Eye on KELOLAND: Garden railway right on track


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A lot of small communities in KELOLAND got their start as railroad towns, settlements that originated because of a railway station or junction at its site.

All aboard! The train is leaving… But it’s not going to go too far.

“Hi I’m Merwin Foster and this is my garden railway,” Foster said.

Merwin Foster has spent the past decade building an electronic railroad system in his backyard.

“Like a lot of people I had electric trains,” Foster said.

“The thing I enjoy the most about this hobby is the fact I can build structures during the winter months,” Foster said. “And I found an architect who has drawings of all these buildings so I bought all the drawings I could get.”

As you can see his railroad and his structures are more like a tiny town. The buildings are named after his kids and his cats.

“I wanted to do something a little more personal, so the buildings have all been constructed by myself,” Foster said.

He’s also added a lot of moving parts to this tiny railroad town, like this gondola, these waterfalls, and people doing every day activities.

“All that contributes to making it really realistic,” Foster said.

Plus, he added in these tiny trees that have been carefully cut and trimmed.

They’re all real trees, there are no fake trees and they only grow about the height they are right now, some are seven years old, they survive this climate,” Foster said.

But he admits, he doesn’t do it alone.

Foster is a retired industrial arts teacher from Northwest Iowa. He says that gave him the motivation and the know-how to build the tracks and the tressels, which were not easy.

“The flagstone on the ground is uneven, so every tressel had to be custom made so you had the right grade and it’s a smooth ride all the way down,” Foster said.

As for a name for his town? He calls it Mini-Sioux Falls.

Foster now has four trains that ride the rails on 900 feet of track around and around on his garden railway and they are all controlled by remote.

“You hear the chugging, the steam engines, the whistles, you hear the bells, that’s the fun of having it is using those things when you are showing it,” Foster said.

Foster says once he got started, he’s never looked back and that’s how he knew he was on the right track.

During the winter months, Foster brings the trains and buildings inside.

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