Nonprofit with Sewickley roots holds annual train show in Ambridge

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 6:01 AM

In an unassuming building along Merchant Street in Ambridge, the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania teem with activity.

Among the oranges, reds and yellows of early autumn, farmers work in a field while nearby, a child glides through the air on a tree swing. Around the bend, patrons hurry in and out of shops along the main street. A little farther on, a blast furnace roars to action.

Meandering through the scenes, a fleet of trains make their way over bridges, through towns and past mills.

The elaborate model railroad layout will be open to the public during the Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Train Show.

The nonprofit’s sole fundraiser begins the weekend after Thanksgiving and runs Saturdays and Sundays through the first week of January.

With 37 active members, the group of model train enthusiasts have created a miniature world that mimics the region. The detailed scenes are hand-crafted and painted, and the display is interactive, with buttons placed for little ones to push and activate lights, sounds and movement. The group also has stepladders so smaller kids can get a better view.

“You can go around several times and notice something new every time,” said member Frank Kocher, pointing out a tiny hunter nestled high on a hill.

For many members, trains became an interest at an early age. Kocher said his father had a setup in the basement. Soon, he did, too.

Kocher has been a member since the mid-1980s, when the group’s headquarters were located in the Old Sewickley Post Office. Ohio Valley Lines moved to a space on Fourth Street in Ambridge before making their home at 1225 Merchant St. in 1999.

Larry Martin is a newer member, having joined after retirement.

“The best gift I ever got was a train,” said Martin. “We’re old kids with big trains.”

In addition to the HO-scale model on the main floor, a half-size N-scale layout will be up and running during the open house. The museum will be open, as will the kitchen with snacks for purchase. Members will have a flea market sale of model train items.

Member Bob Evans — no, not that Bob Evans — has assembled four train kits to give away at random times every day in his “Trains for Tots” program.

“It’s about getting trains into kids’ hands,” Kocher said.

Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Train Show will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 30; Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29; and Jan. 4 and 5. Requested donation is $6 for adults and $2 for ages 3-12. For more information, call 724-266-4787 or visit