Ohio Valley Lines in Ambridge cancels open house and holiday train display this year
The Ohio Valley Lines model trains at Ambridge will not leave their stations this year due to health concerns and covid-19 safety restrictions.
The locomotive enthusiast’s club has been organizing an open day and holiday exhibition for almost 40 years. It has taken place over the past two decades at 1225 Merchant St.
The doors are typically open on Saturdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving through New Years with around 100 visitors each day.
“There are a lot of people in there,” said club secretary Mike DeSensi. “Our alleys don’t allow one-way traffic and people go shoulder to shoulder when we’re really busy.”
These conditions are far from ideal during a pandemic where the world has been asked to socially distance at least 6 feet and to wear a mask in most places.
Member Tom James said management decided in September not to hold an open house this year.
He called the decision disappointing, but understands why given the circumstances.
“There isn’t a lot of room to wander around the network,” James said. “People tend to be obsessed with a certain element or want to see a train arrive that has passed earlier. They are rather well stacked.
The club has two permanent exhibits, an HO scale main railway and an N scale model train that members work on year round.
Most of the exhibits are interactive with some sections devoted to the steel industry, including a large mill and coke oven, and logging and mining towns. There are downtown Pittsburgh scenes and special effects that mimic storms and other lights and sounds.
“It’s our main attraction, and trains are synonymous with Christmas,” James said. “You would like to show it. You are proud of your product, and it’s good when they come in and they marvel and say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ “
James said some members cleaned various rail cars and hundreds and hundreds of feet of track before the decision to cancel the show this year.
Members rejected a proposal to register for the open house with groups arriving at specific times.
“We weren’t interested in having some kind of reduced attendance cap or limiting visitors to a specified amount of time,” DeSensi said. “We would like to be open. We can’t wait to do it.
Open houses and statutory weekends generally generate between $ 5,000 and $ 6,000 for the club.
DeSensi said Ohio Valley Lines is in good financial health, owns the building in which the displays are located and can afford to close this year.
James said he would support visitors’ bookings, but there would be issues keeping people outside in bad weather and rushing customers to the next crowd.
“It’s probably too much and we can’t control everything,” he said.
The club has more than 40 active members.
For more information, call 724-266-4787 or visit ohiovalleylines.org.