Railroad gardening – A quiet hobby

Al Ward's Railroad Garden in Florida

Garden Railroading is miniature gardening with a different theme running through it - literately! This is from Al Ward in Florida.

A Garden For All: Railroad gardening – A quiet hobby.

By Janit Calvo
October 7, 2009

It was my first “layout.”

I was invited to a meeting of the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society several years ago, and asked to bring some of my plants and accessories to show them what I did. It was a bright and sunny day when I ventured down, southeast of the Seattle city limits, to see what my new friend was on about.

“Watch out, step over the track, there!” was one of the first things I was told.

The voice belonged to the owner, who had set up a railroad in his backyard – and his backyard wasn’t a small one. I looked down, then up, and saw a lot of track going every which way.

A train meandered by at my feet.

A “layout” is the insider’s term for any model railroad track setup.

The train track was on a shelf, built right onto the fence, and went all the way around the yard. Further down, on the far side of the grass, the track moved toward the center of the backyard, through the vegetable garden, around another bed, and then looped around the pond.

Then over to the back porch area where it kissed the steps leading into the garden, followed the track in between the bushes and the stair, then, somehow, met up again with the fence-shelf to do it all over again.

It was really a sight to see.

I call railroad gardening the grandfather of miniature gardening (Bonsai is the godfather). Creating miniature living realistic garden scenes has been dated back to 1850’s when the railroad – the life-sized railroad – was being built.

It's official, Al has too much fun. His layout is huge - complete with towns and a resort too!

It's official, Al has too much fun. His layout is huge - complete with towns and a resort too!

Scenes and dioramas of how the train would look rolling through the landscape were created to sell the idea to the multitudes of new Americans across the country. A salesman sample, in other words.

And, in my humble opinion, this laid some of the groundwork for our beloved hobby of miniature gardening.

That day was fun. I learned a lot about railroading. I learned about the “steamers,” the people who just wanted to lay some track and run some trains. And there were the “electrics” – I hope I remembered that name right – those who wanted to have a landscape for their trains to run through.

They spoke of mountains made out of concrete, 50-foot tall trees – in miniature of course, bridges and running rivers. One train chugged around the fence, then another. There was a woman in an engineer’s cap.

Sigh, so much to play with, so little time.

And every so often, I get a call from a railroad gardener. Pleased that there is an overlap of interest in my products and my plants. This time I was fortunate enough to come across a conductor that likes to share. The above pictures are from Al down in Florida.

Thanks, Al! Looking forward to the next update!

All aboard!

“I hear that train a-comin’ – comin’ around the track! Clickity, clickity, clickity, clack.”



  1. […] Railroad gardening – A quiet hobby « Janit's Blog – Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center minigardener.wordpress.com/2009/10/ – view page – cached October 10, 2009 at 6:21 pm · Filed under Customer Interaction, railroad gardening ·Tagged garden, Janit Calvo, miniature, railroad gardening — From the page […]


  2. Deb in Texas said

    I wanted to share a photo of my trailer park in my railroad layout but don’t know how to do that here.


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