All aboard

The New York Botanical Garden’s 28th annual holiday spectacular salutes Central Park.

There’s a “derailment” in the Bronx, but not to worry. An “engineer” is on hand — dressed in overalls, bandana and cap — to set things right when tiny hands get excited and reach out for Thomas the Tank and company.

He and trains representing Santa Claus, bumblebees, Monarch butterflies, ladybugs and even such real-life former railroads as New York Central and Conrail are among the stars of The New York Botanical Garden’s “Holiday Train Show,” on view through Jan. 26.

The show, now in its 28th year, spotlights more than 175 Big Apple landmarks, each entirely made out of plant material, in the garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, along with iconic (botanical) bridges through which snake more than 25 G-scale model trains.

“We feature every borough and the Hudson Valley in our jewel-box exhibit,” says Karen Daubmann, the garden’s associate vice president for exhibitions and public engagement. “It’s a magical experience.”

Part of what makes it so is the idea that all of New York is laid out at your feet, amid birches, rhododendrons, hollies and many types of evergreens. Where else can you get from the Chrysler Building to Yankee Stadium (without taking the 4 train) and in less than a New York minute? 

Equally enchanting is the evocation of each landmark, including some classic ferries in the garden’s water elements. Everything from acorns to magnolias is used to suggest not only the particular structure but its specific architectural details.

“They look realistic,” Daubmann says of the landmarks, “without being actual replicas.”

She credits the garden’s partner in the train show, Applied Imagination, a design company in Alexandria, Kentucky, owned by the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Margaret Busse, who first collaborated with the garden on the show in 1992. Bark and berries, along with other botanical materials, are sourced from the Busses’ wooded property as well as the garden. 

For the past 10 years, NYBG and Applied Imagination have created themed train shows on such subjects as midtown and Lower Manhattan. This year, visitors can “romp” through Manhattan’s Central Park, marveling over Bow and Oak bridges, Naumburg Bandshell, The Dairy, Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Fountain with its lovely Angel of the Waters.

One of Daubmann’s favorites comes from another borough, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. (The winglike building itself was designed by architect Eero Saarinen.)

So maybe not planes, trains and automobiles, she says, but definitely planes, trains and ferries — something for “fans of different modes of transportation.”

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