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Holidays Bring Magic to Botanic Garden in Washington, DC

Children are amazed by the trains and the characters from children's stories and fables

Children are amazed by the trains and the characters from children's stories and fables

Storybook model railroad displays tantalize children and adults with Christmas themes among the permanent displays of plants and flowers

"Holiday Magic" is the title of this year's holiday exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in the nation's capital. Amidst the displays of seasonal plants and flowers, visitors are finding Christmas decorations and model railroad displays. While the steam engines and railcars meander, the magic of children's literature comes alive in the gardens, mesmerizing young and old.

There are many joyful faces here at the annual holiday exhibit of the United States Botanic Garden, located at the foot of the U.S. Capitol. The rich colors, the magical building models, a teddy bear factory, and the mini-trains win the undivided attention of both young and old.

Behind the scenes, Jack Frost is in charge of keeping all nine trains running. "We control four from here," he points out. "This is the big transformer for the big passenger train up there," he explains.

He says everything, including speed and lights, can be controlled, but not the whistle. "There are little magnets in the track, when the train goes over the magnet, it blows the whistle," he says, letting us in on the secret.

Frost has loved model trains since childhood. He has a large collection at home. During the holidays at the Botanic Garden, he makes sure the trains keep running.

Frost says his efforts are rewarded when he sees how amazed the children are by the trains and the characters from children's stories and fables.

One mom here this day, Lindsey, has visited the train exhibit two years in a row with her children. "It is wonderful to be here; the trains are beautiful and it's magical," she said. "We love it!"

Near the train exhibit, the garden court displays miniature replicas of Washington monuments such as the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial and the Smithsonian Castle.

Botanic Garden director Holly Shimizu says the replicas are unique. "They are all made out of natural plant parts -- plant material. So the amazing use of things like egg, corn, and grape leaves and vines and pinecones -- and they are one of a kind -- you cannot see these anywhere else," she said.

This year, artist Paul Busse made some changes to the building collection -- especially the White House. "The new vegetable garden that we are so proud to show, and the swing set the Obamas put in for their children," Shimizu explains.

With thousands of visitors every day, this is the busiest time of the year for the U.S. Botanic Garden. The beauty and exuberance of the annual holiday exhibit has turned the Botanic Garden into another Washington "monument."