Preparing for a Once-In-A-Decade Open Railroad
This article is about what we're doing to prepare to show our railroad to out-of-town visitors who are attending the June 5-9 National Garden Railway Convention near Cincinnat in 2-13. To learn about our scheduled open railroad times, please click here.
The title may sound melodramatic, but the National Garden Railway Convention hasn't been in my "neck of the woods" since 2002. At that time, the railroad was about two-and-a-half years old, everything still looked new, and things were still somewhat under control. The hardest part was recovering from devastating storm damage a few months earlier.
Ten years have gone by, so everything should be bigger and better, right? Well, in ten years, the ground can shift in unexpected ways, features you thought were "permanent" can prove otherwise, new weeds and wildlife can invade, plus life as parents and employees in tough economic times can put hobbies on the back burner for months - and sometimes years - on end.
In addition, I use our "New Boston and Donnels Creek" as a sort of test lab for article ideas I want to try out. I haven't had time - or frankly the will - to keep enlarging our 14'x60' railroad, so I frequently take one feature down to make room for another, and so on.
Stuff That Stayed Where We Put ItSome things have "held their own" since they were put in place:
Stuff That Didn't "Stay Put"Unlike an indoor railroad, where you can go to the basement, turn on a light switch, and expect everything to be as you left it, a garden railroad is a living organism, subject to natural forces. As a few examples, since 2003:
Please understand that most of the refurbs I've described happened one or two a year, and they haven't kept us from enjoying our trains in the summer or having a Christmas-themed open railroad every year for the past five years. But if anyone who came in 2002 comes again in 2013, they might think we haven't done any work at all. That wouldn't be exactly true.
You'll Have a Better View, At Least
By the way, two huge improvements you may notice if you last visited us before 2007 have nothing to do with the railroad itself. They have to do with a former neighbor who showed his resentment of our hobby by piling trash and parking his rusty pickup along the fence.
In fact, photos from our very first "open railroad," in 2000 show the first of many trash piles. On the other hand, even when he wasn't going out of his way to make the railroad look bad, the fact that his house was painted five different colors detracted as well. Now you know why I occasionally photoshop the background out of early photos.
But in 2007, I planted a row of Arborvitas to screen his trashpiles, and - eventually - his mismatched house. Realizing that his "uglifying projects" would be doomed when the trees filled in, he decided to do me "one better." He bought and threw up several yards of the cheapest privacy fence he could buy. Within 18 months, his fence was literally falling down, so I bought 4"x4" pressure-treated posts and braced it up from my side. Later I added trim pieces across the top so the fence wouldn't look like it was designed by an idiot. (That story is here.)
I wouldn't have planned things that way, but now that the combination is there, it looks like I planned it that way. The overall effect provides the same sense of privacy as a hacienda courtyard or one of those "outdoor rooms" the HGTV folks keep building in California.
Restoration Projects for 2013
Since there is the potential for people (including readers) from all over the country to see our railroad this June, I would like them to see the railroad at its best. It may seem ironic to some, but to me, the "best" includes the features that made the DC&NBRR unique in 2003 and (should) still make it unique today. This includes such things as our:
Hopefully we'll also have time to reinstall a few of our article projects that we demonstrated, then took down because we didn't have room to keep them.
Getting the railroad back "up-to-speed" will also mean taking extraordinary measures to eliminate pesky weeds and "weed grasses" that global warming has brought to our back yard in the last few years.
Another "clean-up" task involved trimming back conifers that have gotten "out of control" because I haven't always had time to trim them properly. The photos below show two Dwarf Alberta Spruce that have gotten about 18" taller than they really should have, because I've only had time for "quick-and-dirty" trimmings the last few years. I called them my Dr. Seuss trees because they reminded me of his fanciful forest drawings. Since we've been having mostly Christmas-themed open railroads for five years, the spindly shape of these (and nine others in similar condition) weren't offensive - they were quite cute covered with colored lights. But for a summer open railroad, I prefer my railroad to look a little more like a miniature real world than a Christmas village. Sadly, I had to get more brutal with these trees and their brethren than I would have done if I'd kept them under control. But I caught them just before the new growth started, so hopefully they'll recover and fill in before June.
Conclusion?There's really no way to "conclude" this topic, since rehab and refurb are "always with us," but I need to stop typing and get some work done. Stay tuned.
Note: Since this article was posted, we've added a companion/sequel article on our New Boston and Donnels Creek pages.
Also, if you're coming to Ohio for the June, 2013 convention, details on hours, signups, etc. for our open railroad will be posted here
Please let me know if you have any feedback, and enjoy your hobbies. Especially enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming months!
See you online, in Cincinnati, or in the back yard!
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