“Oh, listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar, As she glides along the woodland, o’er the hills and by the shore, Hear the rush of the mighty engine, Hear that lonesome hobo’s call, He’s riding through the jungles, On the Wabash Cannonball.”
I don’t know why I think of the chorus from Wabash Cannonball every time I pass by the Fairplex Garden Railroad, but I do. Maybe it’s because of the romantic thought I have of railroads and trains, pushing and steaming against a sunburst sky, hobos with their knapsacks slung o’r their shoulders, rolling into the next town where new adventures await.
You can feel this along several neighborhoods of our Garden Railroad. If you’ve never toured the railroad during the Fair, you must do it this year.
It’s an amazing array of quaint scenes from the turn of the century to a 1950s drive-in to a circus in Anytown USA. The depth, quality and intricacy of these G-gauge trains, 10,000 feet of track and picturesque settings are astonishing.
Behind it are 72 volunteers of all ages who put in thousands of hours each year. The FGRR is open on certain occasions during the year, but it really shines during the Fair. The “crew” maintains the railroad all year long, but go into full-throttle mode in July and August, when engines and cars are washed and polished, hardscaping is refurbished, landscaping is tended, new miniature structures are installed.
Dave Rose’s handiwork has been part of the FGRR since 1997. An avid miniature train model builder since the early 1970s, Dave releases his creativity on a particular section of the garden railroad, having “built-out” his own back yard’s G-gauge railroad.
On a warm day in June, he glued finely ground granite onto several levels of hardscape and cliffs above a set of tracks. A contractor, he uses his professional expertise in those areas, while his imagination explodes on projects like the new miniature restaurant he designed, constructed and painted.
It will rest over a cliff, just beyond a suspension bridge, giving “patrons” a fine dining experience. Dave puts in about 80 volunteer hours a month, more in August when he takes nearly the entire month off work to concentrate on his hobby, in preparation for the thousands of Fairguests young and old who will meander through this little piece of heaven.
A 1998 study by Brigham Young University found the FGRR to be the oldest and possibly largest miniature railroad of its kind. Begun in 1924, the railroad moved to its current location in 1935. It was switched from a 1/2 scale model to a G-gauge in 1997. According to coordinator Bob Toohey, visitors come from as far as Australia and Germany to see the railroad. During the Fair, 32 different operations run at once, frrom trains to highways to mining sites.
Like I said, pretty amazing. Stop by during the Fair. Inside tours are available from 1 to 8 p.m. each day of the Fair.