night and day every 10 or 15 minutes.  Everything is done to scale and the detail is astonishing.  I see something new every single time I walk through the exhibit, whether it's an animation, a different bridge or a neat little building. 

The exhibit is also very rich with historical significance.  I tend not to care much about history, as a subject it was never my thing, but to read the story boards around the perimeter and see the bits and pieces of history captured within the exhibit, history is suddenly much more interesting.  For example, one of the scenes that caught my attention is the Sharon Steel Mill.  In the past western Pennsylvania had it's fair share of steel mills, and the Sharon Steel Mill was one in Mercer County, about two hours north of Pittsburgh.  The reason that the Sharon Steel Mill display caught my eye, was that my dad's dad, who died when I was very young, worked at Sharon Steel Mill as a metallurgical engineer.  So the Sharon Steel Mill, which was demolished in the 1990s, is not only a part of the history of western Pennsylvania, but a bit of my own family's history as well. 

Isaiah intently watching tiny people dancing inside the house.
Before I bore you with words, let me show you some of the neat stuff in the exhibit, but with this disclaimer...  My pictures really don't do it justice.  You should really just see it for yourself.  Until you do, enjoy my photos!  

And if you have a little (or big) boy who is obsessed with trains, you simply must see the amazing Miniature Railroad & Village at the Carnegie Science Center, and you had better go soon!  The Miniature Railroad & Village is available year round, except for a time of maintenance in the fall, that begins at the end of September.  During the maintenance period, a new historical model is built and debuted on Black Friday.   The Miniature Railroad & Village is truly a masterpiece, and your train lover will be delighted with the sights and sounds of this wonderfully detailed exhibit.  

Isaiah blowing the train whistle.

Isaiah examining how the animation works!

Real water, with a real boat!!
Luna Park
Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in the fall.


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