The staff at OHNY took a break from the office this week to visit the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens. A New York holiday tradition that has been going for decades, the show is a delightful display of miniature New York buildings (current and historical) with model trains zipping through the intricate mini landscape.

We we lucky to have a guided tour by Johanna, a docent that has been volunteering at the Botanical Gardens for years. She explained to us that the buildings are made by designer Paul Busse and are referred to, not as replicas, but as “translations” of New York buildings and structures. This means that artistic license has been exercised here and there, but on the whole, the buildings look amazingly true to form.

Our guide first led us to the example building that stands just inside the entrance. It is at (adult) eye level and is meant to give visitors a close up view of how the buildings are made. Each building is created with a light foam core base and then everything used to create the details of the building are natural materials. They are all made of nuts and seed pods, leaves and bark, twigs and acorn shells, etc.

Among the first buildings that you see when you walk in is Ellis Island, sitting in the reflection pool near the Statue of Liberty.

We were delighted to see the TWA Terminal right next to Ellis Island since OHNY had the opportunity this year to open the terminal up to the public during the OHNY Weekend in October.

Little did we know that the Holiday Train Show is, in fact, an excellent resource for learning about the architectural history of New York City! Each building is labeled with the date it was built and where the building is located. The building labels also tell you if it has since been demolished and when the demolition took place. Our guide, in her spare time, enjoys looking up the histories behind the buildings and their sometimes infamous owners. She shared some of the juicy details with us on our tour.

So while the kids get excited about watching Thomas zip around the tracks, parents can marvel at the historical details scattered throughout the show.

A number of “translations” of the bridges of New York sit overhead as you make your way into the conservatory. We were told that some of the bridges weigh up to 500 lbs. We started to wonder where the Botanical Gardens store all of these models when they are not on display – we hope they have insurance in case of a fire!

Each year a new building is usually added to the display, but this year instead of adding a building, the designers have created an Artist Studio. You can walk through the stages of creating the buildings and see the materials that are used.

It is a lot of fun to walk through and spot the well known landmarks of New York. We passed by Yankee Stadium.

And saw Belvedere Castle.

We were amazed at how many of the buildings in the show have been part of the OHNY Weekend including the Little Red Light House.

And Old Stone House.

We also were dazzled by all of the plants and flowers that were mixed into the displays with the buildings and the trains that all contribute to make the Holiday Train Show so special.

The Holiday Train Show is located in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. It is on view at until January 16, 2012.

New York Botanical Gardens
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx

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