Staff Photo: John Bohn Volunteer Doug Castille, of Grayson, makes an adjustment to a G scale model train at Vines Park in Loganville on Saturday, National Train Day. The train display is set up in a garden featuring a custom made, 25-foot long bridge supporting railroad tracks over a flowing creek.
LOGANVILLE -- A big Thomas the Train fan, John and Joan Taylor knew a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon with their grandson was to celebrate National Train Day.
So the Taylors and their grandson Nathan, who is 2 years old, took in the seasonal opening of the only public, G scale, garden railroad in the state. With more than 1,000 feet of track, including a 25-foot bridge, tunnels, a viaduct and several villages, the Vines Garden Railroad is believed to be the largest in the Southeast.
More than 200 people showed up, and were treated to free hot dogs, ice cream sandwiches, lemonade and other snacks while they watched the trains snake around on three tracks. Since Vines Park was closed last year for renovations, this was the first time in two years the trains were available to watch.
"We love this, and we've never been here, so it was a pleasant surprise," said John Taylor, a Hampton resident, who with his wife took care of Nathan while their daughter and son-in-law packed to move. "I hope he remembers this, because he's enjoyed it so far."
Track maintenance and repairs are handled throughout the summer by a group of volunteers. The railroad is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Sunday through September.
"It's just a fun, free day out for kids and their families to come enjoy one of the unique things about Gwinnett County Parks," said Melissa Day-Rodriguez, who works with the county's volunteer resources department. "The guys that do this are very passionate about it, and want it to continue."
Day-Rodriguez said the Gwinnett County H.O.O.K.E.D. Teen Club handled arts and crafts, paper trains, conductor hats and make-and-take chain bracelets at the event. The turnout was also pleasant surprise, and it included several adults without children, she said.
One of those passionate volunteers is Richard Baylis said model railroading has been one of his hobbies for many years, and he enjoys watching the kids have fun.
One of the members who has since passed away built a replica of the old Atlanta Train Terminal, Baylis said.
Baylis said the trains and houses along the tracks are owned by the railroad club, and have been donated by widows or families. Each volunteer enjoys a different part of the trains, from the tracks, to the houses to the electrical aspect.
"I just do a little bit of everything to help out," Baylis said. "I just love doing it."
Another family visitingthe trains were Elliot and Laura Bendoly of Atlanta, who brought their children Ian, 9, and Leila after they picked strawberries down the street.
"That took 10 whole minutes," Laura Bendoly said. "So we had to do something else."
The Bendolys then did a quick search of Google Maps and found the railroad.
"You never get tired of trains, they're always fixated on them," Laura said. "I think they'll just say we have to come here every weekend now."
Watching the outdoor trains, Bendoly joked that an outdoor setup at home might lead her children to pick weeds around the trains in their own yard.
"We get the chore and the fun all in one," she said.