A Model Christmas.

The exhibition begins almost seven hundred miles away, in a small town in Kentucky. In the skilled hands of the artisans of Applied Imagination, raw materials of the woods – tree limbs, pine cones, nuts, leaves, twigs, branches – are transformed into landmarks of the city of New York. Under the watchful eye of Paul Busse, his workers recreate the five boroughs in exquisite detail. Once complete, these buildings are driven to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, to be assembled within the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Each year, the Holiday Train Show takes place from mid-November to late-January, displaying over 175 miniature New York landmarks amidst the gardens, with over a dozen model trains criss-crossing over a half mile of track. Children of all ages walk in wonder through the exhibits, ringing in the holiday season.

On the Sunday between Christmas and New Years, my wife and I headed to the New York Botanical Gardens to get in touch with our inner child and take in this fascinating exhibit. Despite cold temperatures and snow showers, we set off in my Accord to celebrate the holidays and share in one of our Christmas gifts to each other.

Map of New Jersey and New York, with a red pin in the location of the New York Botanical Garden
A little more than an hour from home, the New York Botanical Garden is in the Bronx, across the street from the Bronx Zoo.
View of New Jersey Turnpike through the front windshield of a car.
Our drive began under cloudy skies and intermittent snow flurries. Apparently, we brought some of the Midwest winter back with us to New Jersey.
View of the entrance to the New York Botanical Gardens.
After a relatively traffic-free drive to New York, we arrived at the New York Botanical Gardens. The specks on my windshield are flakes of snow.
2012 Honda Accord parked in a row with other vehicles, including a black Acura MDX directly next to the car.
One benefit of arriving early – we were able to find a spot in the small main lot near the entrance. When we left, traffic was being routed to the larger off-site parking garage owned by the Botanical Garden.
Exterior of Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
Completed in 1902, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is the centerpiece of the Botanical Garden. It also houses the train show every year.
Christmas tree decorated with artificial snow and red, silver, and white ornaments.
A little holiday cheer as we entered the conservatory.
Model of Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
As we entered the train show, the first landmark was a model of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Every single piece of this… and every other… building is made from plant matter.
Grand Central Terminal model, with train tracks in the foreground.
Grand Central Terminal.
Model of original Pennsylvania Station.
Of everything I saw, this model was one of the most impressive – the original Pennsylvania Station, which existed in Manhattan from 1910 – 1964.
Model of New York Public Library.
Check out the level of detail in this model of the New York Public Library – it even has the lions by the front steps!
Model of Yankee Stadium.
The House That Ruth Built… Yankee Stadium.
Model of Terminal Warehouse. Lettering says TERMINAL WAREHOUSE FREE OLD BONDED STORAGE
Built in 1891, the Terminal Warehouse still stands on the west side of Manhattan. Today it is home to a self-storage company and offices, including the corporate offices of Uber.
Front facade of Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Look at the detailing of the exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Everything in the models comes from plants found in the woods of Kentucky.
Truss and span of George Washington Bridge.
Several New York City bridges are recreated in the Garden.
Panorama of George Washington Bridge.
…including the George Washington Bridge. The bend you see is distortion from the camera’s panorama function, not the bridge itself. That said, none of the models are done to scale. They are instead artistic representations of the landmarks.
Model of St. Paul's Cathedral, surrounded by orchids.
Amid the orchids we found St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Close-up of entrance to St. Paul's Cathedral.
The level of detail of St. Patrick’s was fascinating…
Close-up or blue and white orchids.
…as were the orchids themselves.
Model of Rockefeller Center.
There was even Rockefeller Center, complete with fountain and Christmas tree!
Panorama of several noted buildings in New York.
There was also a residential section of New York, recreating historic buildings and famous homes.
Close-up of cactus.
We broke off from the train displays to explore some other parts of the conservatory. Any guesses what this is? Don’t scroll down until you make a guess!
Round cactus on ground.
It’s a cactus! We made our way through the desert exhibit of the Botanical Garden.
Long cactus tendrils on ground.
I was wandering in a different part of the room when I heard my wife channel her inner Indiana Jones and say, “Snakes? I hate snakes!” When I looked over, I got what she meant- this cactus definitely looks like a nest of snakes.
Collection of famous buildings from lower Manhattan including the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.
We made our way back to the train show and saw this collection of famous buildings from Manhattan, including the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
Panorama of New York Harbor scene, including Ellis Island and the State of Liberty.
Our final stop was New York Harbor, which included the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Ferry Terminal, and One World Trade Center (background).
Close-up of head of Statue of Liberty.
The detail work was simply brilliant. I can’t imagine how many hours this took.
A ferry, heading toward the terminal (background).
Just like the ferry we took on my birthday trip to visit the USS Intrepid, this ferry is heading toward the terminal in lower Manhattan.
Model of South Street Seaport.
One last look before departing the show.

Perhaps this small video will also help to give you a feel of what the train show was like:

Interior of Hudson Garden Grill. A row of tables is in the foreground.
We stopped for lunch at the Hudson Garden Grill, part of the Botanical Garden. My wife ordered shrimp and grits, and I had a flatiron steak. Both were excellent! If you plan to eat here during the train show, definitely make a reservation. We booked our table the day before we came, and many times were already filled.
Exterior of LuEsther T. Mertz Library, with a fountain in the foreground.
After lunch, we walked to the Garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library, which houses approximately a half million books on plants and gardens.
Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life. A bronze book is on the side of the fountain.
The Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life, dedicated in 1905. The book is made of bronze and has the name of the fountain inscribed on it (one of the more creative signs I’ve ever seen). The sculpture is of a sea nymph and her attendants trying to control wild sea horses.
2012 Honda Accord in front of New York Botanical Garden sign.
Of course, the obligatory car-in-front-of-the-entrance photo!
View of George Washington Bridge with cloudy sky.
As we drove along the Hudson Parkway, my wife grabbed this shot of the George Washington Bridge under a moody sky…
George Washington Bridge, taken from behind car windshield.
…and this photo of the real George Washington Bridge, not made from twigs, bark, leaves, or vines.
Car odometer reading 121375 TRIP A 134.4
Back home! Now well over 120,000 miles, the Accord keeps running well. I do have some maintenance planned this week – the car is in need of some routine servicing to keep it rolling happily down the road.

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is quite impressive. The Garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Tickets give you admission to the grounds and the train show, and cost $30 for adults, $28 for seniors and students, and $18 for children ages 2-12 (prices are slightly reduced during weekdays). One word of caution: we arrived before 10:00 am, were able to park close to the front gate, and entered the train show with no waiting. By the time we left at 1:00 pm, the parking lot close to the gate was full and people waiting to enter the train show were queued in rope lines that snaked through the entrance hall of the conservatory – a fair guess would be approximately two hundred people were waiting to get into the event. If you plan to attend this terrific event, make sure you go early! But do go – it’s a holiday treasure of New York!

Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead. And best wishes again for a happy and safe New Year!

‘Til next time.



3 thoughts on “A Model Christmas.

  1. What a great, festive place to spend Christmas. I especially enjoyed that short video showing some of the trains in action. My favorite model building is the Pennsylvania Station one. Thanks for sharing the post, and Happy New Year to you and the Mrs!

    Liked by 1 person

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