Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Garden Railroad

By Christina VanGinkel

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby. It provides activity with fresh air, scenery, and sometimes, good things to eat and smell. For some it is an integral part of their life, to the degree that some of us may look for other ways to increase the gratification we receive from our gardens. What a growing number of gardeners are doing is building worlds in their gardens, worlds that amuse the builders and the young and old alike that may stop by for a visit. These worlds are arrived at by a mode of transportation that was a building block of the real world, trains! Model train enthusiasts have crossed the tracks over to the green, or maybe it is the other way around with gardeners hopping on to the caboose of this fun filled world known as model railroading. Either way, the two have collided into what can only be described as entertainment at its most enjoyable.

If you have been trying to engage your kids into working in the family garden, or even if there are no kids about, but you have always liked model trains, combining the two can be just what your garden is in need of. Kids for example can help plan the layout of the train tracks, and in the process learn about the different types of plants. They can also help research what plants might make good additions to such a display. Some herbs, for example, make good added extras by the train station, as they resemble bushes and other big plants, just in miniature.

If you think that this would be interesting, but the railroad that you already have, or that you have seen, would not withstand the outdoors, you are probably correct. There are trains and tracks manufactured though specifically for this purpose. The building and many of the other added extras are usually made of a plastic, which will actually hold up under even the most severe changes in weather, including rain, snow, heat, and cold. The track systems are a bit more sophisticated even, and are made of a heavy duty alloy that will keep your train running smoothly, but also hold up under some of the most extreme weather changes that occur no matter where you live, reinforcing that a hobby such as this is not just for gardens in warm climates. No matter where you live, an outdoor railroad in your garden is workable. It even has the potential to extend the length of time through the year that you spend in your garden, because even after the first freeze, your railroad and track will still be calling. Keep in mind though that the trains themselves should be stored indoors when not in use, no matter the weather conditions outside. This will of course prolong their life and keep them protected from unforeseeable damage due to outdoor conditions. Because they are also quite costly, this just makes sense to keep them from becoming stolen.

A suggestion from a fellow train enthusiast, to keep the task of moving the train cars indoors to a minimum, was to build the track's layout in a way that it runs nearby a garage or other outdoor building. Run the track actually into the building and out again, with enough indoor tracks to accommodate the whole set of cars, from engine to caboose, and just drive it inside when you are going to be away or when weather may be an issue. This would sure cut down on the work of having to bring each car indoors!

Because a garden railroad is never really complete, always in need of a bit of tweaking here and there, upkeep on the buildings and cars, trimming of this plant or that, adding plants, moving them, trying new ideas, a garden railroad is an ideal hobby to keep you out in your garden enjoying it more than you ever dreamed. If gardens and trains are both passions that you enjoy, or you are looking for some way to extend the enjoyment you reap from your outdoor space, then maybe it is time that you gave a garden railroad some thought and consideration. Keep in mind that this is one of those hobbies, which seem to grow bigger than you ever imagined it would grow. Because once you lay that first piece of track and see that train take its first trip around, you will soon need just one more car, or a new engine, maybe a few additional pieces of track to make the trip round that willow tree mountain a bit more scenic!

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