Climb Aboard the Holiday Express at UT Gardens

Holiday Express at the UT GardensLooking for some holiday fun? Hop on the Holiday Express at UT Gardens. Ten garden-scale model trains, thousands of lights and a miniature landscape featuring rivers, waterfalls and more than 100 buildings decorated for the holidays will delight visitors young and old at a new event at the UT Gardens.

Holiday Express at the UT Gardens, an event for the entire family, features the trains running simultaneously on a quarter-mile track that winds through the fictional town of Ravensford. Visitors will wonder at the elaborate landscape, which includes replicas of existing East Tennessee architecture. The hand-crafted display is located on the Friendship Plaza at the entrance to the UT Gardens off Neyland Drive.

Christmas TrainCost is $5 per person; children under 4 are admitted free. The event opened Thanksgiving weekend. The Holiday Express will be open 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 4, 2009. Large group viewings are available and interested parties should call 865-584-7666. The event benefits the UT Gardens, a part of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

The structures are amazingly accurate in detail, so much so that visitors will recognize some of their favorite scenes from the East Tennessee landscape within the fictional town of Ravensford. Some of the scenes will include the Ravenfork Lumber Company, Elmo’s Machine Shop, a water-powered grist mill, a log cabin farm scene with a cantilevered barn, and much more.

Closeup view of model trainOne of the community’s finest treasures, the UT Gardens feature more than 1,000 woody plants under long-term observation and 2,000 varieties of herbaceous plants evaluated annually. The UT Gardens function as an outdoor laboratory and teaching and research facility while also serving as public gardens, sharing their beauty with over 50,000 visitors per year.

Established in 1983 by the UT Institute of Agriculture Department of Plant Sciences, the gardens are recognized as one of only 34 official All American Selections (AAS) test sites in the United States.

Local train enthusiast, Mark Fuhrman, who has been a long-standing participant of the Dogwood Arts Festival’s Home and Garden Show, has partnered with the UT Institute of Agriculture and UT Gardens to bring his wonderland to a larger audience during a special time of the year. Fuhrman customizes each train car and building by hand with a passion and care that has resulted in one of the largest train collections in East Tennessee.

Young boy examines details of train scenesThe UT Gardens is located just off Neyland Drive behind the UT Veterinary Hospital on the UT Institute of Agriculture campus. From I-40 take Exit 386B onto Hwy 129 (Alcoa Highway toward the airport). From Highway 129 take the exit for Highway 158 (Neyland Drive). Turn left at end of exit ramp.

Turn left onto Joe Johnson Drive, and right at the next light onto Chapman Drive. Visitor parking is directly across from the entrance to the UT Gardens.

The Holiday Express is sponsored by the Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR.

For more information, click on http://utgardens.tennessee.edu or call 974-7141.