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Penn Hills police group’s holiday train display reaches end of line

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Kelsey Shea
Officer Duane Yenchik paints the river for the Penn Hills annual train display
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kelsey shea
The Penn Hills train display includes the airport runway.

A handful of current and retired Penn Hills police officers spent November turning the department’s shooting range into a holiday train display for the 30th and final time.

With local interest and the number of volunteers dwindling, the Penn Hills group Police Helping Police Daily will conclude its 30-year tradition of building an annual holiday train display. This year’s display, with more than 100 miniature buildings and moving parts, will open on Thursday.

“It’s run its course,” retired police Officer Joseph Zevola said. “It’s not as popular as it use to be.”

For three decades, the nonprofit police group has built a miniature train display in the basement of the police station to raise money for local charities.

Zevola, who has worked on the trains every year, said that in the early years of the display, people lined up through the municipal building and along Frankstown Road to see it.

Scenes featuring a farm, a quarry, amusement rides and moving parts along with model trains on tracks once drew 50,000 visitors over the course of a month.

Organizer and Penn Hills police Officer Duane Yenchik said that last year about 5,000 people showed up, but he noted that some had visited as children and now were bringing their children.

“Thirty years is a good end to it,” Yenchik said. “It’s been a nice tradition.”

Admission to see the trains is $1. Proceeds benefit local charities.

Organizers in past years have donated proceeds to local families who were struggling to pay their bills, the local children’s nonprofit Shining Arrow and scholarships for Penn Hills students interested in law enforcement. The organization has donated about $40,000 to the local branch of Make-A-Wish as well in recent years.

The final train display will open at 7 p.m. Thursday during the Penn Hills Holiday Light Up at the municipal building, 12245 Frankstown Road. The display will operate until early January.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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