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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm)
New Boston and Donnels Creek:

Christmas Train Day, 2018

Many of the most active model railroaders occasionally have "open railroads," so people can come and see model trains in action, ask questions, and hopefully become more interested in the hobby. Outdoor "Garden" railroaders tend to have their open railroads in the summer, and I've had a few over the years. But back in 2008, at the request of Dayton's NMRA leaders, we started having open railroads in November. The railroad was decorated for Christmas, hot cider and cocoa were served, and a very good time was had by all.

In the following years, we set up trains that kids could run, put up more lights, and added Christmas music playing in the background. We have welcomed many fellow model and garden railroaders, but we have welcomed far more friends and family over the years. For many folks it became a way to "jump-start" the holidays.

I started calling it "Christmas Train Day" when I invited non-railroaders, because "Christmas-themed open railroad" was just too cumbersome. The history of our first eight celebrations is recorded in the New Boston and Donnels Creek pages. If you go there, just scroll down until you start to see the word "Christmas."

That said, we moved in the fall of 2016, and there was no way to have our "annual" event that year, or even the next. There just wasn't enough "infrastructure" in 2017 to invite over a crowd.

The NEW New Boston & Donnels Creek, as of October 29, 2018.  Click for bigger photo.This, year, though, we got enough done to justify having folks over to celebrate. We also erected a 1900s-inspired train shed/station that is as cute as a bunny and would be fun to decorate for Christmas.

So we revived the "annual" Christmas Train Day tradition, albeit on a smaller scale. Still, you have to start somewhere.

Preparation was a bit simplified by the fact that I didn't have to do any weeding or trimming. Trimming may come, as I get more conifers established, but this year, the railroad boasted two dwarf English Boxwoods, one Hicks Yew (Taxus), and one Dwarf Alberta Spruce. All are planted in relatively shallow soil on elevated platforms, and none are in any danger of getting out of control.

However, having a railroad that is elevated as high as the parts we have done so far brings its own challenges.

Camouflaging the Railroad's Supports

What will (hopefully) be the "middle" platform of our three-tier railroad sits fairly high about the ground, so the posts, joists, and bare soil almost "stand out" as you approach the railroad. I could put lattice or something around it, but I plan to add another, lower, layer of railroad around it next year, and anything like lattice would just be wasted money.

At first I thought of stapling fabric around the posts to provide a kind of "skirt," like you put on display tables at conferences. I even picked up some cheap fabric that I thought would do the job. But we have been having such windstorms lately, I was afraid the fabric would be torn to shreds as soon as it was installed.

When Lowes put their evergreens on sale at the end of the season, I picked up a number of the little pots, including Emerald Green Arborvitae, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, and Blue Prince and Princess Holly (always buy male and female holly plants if you want berries). I plan to use most of them for other purposes after Christmas, so this was an investment that will give us a "two-fer."

Lowes end-of-season Emerald Green Arborvitae arranged to help the railroads' supports look a little less unfinished. Click for bigger photo.I arranged them around the base of the railroad, and it helped, but it wasn't quite enough. Also, no matter how carefully I set them in place, the wind would blow them all down within hours.

We did have leftover mulch from a spring project, so I spread that under the railroad. The nice thing about mulch is it looks like you meant it to be there. In other landscaping projects we have said it "covereth a multitude of sins."

Then I made wooden stakes by slicing up some boards and drove the stakes right through the bottom of the pots into the ground.

If you click on the photo, you'll be able to tell that we also wrapped blue LED lights around them. These are the lights we used to use on the arborvitaes that formed the "background" to our old garden railroad. We started using blue there as a sort of a tribute because they were a favorite of Shelia's lovely late Aunt Anna. We've also learned that blue lights make a nice "background" in general, adding charm, but not drawing attention from the railroad itself.

By the way the rock in the photo isn't exactly a "planned feature." I dug it out of the yard this fall because it was threatening my lawnmower blade, and I haven't found a "proper" place for it yet.

Lighting the Railroad

If you ever read about, or better yet visited the old railroad in the holiday season, you'll know that we strung colored lights in about thirty miniature trees around the whole railroad. They made the railroad bright and cheery and kept most of the railroad lit well enough to see after dark. Toward the end, I also had little spotlights aiming at points of interest.

Only one of trees presently planted on the new railroad was big enough for lights this year. And there was certainly no room or time for setting up spotlights. Running out of time to come up with something spectacularly creative, I started by running a strand of lights that looked like miniature utility lights around the upper portion of the railroad. It helped.

A novelty light strand and a rope light cast light on the upper level. Click for bigger photo.

But you couldn't really see the waterfalls after dark, and, frankly, they're one of the nicest features of the railroad so far. I investigated several ways to light them, then decided to try running lights on the back side of the bridges. Yes, the bridges are still just 1"x6"s, but they serve a function, and they blend in fine with the rest of the railroad's construction.

For the top loop (right) I borrowed a trick from my Cincinnati-area friend Dan Stenger. When Dan decorates his extensive railroad for Christmas, he runs rope lights alongside the right-of-ways. That way, the railroad not only looks more festive, but it's easier to see the trains' progress.

The top loop of our railroad, based on 5'-diameter curves, The top layer of the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad, lit by hanging novelty lights above and rope light below.  This photo was actually taken after I had taken the Rocky River station in for the winter, but it shows how the lighting worked.  Click for bigger about 21 feet long, but about six feet of that happens inside the train shed. Most of the rope lights I've bought over the years have been 18' long, so I figured the light could start and end inside the shed. Unlike Dan, I figured I'd install the rope light semi-permanently inside the roadbed. Most people can't see it there, but it casts a nice, general light on the buildings and plants behind the track. No, it doesn't cast any light on the train, but the little light strand overhead casts at least a little.

The photo to the right shows the same corner as the photo above it, but from a different angle. In this photo, I've already taken the little station in for the winter, but you can see the platform where it sat. Though the rope light is quite obvious in this photo, it's not so obvious to observers who aren't tall and standing on tippy-toes.

I included this photo because it gives you an idea of how the soft lighting from both sources gave a sort of "stage lighting" appearance to this layer. If you click on it to see the "blowup," you'll get a better idea.

Next year, I hope to have a better solution for the "overhead" lighting on this layer, and I'll have the rope lighting installed a little more "cleanly." But you have to admit it's a good start.

Because the light rope runs inside the right-of-way on that layer, it also runs inside the "bridge," illuminating the area of the top waterfall without being too obviously visible to most visitors.

Lights were stretched behind the lower bridge so the waterfall would be lit at night.  The rest of the strand decorated the Dwarf Alberta Spruce planted next to the water feature. Click for bigger photo.For the bridge on the middle layer, I use a strand of colored lights that also decorated the one Dwarf Alberta Spruce that was planted on the railroad. Then, when the waterfall was running after dark, that part of it sparkled in bright colors.

By the way, except for the novelty "utility" light strand at the top and the rope light, all the light strands I used were LED, and most of them were the tiny kind without the fake plastic shell. I like the look of the tiny lights, and I love that the strands cost about a tenth of what the old strands cost to run.

However, one of the side effects of this is that if one is pointed straight at your eyes or your camera, it can seem much brighter than the rest of the lights. Sort of a "laser pointer" effect. That's why in some of the after-dark photos it looks like one light is glaring compared to the rest. When you're walking around the railroad watching the trains you don't even notice.

The photo below shows the view from the "front and center." For a point of reference, the Bachmann train is exactly where it was in the photo two up. If you click on the photo to see the "blowup," you'll see how the white rope light casts a glow on the upper part of the water feature, and the colored light strand casts a glow on the lower part of the water feature. It's even cooler when the waterfall is running, but the weather has been so cold that the waterfall has only run one or two days since I put the lights up. Hopefully you get the general idea.

The light rope and light strand behind the bridges illuminate the water feature without being too obvious to most viewers.  This would be a better photo of the waterfall was running, but there were a lot of early cold days this fall, and it's frozen stiff.  Click for bigger photo.

The lower level got a little bit "shorted" on lights this year, but for the first few minutes of darkness, the solar lamps I put on the corners helped. And the train I ran on that level had lighted coaches so it was easier to follow after dark.

Decorating the Shed

Though I may put lights around the shed in the future, I thought that just putting garland on it this year would be a good first step. The garland was mostly some I used to use on our old house, stretching across our little (12'-long) front porch. I also fastened a "candle" in the back window - you can see its glow in the after-dark photographs above.


This is how we set up the invite for the Family Garden Trains Facebook page - we didn't want our street address out there.  Click for bigger picture.We also printed up a bunch of invites to hand out. The invite to the right was actually on the Family Garden Trains Facebook page, which is why it doesn't have our address. The invites we handed out to friends and family had our address, in case you wondered.

I did the invites in Corel Draw. That way I can easily tweak it for coming years. I set the hours to end at 5:00 instead of 6:00 - our traditional "cutoff." For one thing, they were already predicting unseasonably cold weather. For another, if you say "6:00," and the weather is nice, people show up at 5:45 and want to stay until they're convinced they've seen everything.

New Boston Bijou

Another traditional part of our Christmas Train Day is a train movie that starts at dusk (usually either Buster Keaton's The General or Polar Express. This year I set up a screen, speakers, DVD player, and projector (not shown), but on the day of the event, it was so cold there was no danger of folks sticking around after dark. I did start the movie in the late afternoon, so it wold be running when it got truly dark.

Other Trains

One aspect of "Christmas Train Day" that has made kids want to come back is the availability of trains they can run. This year, I used two Lionel battery-powered "G Gauge" toy trains that I bought in 2012: a Polar Express and a freight train. Though they came with cheap plastic track, they ran on LGB-style G-gauge track just fine. Even better really. I reviewed them in the article "Lionel's? Toy "G" Trains."

Here's a snapshot of the Polar Express. These trains are about half the size they "should be" to be considered scale models, but they are a lot of fun for kids to run with the remote control.


The house we live in now has a big back deck and a porch that wraps around two sides. I set the Lionel battery-powered "G-gauge" Polar Express on brass track on the back deck, and I set a Lionel battery-powered "G-gauge" freight train on a circle of aluminum track on part of the porch.

Sorry, I got too busy to take photos of those temporary railroads this year. The photos below show how I set these trains up for Christmas Train Day in 2015.

Lionel's battery-powered G-gauge freight train, now discontinued, as it was set up for our Christmas Train Day in 2015.  Click for bigger photo. Lionel's battery-powered G-gauge Polar Expres, now discontinued, as it was set up for our Christmas Train Day in 2015.  Click for bigger photo.

Yes, the Polar Express shown above has an extra coach (it comes with two). As it turns out, lots of "early adopters" of these sets have gotten tired of replacing the batteries or whatever and have turned them into thrift shops, given them to hobbyists who don't know what to do with them, etc. I've picked up several extra pieces for just a few dollars. That said, when they turn up used, the Polar Express is always missing the little Conductor and Boy figures, and both sets are usually missing the remotes and at least some of the track.

The figures aren't an issue for me, since I have the two that came with the set I bought in the store. The track isn't an issue for me, because I run them on garden railroad track anyway.

But if you're even halfway tempted to buy either set used, be CERTAIN it has the remote. These trains won't run without it.

Don't Buy the New Sets for a Garden Railway - A new complication has just arisen. Lionel has discontinued these sets and replaced them with sets that do NOT run on G gauge track. Instead, they run on 2" track, which at the moment, nobody else is making.

Lionel's 'Ready to Play' Thomas set is a good value, it just doesn't run on G gauge track. Click for bigger photo.I found that out when I bought "Ready-to-Play" Thomas set for another article, as yet unwritten. Before I bought this set, I was pleased that Lionel had introduced a Thomas set that was sturdy enough for kids to play with and didn't cost $250 or more like the Bachmann sets.

When I got it out to set on the track for this Christmas Train Day, I was pleased with how solid it seemed, even though it's not as nice as the track-powered set Lionel made in the 1980s. (I reviewed that set and the Bachmann set that replaced it here.)

But when I tried to set Lionel's "Ready-to_Play" Thomas set on a circle of G gauge track, it wouldn't fit. So I used the chintzy track that came in the box with it for this event. Now that it's been tested by some of the most energetic children I've ever known, I have to tell you, it's a good value overall, with much more play value potential than most plastic toys in its price range. I'll have a review of it later, but for now, if you want to check it out on Amazon, click here.

The three battery-powered sets all have a control range of 15-20 feet outside. So I set them a little over 20' apart, and there was no discernable interference.

Speaking of Thomas and Friends, I also set up the temporary railroad that I built for an NMRA clinic in March, 2018. It's nearly identical to the one I built in 2007 as a demonstration in a garden railroading clinic. The instructions for building such a railroad are here.

Two youngsters checking out Percy and one of the Troublesome Trucks on a temporary raised railroad.  Click for bigger photo.

In years past, I've run Thomas on a ground-level railroad and run James on an elevated railroad like this one. This year, however, I thought I'd trot out the newest member of that family (for me, anyway), and put a Bachmann-manufactured Percy on that track.

Help from Family

My sister Tess, who has been in charge of the popcorn popper the last few events, came down to help. My schoolteacher daughter Emily drove home from Indiana. Both their efforts are well appreciated.

Me explaining the various ways I screwed up my building to my carpenter brother-in-law, as his wife Sonya and his grandsons listen in. Click for bigger photo.On the morning of the event, Shelia's sister and her family came out early to see what was going on and to help us get set up. Roy Howard is a master carpenter who has done a great deal of remarkable work over the years, and I can barely screw two boards together, so in this photo I'm explaining why certain things didn't go together exactly as I expected. I also thanked him for some suggestions he made as I was planning various parts of the project. Roy was very kind and said I did a good job. I owe him, probably.

Roy and Sonya's grandsons then helped up set figures out on the railroad. This is a job my daughters have traditionally My oldest great-nephew setting out figures on the railroad.  Click for bigger photo.done the night before the event, but the railroad isn't as big this year as it was before, so the boys didn't have quite so many figures to set out as we used to.

Also, when we set out figures for our Christmas-themed events, we include many Lemax figures that were originally made to go with the Lemax resin Christmas village pieces. On our new railroad, the resin figures are especially useful - they're less likely to blow off the railroad in high winds than our plastic figures.

When I set our plastic figures out next spring, I'll have to figure out how to hold them down better than I did this year - one little boy figure disappeared entirely this fall.

After the kids helped set things up, they watched the big trains, ran the "kids' trains," and ate popcorn.

Behind the Scenes

Shelia made cookies and other treats, prepared cider, and much more. On the day of the event, she managed the snack stand, but she also spent time with the families to answer questions and make certain everyone got a snack. Emily helped shepherd some of the youngsters as they ran the trains, etc. Tess helped with many other activities, but especially with the popcorn. Which was a hit.

Popcorn and trains.  What's not to love? Click for bigger photo.

The Official Event

Because I wanted the railroad to look impressive and "Christmassy," I chose two Bachmann ten-wheelers to pull the trains. The green one you see on the top loop in some photos was part of a large "premium" set that Bachmann only offered for a short time. I got it used just for this sort of project. The locomotive has upgraded features, including metal running gear, but the cars have no provision for lighting. I believe that a streetcar was originally packaged with the same set, but I may be mixing up two products. There are actually two coaches, but the couplers on one of the coaches weren't behaving properly and by the time I realized that, it was too late to take it into the shop.

The reddish ten-wheeler I ran on the other track was a standard "Big Hauler" from another set, also purchased used. It's pulling an Aristocraft Sierra coach decorated for Christmas. The lighting on this car works. Both locomotives had a choo-choo sound, though with the Christmas music playing, it wasn't as obvious as it might have been otherwise.

Roy and Sonya and their grandkids had to leave before the event technically started, but as soon as they left, friends started showing up. We had visitors all afternoon, which, considering the cool temperature of the day, was pretty remarkable. After the last visitor left, we put up the battery trains, Emily collected the little figures, and so on.

It wasn't the most remarkable event we ever had, but it was a good "reboot" to a tradition we hope to keep repeating for years to come. I'm told that my youngest great-nephew, just turned three, begged to come back the next day. Too bad they live so far away.

As it became dark, we could hear Tom Hanks and see scenes from Polar Express showing up on the screen I had hung on the fence. But no one was sticking around in below freezing weather to watch it this year. So it came down, too.


On Thanksgiving, a neighbor brought over some family members, including several children. We had pulled the "children's railroads" up by then, but we put Thomas and Percy on the mainlines and the kids were delighted.

Actually, I put Percy on the track first, because the red Bachmann Big Hauler 4-6-0 stopped running, so I moved fast to keep something going. I learned long ago to always have backups for this sort of thing. But the kids were so delighted at seeing Percy, I put Thomas and Annie on the top track and they were even more delighted.

Throughout November and early December, we also had several snowfalls that made the railroad look especially "Christmassy," but nobody was over at the time.

Snow flurry on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, December 5, 2018.  Click for bigger photo.

In the meantime, snow or not, it's a lot like having a giant Christmas card in the back yard.

Sunset on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, December 9, 2018.  Click for bigger photo.

The waterfall running with the lights on - actually taken almost a month later when things thawed enough to get the waterfall running again.  Click for bigger photo.The model buildings are now inside, with North States bird feeders taking their place so the railroad doesn't look so naked. I filled the little trays with gravel to keep the buildings from being blown into the yard by high winds, as our model buildings occasionally were. Click here to see a photo.

I finally did manage to get one photo with the waterfall running and the lights on, almost a month after the event. That's the photo to the right.

I hope to keep some sort of lighting on the water feature even when the Christmas lights are gone. Otherwise, one of the railroad's best features disappears every time it gets dark.

As always, if I've helped you get any ideas at all for your next garden railroad construction, I will consider the time it took to document all of this time well spent.

Best of luck, all,

Enjoy your hobbies, and especially enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming season.


Installing the in-ground pond and preparing to install the last connecting pool to make our waterfall complete.  Click to go to article.Proceed to "Waterscaping, Part 3" - After seven months of crazy long work hours, I finally got some free time to continue working on the railroad. Weather permitting, I often worked all the live-long day. This article describes installing two posts that will eventually support the last connecting pool, then digging the big hole for the in-ground pond. Breaking the soil was complicated by a three-month drought that turned the ground to concrete.

Click on the photo to see our progress as of mid-September, 2019.

Putting the walls and windows on our garden railway train shed.  Click to go to article.Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 6" - Installing the board and batten siding on our train shed, installing the windows, installing the trim, testing the "tunnel entrances," and more.

By the way, going over lumber receipts in early 2019, I couldn't believe I was still siding the train shed in late October, and managed to have an open railroad in mid-November. It is a little crazy how fast things can go together if you have a deadline and a lot of gift cards.

Click on the photo to see our progress as of late October, 2018.

Planning the door, walls, and windows of our garden railway train shed. Click to go to article.Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 5" - Planning the doors, walls, and windows of our garden train shed.

Includes choosing the siding and windows, installing the door, painting the windowframes, and adding crosspieces to support the vertical siding boards.

Click this link to see the previous article.Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 4" - Choosing and installing underlayment and drip edge to protect the sheathing until I can get the final roof installed.

Now the roof is waterproof enough to get us through the next couple of months at least, maybe more.

Putting the sheathing and end trim in place on our garden railway train shed. Click to go to article.Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 3" - Adding fascia, sheathing, and end trim to the in-progress train shed.

I thought about bringing in helpers for this part, but a reader commented on how helpful it was to see how one person could do this sort of thing by himself, so I just kept plugging away.

Click on the photo to see our progress as of September 13, 2018

Click to go to articleReturn to "Waterscaping Part 2" - Getting this year's waterscaping project done (for now at least). Installing and dirtscaping the third level of the waterfall. Installing pump and filter, adding an extra container and modifying the ones we already had installed to keep the water running smoothly. And lots of other tweaking. Includes tips about introducing fish and plants, as well as other information about water features in general that you may find helpful.

Click on the photo to see our status as of August 5, 2018.

Putting the rafters in place on our garden railway train shed. Click to go to article.Return to "Adding a Train Shed Part 2" - Adding rafters to the frame of the in-progress train shed. Now it's starting to look like it might actually be a structure and not just a crazy collection of posts.

The way we got the rafters and ridge board up wouldn't work for everybody, but it worked for us, and hopefully will help other folks to "think outside the box" - literally in this case.

Click on the photo to see our progress as of July 14, 2018.

Click to go to articleReturn to "Adding a Train Shed Part 1" - What started out as a simple addition of a deck to stand on when putting trains on the track got a little more ambitious when I realized that JUST installing the deck this year would require more work next year. So we framed out what we planned to be a train shed attached to the railroad. If it ever gets finished, I can easily put trains on the track at a moment's notice instead of schlepping them out from the garage.

Click on the photo to see our status as of July 9, 2018.

Click to see our first article on adding the waterfall on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek garden railroad.Return to "Waterscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek Part 1," our article on getting the top two layers of the waterfall on solid footing and getting the third layer framed. After we finish decking and dirtscaping the third layer, we will probably add a washbasin or something for the water to flow into, then add a pump to get the waterfall flowing. No big pond until next year at least - too many other projects.

Click on the photo to see our progress as of June 13, 2018.

Click to go to articleReturn to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2. - Adding barriers to keep the rocks, dirt, and plants where they're supposed to go, placing platforms and running wiring for buildings, adding rocks, dirt, and plants to the upper level of the railroad.

Click on the photo to see our status as of June 1, 2018.

Click to see the second article on adding 2x6 roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek.Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - Trimming the corners off the roadbed on the upper layer and cutting the pieces that will support the curves on the middle layer. We need to get the upper two tiers of the pond installed before we totally complete this step, so the article doesn't quite show the finished product. You'll see it later as part of other articles.

Click to see our first article on adding 2x6 roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek.Return to "Adding Raised Roadbed to the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.

Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018

Click to go to articleReturn to "2018: Springing into Spring on the NEW New Boston & Donnels Creek RR." - Sorting out our priorities for the spring and summer of 2018. There a lot of little chores we really should get done before we start on the next big addition. Click to see our plans as of February 27, 2018.

Click on the photo to see our status as of February 20, 2018

Click to go to articleReturn to "Dirtscaping the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1. - Putting edging around the existing "layers" of the new railroad, and beginning to add gravel and rocks. There were a few test runs, but we got stopped early by bad weather before we could dump the rest of the rocks, gravel, and dirt, much less plant the plants we hoped to get in before snowfall.

Click on the photo to see our status as of November 21, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Decking the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR - Decking the 'middle layer' of our proposed three-tier outdoor railroad. Prepping more track, laying out track and decking to make certain we have measurements correct, installing most of the remaining decking for this layer.

Click on the photo to see our status as of October 25, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 6" - Modifying and finishing the framing on the second layer, cantilevering, using R3 track versus all other pre-curved track formats, finalizing the track plan, why painting the track makes old and new track blend better, and more. This will be the last bit of "framing" in 2017, and it worked out well, considering.

Click on the photo to see our status as of October 15, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 5" - Spreading the billboard-sourced vinyl underlayment on the top layer. Prepping used Aristo track for (hopefully) many more years of service. Laying the first loop of track, attaching power wires with spade terminals, and testing conductivity with a Bachmann streetcar.

Click on the photo to see our status as of October, 10, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 4" - Planning and running the decking for the top layer, testing the track plan, checking clearances, prepping used track with new railjoiners, examining the vinyl I ordered to go over the decking, and more.

Click on the photo to see our status as of September 26, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 3" - Getting the frame finished on the top layer, ordering other things I'd need eventually, deciding on materials for the decking on the top layer (at least).

Click on the photo to see our status as of September 17, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2" - Once I had the overall frame relatively solid, I hooked up the underground power lines to two GFI plugs that should be in easy reach once everything is finished. I also decided to frame out the top railroad layer while I could still access the center of the railroad easily. Because I was running out of vertical space, I reconfigured that layer. Then after I got the "core" pieces on, I changed my plan again. But the whole thing is getting easier and easier to visualize, and is getting closer to complete with every board I cut and fasten on.

Click on the photo to see our status as of September 7, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 1" - Once I started dropping posts in the holes and screwing things together, I didn't want to stop before I had the basic frame built (for one thing, the wood warps less once it's fastened in place). Now the folks driving down the street past our house (we're on a corner lot) probably wonder if I'm building an elaborate chicken coop, but that's fine with me. I still need to make a few more lumber runs and do a lot more cutting and sawing, but having the basic frame in place should make the next bits a lot easier.

Click on the photo to see our status as of August 10, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Breaking Ground on the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek" - Okay, in case you wondered if we'd ever get started on the thing, we broke ground in July, using a manual post-hole digger. Well two manual post-hole diggers. But by the end of this article, we're ready for the posts to start going in.

Click on the photo to see our status as of the end of July, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 4" - Well, the rented post-hole digger fell through, so we dug our vegetable garden with a manual post-hole digger (the scissors kind). In addition, I stake out where the railroad was going to be. Twice. And tweaked the plans again. Sorry about the redo's, but sometimes just walking around the yard trying to visualize things makes me reconsider something that seemed "settled" only a few days before.

Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late May, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 3" - We have still not broken ground. In part because we plan to rent a post-hole digger and dig the post holes for our raised vegetable garden and the first phase of the garden railroad at the same time, and we don't have enough lumber on hand yet. (If we didn't break it down into multiple trips, we'd be blowing out the shocks on our minivan.) In the meantime, we used a line level to see if the slope of the back yard was as bad as we thought it was (it's worse), and we did other site preparation, including planting a whole bunch of spruce tree seedlings to eventually give us some privacy in our side and back yard. Plus, I'm still wavering a little on the "where-to-start-first" issue.

Click on the photo to see what we were considering as of late April, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 2" - More plans. We've moved on from the 2"x6" roadbed-on-posts to a sort of "train-table-outside" plan. Our goals include low-maintenance, high interest, and high reliability. We're also trying to get around having a thousand dollars' worth of dirt hauled into the back yard. If you want to get some idea of what our planning process looks like, reading these through in sequence may help. Or it may drive you crazy.

Click on the photo to see what we were considering in early April, 2017

Click to go to articleReturn to "Planning the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek, Part 1" - If you're subscribed to our newsletter, you know that we moved just after Thanksgiving in 2016, leaving behind most of the track, a few of the bird feeders, and one Bachmann train set for the new owners. We also left behind a high-maintenance garden that we do not intend to replicate at the new place. This is the first chapter of a new chapter in our lives, which we hope will include a lot of "lessons learned." But first, some serious landscaping had to take place.

Click on the photo to see what we were considering in March, 2017

Click to go to home page of the New Boston and Donnels' Creek RR, Paul Race's home railroad. Return to the New Boston and Donnels Creek RR Page - This is the page describing Paul Race's progress and frequent rework on his own garden railroad, started on a shoe-string budget in 1998, later expanded, and later refurbished several times as issues arose. Issues that Paul hopes to avoid by building the next iteration above ground.

Click on the photo to see the home page of Paul's railroad.

Return to the Family Garden Trains Home PageReturn to Family Garden Trains' Home Page - The home page with links to all the other stuff, including design guidelines, construction techniques, structure tips, free graphics, and more.

Visit our Garden Train Store? Starter Set Buyer's Guide

Click to see buildings for your garden railroad

Click to see exclusive, licensed train collections in your favorite NFL  colors!

To read more, or to look at recommended Garden Railroading and Display Railroad products, you may click on the index pages below.

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Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains

Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
- Trains and Hobbies -
Return to Family Garden Trains Home page
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page
Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Learn important guitar chords quickly, to jump start your ability to play along on any song. With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Resources for learning Folk Music and instruments quickly Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.