New Boston and Donnels Creek
The New Boston and Donnels Creek Railroad was built and is maintained by Paul Race, editor and principal author for the "Family Garden Trains" site, an online reference for garden railroaders and people who are thinking about being garden railroaders.
Note: I have put this site up to encourage other "ordinary" folks to take the plunge into Garden Railroading. I'm no carpenter, but I know how to move rocks and follow simple instructions. Basically, if I can do it, you can do it. If you spend some time on the site, you'll realize that I started with a very bare garden and a loop of track around a store-bought pond, and just kept adding plants and ideas until I got something fun to watch and operate in the back yard.
The first iteration was a loop of track on a bed of mulch in the side yard in the spring of 1998. But ground wasn't actually was broken until the summer of 1998, after the loss of two large trees opened up a space in the yard we didn't even "know we had."
I started with the pond, since I figured that it would be easier to build a railroad over a pond, than a pond under a railroad. The track wasn't really laid until it was too cold to play with the trains much.
Extensions and additions grew slowly, as did groundcovers at first. Now visitors seem impressed with my "green thumb," but in 1999, it looked like I was modeling the Mohave Desert. Along the way, I've made many mistakes that you won't have to make, and learned some relatively simple approaches that will make your life simpler and save you money besides. So take a tour of the past, present, and maybe future of my railroad. And when you tire of me talking about my well-planned projects that failed and my accidents that succeded, you can go back to the Family Garden Trains site to see information of a less personal nature.
Best of luck; enjoy your look around,
June, 2013 Open Railroads - (June, 2013) In 2002, we hosted an open railroad in conjunction with the National Garden Railway Convention and had maybe 20 visitors. This year we had almost that many before the sign went up. Lots of visitors, lots of questions, lots of chances to encourage "newbies"! Thanks to all who attended. For an account of a fun and crazy day, click on the picture.
November, 2013 Christmas Train Day - (November, 2013) This year, the Dayton NMRA chapter train show wound up NOT sponsoring open RR tours (the reason we started having open RRs in November in the first place). But our little friends would have been heart-broken, if we hadn't gone ahead. So we did it anyway. The buildings were still in place, but there was other prep, as always. Fun was had by all. Click the photo to see more.
Prepping for an Early Winter Open RR - One good thing about open railroads is that they make you finish up a lot of stuff in a hurry. The bad thing about doing it in November is that you might have Mother Nature to contend with. Seriously. Temporary RRs staked out, lights on the trees, thyme cut back from the ROW. We're making progress. We'd make more if it wasn't for the leaves and the snow.
Click on the photo to see what we've done so far to get ready:
Christmas Train Day, 2014 - Report - We our seventh annual Christmas-themed open railroad on our own New Boston and Donnels Creek on November 23 this year. As always, there were many preparations. This year, we added another kids' railroad and attempted to make the kids' railroads we already have more reliable so the kids would be less frustrated. As it turned out, it's a good thing we did, since we got many more kids than adults this time, and the kids all had a blast.
Click on the photo to see our report, with lots of photos and tips.
Preparing for Christmas Train Day, 2015 - Right after our 2014 Christmas Train Day, came a huge snowfall that kept us from bringing our buildings and even many of our figures in for most of the winter. I wound up leaving some of the buildings out all summer, but the big cleanup started when we were preparing for the next big thing - Christmas Train Day 2015. Click on the photo for details.
Christmas Train Day, 2015 - Report - As it turned out, this was our last "Christmas Train Day" on the original New Boston and Donnels Creek. I did a lot of work prepping the buildings, etc., and we had a great time once it was happening. But after it was over, I took the buildings inside, in case of another early snow - like the snow that fell right after our Christmas Train Day in 2014 and didn't melt off until March, 2015. We didn't realize at the time that this was an "end of an era," but we are glad that we took lots of photos and saved some great memories for our readers to share indefinitely.
Click on the photo to see the report.
The Last Hurrah! - In 2016 we moved, in what turned out to be a very long process. I took all my trains and related paraphernalia(still in boxes) to the new place, but at our realtor's suggestion, I left my track and more realistic bird feeders on the ground during the showings, in case we'd find someone interested in owning a house with a garden railroad. We did, eventually. So the track that was on the ground went with the house. So did the bird feeders, but they weren't going to cost nearly as much to replace.
There was also a wedding in the family, and the bride (our oldest daughter) wanted to have the rehearsal dinner at our "old" house, with the trains running "for old time's sake." So I brought a bunch of buildings and figures and several trains back from the new house and my youngest two helped me get things ready for company. One more run, not advertised, not many children, but lots of fun for all who were there.
Families who remembered our "Christmas Train Days" from the past asked us if we were going to have one in 2016, but there was just too much other stuff going on. In the meantime, to read about our "last hurrah" on the original New Boston and Donnels Creek, click on the photo to the right above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 2 - 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 September 7, 2017
Framing the NEW New Boston and Donnels Creek RR, Part 3 - With the basic frame in place, I framed out the top layer and started ordering parts for the waterfall and planning the decking layer. .
Click on the photo to see our status as of September 17, 2017
Keep in Touch
In the meantime, please poke around the site, enjoy yourself and imagine what you could do with a shovel and some rocks yourself if you had half a chance. And leave me a note if something gives you an idea. Also, if you're heading toward the Dayton/Springfield Ohio area, and you want to see a garden railroad that will make you feel better about your attempts, drop me a line.
P.S. In case you wondered, the New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad is named after a pioneer village that used to be here and a creek that I used to wade in. The town of New Boston was built on the site of the "Battle of Piqua," a Revolutionary War battle in which George Rogers Clark attacked a Shawnee village on the assumption that they were British sympathizers. Ironically the same Shawnee village was the birthplace of Tecumseh, who a generation later did everything he could to pay back the "Americans" for the assault. The creek, in turn, was named after one of the founders of Donnelsville, Ohio, a tiny hamlet just west of Springfield on Route 40 and an early toll stop on the National Road. For a look at the area's history, click here.
Note: Family Garden Trains?, Garden Train Store?, Big Christmas Trains?, BIG Indoor Trains?, and BIG Train Store? are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically
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