Model Railroad Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden

Last Friday morning, the Chicago Spring Fling meetup of garden bloggers traveled to the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the sponsors of the event. They provided a shuttle between the train station and the garden, free entry, and passes for the tram and this area: the Model Railroad Garden.

I had imagined a small kiddie ride of a train traveling through a garden. I thought it unseemly that a botanic garden should have an amusement ride in it. I also doubted that such a machine would have trouble handling my mass. So I wasn't planning to visit this garden, despite the free pass.

However, as I left the landscape gardens behind, the entrance to this garden was right there. Since I had a free pass, I thought, "What the heck." Similar to the New York Botanical Gardens annual display, this garden features, yes, model trains running continuously among model houses, buildings, dioramas and other scenes made of plant material. The difference is that this is outdoors, on and in the ground, with permanent plantings.

As a garden, it didn't move me. But that's not what this is about. It's model trains. Leave your cynicism behind.

The 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden features 17 garden-scale (G-scale) trains on 1,600 feet of track. The garden-scale trains are 1/29th the size of life-sized trains. Train and garden enthusiasts, young and old, return year after year for the delightful sights and sounds of the miniature trains traversing high and low through tunnels, across bridges, and around buildings — all intricately handcrafted with natural materials, including twigs, bark, leaves, acorns, and pebbles. More than 5,000 tiny trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowering plants of close to 300 varieties re-create the topographical landscape of America. Vignettes of tiny people and animals give the exhibit a storybook feel, while sound effects and a working geyser capture visitors’ imaginations.
- Railroad Garden

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Rose said...

Thanks for the tour, Chris; this was one area of the Garden I didn't get to. My friend Beckie and I decided that we're just going to have to take a day trip back to Glencoe to see more of the Garden; there's just so much to see!

It was great getting to meet you and hearing about what you are doing in your community. I enjoyed all the garden tours we took on Spring Fling, but meeting so many wonderful people was definitely the best part!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Chris, I was so excited to get the free coupon as I'd always wanted to see the model railway but was too cheap to pay the extra $. I'd been familiar with garden railways (and also model trains) and was excited to see it. I agree it wasn't inspiring as a garden, but it IS about the train layout. I liked how it had different sections representing different regions of the US. The model railroad subculture is very much about making the environment/layout as well as running the train. There's a fascinating show on PBS called Tracks Ahead that covers all aspects of indoor and outdoor train layouts. :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Chris, this is one of my favorite spots in the CBG. You have captured it so well in your pictures. I didn't even see all that was there. I need to go back. Actually I need to go back to the CBG just to see the gardens I didn't get through. We didn't have near enough time there to see it all. I was alittle disappointed that they didn't have any of the plant marked. As a docent told me, we would only see tags and not the scenes if if all were marked as to what they were. I was just amazed at the detail that were on the model houses, stateues etc. The fellow that makes them must have lots of fun researching for the model homes etc.