Pittsburgh’s role as an industrial powerhouse has dwindled since the 1970s, but through the efforts of dedicated volunteers, the McKeesport Model Railroad Club transports visitors to the past in miniature during their annual holiday open house. Visitors can view extensive rail operations and scenery on the 2,200-square foot HO-scale layout, where trains pass through towns, over bridges, and through tunnels, on weekends through Dec. 19.
While some clubs fail to recruit new members, young adults hold an important role in the McKeesport Model Railroad club’s continued survival. Most of the club’s members reside around the area, from Greensburg to Penn Hills. Andrew Raith, 17, of East McKeesport joined the club alongside his dad when they realized their home wasn’t ideal to hold a model railroad. In the last six years, they’ve helped to overhaul the layout into its current state.
“That being said, there was no shortage of things to work on,” Raith said.
The annual open house requires effort and attention from members. During the open house itself, they greet guests, ensure that trains are operating properly, and answer questions.
“Because of the club, I’m more devoted to the hobby than I ever have been before,” Raith said.
Compared to the real world, the holiday themed model is scaled to approximately 1:87, or HO scale, meaning that real-life objects are 87 times the size of its model counterpart. This scale was first popularized by German firm Märklin in the 20th century and became popular in the U.S. after WWII thanks to Lionel.
The model will be on display at the club, located at 2209 Walnut St. in McKeesport, from 1 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 19.
Admission for adults over 18 is $5, or free for military ID holders, first responders, or uniformed scouts. Additionally, tickets for children ages five to 17 are $3, and children ages one to three are admitted for free. For additional information, visit the club’s Facebook page or call (412) 664-5626.