New York Botanical Garden ‘Holiday Train Show’ Lights up The Season

Applied Imagination, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory replica completed in 2014, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Holiday Train Show is always a spectacular reaffirmation of what is beautiful, shining and creative in the human spirit. This year seems more so against a backdrop of tumultuous, grimy political scandals and redundant “breaking news” moments that jar the nerves and chill one’s core. I heartily appreciate an escape from the unsettling thesis of chaos to the antithesis of children’s screams of laughter and twinkling, colorful Holiday lights of assurance. The felt innocence is more lovely than the low details of worldly goings on. And I am uplifted to remember that throughout the labored struggles of men and women who strive to retain power, there is something more worthy and spiritual in the human soul that the season reminds us to seek and direct our attention to.

Holiday Train Show, G-scale trains, NYBG, Applied Imagination

All trains (more than 25 varieties) are G-scale, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Passenger train speeding over Brooklyn Bridge, above the Coney Island exhibit, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, NYBG, Holiday Train Show

Locomotive with engineer in at the helm, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Thus, for me especially this year, and for the friends I visit with, The Holiday Train Show in the New York Botanical Garden is a sanctuary of refinement, a haven of peace. Amidst the lovingly arranged pageantry, the plantings strike poses between  the stunning miniature replicas of New York’s icons, historical landmarks and stupendous structures of the gilded age, made into museums or torn down because they were too expensive to maintain.

Paul Busse, Applied Imagination Senator William Clarke, Clarke's Folly, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Senator William Clarke mansion (Clarke’s Folly) the end of the Gilded Age, finished 1911, demolished 1927, created by Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Paul Busse, Applied Imagination, NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Senator William Clarke mansion, Clarke's Folly

Detail, Senator William Clarke’s mansion, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination and Paul Busse (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, NYBG Holiday Train Show Senator William Clarke mansion

Window detail of leaves, twigs, berries, bark on the replica of Senator William Clarke mansion, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

As I note the complexity of the constructions from plant parts as tiny as a barely seed and as large as a gourd, and wander slowly in amazement at the specificity of creation, solace is delivered in cupfuls and happiness in bushels. I take picture after picture, trying to stir my memories about the location of the recreations in previous years.

Poe Cottage, the Bronx, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Replica of Poe Cottage, Fordham in the Bronx, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

If I take my time without rushing to the show finale, my memory serves me. The Poe house is situated more prominently this year on the opposite side of the central theatrical showcase.  I am glad because I am writing a play about Poe and I feel akin to this replica. For example, I know that Poe’s wife Virginia Clemm died of tuberculous in Poe Cottage which is in Fordham in the Bronx a few miles from the Garden. The replica is modest, a no frills structure which is a miniature facsimile of the real Poe Cottage. The Poes were impoverished for all of their marriage a terrific irony considering just one of Poe’s short handwritten letters brought in almost $100,000 at auction a few years ago.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse, Stephen A Schwarzman Building

Replica of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (NYPL), NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ by Applied Imagination team (Carole Di Tosti)

Applied Imagination, Coney Island Exhibit, Paul Busse, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Coney Island Exhibit, Brooklyn Bridge, Wonder Wheel, Luna Park and more, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Elephantine Colossus, Cyclone, Coney Island Display, Applied Imagination

Coney Island display, Elephantine Colossus, Cyclone, train of plant parts, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Paul Busse

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island Display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ by Applied Imagination team and its founder Paul Busse (Carole Di Tosti)

I see that the New York Public Library (Stephen A Schwartzman building) is up front and center as it should be. The Fifth Avenue Manhattan library with the stentorian lions  is under renovation and receiving technological updates that will be completed by 2020. I note that the Coney Island display is prominent with the Elephantine Colossus, Wonder Wheel (now a film of the same name by Woody Allen about Coney Island and gangsters), The Steeple Chase, Luna Park, the Cyclone (with moving parts) and more. These structures backdropped with waterfall and reflecting pools are encircled by sauntering trains lazily enjoying their pace in the 360 degree central showcase of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Last year they were in the Palms of the World Gallery.

Coney Island display, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Brooklyn Bridge, Paul Busse

Coney Island display, Wonder Wheel, Lighthouse, Brooklyn Bridge, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ by Applied Imagination team (Carole Di Tosti)

As I appreciate the Elephantine Colossus so carefully and brilliantly created out of variously shaped gourds and other plant pieces, I consider Leslie Salka’s (Director of Applied Imagination whose creations we love) comments about the construction of the replica of the Elephant shaped hotel. The unusual structure was an example of the period’s novelty architecture, designed by James V. Lafferty to bring in tourists. The seven-story building, which served as a hotel, concert hall and amusement bazaar, stood above Surf Avenue from 1885 to 1896 when it burned down. Leslie decided they should include the hotel in the Coney Island display in memoriam of Topsy the female elephant who was electrocuted in Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1903.

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show,

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica at Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Mushrooms, gourds in detail of Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica

Detail of plant parts, Elephantine Colossus Hotel replica, Coney Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Topsy’s demise had been all but forgotten until someone noted a film had been made of her electrocution and clips of it were included in a Ric Burns documentary about Coney Island. After Burns’ film the subject of Topsy’s death has been featured in popular culture and media and has been the subject of poetry, fiction, songs and journalist Michael Daly’s book about her. Contrary to belief there is no purported direct association of Topsy’s death at Luna Park with Thomas Edison. Though Edison did electrocute animals 15 years earlier during the War of Currents when he was attempting to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current, he was not responsible for Topsy’s death. The Elephantine Colossus replica is gorgeous and the backstory of Topsy’s life and death, the preservation of the film clip, and her rise to celebrity is a notable piece of history found in The Holiday Train Show if you enjoy digging deeper.

Holiday Train Show, NYBG, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse

Macy’s sign is made up of white barley seeds and cayenne pepper flakes, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Novelty car, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Painted butterfly on novelty car, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

What I particularly appreciate about The Holiday Train Show is that there is something for everyone young and ancient. Children see the trains and love to hear and watch them. Adults see the history, and depending upon their day and mood go deep or gloss over the displays. No one sees all of it during each visit. If you glean 20% of the entire production which pays homage to history, trains, New York, the five New York City boroughs and their landmarks interspersed fancifully throughout the Garden’s botanical kingdom, you will have walked away with a treasure.

Angel of the Waters replica, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Angel of the Waters replica, Central Park display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Applied Imagination (Carole Di Tosti)

Angel of the Waters detail, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Detail berries, mini pine cones, seeds, leaves, twigs, bark, pods, Angel of the Waters, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Show is overwhelming. So one may jaunt through it appreciating the overarching dazzling spectacle and briefly glance at the replicas, taking a few moments to identify the name of a particularly striking recreation. Or you may more closely observe, inspect and take a leisurely microscopic view of how each of the replicas was assembled ingeniously with twigs, varieties of flower and grain seeds, pine cones, stems, leaves, nut shells, acorn caps, pods, gourds, varieties of moss, mushrooms, flowers, herbs, spices and more.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

streetcar over Brooklyn Bridge, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

And the trains? Use your phone video feature to capture the particularly cool passenger trains or trolleys flying over the Manhattan or Queensboro bridge high above your head. Most NYC bridges (five out of the nine) are featured. Or snap the cute novelty cars painted with butterflies or other insects trolling back and forth over the tracks. All of the trains are G-scale, whether ancient or modern, whether locomotives and freight cars or diesel engines, electrified passenger trains, trolleys and streetcars. There are over 25 full fledged train set ups clanging, whirling, zipping, steaming, chugging, purring and careening over 1/2 mile of track situated between rocks, over bridges and water features, through tree stump tunnels and under low hanging tree branches throughout the conservatory.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Trains coming out of historic Penn Station, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Hudson Valley train station, since demolished, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti0

Applied Imagination, Penn Station, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Historic Penn Station demolished in 1963, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

In the 3000 foot 360 degree display whose extension was added a few years ago, you’ll see a grand memorial to traindome.  You’ll note various New York historical station replicas that are throwbacks to a time when travelers stayed at inns before they journeyed to relatives. These have since been torn down to make way for flat-looking, rectangular, unappealing buildings signifying what has been lost to progress. You will note Grand Central Station saved by Jacqueline Onassis and the magnificent station that developers couldn’t wait to get their grimy hands on, the Beaux Arts beauty, built in 1910, Pennsylvania Station. The Applied Imagination replica is a memorial to history, grand architectural effort that remains timeless though Penn Station itself was torn down in 1963. But there the miniature building stands for us to admire at The Holiday Train Show. Just consider that for a second or two.

Palms of the World Gallery, mid-town Manhattan display, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, mid-town Manhattan display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The Palms of the World Gallery exhibit is the glorious conclusion that sends you out into the sterling night of stars if you go to Bar Car Nights (December 22, 23, 29, 30, January 6, 13) with a date, friends or are just slumming by yourself. Or if brushing by the palm fronds with goodbyes to Garden staff dressed as train engineers you slip from the tropical paradise into the bright, cold atmosphere and sunshine with a beaming smile on your face because the final exhibit is just…just. Well! You’ll have to go and see the show and come up with your own descriptors. Marvelous? Rising? Scintillating? Neat? Memorable? Illustrious?

Ellis Island display, NYBG Holiday Train show, Applied Imagination

Ellis Island display, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination, Paul Busse

Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, GE Building replicas renovated as new. NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, St. Bartholomew replica

St. Bartholomew replica, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Statue of Liberty drape is made of bamboo, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

It’s all of that and more as the display in the large reflecting pool glimmers and splits into double images which lengthen the buildings and set them skimming across the water. This segment in particular memorializes why Manhattan is its own tribute to itself: skyscraper-particular, iconic, architecturally astonishing, mesmerizing, glowing. Whether its Rockefeller Plaza, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the GE Building, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, St. Bartholomew’s Church, this is what tourists, natives and even botanical adventurers love about New York City.  Take some time to especially view the last four replicas listed here, all of which are new.

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Reflections in water, Empire State Building replica, St. Bartholomew replica upside down, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Upside down reflections, Queensboro Bridge in mid-Manhattan display, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

I was struck by the extravagant details and was rather gobsmacked at the illusion which is created in this gallery. These buildings effect their namesakes, but are built with completely organic, sustainable materials, unlike their reality of concrete, glass and steel. The effect will draw you in as you remember the essence of the Applied Imagination’s vision to set a monument to nature’s ineffable and infinite botanical variety and the wonder of at plants’ creative usefulness as building blocks for humans. Read that sentence again, to ken the full meaning. Heart!

NYBG, Holiday Train Show, Applied Imagination

Mid-town Manhattan display, another view, Palms of the World Gallery, NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Laura Busse Dolan, Palms of the World Gallery, Applied Imagination, NYBG Holiday Train Show

Laura Busse Dolan, owner of Applied Imagination, daughter of Paul Busse. NYBG ‘Holiday Train Show,’ Palms of the World Gallery (Carole Di Tosti)

There is no leaving the Palms of the World Gallery after the first minute of arrival. You leave when you receive the full effect of the display upon your senses and decide that The Holiday Train Show is a celebration of the best of who we can be as creators and lovers of nature’s bounty of which we are an integral part.

For all the intriguing programming during the Train Show, from the Evergreen Express and family events, Billy Collins poetry reading and more, go to the Garden website HERE.  For BAR CAR NIGHTS, HERE. To learn about Paul Busse artistic visionary, founder and 25 year creator of Applied Imagination replicas and themes with his team click HERE.

 

 

 

About caroleditosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is an Entertainment Journalist, unpublished novelist, poet and playwright. Writing is my life. When I don't write I am desolate. Carole Di Tosti has over 1000 articles, reviews, and other writings online. Carole Di Tosti writes for Blogcritics, Theater Pizzazz and other New York theater websites; Carole Di Tost free-lanced for VERVE and wrote for Technorati for 2 years until the site changed its focus. Carole Di Tosti attends the premiere film festivals in NYC and on LI: Tribeca FF, NYFF, DOC NY, Hamptons IFF, NYJewish FF. She also covers SXSW film.

Posted on December 10, 2017, in New York Botanical Garden, NYBG EXHIBITS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow Carole, your pictures plus thoughtful comments are wonderful. Thankfully, many would never know about this unique
    display or even be able to attend. And now, we can revisit again and again!

    Like

  2. Thanks, Ben. Hope all is well with you and Junko. I see the news reports on the fires out there…and Ventura County? OMG. Stay safe…and of course, NYC has its own issues. Trying to keep peaceful and concentrate on uplifting things.

    Like

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