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Popular Mars Shortline opens for 2024 season

Engineer Jim Nudi takes visitors on a train ride during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

MARS — Crowds gathered on Brickyard Road on Friday morning, May 24, for the chance to ride a miniature train in a circle for two minutes at a time. It was the opening day for the Mars Shortline railroad, the main attraction of the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society.

“It’s all fantastic. Everybody ought to come and visit,” said visitor Jack Wollerton, who has been to the Shortline site for the past four consecutive years. “Good exhibit inside, good train rides … kids will have a great time.”

The Shortline is a miniature-scale railroad which takes riders through various painted tunnels and past representing the history of Mars. The number of cars on the Shortline varies, but on opening day, the train consisted of four cars.

“It's just fun for the whole family,” said society volunteer Jess Beasley. “Kids love it, adults love it.”

This marks the 12th season of the Mars Shortline railroad since its opening in 2013. According to Bob Lang, a volunteer at the society since 2004, the inspiration for the Shortline came from his experiences at a train club in Florida, which built a similar attraction.

“When I started volunteering here, I thought it would be a neat thing to have, just to ride people and attract visitors,” Lang said. “And it has worked out very well.”

The society’s complex on Brickyard Road is far more than just the Shortline. It consists of several attractions that chronicle the history of Mars, many of which are centered around the borough’s history as a hub for the railroads.

One of the major attractions on Brickyard Road is Mars’ original Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station, which was constructed in 1897, near the spot where the Pfeifer hardware store is today. In 2000, the station was moved to its current spot on Brickyard Road and purchased by the society for preservation, and it now serves as part of a museum.

“The railroad wanted it removed and they were going to have it destroyed,” said volunteer Jan Smith. “And some of our members petitioned them and worked for three years to finally get the OK to have it moved here.”

Also part of the society’s complex was a miniature train car which now serves as a gift shop. According to Smith, the car once served as a portable McDonald’s location used for parties.

“I don’t think they do that anymore,” Smith said.

The complex also features a small gazebo-like structure which once served as the waiting room for the Mars station for the Pittsburgh-Butler Shortline, a trolley service separate from the B&O Railroad.

The Shortline’s opening day also attracted royalty, in the form of Daisy Snow, Butler County Dairy Princess, who used the opportunity to promote the dairy industry by handing out promotional pencils and bracelets.

“I think it's very good. It gets the kids involved,” said Snow, who lives just five miles away from the site. “This is a historical site here, and most kids wouldn't really be interested in that. But since there is a Shortline, I think that really pulls kids in and gets them to come see the museum.”

The Shortline is completely free to ride, but donations are accepted. The attraction is open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., until late October, but will not run during the rain.

Engineer Jeff Campbell takes visitors on a train ride during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Theodore Szelong, 4, and his mother, Kori, take a ride on the train during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Engineer Jim Nudi takes riders on a train ride during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Theodore Szelong, 4, and his mother, Kori, take a ride on the train during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The 2023-24 Butler County Dairy Princes Daisy Snow, center, takes a ride on the train during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with his father, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Engineer Jim Nudi takes visitors on a train ride during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Engineer Jim Nudi takes visitors on a train ride during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with dad, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with dad, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Theodore Szelong, 4, and mom, Kori, take a ride on the train during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with dad, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with dad, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Marly Myers, 5, practices driving a train with dad, Eric, during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)
Theodore Szelong, 4, and mom, Kori, take a ride on the train during the first Mars Shortline Railroad rides of the season at the Mars Area History and Landmarks Society on Friday, May 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (5/24/2024)

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