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,
- A chronical of what it takes to get a railroad from virtually non-functional to "ready to show" when you're planning a Christmas-themed open house. - October 22, 08
Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 2
- A follow-up of Part One above. Adding lights and rehabilitating and lighting four buildings that have seen better days. It IS starting to look a lot more like Christmas.- November 1, 08
Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 3
- Testing track and trains, rehabilitating and lighting eight more buildings, and getting Thomas' temporary railroad started. If you "need a little Christmas, right this very minute," check out these articles, and come see us if you can. - November 2, 08
Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 4
- The last thirty-six hours before the open house - the family pulls together to pull it off. - November 8, 08
Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 5 - The open house itself and some lessons learned. - November 9, 08
Refurbishing Garden Railroad Track - From our Primer page, a "redo" on our AristoCraft, which, fortunately has a lifetime warranty, even if the ties wear out (which they're not supposed to - December, 2009
Fall Has Fell (2009)
- and my Christmas Trains are Grateful. - Long-range planning for our Christmas-themed open house in 2009, also from our Blog-Like Article section.
2009 Christmas-Themed Open House on the NB&DC RailRoad
- The Race family's second Christmas-themed open house included more lights, more trains, more music, and better snacks. Even if you didn't get there, we think you'll enjoy the report, the many ideas, and the many photographs.
April, 2010: Landscaping Rehab and Idiot Tools - A "grocery list" of things I did to fix or update garden and landscaping problems that affected our railroad's appearance, functionality, and even safety. It may give you some ideas. It also serves as a reminder to do things right the first time.
August, 2010 - Landscaping Rehab Continued
A brief list of the things I got done, a little bit at a time, on the busiest and hottest summer I can remember. Tasks included backfilling new retaining walls, finishing installation of a new "waterfall" fixture, planting conifers and sedums. On the other hand, weeds are what happen when you're mucking other plants. :-)
- About the New Boston and Donnels Creek (Overview)
- Landscaping and Pond Construction, 1998(Including Notes from 2008
- Pictures: 1998-2000
- Stress Testing on the NB&DC RR - records a June, 2000 open house in which we let about 10 6-11-year-olds run the trains all afternoon during my first daughter's graduation open house.
- 2002 Disaster - What to do When a Tree Eats Your Railroad
- June, 2002 Photos Added, May, 2003
- January, 2003 Photos Added, May, 2003
- Layout So Far - Revised, May, 2003
- June, 2003 Photos Added, June, 2006, (after we found the photos Wil Davis took in 2003)
- Motive Power Updated August, 2008
- Rolling Stock
- About the Owner
- Refurbishing Garden Railroad Roadbed - From our primer pages, a record of maintenance we had to perform on our oldest section of roadbed in 2008
- Preparations for our first Christmas Open House, 2008 - These were actually posted to our "Blog-Like-Articles" page, since I was keeping readers updated on an ongoing basis. However, I've copied the links here to contribute to the chronological record of our efforts.
New December, 2010: Third Christmas-Themed Open Railroad
- From our New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad, a report on our third Christmas-Themed open railroad. We were too busy this year to make many additions to our open railroad, but we did make every effort to help folks have a very good time. And over a hundred did, including many well-behaved children, some of whose families are starting to make this an annual event. Click on the photo to read more.
New December, 2011: Fourth Christmas-Themed Open Railroad
- We added more children's trains, more snacks, and more lights. Unfortunately a scheduling mixup kept some people away, but those who came had a great time, especially the kids, who loved the trains they could run.
Christmas Train Day Report: Our Fifth Christmas-Themed Open Railroad
- For several years, we've been announcing these events by telling our "non-railroading" friends that we were having a Garden Railroad Open Railroad. Then we had to explain what a Garden Railroad is. Then we had to explain what an "open railroad" is. This year we gave the event a name: "Christmas Train Day." People still couldn't picture what it was all about until they got there, but at least they figured out it had something to do with Christmas and with trains. Under the new name, our fifth Christmas-themed open railroad was held on November 10, 2012. Our garden railroad, the New Boston and Donnels Creek was open to the public, in conjunction with the NMRA show in Dayton a week earlier. We had several trains running, including three trains the kids could run, lots of Christmas lights, Christmas music, outdoor movies, popcorn-machine popcorn and other treats, and lots and lots of helpers and visitors. A good time was had by all. Click on the picture to go to the article.
Preparing for a Once-in-a-Decade Open Railroad. -
This April, 2013 blog-like article shows some of the things did to start getting ready for our open railroads in conjunction with June's National Garden Railway Convention. Since some of the maintenance is going to make permanent changes to the railroad, the followup articles will be indexed from this page. To go to the article, please click on the picture to the right.
Prepping for the 2013 Open Railroads
Part 1 - (May, 2013) While we do the work and rework necessary to prepare for our open railroads this year, I'm keeping a sort of photo journal of everything we do. Ironically, some of the photos we've taken recently will be working their way back into articles about the original projects we did years ago, because they illustrate what we should have done in the first place. But many of the photos just apply to rework - so those are going into this article and its sequels, hopefully as an inspiration to anyone else who has got seriously "behind the curve" with their garden railroad maintenance.
Prepping for the 2013 Open Railroads
Part 2 - (June, 2013)
Once we got most of our buildings are mostly under control, we started work outside, mostly weeding. Weed grasses have made a dent in some of our nice groundcover patches, raccoons have dropped boulders on the track, and Mother Nature in general has disposed of most of our ballast. Hopefully our repairs will be more fun to read about than they were to do, but you may also find ideas or encouragement.
Prepping for the 2013 Open Railroads
Part 3 (June, 2013) Check out the last "chapter of a photo-journal on the work we did for our convention-related open railroads. Work included repairing track connections, reballasting, mulching, building arrangement, testing rolling stock, etc. - stuff that took us right up to the last minute before the first visitors arrived.
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.
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.
To read more, or to look at recommended Garden Railroading and Display Railroad products, you may click on the index pages below.