News / USA

New York Botanical Train Show Fascinates Children of All Ages

A toy train travels past a model building at the New York Botanical Gardens.
A toy train travels past a model building at the New York Botanical Gardens.


Peter Fedynsky

Toy trains are often associated with the holiday season in the United States.  Many children are fascinated by trains running under a family Christmas tree or on display in public places.  One of the most elaborate holiday train shows in the United States is at the New York Botanical Garden. Visitors are amazed by the creative use of plant material in the display, now in its 19th year.

This vast greenhouse amid approximately 100 hectares at the New York Botanical Garden houses exotic plants from around the world.   It is known as a museum of plants, featuring a huge assortment of palms, fruits, conifers and flowers of all shapes and sizes.

And during every holiday season, it also features toy trains winding their way through a New York City landscape of skyscrapers, bridges, mansions and a replica of the greenhouse itself.  The glass is made out of pine sap.  

Exhibitions Director Karen Daubmann explains that the entire landscape is made from plant material. "If you take a closer look, you'll see little chimneys on some of the buildings, and the top is an acorn cap.  Some of the buildings have bark for shingles, or different colored leaves for shingles.  Some buildings have a roof made out of pine cone scales," she said.

The show is particularly popular among the 100,000 children of all ages that Daubmann says visit the show each year.

The younger ones seem to particularly enjoy the television cartoon character known as Thomas the Tank Engine, and the whimsical ladybug train that darts in and out of the Washington Arch.   Modern freight trains and trolleys also run on about 400 meters of track at the exhibit over trestles, through tunnels, and past cascading waterfalls.  The creative use of plant material impresses visitors young and old, boys and girls alike.

"They made everything out of plants and wood and bark,"said fifth grade boy Finbar Ruan.

"Trains, the mansions, the bridges and all that stuff.  All the things they made it out of," added Adeena Jaffa, a fifth grade girl.

"The buildings, when you see how they were built, are amazing, because they're all built of natural materials, said Fred Gorton, a retired electrical engineer.

The show expands with a new feature each year.  The latest - the Trans World Airways terminal at New York's Kennedy Airport. Its roof is made from the giant corrugated leaves of the tropical tin roof tree. Touching down on the runway is a Concorde supersonic jet.  A Boeing 747 is parked on the tarmac beside the terminal.

Nearby is a replica of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through before entering the United States.  And in the greenhouse "harbor" is the Statue of Liberty, which welcomed those immigrants and their creative energies to American shores.

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