Every year, from mid-November to mid-January, a most extraordinary train yard is erected inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
Artist Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination in Kentucky have been responsible for creating buildings, bridges, gardens and a Coney Island boardwalk–all in model train G-scale–since the exhibit began in 1991. Every structure is a replica of an actual New York place (some old, some still with us), and the annual tradition is now over 150 landmarks strong.
The twist is that everything is made out of organic materials. Nuts, seeds, leaves, fungus and branches are all used to create the miniatures, down to the tiniest of cherubs above a doorway. They even use tree resin for window glass.
The 2016 show (Holiday Train Show number 25) includes almost half a mile of track zipping through the city scenes. If you ramped that up from G-scale, it would be over 11 miles of real life clickety-clack.
Know Before You Go
The Botanical Garden is just north of the Bronx Zoo, accessible on Metro North (they have their own stop) or by subway on the B, D & 4 trains to the Bedford Avenue stop. The Holiday Train Show runs through mid-January. Check the website for hours and admission fees (weekday prices are a few dollars less). Tickets give you access to the gardens as well as the trains. Keep in mind that there are crowds and lines, but it's worth it. Advance reservations are highly recommended.