Friday, June 13, 2014


Two hobby tracks meet at a junction

By Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

When Bob Hyatt goes out into his Orrstown backyard he can choose to tinker with the trains or manage the miniature landscape that goes in and around the loops of train track.
At an early age his father gave him an American Flyer train followed by an HO scale set. “My Grandmother used to take me to the switching yard in Allentown to watch the trains,” Hyatt said.
One of Bob's trains

Hyatt’s career experience and Master Gardener training prepared him for giving both turfgrass management and landscape gardening workshops.
For this Franklin County Master Gardener, his life-long interest in trains and pleasure in landscape gardening merged into his Clark’s Knob Freestyle Garden Railroad.
This year for the first time, Hyatt will be holding a “Beginning Railroad Gardening” workshop on Saturday, June 28 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Participants will learn the "ins" and "outs" of this unique style of gardening at Hyatt's home on Shives Lane. 

The workshop will provide information on starting a railroad garden as well as designing a layout and adding the finishing touches.

World's oldest railroad garden, Bekonscot Model Village, England, est. 1929

 The popularity of having train models follows the history of railroading as people sought to bring some of the excitement into their own homes and yards. Moving from large outdoor trains to small sized and toy indoor models, around 1970 trains began to be designed specifically for use outdoors - rugged with the motor parts enclosed.

“It’s not a cheap hobby,” said Hyatt, who has been adding to his layout since 2002. He currently has about 400 feet of track in three loops and uses “G” gauge (1/29th scale) trains and brass track.
Deciding what kind of railroad garden is a first step. Some railways may just meander through the existing normal-sized plants in a yard or garden. Other railways are stationed at a village and may even have a theme such as the Old West or a logging or coal town. 
Bob Hyatt adjusting his homemade coal factory

Hyatt used stones from his property to build a number of walls and focal points. He uses brass track which weathers while the stainless steel stays bright. “I like a more natural look,” he said, noting that he does have houses to put out in an area alongside the track.
One of the many beautiful succulents Bob has available
To maintain a realistic scale, the plants he uses are typically dwarf varieties or small succulents. After finding plants for his layout, Hyatt has expanded into a small business selling these types to other outdoor railroaders as well as miniature container and fairy gardeners.

He has had several Open Houses. “It’s a lot of work to get ready for an open house and some friends come and help.”
Open House 2013
This is when friends and family visit Clark’s Knob Freestyle Garden Railroad and can appreciate how Hyatt has coupled two of his favorite hobbies.

Some links of interest:

Bekonscot Model Village

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