For Mark Kostesky, guest engagement lead at Longwood Gardens, and millions of other Americans, Christmas and trains go hand in hand.
“When you put the two together,” he said, “it creates joy and happiness — and great memories.”
This holiday season marks the 22nd anniversary of Longwood’s whimsical, wonderful Garden Railway. A dreamy mix of gardening, engineering, and light-hearted fun that holds a special place in many people’s hearts, the Garden Railway is a seasonal exhibit of nearly 500 feet of track that showcases locomotives, steam engines, diesel engines, and specialty engines .
“The whole scene is a thing of beauty, and the mix of plants, trees and trains together is always a sight to behold,” said Charlie Palmer, Longwood’s senior public safety officer.
The Garden Railway Terrace is located outside the restaurant, and required a multi-departmental team consisting of engineers, electricians, carpenters and horticulturists to set up in September.
“The Garden Railway has been an annual attraction since 2000,” Kostesky said. “We used to partner with outside organizations, but the performance became such an important part of our Christmas performance that we took the transformative step of keeping it in-house and producing our own track and performance.”
Interest in garden railways runs the gamut from train enthusiasts who want to discuss the mechanical and electrical components of the attraction to children enthralled by Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends plunging down the tracks .
Kostesky said, “We even had a teenager—I think he was 14—who wanted to see how long he could chase a train around the tracks.” “I think he did for 67 laps.”
What Kostesky and the rest of the Longwood staff love most is how the exhibit is a place of connection for so many people.
“The Garden Railway brings back memories for our older guests and creates new ones for younger guests,” said Kostecki. “We know kids who come back again and again over the years. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing their enthusiasm.”
It seems the only disappointment to the public is that the railway is put on display seasonally, and not all year round.
“That’s what makes it so special,” Kostecki said.
Learn more about the Garden Railway at Longwood Gardens.