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.