GLENCOE, Ill. (January 28, 2013)- The Chicago Botanic Garden is bringing back its family-favorite Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America exhibition for the 14th year. Visitors of all ages will have a chance to take a trip across the country without leaving the Chicago area, as they watch model trains chugging past nearly 50 miniature versions of well-known American landmarks, masterfully created using natural materials like leaves, gourds, mushrooms, and acorn caps.
The 2013 exhibition will include a brand-new landmark, the Lincoln Memorial, as well as an updated White House, which will actually be white. “Applied Imagination, the Kentucky-based workshop that creates the landmarks, has been using new materials and developing new techniques that keep the natural feel and charm to the exhibition while updating the look,” says Kristie Webber, the Garden’s director of Interpretive Programs.
The 7,500-square-foot exhibition includes 18 model G-scale trains, which travel more than 22,000 miles during each exhibition season. Train lines represented in the exhibition include fallen-flag railroads (lines that are no longer running) such as the Rock Island and Chicago Northwestern Commuter Lines. Thomas the Tank Engine will also make an appearance, and new this year, Thomas’s train friend, Emily, will also ride the track. The Garden also includes more than 300 different varieties of plants, each specially selected to compliment the miniature landscape. The result is an all-encompassing experience with trains rolling across overhead tracks, past small rivers and lakes, and past erupting geysers.
The Garden was designed and created by Alexandria, Kentucky-based Applied Imagination, a family business led by landscape architect Paul Busse. Applied Imagination’s work can also be seen at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express exhibition each winter.
Although it is only open during summer and early fall, maintaining the Model Railroad Garden is a year-round affair. Preparations for each season begin in January, when the artists from Applied Imagination begin building the latest additions to the exhibition and repairing the existing landmarks. In March, horticulturists come in and prune mature trees and shrubs to scale. New plants and landmarks are brought in around late April and soon afterward, a group of miniaturists comes in to add tiny cars and figurines to create a storybook feel. The final touch is adding a series of handwritten signs that share interesting facts about the landmarks, plants, and trains.
The Model Railroad Garden is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, with special evening hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, from June 5 to August 28. The exhibition will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 21, for the Summer Dinner Dance, a benefit supporting the Garden’s conservation, science, and education programs.
Admission to the Model Railroad Garden is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children 3 – 12. There is no admission charge for children under 3. Garden members get a $1 discount on all rates. Garden Plus members receive free admission on Wednesdays. A ten-visit pass to the exhibition is available for $30. The Model Railroad Garden is generously supported by Bank of America.