Greencastle man has been working on railroad -- in his garden

July 11, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

GREENCASTLE, PA. -- Wayne Warren planted the seed to his retirement hobby while stationed in Germany more than a half-century ago.

Fifty-four years later, it's grown into a garden.

Warren, 74, is finally putting the finishing touches on his garden railroad, which he began two years ago after a lifelong admiration of trains.

"I was born and raised in Greencastle, and at Christmas we always had a Lionel train set going around the tree," Warren said. "And living here, it was fascinating to see trains up and down the high line."

Now, Warren just has to walk out the back door of his Greencastle home.

The G-scale garden railroad sits almost 4 feet above the ground and stretches 32 feet across his back lawn. Warren said he needed 33 cubic yards of fill dirt to have its curvy physique raised above the ground.


"A lot of people put theirs on the ground, but I'm old," Warren joked. "I wanted to raise it a little bit."

Warren installed inner and outer railroads for his diesel train and steam engine. Architecture and landscapes surround the tracks and above them sits a track for a third railborne vehicle - a trolley.

The trains travel through the made-up village of Windy Hill, which Warren adopted because of the occasional breeze that comes across his lawn.

A road made of concrete board also winds through the village, flanked by streetlights made of brass tubing and plastic. The lights are even equipped with tiny wheat bulbs that help brighten the fictitious village when the sun sets.

"I'm retired," Warren said. "I had all kinds of time and energy to get it all to what it is now."

Among the Warren-made architecture in the layout are trestles, portals, retaining walls and bridges. He even personally built a schoolhouse, a general store, a barn, a church, a coal tipple, a gristmill, a sawmill, a lumber storage house, an office, a fire station, an inn and an outhouse.

Miniature plants resembling trees surround the structures to make it appear as a scaled-down town.

"This is his," said Wayne's wife, Norma Jean, 73. "I buy him things, but it's his."

Norma Jean is the one who bought Wayne a book on how to start building a garden railroad.

And so it began.

"We dug a trench, filled it with 8 inches of stone dust, then built a wall around it," Wayne Warren said. "We put in fill dirt, laid the track down and then started building."

Wayne had been working with H0-scale models since the first one he bought - a German Mrklin - while stationed in Kaiserslautern in the 1950s. Upon his discharge in 1956, Wayne continued to work with H0-scale trains of the American variety.

Until ...

"About 15 years ago, we went to Long Beach, Calif. That's when we saw a garden railroad," Warren said. "I wanted to start working with G scale."

H0-scale trains represent a 1:87.1 scale ratio, while G-scale trains are 1:20.3.

A larger scale required more room, forcing Wayne to move the operation outdoors. Most components are weatherproof - the wood is Western Red Cedar - and the trains are removed after each use.

The layout, which also features a pond, fountain and waterfall, operates on two transformers just inside the house. A 10-channel remote controls the multiple railroads, while additional buttons control speed and direction.

Wayne Warren said he plans to add more sound cards to the layout and perhaps a few more structures. He might even extend the size of the layout after recently removing two locust trees that dropped branches onto the village.

"It was one or the other," Wayne said.

As if the garden railroad weren't enough, Wayne has ideas of installing a railroad that hangs from the ceiling and travels room to room.

"One of these winters," he said.

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