enthusiasts, both in Colorado and across America, are climbing aboard a
growing trend that adds greatly to gardening fun: garden railroads.
Garden railroads combine two popular pastimes, gardening and model
railroads, into a hobby that provides fun for the entire family, from
youngest to oldest. For
example, the family can plant, weed and water the garden, operate the trains, or
build train stations, houses, and other structures from scratch or with
People unfamiliar with garden
railways may be surprised to learn that several companies manufacture
large-scale trains designed specifically for outdoor use.
The railroad tracks are made of special materials that can
withstand severe changes in weather.
Many of the buildings, water tanks and other structures are made of
all-weather plastic designed to tolerate temperature extremes, intense
sunlight, rain and snow.
fading is inevitable, you can delay it by placing buildings where they are
protected from afternoon sun and bringing them inside during periods of
severe weather. The trains, which are quite valuable, are usually brought
in for safekeeping when they are not in use.
To facilitate this task some hobbyists cut a small hole in the wall
of the garage or storage shed, place tracks going inside, and run their
trains in and out of the garage or shed.
garden railroads fall into two main types.
One style is characterized by realism.
Railway designs are based on real railroads, features are kept to
scale and trains and structures have a weathered appearance. The other
style is more whimsical. The
colorful trains and buildings of these railways serve as garden ornaments
designed to add a decorative touch to the landscape.
Each railway is truly unique, with much diversity within these two
hobbyists choose a theme on which to base their garden railroad.
One popular theme is the mountain railroad. An alpine garden setting is created using delicate-looking,
small-sized plants and groundcovers such as
‘Tiny Rubies’, Turkish Veronica (Veronica
liwanensis), or Mother-of-Thyme
serpyllum). These and
similar plants provide color
a small scale.
covered rocks and boulders form the mountains.
Miniature forests are
created with dwarf conifers like Dwarf
Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca
(Picea abies ‘Little Gem’).
Columnar junipers such as Juniperus
communis ‘Compressa’ and American arborvitae also work well.
Occasional trimming and the use of bonsai techniques keep trees and
shrubs small. More
elaborate mountain railways complete the alpine setting with ponds,
streams and waterfalls.
hobbyists prefer to portray the southwestern region of America and utilize
xeriscape gardening techniques. Sandstone
rocks, dry washes, barren sections and sparsely planted areas suggest arid
terrain. Gray leafed plants,
including Silver Mound Sage (Artemisia
schmidtiana) and Woolly Thyme
pseudoanuginosus), are especially suitable for this theme.
Succulents such as ‘Dragon’s Blood’ Sedum
(Sedum spurium) and Houseleek
arachnoideum) are also effective.
garden railroaders get double duty from their plants by including herbs
and other edible plants in the railway’s landscape.
Basil, chives, parsley, sage, dwarf carrots and similar plants are
both decorative and tasty.
need a compatible environment to survive.
A plant that fits the theme might not fit the growing site.
To be successful, railroad gardeners must heed the plant selection
guidelines applicable to all gardens.
Does the plant require acidic or alkaline soil, sunlight or shade,
and moist or dry soil? Is the
plant fast-growing or slow-growing? What
size will it eventually be? Is
it hardy in Colorado? Will it
grow in clay soil or does it require good drainage?
Fortunately, plant labels often contain much of this information.
one of the biggest advantages of garden railroading is the year-round
enjoyment it provides. When
the weather is too cold, too hot or too wet to be outside, tasks, such as
model construction, can be done indoors.
Such days offer hobbyists the opportunity to complete routine
maintenance tasks, as well.
you decide to build a garden railway, keep in mind that careful planning
prior to construction is vital. Railways
that are integrated into the garden setting are the most appealing.
Experts advise starting simple.
After gaining experience and knowledge you can gradually add to the
layout. Initially a garden
railway may be a lot of work, but it will reward you with lots of fun.
Internet Web sites that offer information and products include
My Large Scale at http://www.mylargescale.com
G-Scale-Links at http://www.g-scale-links.com
G Scale Group at
Large Scale On-Line at
LGB of America at
Garden Trains Association at
Model Train Blog
also has clubs for garden railroad enthusiasts:
Garden Railway Society, P.O. Box 9256, Denver CO
High Garden Railway Society, 2783 S. Meade St., Denver, CO 80236.
Northern Colorado Garden Railroaders;
of outdoor trains and equipment are listed in the Yellow Pages under Hobby
& Model Supplies. Some of
these stores carry a large selection of books, magazines and videos that
are highly informative.
good resource is Garden Railways Magazine. Current and back issues
are available at the stores mentioned above.
sure to see the garden railroad at Hudson Gardens
in Littleton. It is fabulous. DGRS has a terrific garden
railroad at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.