Tag Archives: Trains

Trains… A Joy Forever!

There are some things in every one’s life that have a lasting charm… some threads that run through life, helping keep alight the joy of life even when things are not so good. Something that gets you excited about life itself. For me, it is trains. I love trains… I mean, all trains. Long distance trains, commuter trains, touristy trains… love them all. And never give up a chance to ride on one either.
I don’t know when I was bitten by the train bug. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I was not enchanted by the trains. When I was in third grade, we were doing a chapter on transportation. Teacher asked whether there was anyone in the class who had not travelled on a train. To my utter amazement, a number of hands went up. And I was thinking… where have you been living? Under some moss covered rocks? Lived thus far without a single train ride? The pity I felt for those kids was fathomless. Even at that age, a train ride was one of my favourite things.
As I grew up, I found out that there are kindred spirits all around the world. Known by various names such as railfans, rail buffs and train buffs, they form groups and go train spotting. Yes, it is a legitimate hobby, with many followers. Train photography, model trains, exploring historical railway tracks and trains, and collecting train memorabilia are some of the activities of these groups.
You have to admit… some of the old trains are a pleasure to see. And you never get bored watching a train go by. Whenever a car I’m travelling is stopped at a railway crossing, and there are groans from the rest of the party, I’m secretly thrilled though I have to hide my glee! 🙂
As fun it is to watch a train from the outside, it is equally interesting to watch it from the inside. I mean watching the people. Where else would you get such a golden opportunity to watch a microcosm of society, yourself unobserved? Some of the people are busy reading the newspaper or books, some are engrossed in prayers and rosaries, some keep yakking away to either their friends or on the phone… some even do their chores like opening the mail or doing their nails.
One thing interesting about New York trains – including the subways – is that you get to hear all kinds of languages. Sometimes when a conversation in a language I do not understand gets too loud for comfort, I have a trick to bring it under control. I pretend to be seriously listening and smiling or frowning at all the right moments. And the conversationalists begin to wonder… does this woman understand what we are talking? In no time, it is toned down and there is peace and quiet again.
Let me ask you a question. Imagine this scene… you get on a train, from a station in between, and you have a ways to go. All the window seats are taken. Some of the people have their bags and papers all spread around on the aisle seats and are sitting taking up most of the two seats. Others have kept their possessions neatly on their laps and the aisle seats are left free of any encroachments. Where would you opt to sit? Don’t you think that by that choice, you are rewarding bad behaviour? 😉
Whenever I go visiting a new place, I would find out if there are any interesting train rides around. Very often, there are. And I never let go a chance to ride on one of them. This is a train from St. Kitts, that went around the island and the old sugar cane farms, keeping the Caribbean always within sight on one side. It was wonderful!
One of the activities of the railfans is called ‘complete riding’, which is to try and ride the complete railway network of a city, state, or country. It would be an interesting activity to consider during the fall in NYC.
I cannot end this note without a shoutout to a fellow railfan… you all have seen him, laughed with him and at him. And said ‘Bazinga’ with him! Yes, I mean Sheldon Cooper from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ whose love for trains is as intense as mine!
And the only reason I do not have an elaborate train set running on the floor of my apartment is that I live in a matchbox!


01 Aug 2014

NYBG Train Show


I was so afraid I was going to miss the NYBG holiday train show this year. For starters, I was travelling for almost the whole of December. And, once I got back, the polar vortex also arrived, bringing ice and snow and sleet with it… Still, despite all odds, I made it in the nick of time… went and saw it on the last day of the show! 🙂

As my people already know, I am a great fan of trains. Small trains, big trains, unusual trains… all of them. Even the PATH trains. But at the NYBG show, I found the trains sort of meh… What really got me was the landscaping.

Combining historical and geographical interest, the show features 140 iconic New York buildings, many of them from dates past. The models are made to scale using all natural plant parts. It is almost like a miniature tour of the city!

This year’s show features 21 model trains and covers 6,000 square feet of area with 1,200 feet of track laid out. The trains in the show are G-gauge and represent American trains from the late 1800 steam engines to today’s high speed passenger trains.

A new introduction this year are trains made of plant parts, looking like they are straight out of some fairy tale. Hoping there will be many more of them next year!


Among the buildings recreated are the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim, City Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, the original Pennsylvania Station, Met Museum and many many more.

The train show debuted at the NYBG in 1992. The designer behind the wonderful miniature landscapes is Paul Busse, assisted by a team of 20+ artists and engineers of the Applied Imagination team. More examples of their fascinating work can be seen at www.appliedimagination.biz.


Plans for the buildings are made with the help of photographs and architectural drawings. Then a shell is made with foam board. Twigs, bark, moss, leaves, flowers, acorns, pine cones, seed pods… anything that comes from nature is used to mimic the architecture. The finished product is coated with a thin layer of resin to protect it from dust and moisture.


Each structure involves hundreds of hours of painstaking work, with every intricate detail recreated through the imaginative use of materials. The minute details, executed so meticulously, truly gives meaning to that oft repeated word ‘awesome’!


I was left with the definite impression that the original structure would have been way better if it was constructed with natural plant parts! 🙂

Notice the pistachio shells and corn husk?

Notice the pistachio shells and corn husk?

The holiday train show is held at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory of the New York Botanical Garden.



From the ‘Am I seeing things?’ department

Was Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s home in Tarrytown, featured twice in the show? I believe so (in fact, I have documentary evidence!) but realised that only when I was looking through the pictures taken! 🙂




15 Jan 2014