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Fall Has Fell. Early leaf-fall has helped with preparations for our garden railroad open house this November 15 (2009). Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running wellGarden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden Railroading
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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

Fall Has Fell - and my Christmas Trains are Grateful

When I was a kid, autumn was my favorite season. When our first house had enough tall trees to dump a foot-deep layer of leaves everywhere - including the rain gutters, that enthusiasm moderated. Actually I still enjoy raking leaves the first time or three I go out to rake. But I admit that now my "ideal" autumn is one in which an early cold snap brings down all the leaves at once (or at least within a brief period of time), and I can get the leaves cleared up before it gets too cool to enjoy the outdoors.

Click for bigger photo.

This is especially important if I plan to run trains late in the year, like I did last year - a Christmas-themed open house in conjunction with an NMRA open railroad tour. My preparations for that event included clearing the leaves off of the railroad with a shop-vac. But many leaves fell that week - too late to clear my yard of them. I just asked my kids to rake the area around the railroad for visitors and dealt with blowing leaves the rest of the weekend.

This year, it's all better. Most of the trees within 100 feet of the railroad have shed almost all of their leaves, and I have most of those raked (and in some case shop-vac'd). At the moment, most of the railroad is completely clear of leaves. And since we haven't had a long snap of cold weather, the groundcovers and conifers are keeping everything fairly green. So, though I have a lot of work left to do for this open house, I have hopes that the leaves won't pose the problem they did last year. Other details of preparations I'm making include:

Click for bigger photo.

  • Lighting the Trees - I plan to light the trees up like I did last year. Many of my strands are getting borderline, so I made a point of buying some LED strands at the end of season sales last year - I'll report on how those do.

  • Checking Rolling Stock - Last year the bumpy track caused some unforseen problems. Since I won't have time to really iron things out this year, I will probably wind up running trains with small locomotives that will handle just about anything. I've already found a locomotive I misplaced and didn't use last year - an AristoCraft Christmas-painted 4-wheel industrial diesel (the kind they call a "critter"). It uses the same reliable mechanism that powers the Eggliner. Because it will ride over pretty rough trackage, and I will not be getting my trackage fixed by my next open house (November 15, 2009), this is one of my "fall-back" locomotives in case the bigger ones don't run well on track I haven't "tweaked" since spring. I'll also be sorting my passenger cars to use only those with internal lighting, since part of the tour will be after dark, and a lit passenger train is so much more compelling than an "unlit" passenger train.

Click for bigger photo.
  • Setting up Thomas Somewhere - Last year I set a small Thomas railroad up on the well cover, a 5'x5' concrete block on the back of my house. I still have most of the wooden roadbed I made for a Thomas railroad I set up at Holden Arboretum in 2007, and the viaduct is intact. so I'm thinking about maybe setting Thomas up somewhere he has a little more room to run.

  • Adding Buildings and Building Lighting - I can actually fit more buildings on my railroad now than during the summer, so I'll try to re-add all the buildings I had up for 2008's open house. Some will require tweaking - as an example, many of the curtains I installed have gotten mildewy and need replaced. Also, three of the garden lighting fixtures I was using in some of my houses have given out, so I'll have to figure out what's wrong with them.

  • Adding Additional Lighting - I have three "towns" and a couple clusters of other buildings that I lit with low-powered floodlights last year. Still, you couldn't really see the figures and accessories after dark. So I'm thinking about adapting some of the 12-volt LED spotlights I tested last month to give better lighting to those "zones" on my railroad, and maybe to light the waterfall, which I may have running if it's warm enough.

  • Music - I'd like to have a better music option than CDs playing on a boom box. In part, even the best Christmas CDs have some songs that are obnoxious or too quiet to be heard. So if I have time, I may make a "mix" to play, and try to distribute the speakers better. Yes I realize that to a railfan, the sounds in my locomotives should be all the music they need . . . .

  • Others - If I have time, there are a dozen more things I'd like to add. It looks like I might have an industrial-sized popcorn popper on hand, for instance.

Looking forward to your suggestions, additions, criticisms, and anything else to let me know you're paying attention, I remain,

Paul Race

Click to see some ways you can help us grow the hobby.P.S. Enjoy your trains. Especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.

To see last year's preparations and outcome for our 2008 Christmas-themed open house, click the following links.

Note: If you arrived at this article by clicking on the "Next" link in our New Boston and Donnels Creek series of chronological articles about our garden railroad, you can continue the series using the links below.

Click to see how our pland for our 2009 Christmas-themed open railroad worked out.Next - Proceed to our next article "2009 Christmas-Themed Open House on the NB&DC," which presents the rest of our plans and preparations for our 2009 Christmas-themed open railroad, as well as a description of the day itself.

Previous - Return to our article "Refurbishing Garden Railroad Track."

Note:The following articles are listed in reverse chronological order, so if you want to start at the beginning and work your way through, please jump to the "About New Boston and Donnels Creek" article near the bottom of this list.

Return to our article "Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 5." This is the last in a sequence of articles that describe our preparation and eventual execution of our first Christmas-themed open railroad in 2008.

Return to our article "Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 4."

Return to our article "Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 3."

Return to our article "Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 2."

Return to our article "Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 1."

Return to our article "Refurbishing Garden Railroad Roadbed," which describes how we used cement roadbed to addressed the massive burrowing animal and weed growth problems caused by following the track-over-gravel-on-a-dirt-pile instructions of the desert-dwelling garden railroad experts and GR editors.

Return to our article "About the Owner/Author/Lead Editor," which describes Paul's circumstances and approach to garden railroading in the early 2000s

Return to our article "NB&DC Rolling Stock," which lists the sorts of cars I was running on my railroad in the early 2000s.

Return to our article "Motive Power, which was written in 2003, and updated in 2008. It describes the locomotive we were using most of the time to pull trains on the New Boston and Donnels Creek.

Return to our article "June, 2003 Photos, to see what our railroad looked like four years after we broke ground, and one year after the 2002 convention.

Return to our article "Layout So Far," which describes the track plan, plants, etc. of our garden railroad as of the early spring of 2003.

Return to our "January, 2003" article, which includes photo of our railroad caught in a 6"-8" snow right after running trains at Christmas.

Return to our "June, 2002 Photos article, which contains photos of our garden railroad as it was set up for the 2002 National Garden Railway Convention in Cincinnati.

Return to "What to Do When a Tree Eats Your Railroad."

To return to our article "Stress Testing on the NB&DC RR," click here.

To return to our NBDC 1998-2000 Pictures page, click here.

To return to Landscaping and Pond Construction, 1998-1999, click here,

To return to our page About New Boston and Donnels Creek" click here.

To return to the New Boston and Donnels Creek Index Page, click here

To return to the Family Garden Trains Home Page, click here

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Click to see big Christmas trains and accessories.

Note: Family Garden Trains(tm), Garden Train Store(tm), Big Christmas Trains(tm), BIG Indoor Trains(tm), and BIG Train Store(tm) are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications(tm) ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 by Paul D. Race.
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