Bay Area Garden Railway Society

Roving Garden Railway Blog

  • 01/25/2013 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Using an idea pictured in an O-gauge magazine, George Downs, a member of the San
    Leandro Historical Railway Society, recently fabricated two special hinges for the upper loop's front bridge. Now when the bridge is lowered the tracks will align without having to use a hex-driver wrench because the hinge point is higher than the rails. Rails snap into "bridge joiners". 
  • 12/23/2012 7:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The photo (lower right area) shows where the left-side gate needs a bit more scenery, maybe mine portals. The suspension bridge has lights you could install on the other side. Little signs are made and need posts. Figures need nails in their legs to hold them up.

    During the month of January, we will meet at the home of Nancy Norris and Ron Gies to fine tune some areas of the traveling trailer. We will meet every Wednesday, January 9, 16, 23, 30 and, if necessary, on February 6, starting at 10AM. Our goal would be to make repairs and improvements plus modifications to make the trailer easier and faster to set up and take down. There’s a new tarp to be installed on the front gate. Some scenery needs touch ups. The skirts need paint. One of the buildings needs its roof repaired – you know -- normal garden railway maintenance. Please consider helping one day or more. Moe’s building an electrical panel and it would be great for somebody to install a few animated scenes with kits we already have on hand. If you’d like to be on the email list, call Nancy at 925-408-9402 or email to get the address. And yes, there is a free lunch. Let's get it ready for the annual meeting and two big conventions this spring.
  • 06/04/2012 4:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The ROVING GARDEN RAILWAY had a wonderful experience at KidFest in Concord this past weekend. Organizers estimated 20,000 tickets were collected. People drove from over 2 hours away to attend an event just for kids. Many local organizations set up bean-toss and similar booths to entertain kids and inform the public about their non-profit cause. The stage had non-stop children groups performing dance, music and martial arts. When I walked around the booths I almost choked up a bit to see all the wholesome activities set up for children to experience and especially to participate in.
    It was not uncommon to have thirty people at a time watching the trains and chatting with our volunteers around the railroad. Thanks to Seth Abraham we had stanchions around the layout so we could relax a bit. Like clockwork, our three trains ran constantly,except while batteries were being replaced, which was an attraction in itself. We estimate handing out 200 BAGRS postcards after chatting with the prospects about our club. Many thought it was a good deal to become members in order to bring their families on the monthly tours. On Friday, my husband Ron and I set up the trailer. All day Saturday we had new member, Gerry Fogle, and "old" members, Terry Hurley, Ron Gies and I along with my sister Barbara. On Sunday, Joe Barker, Terry, and I along with new member, Jack Reichert held down the fort. We didn't have enough volunteers to show on Monday. Maybe next year.
    (Upper left photo) Ron Gies' gift of a Ragtime bellows whistle on top of our sign attracted fair goers and our poster had helpful info.
    (Upper right photo) Stanchions helped keep the kids back but we had our share of leaners!

  • 02/13/2012 5:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Wouldn't it be delightful if everyone sent a drawing with their thank you notes? Well, that's what we received from the third graders in Linda Herbert's class in Montara. These beautifully illustrated expressions of gratitude show us just what part of the Roving Garden Railroad each child focused on - at least for their picture.

    It was hard to narrow down the pile to just five letters to share here. I'll start with my favorite - Lillian's simply stated, "I liked the tunnel" made me feel our efforts in that department have been appreciated. Ava and Turner especially liked  the "wod r fol", but also colored in many other elements of the layout. I think Ava really captured the mountains, as well as her fellow students smiling beside the railroad. Or do they represent the four boxcar children?
     Many kids made reference to the book, The Boxcar Children, which they read prior to our displaying the Roving Garden Railroad with its miniature scenes from their book. Turner drew a picture of the youngest boxcar sibling, Benny, sitting by the waterfall (wod r fol) that helped the children survive in their boxcar home.

    Cammie seems to understand the scale nature of the railway, as she drew herself much bigger than the trees - with a big smile, too.  Most of the kids represented the tracks in their pictures. After all, railroads and their importance in moving freight and passengers across our country were the focus of their classroom for Continents Day, the big event that BAGRS helped to celebrate. Daniel's primary concern was a detailed black and red locomotive driven by a happy engineer. He liked the book, too - and thanked us. Well done, BAGRS! Kids, we appreciate your lovely thank yous!
  • 11/21/2011 11:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On November 19, four BAGRS members ran trains on the Roving Garden Railway for Montara's Farralone View Elementary School, less than a mile from the ocean. BAGRS member, Linda Herbert, organized our participation in the event through her school, as she is one of the teachers in this beautiful seaside community.  Every year Farralone View hosts "Continent Day", a semi-public event in which parents are invited to participate. All morning the children take their home-made "passports" from room to room and get them stamped while they visit each display and take part in hands-on activities teaching about  the continent of the year: this year was North America. To celebrate the railroads' history of connecting North Americans, Linda Herbert's classroom was decorated with memorabilia about trains and  kids could operate trains on the floor.  Just outside her room a chalked-in track led to BAGRS' display in the school's courtyard. In the above photo, Linda Herbert and Frank Lucas watch children watch trains.
        In preparation for the Roving Garden Railway, grades 1, 2 and 3 read the book, The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a story about orphaned siblings living on their own in an abandoned boxcar. It's also told in 3-D on the train layout. Numbered signs and a scavenger-hunt styled handout gave kids the fun of finding the story among the buildings, rolling stock and live scenery. One girl, left, points at Watch, the runaway dog, which she spies in the doctor's garden where cherry trees grow. Most kids just wanted to watch the trains go around or run alongside.
       When it came time to set up or take down the trailer, parents and custodians helped make the job easier. Recent alterations by Joe Barker and Bill Mead made at a work party were immensely helpful, too. Every little bit helps. Thanks for all your help, BAGRS members. Not shown, but helping with answering questions from children were Edward van Pelt and Terry Hurley. Nancy Norris is about to back up her truck to the buttoned-up trailer, shown ready for hook up.

  • 10/30/2011 8:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Imagine you’re back in third grade and you’re reading The Boxcar Children with everyone else, even the lower and upper grades.  Questions arise about the four homeless kids no one knows in the depression-era, one-horse town. Town folk assume they took the train into town. In the first chapter we find they’re hiding out because they want to stay together. Soon they find an abandoned boxcar and begin an adventure of resourcefulness and fun amid the day-to-day needs of staying warm, fed and healthy.

    Then you find out that the story of The Boxcar Children is modeled on a Roving Garden Railroad and it’s coming to school after everyone has read the book!  There will be a newspaper, just like in the old days, to help you find the story on the model railroad. Best of all, real model trains run around the countryside of real little trees and a real waterfall. BAGRS member and Montara teacher, Linda Herbert, has arranged it all.

    Now imagine you’re able to help set up the Roving Garden Railroad and watch the expressions on the kids faces as they figure out the scavenger hunt and try to see where the mine train goes after it’s inside the tunnel. Don’t you want to know how the story ends? Dads and moms will want to know what BAGRS is.

    Yes, you are needed to help finish some scenes with figures and signs. And you are needed to help put together a two-page newspaper.  The school is in Montara, CA, just south of Pacifica and 2 miles north of Half Moon Bay airport. The date is early Friday, November 18, 2011. You’re all welcome to help with a pre set-up work party at my house. Call or email for date and time. We will accommodate if you need a weekend party. 

    Nancy Norris


  • 07/21/2011 11:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of the cool aspects of meeting new garden railroaders is learning a few new tricks. The Roving Garden Railroad has attracted its share of innovative ideas, many of which have been implemented and displayed at our recent West Coast Regional Meet. One such innovation came from Tony Cullen whom I met at the San Leandro Historical Railway’s open house last year. Tony wanted to see the trailer and had his nephew drive him and his wheelchair down from Sacramento to one of our work parties. He was anxious to show us his invention, something I’d never seen before. The train was average, but all eyes fell on a little old railtruck hauling crates of squawking chickens, which scooted along on the tracks just in front of the loco, seeming propelled by magic. I wanted one. My version is a bargain Bachmann handcar, whose motor gears had been broken: on the rear bumper Eric Moe mounted a powerful magnet in reverse polarity to another one on the front of the loco. See photo. Now on the same loop two engines “share” the track, but only one needs to be powered. It’s fun to see the handcar drivers bobbing up and down trying desperately to outrun the engine, which always keeps a safe distance.

    I can relate to those handcar drivers. Keeping the Roving Garden Railroad going has been a part time job for me. The second photo shows the work of many BAGRS members who have been great to work with, but now we need to show the trailer. It’s a huge responsibility and I need help, especially with some late summer/fall venues. Without more investment from BAGRS members, I’m sad to say, we’ll have to chalk it up to an interesting lesson in what our members don’t want to do with their time and find a buyer for it. The idea was to get the “word” out to the general community about our hobby. Maybe the time isn’t ripe for this venture, a good idea, which needs a more invested crew, more like a full-scale railroad with all the people necessary to make it function safely and still have fun. I’ve had many people give me ideas about what I should do. Do you have any ideas on what you can do?

  • 06/27/2011 11:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Getting ready for the National Model Railroad Association Convention, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have helped with the BAGRS’ Roving Garden Railroad. So many BAGRS members have come long distances to pitch in, and the fruits of your labor are growing in the mobile garden that we usually call “the trailer”.  The regulars, such as Terry Hurley and Edward Van Pelt, keep plugging away when no one else shows up, so their commitment along with the necessary random helpers has produced an incredibly unique project that BAGRS can be proud of.

    Even though the geodesic scenery wasn’t finished and painted at the annual meeting, this outreach project attracted a new helper, Seth Abrahams, who was more fascinated with the way the trailer sides close up then in the garden aspect. He has welded detailed bridges and structural gizmos, so that setting-up/closing-down time is shortened and safer. Wait 'til you see his ingenious stanchions, which we discovered (see photo) are much needed around children. My sister saw that it could use mock-mountainside skirts to hide the trailer hitch, so she’s sewing them as I write. “Build it and they will come” seems to be working for us. But, we need you, too, even if one time, because it may be your addition that attracts the next hobbyist.

    July 5 and 6 Terry and I will take the outreach trailer to Sacramento to participate in the NMRA Convention to attract new members into our club and into the hobby. Frank Lucas is our only relief, so far. You can help (and go the show). We also need a new/used market-type canopy -- have you got one you’re not using? Please call me, Nancy, at 925-408-9402 or email to climb aboard.

  • 05/29/2011 9:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Visitors to KidFest Memorial Day weekend in Concord check out the Roving Garden Railroad. Thousands of people, many of them very young train enthusiasts, walked around the layout asking questions and trying to make the train move with fingers. We definitely need stanchions or cones with ropes. The trains ran well and the plants looked happy, too. We got a nice little write-up and photo posted on an online Concord news blog at

    Our next event is July 5 and 6 at the NMRA Convention where we'll be running trains outdoors in front of the Convention Center. How's that for a California intro to model railroads? We'd love to have you bring a battery operated train or live steam train to run on the Roving Garden Railway. We need manpower/tabling, too, to schmooze with show goers.

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