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After 100 Years, The Science Center’s Miniature Railroad Is Getting An Assist From Tech

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA
A miniature version of the Kaufmann Department Store is now on display at the Carnegie Science Center.

Designers at the Carnegie Science Center typically use a band saw to create miniatures for the railroad and village display. But a few years ago they began testing a new tool to create more detailed and precise replications of buildings.

This year’s newest addition, the historic downtown Kaufmann Department Store, include parts built with a 3D printer.

The miniature based on the store built in 1885 includes the original clock and 15 store windows.

Patty Everly, the historic exhibits’ curator, said aspects including the Statue of Liberty on the roof of the store.

“To me it’s an art piece, and a history piece,” she said. “So that’s what I’m drawn to, creating this three-dimensional painting, and to tell the story – the rich, rich history of this region.”

Everly said her team spent months researching the Kaufmann store looking at old advertisements to scale the display accurately. She said 3D printing requires a similar skill set to building by scratch.

“You have to resolve the same problems as you would in building in traditional manners, which we still do. It’s just what the model calls for,” she said.

Sarah Schneider
Credit Sarah Schneider

The display turned 100 years old in 2019 and Everly said much of the display is still made by hand. She considers it art and says her favorite part of the work is preserving the history of the region.

She chose the Kaufmann building to preserve the story of the brothers, German immigrants, who she said came to the city for a better life.

They had interpreters in their store to serve immigrants.

“They believed that if they did their job right and treated their customers with respect and took care of them, that their competitors would drive business to them through their unscrupulous business tactics,” Everly said.

As for the numerous school groups and children who view the display every day, Everly said she hopes they come away with a sense of Pittsburgh’s history and the people who made the city.

WESA receives funding from the Carnegie Science Center.