New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
Nora Rose Mueller

New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show Is Back

Now celebrating its 25th year, the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show returns to impress visitors with precise, plant-based renderings of New York’s most iconic features– a cheerful respite during the colder, indoor months. Opening November 19th and running through January 16th, 2017, the NYBG Holiday Train show promises even more botanic splendor and thoughtful detail than previous years. While for a New Yorker the notion of seeing the same sights of one’s everyday commute may not seem appealing, there is an enchanting, almost bewitching effect about the Holiday Train Show. The transformation of so many inconceivably colossal structures into finely built, entirely organic miniatures is truly a formidable sight to behold. There is a strange shifting of power– between the towering presence of concrete, brick, and metal, and the ageless strength of wood, leaves, and shells–, one that produces in viewers a sense of awed respect.

The show opens with a short film reviewing the company behind the installation– Applied Imagination– and briefly explains the vision, hard work, and intent that has gone into designing the exhibit. Old-timey, big band music plays, harkening back to the glamorous New York of yesteryear, and NYBG staff stand at the doorway, unmistakable in conductor style apparel, complete with red bandanas, caps, and striped blue and white overalls. At the end of the film, the box car doors slide open in a grand reveal of the exhibit.

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The first room’s central feature is a recreation of NYBG’s own Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in poured resin, a familiar staple of the show but one newly rebuilt. Other well-known train stations like Grand Central (complete with an acorn Cornelius Vanderbilt, gazing out in formal approbation, just as the real life statue does) fill out the room, surrounded by dried lavender and petals like a pot pourri.

In the following rooms, the rest of the exhibit– which features over 150 structures in G-scale– is woven into the existing foliage of the conservatory to produce a thoroughly immersive experience, with fronds towering overhead, and the heady smell of earth.


Nora Rose Mueller

This season, the newly added stars of the exhibit are meticulous replicas of the Coney Island Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, and Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. While many of the other buildings may appear familiar to returning families, they’re worth a second look; though the structures remain essentially the same, new details have been added to produce more studied recreations of their real-life counterparts. There is a mix of box cars, historic trains, and fun trains (like lady bugs and Thomas the Tank Engine), and throughout the exhibit, visitors can hear the steady clicking and rumbling of the trains as they circle through their environments, tirelessly dedicated and almost always unfailingly prompt (unlike some other trains in NYC we won’t name– but let’s be real, we’re looking at you L train).

Like the city itself, it’s the eccentric details that matter in the exhibit– from the red radish seeds spelling out the letters of Radio City Music Hall to the chocolate pods of the ferris wheel in the Coney Island set. Everywhere you look there’s something to see and appreciate– and you’re sure to leave brimming with botanical inspiration even in the darkest winter months.


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