Garden Railroading: More Than A Hobby: 10 Ideas To Enrich Your Experience
Ten ways to enliven garden railroad projects is what we cover in the following article.
This multifaceted hobby encourages multiple generations to discover talents, develop skills, and improve camaraderie by working together on ongoing activities. Planning and building are necessary, then the fun and richness continues by tweaking this and that.
Let's get underway with something simple.
1. Name It!
Decide on what you'll call your completed project. Why not title it what means something to you?
My dad christened our garden train the "Bangderlund Express" for its Bavarian roots. Many of our large scale models originated from German toy companies.
Model railroading is truly a 'jack-of-all-trades' hobby (p. 3).— Westcott & Wagner, Editors, Practical Guide to Model Railroading, 5th Edition
2. Provide an "At A Glance" Summary
Introduce your garden railway with a concise overview. Model railroaders include this type of extract to inform others about key points. You can start with a short list (see ours next) and add more details later.
Bring features to life with a video. Watch examples by scrolling down now or later.
3. Identify Directions
Give your layout a sense of navigation by showing where North, East, South, and West originate.
Determine these cardinal points (that's also what N, E, S, & W are called) by using a pocket compass or a compass app on your smartphone. Either gadget will point you north via the earth's magnetic field. These bearings denote descriptions such as "looking at the west corner of this" or "from the south elevation of that" (shown in 3.2 below).
Where will you designate markers? Not sure? See a few examples next (in 3.1).
3.1 Three Ways To Orient Your Garden Train LayoutsClick thumbnail to view full-size
3.2 Photograph Conditions & PerspectivesClick thumbnail to view full-size
4. Add More Action With People, Places & Things
5. Depict Old Time Charm
If you like building from scratch, books from the 19th century have pictures that inspire. One such volume is English architect John Buonarotti Papworth's 1823 "Hints on Ornamental Gardening." The colored illustrations are beautiful and depict a bygone era. Replicating one of these designs (see next) might be both challenging and tantalizing.
5.1 Adapt Landscape Architecture Designs
6. Keep Records of Your Train Sets
How will you tell your story?
Catalog facets of your garden railroad. Smartphones enable us to easily snap pictures and keep an ongoing gallery to show friends and family wherever we are. A hard copy might appeal to others.
My dad prefers a notebook he titled "Bangderlund Express" (the name of our train garden). It includes details about model trains, structures, accessories, plants, and so forth (see examples next).
6.1 Archive ComponentsClick thumbnail to view full-size
7. Create Digital Stories
This form of storytelling is an entertaining technique for sharing garden railroad spaces with your family-at-a-distance and the public-at-large. "The Chronicles of the DVLR" (DebenValleyLightRail) is a brilliant example, as seen in the first episode (next).
8. Preserve Cultural Heritage
I watched the Centralia Garden Railroad Movie about a now defunct town in Florida called Centralia. This model train hobbyist's blog revealed digitized photographs of the original town.
Our appreciation of what others are doing further proves how this hobby bridges generations in more than garden and railroad ways. They influence cultural heritage, too. (The guy above sort of saved a town from extinction, didn't he?).
What's more, my mother thinks every township and borough should digitize and curate these sites via their local public libraries. In her words "They contribute to our local lore!" That said, I wonder about privacy, security, and copyright issues. Nevertheless, should the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) create a garden railroads category for those wanting to partake?
8.1 Rockville Bridge, Harrisburg, PA
9. Establish Your Brand
Branding is fun.
We have a horse that my dad painted verdigris (green color of aged copper). It serves as a mascot to greet people when they enter our garden railway zone. My mother decorates it during the holidays. Shall we call him Harry the horse (after my great grandfather)? My mother thinks so. She wants to design a custom logo for our toy train and plans to take photographs and make note cards to give as gifts.
"Whoa!" Whoever thought our garden railroad project might morph into a line of stationery?
9.1 Our Mascot HarryClick thumbnail to view full-size
10. Host & Attend Events
Once you complete your garden railroad "masterpiece"… celebrate! Drive a golden spike like they did when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. Congratulate the builders, too. Host seasonal flings and add effects to commemorate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other festivities.
If you don't have your own layout, many regions conduct events centered around public gardens railway activities. In my area the University of Pennsylvania in conjunction with Morris Arboretum picks a particular theme that resonates with visitors. Miniatures of life-size objects and buildings are highlighted, such as Philadelphia sculptures or Victorian houses. Of course, Thomas the tank engine appears wherever you go.
All Aboard Again
To conclude, the garden railroading hobby is vastly faceted as we're sure you'll find out. You might excel at a certain aspect: historical bent, building aptitude, green thumb gift, and so on. Further pursuing one of these interests might reach more than hobby status by catapulting you into your purposeful vocation.
Start with some of our suggestions and add your own. Best of all enjoy yourself!