Keeping Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad and Village Display on Track

A coal mining operation is just one of the miniature scenes within the elaborately automated display at Carnegie Science Center. 

More than 350,000 people visit the miniature railroad and village at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center each year­­–– but few get to peek at the impressive automation behind the scenes that keeps it all under control.

Five trains running on 1,200 feet of track wind their way through more than 100 motorized animations, including tugboats chugging down a flowing river, a baseball game being played at a ballpark, a coal mining operation, and even a twisting roller coaster. Throughout the 83 feet by 30 feet display, daylight is simulated from dawn to dark, triggering response from carefully synced lights and sounds.

Each of the various animations­­ is controlled with Opto 22 controllers. The Opto 22 SNAP Ethernet I/O control system is also used to control the village’s lighting and sound effects. In total, the display’s mechanisms require close to 1,000 points of I/O.

Photo: Courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

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