For Mark Kosteski, the Guest Engagement Lead at Longwood Gardens, and millions of other Americans, Christmas and trains go hand in hand.
“When you put the two together,” he said, “it creates joy and happiness — and great memories.”
This holiday season marks the 22nd anniversary of Longwood’s whimsical, wonderful Garden Railway. A fanciful blend of horticulture, engineering, and lighthearted fun that holds a special place in the hearts of many, the Garden Railway is a seasonal display of nearly 500 feet of track that showcases locomotives, steam engines, diesel engines, and specialty engines.
“The entire scene is a thing of beauty, and the combination of plants, trees, and trains blended together is always a sight to behold,” said Charlie Palmer, Longwood’s Senior Public Safety Officer.
The Garden Railway is located outdoors near the Terrace Restaurant, and it requires a multi-departmental team comprised of engineers, electricians, carpenters, and horticulturists to begin installing it in September.
“The Garden Railway has been an annual attraction since 2000,” said Kosteski. “We used to partner with outside organizations, but the display became such an important part of our Christmas display that we took the transformational step of keeping it in-house and building our own tracks and display.”
Interest in the Garden Railway runs the gamut, from train enthusiasts who want to discuss mechanical and electrical components with the attraction’s engineer on duty to the children mesmerized as Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends rumble down the tracks.
“We even had a teenager — I think he was 14 years old — who wanted to see how long he could follow the train around the tracks,” said Kosteski. “I think he did for 67 laps.”
What Kosteski and the rest of Longwood’s staff relish the most is how the display is a place of connection for so many.
“The Garden Railway brings back memories for our older guests and creates new ones for the younger guests,” said Kosteski. “We get to know the children who come back over and over through the years. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing their excitement.”
The only disappointment for the public, it seems, is that the Railway is displayed seasonally, and not all year long.
“That’s what makes it so special,” said Kosteski.
Learn more about the Garden Railway at Longwood Gardens.