Garden Train 4

Larry Edmison works on the garden train setup in back of his house Wednesday, June 11, 2008. Transcript Photo by Kevin Ellis

Over bridges, by ponds and through a honeysuckle-covered tunnel go the trains.

It’s almost like Lilliputian train engineers have taken over the back yard water gardens of Larry Edmison and his wife Lu Willis. Call them more like train gardens.

“It started one year as a train under the Christmas tree,” Edmison said.

The couple, who both are attorneys, will host an open house at their northeast Norman home from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the Central Oklahoma Garden Railroad Society. Last year, their COGRS open house attracted about 100 visitors.

Trains will run for about 30 to 40 minutes, then will be switched out for other members’ trains to run. They will come from locales like Mustang, Oklahoma City and Guthrie.

“Most all of us have a garden railroad of some sort,” Edmison said, but noted they have members who do not have train gardens but have trains they run on other members’ tracks. “We’d like to recruit more members even if they don’t have trains.”

His trains are mostly 20th-century models from the late 1940s, but some of the other members have trains of other eras.

“Most of the other guys have turn of the century (trains),” including stagecoaches and old steam burners, Edmison said.

When Edmison and Willis moved into their home 12 years ago, their back yard was solid grass sloping toward the house. Willis, who does most of the gardening, immediately began developing the three water gardens.

A couple of years later came the trains, which evolved with the gardens.

The trains are sized at a 1:20 or 1:24 ratio, pulling up to the scale Red River train station, with two houses, stores and a mill with a water wheel.

“You can spend a couple of hundred dollars (on trains) or a couple of thousand dollars,” said Edmison, who cleans the tracks with a sheetrock sander and works to balance the ballast in the trains, “tuning them up.”

The main water garden, originally built to take care of water that collected on the patio, holds a couple of dozen goldfish with a yellow lily pad as a centerpiece.

A second water garden is tucked inside the brass or nickel train tracks, which travel over a gravel bed and miniature bridges and past calla lilies and pink evening primrose.

Their cats like it too.

A wooden tunnel covered with fragrant honeysuckle provides a dark, cool place for one of their four cats to snooze. But those cats go running when Edmison fires up the trains.

A third water garden above the others with parrot’s feather water plants provides a natural filter to take out some of the nutrients. A tiny stream trickles from that garden through the train garden to the lower water garden, with water pumped back to the filter garden. Cardinals and other birds visit several bird feeders in the back yard.

Willis, who is from Alabama, has planted lush native monarda, gaillardia, zinnias and trumpet vines as part of the surrounding flowers and greenery.

“Gardening in Oklahoma is a special situation. It’s different,” she said.

Edmison is hoping their open house will be a good destination for families and train enthusiasts in the area without a long drive challenged by high fuel prices.

The open house will be at 539 Elmcrest Dr., with signs directing visitors from Rock Creek Road east of Porter Avenue. Edmison said in the event of rain, the open house will be June 21.

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