Monday, April 25, 2011

CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN: Model Railroad Garden Prepares for 12th Season Model Railroad Garden Prepares for 12th Season - CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
GLENCOE, Ill. (April 13, 2011) — Gather your family together for a remarkably fast tour of the United States when the Model Railroad Garden: "Landmarks of America" exhibition opens for its 12th season on Saturday, May 7. Walking through the 7,500-square-foot exhibition, you’ll pass close to 50 familiar miniature American landmarks, all handcrafted from natural materials. Each season the 17 garden-scale trains travel over 22,000 miles past the landmarks, which are surrounded by carefully planned landscapes of 5,000 plants. This year, the Garden adds a new train line: the Southern Pacific Daylight.

The Model Railroad Garden was designed and created by Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Ky., with landscape architect Paul Busse in the lead. Through the family business, Paul has passed on his fascination with trains to his son, Brian Busse. Their exhibitions are in numerous private and public spaces, including botanic gardens and arboreta across the United States. Applied Imagination also works on the Chicago Botanic Garden's indoor winter holiday exhibition, Wonderland Express.

Preparation for the exhibition begins in January when Garden engineers repair the trains in the railroad office and the team from Applied Imagination build the new features in their Kentucky workshop. In March, the railroad garden horticulturist pruned the more mature trees and shrubs to return them to scale. In mid-April, a six-person crew from Applied Imagination arrives to level the track, replace bridges, and clean and repair the landmarks after winter storage. Up to six Garden railroad engineers work with the crew to prepare the 1,600 feet of track for the trains. One horticulturist and two seasonal staff spend two weeks planting more than 1,200 tiny trees, shrubs, groundcovers and flowering plants in close to 300 varieties to make a realistic landscape around the buildings. A group of miniaturists comes in a few days before the exhibition opens to add miniature cars and figurines to create a storybook feel. The final touch is adding a series of handwritten signs that tell visitors interesting facts about the landmarks, plants or trains.

During the summer, Model Railroad Garden engineers work together to ensure the trains run smoothly and on time. Volunteer greeters inform visitors about the trains and locations depicted in the garden. Train lines include the Chicago Northwestern Commuter (known as a fallen flag line), the Union Pacific and every child's favorite, Thomas the Tank Engine. Many visitors come to gather ideas for their own backyard garden railway. Garden railroading is the fastest growing segment of hobby railroading. Today, the United States has as many as 25,000 garden railways.

The Model Railroad Garden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sunday, Oct. 30, with special hours until 8 p.m. from Saturday, June 4, through Monday, Sept. 5, weather permitting. The Model Railroad Garden closes at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 24, for the Summer Dinner Dance, a benefit that supports the Garden’s conservation, education and research programs.

Families can celebrate Halloween in the Model Railroad Garden during Trains, Tricks & Treats from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, and Sunday, October 30.

Model Railroad Garden admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-12. Garden members receive $1 off these rates. Garden Plus members and levels above receive free entry on Wednesdays. A 10-visit pass is available for $28. Strollers are not permitted in the exhibition; however, stroller parking is located near the entrance.

Admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden is free. Select event fees apply. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members. For more information on the Model Railroad Garden, visit, or call (847) 835-5440.

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