ALL ABOARD! Miniature train has big mission to benefit Mars

July 24, 2019 Cranberry Local News


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Allison Lakes, 9, of Cranberry Township peeks around volunteer engineer Curtis Bowers as he operates the train at the Mars Area History and Landmark Society.

MARS — The borough has a little bit of everything, from 230 years of history to a flying saucer and its very own miniature railroad.

As explained by Mars Area History and Landmark Society President John Watson, the 7-gauge, one-eighth scale Mars Shortline Railroad had been built to help local farmers move produce.

Now, it has a new mission.

“It's a novelty,” Watson said. “(To) bring people down here. Younger people, younger parents.”

The MSRR runs around the society on 650 feet of mainline track and carries seven people at a time. It goes through a tunnel. There is no cost to ride the train. The society accepts only donations and hopes riders will stop in the Mars History Museum.

It's working.

“We get ... a couple hundred riders,” Watson said, adding that the train generates around $200 a summer.

Society curator William Swaney said the MSRR has increased awareness of the society, which in turn has increased the number of donations it receives.

“Almost weekly, somebody brings something in,” he said.

Long-since-forgotten items such as old football uniforms are among the things Swaney has seen since the track was built by volunteers in 2012. Always on the lookout for something from the past, Swaney appreciates how the miniature railroad draws visitors.

“I want the history of Mars,” Swaney said. “People are very generous.”

The MSRR won't expand any time soon — Watson noted that the track is “pretty much maxed out” — but the museum is working on a railroad and streetcar exhibit.

“It (has) something for everybody,” Swaney added.

Those interested in volunteering to help with the layout can call the society at 724-625-4478.

The MSRR Train Station is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday — weather permitting — from May through November. People of all ages can ride.

Learn more about the train by calling Watson at 724-272-9588 or by visiting marshistory.org.

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