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Railroad Crossing

About Us

Pawns and Dice
Our mission is to provide a place for social interaction and community building through the fun and enjoyment of tabletop gaming in a casual, family-friendly environment.
Pawns and Dice

Hello! My name is Doug Smith, and I am the founder of Sidetracks Board Game Club. My family and I have called Ellwood City home for over 20 years. After graduating from West Virginia University with a Bachelor's degree in civil engineering, I worked in the field of transportation engineering and regional planning for 22 years. During that time, I also served as a local youth baseball and soccer coach, as well as being a Boy Scout leader.

In 2018, my passion for working with young people led me to pursue a career change. I received my Masters degree in Secondary Education from Slippery Rock University in 2019 and currently work as a social studies teacher for an on-line education company.


Growing up in cold and snowy Northwestern Pennsylvania, I developed a love for board games at an early age. I've passed that love on to my six children, who started gaming as soon as they could be trusted not to put the dice in their mouths. Sidetracks was established in 2023 in order to share this great hobby with others and to provide local families, couples, friends, and gamers with a place to build bonds and create lasting memories together. Unfortunately, we were not able to generate enough revenue to cover operating expenses with the membership-based business model in our brick-and-mortar shop, so we decided to close it in 2024. You never know though, Sidetracks may come back to life in another form at some point in the future.

What's in a name?
Doug Smith, Proprietor

Dozens of names were considered before landing on Sidetracks. The dictionary defines a sidetrack as something that “directs a person’s attention away from an activity or subject toward another one that is less important”. Rather than thinking of that in a negative light, I like to think of it in the context of author Marthe Troly-Curtin’s quote, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” The older I get, the more I appreciate that rather than being a sidetrack from accomplishing more important things, time spent with family and friends really is the most valuable thing in the world.


On a railroad, a sidetrack (or siding) is what connects the railroad to local communities. That’s the whole point of the board game club. It’s an avenue for connecting people within the community and for building new communities of friends.


Ellwood City and Western Pennsylvania have a rich railroad heritage. I have always had a love and affinity for railroads too. When I was little, my favorite place on Earth was Allaire State Park in Farmingdale, New Jersey. I affectionately referred to it as the “Choo Choo Park”. We could hear the train whistle from my grandmother’s house, and she would take me there to play on the playground and to watch the tourist railroad go around. Years later, when my brothers and I were diving into the world of hobby board gaming, the first “big” game we fell in love with was 1830: The Game of Railroads and Robber Barons. - - Coincidence? - - Maybe. Maybe not.

Smith Family mid-1980's
1830 The Game of Railroads and Robber Barons
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