Upper Milford Garden Railroad Grows in Popularity
The Fritz family opens its wonderland to friends and acquaintances twice a year to smiles and looks of amazement from appreciative visitors.
They stop, they look, they listen.
Then their mouths open in amazement with what they see.
And then they tell their friends, who stop by and the process begins all over again as those friends enter the yard of Jack and Pauline Fritz of Upper Milford Township. What they see is the garden railroad creation of the Fritz family.
The most recent showing of the Fritzes' garden railroad was open to the public on Sept. 9.
But this isn't just any garden railroad. This is a sight to behold as there are -- and it depends on how you count -- three distinct outdoor layouts with assorted railroad scenes.
The visit begins ordinarily enough. Like many homes, the Fritzes' has a gate in front of 6827 Carls Hill Road in Zionsville. However, it's a railroad gate and crossing signal that greets visitors at the head of the driveway.
The Pennsylvania Railroad caboose along the side of the driveway might tip off the more astute visitor that this is not likely to be your typical railroad enthusiast. From there, the model train layouts just take over.
Look over the scenes and it doesn't take very much imagination to think you are looking at the real thing. Industrial clusters have a local flavor depicting Lehigh Valley Anthracite and Buckeye Pipeline. Other depictions, such as the coal company, carry the J&P Coal Co. name. The J&P is for Jack and Pauline, if that isn't already obvious. (The hosts are entitled to take some liberties in naming rights on their own garden railroad.)
The main street has a fire department, barbershop, steakhouse, pharmacy and movie theater. A carnival is in town.
Then there are trains. Lots of them. They pop out of tunnels, chug over a trestle atop a pond of live fish, tug a long line of freight cars or just putt around a railyard jockeying cars that will make up the next line of boxcars and flatcars. A cablecar whooshes overhead.
During a break in viewing the displays, visitors can climb inside the caboose. Now a railroad car of the past, the caboose is complete with bunks, a potbellied stove, lanterns and other railroad memorabilia.
The Fritzes' displays date to July 2002. They hold a single-afternoon open house twice yearly, sharing their passion with visitors. The number of guests reached 400 just two years ago.
While the basic layouts remain in place, the more sensitive objects are stored in a shed. Everything is generally pulled out on a Saturday and readied for the Sunday open house, but bad weather on Sept. 8 meant the process had to be done over 4 1/2 hours the morning of Sept. 9 this year. Ready or not, here came the crowd. (They were pretty much ready.)
Judging from the smiles and looks of amazement, no one noticed the rushed efforts.