Sunnyvale Garden Railway

My family and I created a garden railroad in the backyard when we lived at 965 Marion Way, Sunnyvale California. We started in 1994 and as members of the Bay Area Garden Railroads (BAGRs ) were on the garden railroad tours at two National Garden Railroad Conventions in 1998 and 2006. My son Sean (12 years old at the time) did a website in July, 2006. A lot of the text and pictures that follow came from his efforts. The layout was built around a railroad serving farms, sawmills, deep shaft mines and an amusement park. The Butte Carrie and Walkerville RR (Also known as the “Be Carried Away RR”) depicted mining operations around Butte Montana in the 1910s. About 350 feet of powered track weaved through early mining towns – Butte and Walkerville – and also brought logs for mine bracing from Carrie Canyon.

Upper Falls, showing the many colors found in the canyon walls
Upper Falls, showing the many colors found in the canyon walls

A waterfall and large lake (constructed to look like picture left) provide some rugged terrain in Carrie canyon requiring three tunnels and grades from 4 to 8 percent to get the logs back up to the mining district.  A Shay and Forney with radio controlled battery power work the logs on the branch line. Several deep shaft copper mines dot the Butte Hill that produce ore destined for the Montana Ore Processing (MOP) smelter over on Timber Butte Hill. That name is ironic because all the timber has been logged off (or was a victim of the smelter fumes) and only stumps remain.  An early homestead with log cabin lies just out of sight (and smell) of the smelter. Grain threshing and cattle operation are featured as was done on my grandfather’s homestead (Homer Davis, see Montana regions).

The BC&W RR headed up Dublin Gulch on Butte Hill, passed the Mountain Con, Minnie Healy and Neversweat mines interspersed with shops and Victorian homes, and then on to Columbia Gardens. This amusement park was built for the entertainment of the hard rock miners by W. A. Clark, one of the Copper Kings. Its green gardens, roller coaster and other festive activities were in sharp contrast to the bleak life above and under the richest hill on earth. A trolley went from the Butte RR station to Columbia Gardens. The BC&W RR looped across the continental divide returning down a 3.5% grade through a tunnel under Pipestone Pass.

The harsh gardening conditions caused by the mining operations and the slowness of construction on the BC&WRR were enough for the BC&W gardener to create a English garden in the front yard. Many different plantings during the year create lots of color surrounding a loop of track for Thomas and James engines that featured its own covered bridge and tunnel. We tried to negotiate a connecting line to the backyard BC&WRR but she wouldn’t let us do anything about those 1:1 scale flowers!!