Western PA Model Railroad Museum: Holiday Train Show

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When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was watch my Pappy Peterson’s models trains run along the tracks he’d set up on plywood in his basement. Clickety-clack. An occasional sound of a steam engine. Clickety-clack. I’d be amazed every single time that they wouldn’t run into each other (although looking back, this was silly – he worked for Union Railroad – my best friend knew his trains!).


In the twenty-seven years since he’s passed, model trains still make my heart catch in my throat. Greg and I took the big kids to the Western PA Model Railroad Museum Holiday Train Show last January, just before it closed, and it still stands out as special in my mind.

About the Show

The Western PA Model Railroad Museum is a Pittsburgh non-profit dedicated to promoting and preserving the history of railroads in Western PA through model trains. Upstairs in the museum, you can easily get lost for an hour or more looking at the replica of the tracks from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, with (fictitious) Mon-Valley Railroad trains. This replica is a 40’x100’ scale, fully working model that doesn’t leave out any detail. (Evan and Arianna thoroughly enjoyed searching for animals and community members during our visit.) There are historical trains, scale versions of the towns in Western PA, and intricate scenery.

The display can only be seen by the public during the Annual Holiday Train show (which runs November 11, 2015 – January 17, 2016), so you’ll want to consider working a visit into your holiday plans.

Our Experience

When I first told Greg that we’d be going to see a model railroad, I don’t think his expectation was the experience we received at WPMRM. Honestly, even myself, having done research, could not have imagined the detail put into a model such as this nor the sheer enjoyment the four of us got out of the day.

When we first got into the Museum, we were greeted by a crowd of people. It was an amazing feeling knowing that there were so many people there, even on the last days of the show, interested in the work the volunteers have put into creating this project (which started in 1988).

Downstairs, the kids were able to engage in hands-on exhibits. There were train tables, displays of model railroad cars, and a toy train display that even includes a circus train. (If you’re hungry, we suggest grabbing a snack at the snack bar. The prices are right on par and we enjoyed some red pop and a soft pretzel as a treat after viewing the trains.)


Upstairs is where I believe the magic begins, however. This is where the 4,000-square foot display resides. There are volunteers there to tell you about the trains as well as a team running them to ensure nothing goes off course. It’s truly amazing and breath-taking.

Source: Western PA Model Railroad Museum

This year, we’ll be sure to pick up a handout and take on the scavenger hunt!

You can find out more about this year’s train show at http://wpmrm.org/. Tickets are $6 per adult and $4 per child under 12. Parking is free at the Museum. It is fully ADA compliant; however, if you are a twin parent like us, double strollers just might be a tight fit. 🙂 


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