Historic Displays

 The Vignettes—Phase One

The Railway Garden is an exciting balance of gardens, historical vignettes and activities.  A variety of highly-detailed and accurate vignettes will tell captivating stories of historical scenes and events.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train stopped at Michigan City, Indiana

The Indiana Limestone Quarry vignette

An early dockside Santa Fe 2-4-4 #53 engine stopping at a prairie town.

The east end of the Urban vignette with the stockyard and burned remnants of the city in the background.


 The hand-built replica of a furniture factory (right) was created by Dennis Rayon of the Ozark Garden Railway Society.

Rayon-designed Furniture Factory

Building the Railroad

The Transcontinental Railroad is the most magnificent railroad project ever conceived. It connects the two great oceans and is an indissoluble bond between the populous States of the East and the undeveloped regions of the West. It is a highway which leads to peace and future prosperity. Crews of Chinese workers are carving out the mountains to build a rail track from the nation’s west coast. Across the vignette, visitors will see the 3-story dormitory boxcars occupied by Irish workers building the railroad from the east and explore the mobile frontier “towns” (Hell on Wheels) that provided distraction. Photographs and artifacts will depict the meeting of the two tracks in Utah in 1869.

The Civil War

For the first time in history, railroads played a role in a war’s outcome, carrying troops and materials and offering another weapon in combat. The setting for this vignette is Indiana and eastern states during the 1860s. Crews of Union men dismantle bridges and tracks as a train full of troops and supplies speeds toward it. A chase is underway in the distance as Confederate pursuers try to catch up with The General, a hijacked locomotive. In the woods, a smuggler carries medical supplies across the lines to a southern campground where life is bustling. A few soldiers raid a fruit tree and steal a pig, while in a tent Union and Confederate generals negotiate.

Lincoln’s Funeral

As visitors move down the path past a small valley they are captured by the unusual sight of a horse-drawn funeral cortege passing slowly through a small rural settlement in Indiana, mourners standing thick along the way, while children run alongside it. A woman faints from the heat. Lincoln’s funeral train, loaded with Union soldiers and dignitaries and with a portrait of Lincoln on its front, stands chugging in the station waiting for the coffin to be loaded back up to continue its journey.

Rapid Growth and Vanishing Americans: A Prairie Town

The landscape opens up to the sweep of the Great Plains. In the foreground, a prairie town is going up quickly with false fronts and muddy streets, and a train carrying pre-built wooden buildings passes slowly by. Heaped along the track are piles and piles of buffalo skins and bones. Homesteaders stand in line at a small Land Claims office, while wagons heaped with household goods travel into the tall grass with a single cow and a dog. In one area, homesteaders have already plowed, replacing the prairie with square fields of wheat; horse-drawn plows are still at work and a few livestock graze. Farther away, a bustle of workers with hats, a boss in a suit, and horse-drawn wagons heaped with soil marks another new railroad line being graded. And in the background, a small group of Indians are seen moving away, their belongings loaded on horses or being dragged by horse or dog-drawn travois; children and adults ride or walk. A very sparse group of buffalo graze, but the main thing remaining are overgrown buffalo trails and abandoned wallows—large, deep, round hollows now overgrown with violets. In prairie wetlands and potholes, flocks of birds still gather.

Life Transformed: Small Town

Hissing steam and the sounds of brakes, wheels and whistles mark a small town clustered along train tracks and a depot. Coal and water towers service trains coming through, including water for the livestock on board. Ice is loaded into cooler cars and a lumber mill whines in the distance. A small paddock holds cows, sheep and other livestock while farmers wait in line with wagons to sell their autumn harvest at the grain elevator. The Depot building with a huge clock is busy with railroad employees, town dignitaries, and families with their luggage; the streets contain small shops, schools, churches and homes. Kids and dogs run beside the train rolling hoops or wave at the engineer.

Urban Center: Chicago After the Great Fire of 1871

The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about four square miles in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago’s development into one of the most populous and economically important American cities. (above copied from Wikipedia) Railroads created urban hubs for the vast social and industrial network of a growing economy.

Lumber Camp

Steam locomotives push their way into a snowy, forested landscape, clearing trees as they go. As one area is cleared, tracks are laid into the forest to transport the small lumbering locomotives that help move equipment and carry out the cleared logs. Miles of cleared land stretches into the distance. A boat sits at a lake shore where stacks of lumber await shipping; men chop or saw trees, or stand around with equipment, breaths showing in the cold. Back in the woods, the heads of Paul Bunyan and Babe emerge above the forest.

Coal Mine

A coal pit building has a ramp where narrow gauge coal trains emerge from mine tunnels filled with coal, and beneath the building, dump the coal into waiting train cars. Near the pit building are workers houses and a general store. A coal company building owned by a railroad provides most of the equipment and it gets repaired in adjacent shops nearby. A burned out train in the distance might date to before the advent of the cleaner, safer anthracite coal.

Indiana Limestone Quarry

Extraction of limestone has left a deep pit in the ground. Men and equipment swarm, cutting more limestone and using cranes to load it onto rail cars ramped down to the bottom of the pit. Huge limestone pillars occupy entire flatbeds, while a man stands next to a stone marked as the largest piece ever extracted.