There's something poetic about the railroad. I suppose that's because the railroad harkens back to simpler times. Doesn't the sound of a train whistle strike a cord in everyone's heart, rendering us -- even if only for the moment -- a bit more carefree?
I think most of us find a certain romance in the railroad. For me, it calls to mind the transient of a bygone era who hopped railroad cars to travel from place to place. Sure, as Roger Miller reminded us, such a person was hardly "King of the Road." Still, something in us finds the thought of a "carefree life" compelling, even if we'd never give up the ties that bind us to a more conventional lifestyle.
The poetry and romance of the railroad helps account for the model train phenomenon. I never owned a model railroad set as a child, but something I read recently on Lesley Shepherd's site got me thinking about the subject: namely, how some people move their model railroads outside to create "garden railroads." This hobby strikes me as a possible answer to a question I've heard folks raise: "As a parent, how can I convince my children to take more of an interest in the landscape?"
Because, you see, garden railroads are about more than just sticking a model railroad out in the garden. The idea is to create a mini-landscape to serve as a suitable setting for the garden railroad. Doug Blaine of Bachmann Trains (a company founded in 1833!) provides some thoughts on creating such a mini-landscape.
According to Blaine, the following are some choice plants for use in the mini-landscape of a garden railroad:
- "Irish or Scotch Moss to simulate lawns"
- "Miniature Elm with its tiny leaves and branches helps create a scale tree"
- "Dwarf Alberta Spruce can be planted in 'groves' to create a miniature forest"
Just remember that Dwarf Alberta spruce trees, although slow-growing, may eventually reach 12 feet in height. So while you'll start off with a spruce forest for your garden railroad, you'll end up with a sequoia forest!