Sunday, April 17, 2011

Visiting Garden Railways

Did you know that there are some devoted enthusiasts who build model railways in their gardens? I never knew this until today, when I joined the Santa Clara Model T Ford Club and the Arcane Auto Society to drive to four wonderful back yards filled with model trains.

It was all put on by the Bay Area Garden Railway Society, whose members generously opened their beautiful presentations to the public. How wonderful to open the gate and walk into a beautifully landscaped yard. And then, you look carefully and see miniature buildings, people and moving trains.

In the first yard, the trains ran on butane, and put out smoke like old locomotives. The other yards used electric trains, some of which made train sounds, but these are not the little ones you see in someone's den. These are G Scale--about a half inch to a foot--and with the buildings and other items scaled to them, you can see the panoramas clearly.

At the first stop, we visited with Robert Brown, who not only has a wonderful garden railway, but also is editor and publisher of Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette. It's a handsome four-color bi-monthly magazine filled with "Accurate Information for Fine Modelbuilding." Bob had a fantastic indoor train setup too that was far-ranging and incredibly detailed. And, it reflected more than 30 years of dedicated work.

Besides the appeal of the trains, gardens, and socializing was the presence of so many old and wonderful cars. The Model T folks drove a sampling of Henry Ford's favorites. I followed a couple between gardens and heard their distinctive engine sound--and moved at their distinctive speed, too.

The Arcane Auto Society members brought the usual selection of Peugeots, Minis, DKWs, microscopic pre-Civic Hondas, and even a blocky pink Powell pickup truck. As far as I could tell, everyone had a great time, and the weather was perfect too.

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