On Dec. 4, Mercer Junction Train Shoppe steamed into the historic Mercer Courthouse Square as its newest business.
“It’s just a great little town and it just looks like a train layout town. It’s historic, it’s charming, it’s easily accessible and I grew up here,” said owner Dave Minarik.
This is the first shop Minarik has opened boasting his hobby.
Minarik, a 1984 Mercer High School graduate, is also known as the drummer for the local music sensation, “The Clarks.” Minarik still lives locally with his wife Marsha and their son Noah.
Self-employed for nearly 25 years, Minarik thought that the store was a good opportunity to help rejuvenate the area and share his passion for the hobby with others.
The recent Christmas sales were a very good starting point for the freshman shop, located across from the courthouse on the northeast corner of North Diamond.
Popular items include: starter sets, train track, products to get old trains functional, and accessories.
For die-hard Harry Potter fans, available at Mercer Junction is a model of the Hogwarts Express train.
Minarik does carry some rare items, but he tends not to deal in the more classic pieces, due to a lack of information on them.
Most of the stock is new items, such as M.T.H. or Mike’s Train House, which has newer computer technologies that allow for sound, smoke, and lights.
Those products are capable of running up to 99 engines off of one remote.
The computers also read the speed of the train and can regulate and maintain the same speed throughout the exhibit.
While Minarik has a small supply of the widely recognized Lionel brand, M.T.H. is the industry leader in O-Scale trains.
O-Scale typically has three rails; some sets only have two. The third rail is to contain the electric current rather than the outside rails, to allow for the train to reverse loop without stopping.
It is 1:48 scale, which equates to a quarter-inch of model equaling 1 foot of real track.
“It’s a great track to be able to see and put more things on the display. The smaller you get, the harder it is to see and model things. It’s a scale that most people relate to because many have had a Lionel in their lives at some time,” Minarik said.
The shop regularly stocks train sets, engines, and figures difficult to obtain. Mercer Junction will soon add H0 scale to its stock as well.
H0 scale is one of the most popular scale of model railway in most of the world, with trains built to a larger scale while using the same track as its predecessors.
In H0 scale, 0.14 inch represents 1 real foot; which models the standard railroad gauge.
Mercer Junction has a wide selection for those wanting a simply train around the Christmas tree, or for collectors in search of the antique or unusual.
“It really is to show people that it goes beyond setting up a train around your Christmas tree. It can really be a fun hobby. It can involve as many people as you want or it can be a bonding tool for getting closer to your kids,” Minarik said.
Scenery and landscaping items for displays are always available.
The display that greets shoppers when they walk in the door was built during a span of four weeks. Throughout turns and over hills, the train stops by some recognizable locations, like the Greenville Savings Bank and the Pittsburgh Brewery.
Minarik had some help getting the 21- by 10-foot O-Scale display ready.
“We had friends, we had family helping. We had a group from Greenville that came down to lend a hand. It was very much a community effort,” Minarik said.
The Fort Pitt Hi-Railers, a modular train group from Pittsburgh, also assisted in the project.
This group sets up displays for Christmas in many local shopping centers as well as a few home and garden shows in the area.
There is more than just displays and purchases to be had at Mercer Junction. Minarik said he plans to host educational seminars on various topics, including how to do scenery for a display, weathering the trains to make them appear more realistic, and possibly scratch building trains.
“I can’t ever remember not having a train. I think a lot of people don’t understand where the hobby has gone in the past 10 years and it’s kind of a goal to educate. It’s not just for Christmas; these are really complex toys to operate and they’re a long of fun,” Minarik said.
Another goal of Minarik’s is to retire from the store in 20 years.
Mercer Junction will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Wednesdays and Saturdays, when it will be open until 8 p.m.
The shop will be closed Sundays and Mondays.
If you can’t make a trip to the shop, Mercer Junction will soon have a website online at www.mercerjunction.com. For more information, call 724-662-1110.