When Jeff Graybill was a boy, his grandfather -- a collector and builder of model railroads -- gave him a train set.
Mr. Graybill, 32, of Mt. Lebanon, remained interested in trains through his teens and as a student at Penn State University, where he joined the university's model railroad club.
Then, he founded the South Hills Model Railroad Club, which held its first meeting on May 22, 2007.
A 13-by-25-foot model train layout built in sections by club members will be on display from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight in the Mt. Lebanon municipal building, 710 Washington Road. The free display is part of the municipality's Lebo Light Night to kick off the holiday season for the uptown business district.
Club members will be on hand to explain the creative process and answer questions about the exhibit, which will be displayed through noon Saturday.
Highlights of the exhibit include a golf course; model ceramic train stations; a waterfall; and a mining train that travels up and down a mountain made of spray foam and covered with joint compound.
Up to 20 club members contributed an average section of 2 feet by 4 feet to the layout. Members typically make the sections in their workshops or garages, and each section is built to a standard so that all of them will fit together.
The modular layout is HO scale, which means the trains are one-eighty-seventh the size of a real train. The track is 50 inches off the ground.
Members buy the trains, which they usually customize, and build the layout, which is made up of platform, track and scenery.
The know-how involved in model railroading includes woodworking, electronics, metal working, computer skills, animation, design and sculpture, Mr. Graybill noted.
"It's not your grandfather's model train," he said.
An engineer at Bettis Laboratory in West Mifflin, Mr. Graybill said the hobby lends itself to all his interests because he enjoys working with his hands and figuring out how things work.
Many of the 15 active club members are engineers or artists or work in the medical field, and the activity becomes a natural extension of their talents and skills, he said.
Member Dave Bodnar, 65, of Mt. Lebanon, grew up with trains that were given to him by his father. In 1995, his wife bought him a model train that the couple placed around their Christmas tree.
But it was not until they moved to a new house, and he saw the potential for a large-scale train in his garden, that he immersed himself in the hobby.
His outdoor garden railroad has a late 1800s Old West themeand consists of 210 feet of track, which goes through a tree and tunnel and across two bridges.
The retired Mt. Lebanon teacher and technology coordinator also worked on the 12-by-18-foot model railroad in the outpatient waiting room on the third floor of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville. The railroad was designed and built by the Pittsburgh Garden Railway Society, of which he is a member.
The train layout in Mt. Lebanon will next be displayed Dec. 14-15 during Locomotion Weekend at the Carnegie Science Center.
The next monthly meeting of the South Hills Model Railroad Club will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in meeting room B of Mt. Lebanon Public Library. The meeting is open to all. Annual membership is $35.