After choosing the stories they would tell in the exhibit, the lead designer laid out the stories geographically. After 25 iterations, the final serpentine shape you see today was selected. This shape allows you to access the exhibition in ways that were not possible before. It also provides for varied changes in scenery, giving you the opportunity to turn a corner and see something completely new and exciting. Color renderings and 3-D models of the layout helped refine the design.
The scenery is interpreted by labels mounted to the handrail. Each label describes what is happening at every location on the layout and provides historical references, additional photos or facts about what you are viewing. The project team also wanted our guests to have the ability to interact with the layout. To do this, they added push buttons to many of the labels, allowing you to do things like move a container from a ship to a train.
Further location research helped the designers make the scenes on the railroad as realistic as possible. The sand dunes on the layout are modeled after the Indiana Dunes. The Red Line subway station at Chicago and State is recreated brick for brick, and is populated to reflect the individuals who were waiting for the train at 1:56 pm on April 3, 2002.