Supplement to “Playing with Trains”
While interest in model railroading in general has stalled a bit over the years, garden railways in particular are enjoying tremendous growth, says Paul Busse, thanks in large part to their appeal to all ages and members of the family. Whether plants are more your thing, or it’s the trains that fascinate you, this unique hobby is able to combine the best of gardening and railroading into one fun pastime.
In addition to his corporate clients, Busse has helped several private clients begin their own backyard garden railway designs.
“We initiate a lot of people into the hobby,” Busse says. “We may help them frame the thing in. It’s kind of like giving someone who wants to paint a paint-by-number. We literally give them the skeleton on the ground, and then they can fill it in with their model.”
Busse designed and built an elaborate display featuring four tunnels, six bridges, and two waterfalls for Dr. Dick Gill, a retired Lexington physician, and his wife, Sue, for their triangular-shaped back yard. Busse installed evergreens and spring and summer plants, as well as replicas of Lexington landmarks like Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, and the John Hunt Morgan House to complete the display, which runs two trains across two tracks, one 120 feet and the other 90 feet.
The hobby has been a source of relaxation and a way to bond with his brother in California, who is also a garden railway enthusiast, Gill said.
“When you go out there in the evening, and the water’s on, and you can hear the water going and the trains going and see the flowers blooming, it’s wonderful,” Gill said.
Ruth Hamrin got hooked on G-scale trains when she set out to purchase a simple set for under her Christmas tree. Eventually, the trains moved outside and the track kept growing. Today, she has more than 500 feet of Busse-designed railway in her Lexington back yard. Hamrin, an avid gardener, opted to do her own landscaping to supplement the railway Busse helped install.
“It is a great outlet. It lets me be outside and make my own creation,” she says. “I joke about it that it keeps me off the streets.”
Both Hamrin and Gill are members of the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society, which boasts about 125 member families across northern Kentucky, southern Ohio, and southeast Indiana. The group is the only currently active garden railway society in Kentucky, says its president, Larry Koehl.
The Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society is a great resource for learning more about beginning your own garden railway, as are these Web sites:
Garden Railways Magazine
Large Scale Online
To read the Kentucky Living December 2006 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Playing with Trains