Choo-choo on this!

Harriet and Bob Dana’s G-scale elevated garden railway is one of three stops in Madison County included on this year’s Columbus Garden Railway Society tour set for Sept. 7. Their railway features a waterfall, stream and pond with detailed trestles, tunnels and vegetation—not to mention a view of Choctaw Lake. Railway Garden Tour The Columbus Garden Railway Society’s annual garden railway tour takes place Sept. 7. The public can view featured exhibits anytime between 1 and 5 p.m. The three Madison County stops are: • 2341 Pawnee Dr. (Choctaw Lake)—featuring the garden railway of Bob and Harriet Dana; • 2285 Pawnee Dr. (Choctaw Lake)—featuring the garden railway of Ray and Patsy Chamberlain; and • 8905 McKendree (near Mt. Sterling)—featuring the railway garden of Briane and Connie Spangler.  The tour is free and self-guided. For a list of all 20 garden railways on the tour, go to www.thecgrs.org.
Harriet and Bob Dana’s G-scale elevated garden railway is one of three stops in Madison County included on this year’s Columbus Garden Railway Society tour set for Sept. 7. Their railway features a waterfall, stream and pond with detailed trestles, tunnels and vegetation—not to mention a view of Choctaw Lake.
RAILWAY GARDEN TOUR
The Columbus Garden Railway Society’s annual garden railway tour takes place Sept. 7. The public can view featured exhibits anytime between 1 and 5 p.m.
The three Madison County stops are:
2341 Pawnee Dr. (Choctaw Lake)—featuring the garden railway of Bob and Harriet Dana;
2285 Pawnee Dr. (Choctaw Lake)—featuring the garden railway of Ray and Patsy Chamberlain; and
8905 McKendree (near Mt. Sterling)—featuring the railway garden of Briane and Connie Spangler.
The tour is free and self-guided. For a list of all 20 garden railways on the tour, go to www.thecgrs.org.

(Posted Aug. 28,2014)

John Crutchfield, Staff Writer

The Columbus Garden Railway Society (CGRS) is preparing for its annual tour. This free, self-guided event is set for Sept. 7 and features 20 garden railways, including three in Madison County.

Basically speaking, a garden railway is an outdoor model railroad that incorporates live plants.

Choctaw Lake residents, Bob and Harriet Dana, describe garden railroading as a couples activity.

“Most of the people we know in garden railroading are couples,” Bob said. “That’s what appeals to us. Guys love trains. This also involves heavy gardening.”

Harriet chided with a grin, “Every little boy wants to run the trains. Little girls do, too. Another appeal for women are the scenes, setting up the scenes, the people, the animals and the buildings. It’s like playing dolls.”

The Danas were first enamored with garden railroading when they visited the Ameriflora Expo in 1992 which featured a garden railway. They built their first garden railway in 2000 while living in Columbus. With a subsequent move to Choctaw, they built a new railway incorporating lessons learned.

The Danas’ new garden railway is constructed on a 20×30-foot raised garden space and boasts about 200 feet of G-scale rail line, a pond, stream and waterfall. Part of the railway is elevated and has extensive trestles. The remainder wanders through Harriet’s landscaping.

Harriet is a master gardener and has carefully selected the plants in her garden railway. Some, such as the Japanese maples, were selected for their slow growth. Others, she said, can be pruned to look like their full-sized brethren. Plants like those in the thyme family serve as ground cover.

In scale, these small plants resemble larger types of vegetation. When choosing trees such as a dwarf Alberta spruce, Harriet said she seeks out the smallest example she can find in the garden center then trims one third of it away to make it appear more mature.

The Danas claim the Great Northern Railroad and descendent, BNSF, as the inspiration for their railway.

Another Choctaw Lake couple, Ray and Patsy Chamberlain, have taken a completely different approach with their garden railway. Where the Danas networked with garden railway club members to create their unique design, the Chamberlains blazed their own path.

“I just take track and start laying it out, then I go around things,” said Ray.

The result is a 300-foot garden railway that follows the natural contour of the Chamberlains’ lawn. Originally, the set-up was down by the lake, but Ray, 73, decided to move it closer to the house so he didn’t have to walk so far to tend to it.

Ray is known by many as the energetic guy who works at Dwyer’s Hardware in London. Despite his “retired but working” status, Ray spends as much as six or seven hours a day in his garden railway. His restless energy is perfect for a constantly evolving garden railway. The Chamberlains have doubled the size of their railroad in the last year and estimate they have invested over 1,000 hours in it.

Patsy is in charge of the landscaping.

“I try to find little plants that fit the scale. Much of it is ground cover, then I prune and trim to keep everything small,” she said.

Speaking of small, it’s the many details of a garden railway that keep you coming back to look for more.

“There is a house (in our set-up) that looks just like our house. I’m looking for a very small blue spruce,” Patsy said, pointing to the blue spruce in her front yard.

Despite working as nurse, Patsy spends several hours a day alongside Ray in their garden railway. Ray and Patsy share the credit for their railway with their children and grandchildren who have also invested many hours in its construction.

The third Madison County garden railway tour stop belongs to Briane and Connie Spangler of Mount Sterling, whose set-up was part of last year’s tour, too.

The Spanglers have been building their railroad since 2008. It features 700 to 800 feet of track and two ponds. Briane said he typically runs three trains at a time with a total of 50 or 60 pieces of rolling stock. A unique feature of the Spanglers’ railway are multiple flower and rock gardens.

“Everyone does it differently,” Briane said of the hobby.

Garden railway layouts remain in place year round, enduring wind, rain and Ohio winters. The more vulnerable pieces are stored indoors through the winter but garden railroading is an outdoor hobby.

The Danas, Chamberlains and Spanglers embrace garden railroading because it gives them something they can spend hours doing together as well as with their children and grandchildren.

To learn more about the hobby and the Sept. 7 tour, go to www.thecgrs.org.

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