Tour America in miniature in the Model Railroad Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where 18 garden-scale trains run on 18 tracks, past nearly 50 American landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a midwestern farm and the Corn Palace. More than 5,000 plants in more than 300 different varieties create a realistic landscape around the buildings, which are made with natural materials including bark, acorns and fungi. The trains travel more than 22,000 miles each season.
The 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden features trains running on 1,600 feet of track. The garden-scale trains are 1/29th the size of life-size trains. Train and garden enthusiasts, young and old, return year after year for the delightful sights and sounds of the miniature trains traversing high and low through tunnels, across bridges, and around buildings. All are intricately handcrafted with natural materials, including twigs, bark, leaves, acorns, and pebbles. More than 5,000 tiny trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowering plants of close to 300 varieties re-create the topographical landscape of America. Vignettes of tiny people and animals give the exhibit a storybook feel, while sound effects and a working geyser capture visitors’ imaginations.
- There are 18 model G-scale (garden-scale) trains running on 17 tracks (one track runs two trains)
- The longest track usually runs the Santa Fe Super Chief
- The shortest track runs the ladybug and caterpillar cars
- There are close to 50 miniature American landmarks
- There are 26 bridges throughout the Railroad Garden
- 5,000 plants (including annuals) in more than 300 different varieties are in this garden
- The trains travel more than 22,000 miles each season
The Model Railroad Garden can be the first of your fun outdoor activities for families at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Close to the city, on Chicago’s North Shore, the Garden has a year-round calendar of family activities and entertainment, including free kids’ concerts, drop-in activities, plant giveaways, weekend family classes, and outdoor family entertainment, while also offering children the chance to explore outdoors. The Garden is one of Chicago’s premier attractions, where visitors walk, enjoy nature photography, and celebrate each season with outdoor and indoor activities for families and kids of all ages.
The Chicago Botanic Garden opened a little more than 40 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and it has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers. In 2014, more than one million people visited the Garden’s 26 gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline. The Garden also has a renowned Bonsai Collection. The Chicago Botanic Garden has 50,000 members—one of the largest memberships of any U.S. botanic garden. People of all ages, interests, and abilities participate in programs, take classes, and stroll the grounds year-round. Within the nine laboratories of the Garden’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, scientists and graduate students conduct a wide array of plant research. The Garden is one of only 17 public gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. Its Lenhardt Library contains 110,000 volumes — including one of the nation’s best collections of rare botanical books.