What was once a field of prairie grasses has been turned into an ornate railway garden that demonstrates how captured stormwater adds not only to the project's beauty, but also to its functionality.

Opened in spring 2011, large winding walkways allow visitors to stroll through the garden. Mountains of natural stone up to 14 feet high are set to create a miniature world for G-scale model trains. These trains, which are about 1/24 actual size, meander through the scenery on more than 3000 feet of track through mountains and valleys, past waterfalls, and along streams. The trains cross more than 30 bridges, and pass through educational vignettes, which teach visitors about the impact of railroads in the early 20th century.

Permeable concrete pavement contributes to the project's sustainability. Captured rainwater irrigates the specialized plants, falls as petite waterfalls in delicate vignettes, and flows in the miniaturized streams and rivers throughout the exhibit. This water is captured through 493 yards of permeable pavement and from building and foundation drains. A pond in the northwest corner of the site stores the rainwater until it is reused in the complex irrigation and stream system.

The project surpassed the owner's desire to create a sustainable addition to its facility with this cutting-edge approach to sustainability.

Project Participants

OWNER: Taltree Arboretum & Gardens, Valparaiso, Ind.

CONCRETE PRODUCER: Smith Ready Mix, Valparaiso

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Smock Fansler Construction, Indianapolis

ARCHITECT/DESIGNER: Hitz Design Inc., Harbor Springs, Mich.

OTHER: Williams Creek Consulting, Indianapolis

OTHER: Smalls Landscaping, Valparaiso