Bay Area Garden Railway Society and South County Railroaders Garden Railroad Tour

As a kid, I’d always fancied a train set. I asked Santa for one many times, but he never delivered. I guessed it was because I was a girl. I once broached the subject with My Father who told me that I’d been taken in by the ads on TV which showed the trains chuffing through cute little miniature villages.

“You’re not interested in the trains,” he said. “But the houses, and you don’t actually get those with the train set -that’s all extra.”

As was often the case, my father had figured me out even before I’d figured me out!

I’ve always been enthralled by stories of miniature people such as The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett. I’ve previously blogged about visiting a Miniatures museum in Taipei during our Taiwan trip.

So when I saw the Bay Area Garden Railway Society and South County Railroaders inviting folk to their Garden Railroad Tour to benefit the St Joseph’s Center and Community Pantry, I talked My Husband into going – not that it took much effort – this appealed to both our nerdy selves!

This, I explained to him on the way down to Morgan Hill in the car, was something I had considered putting in our garden when I took out the lawn.

“Thank God, you didn’t,” he muttered. I thought the idea of the work and expense turned him off.

“Well, after the miniature murderer on CSI, ” he admitted, “I think it would have been too creepy to have in our own yard.”

Seems I’d lost that garden-design battle before I’d even tried! Still, he was happy to have a look at other folk’s gardens and we were not disappointed.

We visited three different gardens – each one amazing, and different in it’s own unique way. In all cases the attention to detail was amazing.

This one looked like a real town with everything to scale.

Of course, there was the trains – but My Father had been right – it was more about the scale than the locomotives for me.

My imagination plunged into this little town, making up scenarios and lives. Who ran the car lot? Was it a greasy salesman or the soul of the community?

 Good job they had a good fire department on hand.

 And was it hot for the man driving this cart as he waited to cross the railroad tracks? Was there a fold in the space-time continuum or simply a buggy enthusiast? Or a nearby Amish community?

 I’d like to live in this wee house.

 The “real” house in the background shows the contrast in scale.

“My” house was on the banks of an actual flowing (miniature) creek. I thought that this was incredibly cute.

 And nearby the dramas of life (and death) unfolded.

 Who was grieving for this person? How did they die?


Or maybe they’d been trampled to death by a random herd of bison!

Oh yes… the trains…nearly forgot! Maybe that how what had happened the deceased. Perhaps they too had forgotten while taking a stroll along the tracks and had been knocked down by a runaway train?

 What ever it was this RVer waited patiently for the train to pass. Maybe he’d heard the news…

In only very rare occasions was the scale a little out of whack – wouldn’t want to come this close to a skunk this big if I were camping! Yikes!


Better to stick with the town and all its mod cons!

Each garden had a different feel. In this next one, the owner had spent time actually building structures to scale from scratch as opposed to buying scale model kits.

He explained how he had cut out each tile by hand before tiling the roof of the station.

 To My Husbands great excitement, these trains were all actual steam engines, although some had run out of steam by the time we’d arrived.

I felt like I had traveled back to the Wild West… 

 This beautiful bridge reminded me of the Tassagh Viaducts near Armagh.

 It was amazing how excited you could feel as the train chugged over the bridges…

… Or approached through the “forest!”

I enjoyed how he’d landscaped the natural vegetation to scale. This Rosemary looks like a huge sprawling oak tree!

At the third garden we visited, the steam engines were still vigorously clacking along the tracks. 

The emphasis here seemed to focus on the engineering of tunnels and bridges. A couple of “full time station masters” had a busy time making sure trains didn’t collide or get stuck in one of the tunnels that was too small for most of the engines.


There were canyons…

And farms…

 And under bridges too…

 It was ridiculous how long I waited to get this shot of the train coming over the bridge and how pleased with myself I was when I got the exact shot I wanted!

 I waited here for a while too but gave up before the train came back! Patience is not my strength.

 And soon I was drifting back to the town…

 Admiring the vintage cars…

 When I heard the train in the tunnel and raced to get the money shot!

Oh what joy… but isn’t great to take such pleasure in innocent pursuits!

Then I risked life and limb on the tracks, as this steam train bore down on me for the final shot!

Well done to the designers of all these gardens, and thank you for not only opening them up for us to have a fun day out, but in doing so to raise funds and hold a food drive for a very deserving cause – St Joseph’s Center and Community Pantry.

As we drove home, I realized I no longer yearned for my own train set – that itch had been scratched and Dad had been right – I just wanted the cutesty villages. Now, I just create my own towns, when I write, and fill them with my own “living breathing” characters.

Byddi Lee

2 replies to Bay Area Garden Railway Society and South County Railroaders Garden Railroad Tour

  1. Wow! They caught the train bug…. wow! wow WOW!

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