New Boston and Donnels Creek:
June, 2002 Photos
I was able to run trains during the week of the Garden Railways Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, June, 2002. My open house was technically one day, but we had visitors almost every day of the convention. Thanks to all who stopped by.
The weather was sunny and hot (95F in the shade) and the neighbor's trees that used to shade my railroad in the afternoon had come down violently in March. So most visits consisted of the ladies sitting in the shade while the husbands took photographs. I don't miss picking branches off of my trains, but I do miss the shade.
Fortunately, several of the plants which I allow to flower were in very nice color, so some of the pictures are quite colorful. I am providing details on the plants, buildings, and rolling stock pictured so readers can decide what is worth trying and what is worth avoiding based on my experience.
I was so busy that I didn't get any photographs of visitors. After the last folks left, it occurred to me to get a camera out while I had things set up. So I did: a Samsung 35mm with a zoom lens. It was late afternoon, so the shadows were long, and the flash went off for a couple of shots. I had the photos printed as 4x6s, then scanned them in with a flatbed scanner. Again, the timing of the photographs and the medium for getting them to the web site weren't optimum, but you can get a pretty good idea of how things looked at the time.
If you see a photo you'd like to see in more detail, click on it and a bigger version should open in a new window. You should be able to get back here just by closing that window.
The first photograph is of a Lionel Atlantic with an Aristo Long Haul tender dragging a string of Aristo Sierra passenger cars across a bridge formed by two LGB "through" bridges, some landscaping stones, and some limestone boulders. The bright green plants in the foreground are pachysandra. Above them are a Blue Star Juniper, more pachysandra, and some generic ("Vulgaris") thyme just coming into bloom (tiny purple blooms on stalks in front of the church). I would not plant pachysandra again - it doesn't do well until something you like better is stabilizing the soil, then it takes off and spreads through everything.
Most of the yellow flowers to the left are miniature "Stubby Fingers" sedums in bloom. The flowers aren't really that pretty up close, and a lot of folks trim them off, but I don't mind them and I don't have that kind of time. The tall rangy-looking stuff in the back is Silveredge hosta in bloom. Again, people don't grow that variety for the blooms.
The bright magenta flowers this side of the station are a wild yarrow that has a fernlike leaf, and which I dodeadhead and keep short when it's done blooming. Several store-bought cultivars have similar colors.
The station is a Walthers kit that AristoCraft has since reworked as their "built-up" station. The church is a Fischer-Price school that has been painted, somewhat weatherized, and equipped with "stained-glass" windows. Although you can't see it, the pond is just beyond the church to the right.
The next photograph is of a Piko station on the lower curve. The "Fort Tecumseh" station started out as the LGB Toy Train station and was treated to new paint and labeling before it was set out. The figures in the foreground are Christmas Village resin figures from Lemax; their old-timey dress suits the dinky 1900's station. Beyond the station to the right are some Lifelike workers digging in the mulch. The green bush behind the station is Sweet Woodruff, a groundcover plant that I used to quickly fill this corner, and which I am now replacing with other, tamer plants. The building in the lower right is an Artline "Western Town" bird feeder, dissected, repainted, relabeled and reassembled "Fort Tecumseh General Store."
The next photograph is of the same corner of the railroad, from a little further back. The mainline (raised) track gets a slight "easement" as a piece of 20'-diameter track leads into the 10'-diameter curve (I would use 15'-diameter next time as a minimum for my mainline, by the way, but the "easements" help.) The lower line also has an "easement"; a piece of 10'-diameter track leades into a 5'-diameter curve. The curved, raised "stone wall" was formed by arranging those trapezoid-shaped retaining wall blocks in the right shape, then lining both inside and outside with limestone boulders, backfilling with topsoil as the wall went up. Miniature sedums stuck between the cracks competed the scene and made the stones look more "established." This made a natural-looking bluff that is far more stable than if I had just used the boulders to build it up, but didn't require any particular skill.
The "real" Fort Tecumseh is an old-fashioned general store that was a gas station in the 1920s and was retrofitted with a "pioneer-era" look a few years later, including a painting of a stage coach on the side. The current owner, Shirley, sells penny candy, dairy products, Native American crafts, and home decorating items with a "country" look. For the "model," I didn't try to imitate the building's shape, but I made little signs for the doors and windows that showed the sort of things Shirley sells. (The signs I did up are available in free downloadable files on our Business and Station Signs page.) If you're ever at the corner of Tecumseh Road and West National Road (Route 40) stop by for a genuine trip into the past and and say "hi."
The next photo shows our youngest daughter Molly rerailing a locomotive next to the Donnels Creek station just south of the North Loop. Actually, we staged this photo because a club event that year asked us to have pictures that had children involved in the railroad. The Donnels Creek station was originally a kit built by Pola, and marketed under the Model Power brand name. In spite of its tiny footprint, the doors on this station are almost 4" tall, making it more suitable for a narrow gauge railroad (1:20.3-1:22.5) than for the standard gauge (1:29-1:32) I usually run. The Water tower is by Piko. The yellow blooms behind the station are the not-so-attractive flowers of Blue Spruce Sedum. The pink flowers in the left rear are coral bells. The yellow flowers in the right rear are Threadleaf Coreopsis, a kind of Tickseed with very fine foliage.
The "long shot" is taken from a position just west of the North Loop. To see how much things have changed since the year 2000, check out this photo, taken long before the North loop was finished, but showing about the same real estate. You'll have to use your back button to get back here. In between these photos, I changed the angle of the ROW coming toward you on the left, and some landscaping has happened. But the big difference between the two photos is that different plants have been put in place and given a chance to establish. If your garden railroad looks like the other photograph now, don't lose heart; it will get better as the plants you like establish.
The photo to the right shows the Lionel Atlantic coming out of the tunnel. I took it just before twilight, so the flash went off, obscuring the foreground somewhat. To the right is a bank of Stubby Fingers sedum around a Mugo pine that's been trimmed to reveal a trunk and branches, one of which is sporting a tire swing. Thanks to a former Garden Railroad editor for the tire idea. Above the tunnel is some Dragons' Blood sedum, not picked up very well in the flash.
The photo to the right shows the town of New Boston. Again, the flash went off. I have a bunch of figures; I thought I had all I would need for a while. But usually I only set up one or two stations or city streets at a time. When I set up all of my stations and streets at the same time, and distributed my figures around, I realized that I didn't have enough to make things really look right; in fact New Boston looked a little like a ghost town. Accessories in this photo included a Bachmann foreman (in brown), LGB people, a "Franks" doll-house gumball machine, and one of those Ertle banks that looks like an old truck painted with some product name.
This part of the city consists of old Fischer Price and Playskool buildings that have been "trashbashed, that is, painted and decorated with period-appropriate graphics. For this iteration, I set the buildings on 8x16" blocks that were supposed to represent streets. Not entirely effective as the blocks wouldn't stay aligned so the buildings wouldn't stay aligned either. I'll try something more solid next time, if I have a chance.
About the Buildings - If you've been poking around this site a while, you'd know that most of the buildings in this photo are Fischer Price and PlaySkool toys made to look like the Sesame Street set. I removed some silly details and repainted them to look like "normal" midwestern businesses. As of 2006, the plastic components have held up well, but the "pressed-wood" sides have swollen badly, so they need to be disassembled and given new sides before too much longer. The signs I did up for these buildings are available in free downloadable files on our Business and Station Signs page.
Adding this bit in 2023 - sadly, most toy buildings made in the last twenty years are too cartoonish for such treatments, but in case you come across something you'd like to try, we've kept up our article on "Trashbashing" "here.
Next - Proceed to our "January, 2003" article, which includes photo of our railroad caught in a 6"-8" snow right after running trains at Christmas.
Previous - Return to "What to Do When a Tree Eats Your Railroad."
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