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May 17, 2011 | Edit

ME & OLD HICKORY RR, WELL WE GO WAY BACK.

It seems like only a short time ago, we were working our butts off getting ready for the first run of the OLD HICKORY RAILROAD at Rockome Gardens.  It was only a simple loop, that first day of operation, but in spite of a late start, weather and a lot of learning experiences, we managed to put that loop in operation on Memorial Day weekend, 1993.  Has it really been that long since one of the largest garden railroads in the midwest at that time began operation.  Now here we are 18 years later getting ready to give new life to a really great garden railroad. 

For the most of the last seven or eight years the Old Hickory was neglected and abused by new owners of Rockome (apparently there were several different ones) more interested in money gathering than in preserving and renewing a great little theme park.  The allowed people to attempt to operate and repair the Old Hickory who didn’t know anything about model railroading in particular a garden railroad.  The railroad that was so beautiful and exciting in it’s prime in 1995, was rapidly deteriorating to the point of no return.

Enter Rockome’s new owner and super hero, Mr. Steve Maher.  The gardens were purchased by someone who saw it as something other than a cash machine.  Steve is dedicated to restoring Rockome Gardens to the level of excellence that was present when Elvin Yoder was still alive and running the operation.  Along with the gardens, the Old Hickory received a new beginning.

Having designed and built the railroad in 1993, 1994, & 1995 I agreed to help bring her back to past glory.  A little part of me will always be connected to the Old Hickory, as she was my first and largest garden railroad project.  The struggles were scary and the lessons learned many, and I am having just as much fun the second time around.  A few things have changed, one being the power used to operate the trains.  No longer will they be track powered with all the required track and wheel cleaning.  The will be powered by batteries with a remote control system.  Run the train for 5 hours and put it on the charger.  Can’t be easier than that.  Also sound has been added to the engines.  Sound pretty sweet.

Finally the method of operation will change from a park employee operation to a Garden Railroad Club operated display.  The free club will have complete controil over the operation, maintenance and expansion of the Old Hickory.    This will assure that train loving people will operate and care for this great railroad for years to come.   Will I be part of the club, I think not.  I will visit as often as I can and run a few trains around her, but this railroad will always be with me where ever I go.

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ME & OLD HICKORY RR, WELL WE GO WAY BACK.

It seems like only a short time ago, we were working our butts off getting ready for the first run of the OLD HICKORY RAILROAD at Rockome Gardens.  It was only a simple loop, that first day of operation, but in spite of a late start, weather and a lot of learning experiences, we managed to put that loop in operation on Memorial Day weekend, 1993.  Has it really been that long since one of the largest garden railroads in the midwest at that time began operation.  Now here we are 18 years later getting ready to give new life to a really great garden railroad. 

For the most of the last seven or eight years the Old Hickory was neglected and abused by new owners of Rockome (apparently there were several different ones) more interested in money gathering than in preserving and renewing a great little theme park.  The allowed people to attempt to operate and repair the Old Hickory who didn’t know anything about model railroading in particular a garden railroad.  The railroad that was so beautiful and exciting in it’s prime in 1995, was rapidly deteriorating to the point of no return.

Enter Rockome’s new owner and super hero, Mr. Steve Maher.  The gardens were purchased by someone who saw it as something other than a cash machine.  Steve is dedicated to restoring Rockome Gardens to the level of excellence that was present when Elvin Yoder was still alive and running the operation.  Along with the gardens, the Old Hickory received a new beginning.

Having designed and built the railroad in 1993, 1994, & 1995 I agreed to help bring her back to past glory.  A little part of me will always be connected to the Old Hickory, as she was my first and largest garden railroad project.  The struggles were scary and the lessons learned many, and I am having just as much fun the second time around.  A few things have changed, one being the power used to operate the trains.  No longer will they be track powered with all the required track and wheel cleaning.  The will be powered by batteries with a remote control system.  Run the train for 5 hours and put it on the charger.  Can’t be easier than that.  Also sound has been added to the engines.  Sound pretty sweet.

Finally the method of operation will change from a park employee operation to a Garden Railroad Club operated display.  The free club will have complete controil over the operation, maintenance and expansion of the Old Hickory.    This will assure that train loving people will operate and care for this great railroad for years to come.   Will I be part of the club, I think not.  I will visit as often as I can and run a few trains around her, but this railroad will always be with me where ever I go.

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OLD HICKORY AFTER PICTURES

More After shots

More After shots
Just some after shots of the Mountain with some of the restoration done.

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WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF BIG GARDEN TRAINS

BEWARE OF TRAIN EATING LIZARDS

Welcome aboard, we will discuss garden trains, new ideas, old ideas, deal with a few train eating lizards and other fun stuff in this blog.  I am a long time designer and builder of model railroads of all sizes and for the last 18 years have been mostly dedicated to large scale trains, especially outdoors.  I would love to hear any comments you have and ideas for subjects to be covered. 

First of all I would like to bring-up the fate of a garden railroad very dear to me.  The railroad is the “Old HIckory” located at Rockome Gardens near Arcola, Illinois.  I designed and built this railroad for Rockome beginning  in 1993 and finishing the project in 1995.  For a few years it was kept up and ran very well.  However as the park changed ownership a few time over the years the Old Hickory fell in to hard time.   People tried to operate the railroad’s three loops with out proper repair and maintainance  with less than serviceable equipment.  At the end of 2010 the park was purchased by its present owner.  This owner is dedicated to restoring Rockome Gardens to the beautiful and popular Amish theme park it was twenty years ago.  The Old Hickory is a major part of this restoration.  I have volunteered my time and what limited resources to the rebirth of this great garden railroad.  Once one of the largest in the Midwest and a real show piece for Rockome.  We have completed almost enough to begin operating one loop of the railroad on Friday, May 20th.  We are forming a free club that will operate the railroad and complete the restoration and future expansion.  We need volunteers despritatly.  If you live within the area of central Illinois and would like to help with the operation, and restoration of this great garden railroad please contact me by email, jim_ruef@yahoo.com or by phone 217-317-3009 for more information.  I have included some before and after pictures of the work going on.

Watch for more on garden trains on this blog.  Please send your comments, we look forward to hearing from you.

MOUNTAIN WITH WATERFALL BEFOREMORE AFTERAFTER