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Potluck: Iowa Garden Train Tours

Polk City and Cedar Valley

The Garden Train That Could

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Model trains become a hobby on a grand scale when track is laid in the backyard. Garden railroads, as the name suggests, are constructed outdoors and often designed to follow the natural landscape contours. Typical features include shrubbery, fish ponds, tunnels, bridges, and trestles. Many garden railroads have multiple sets of track. Most use electric or battery-powered diesel engines, but steam engines are not uncommon.

Mike Kidman, owner and chief engineer of the Reindeer Pass Garden Railroad in Polk City, grew up with Lionel trains but selected the larger G scale train (more than twice the size) when he started his railroad six years ago. Kidman, vice president of the 70-plus-member Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society, continues to expand his setup, which now includes 500 feet of track that can run six trains at one time.

A passionate garden railroader, Kidman also sells equipment and provides assistance and advice on setting up. “You can get a starter kit for a bit over $200,” notes Kidman, “but a museum-quality engine can set you back several thousand dollars.”

The Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society will host a tour of five garden railroads on July 21. Learn more online at www.trainweb.org/cigrs. The Cedar Valley Garden Railway Society usually offers its tour on the third Sunday on July. Visit www.cedarvalleygrs.com. — M.G.

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