Morris Arboretum’s Garden Railway gets bigger than ever and the train now goes to (mini) Brooklyn

The arboretum has added 300 feet of new track to its railway and added stops of miniature landmarks of botanic gardens around the country. Florida, Colorado, New York and more.

The Morris Arboretum's beloved Garden Railway will be bigger in 2023 than ever.
The Morris Arboretum’s beloved Garden Railway will be bigger in 2023 than ever.Courtesy of the Morris Arboretum & Gardens

The Morris Arboretum is celebrating 90 years as one of Philadelphia’s most beloved public gardens with a bigger-than-ever railroad that is really going places this spring.

The Garden Railway will reopen on May 26 — in time for Memorial Day Weekend — with the theme “Public Gardens.” It will feature models of structures from public gardens from all over the country – from New York to California and points in between. They will be made of natural materials like twigs, mosses, dried flowers, hollow logs and more. The mini train system will now go from local to nationwide.

The miniature buildings already in place include Philadelphia landmarks, such as a replica of Independence Hall made using pine cone seeds for shingles, acorns for finials and twigs as downspouts.

But in May, visitors should also be on the lookout for new structures – a mini Singing Tower (with sound) from Florida’s Bok Tower Gardens, the Torii Garden and Pavilion from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Queen Anne’s Cottage from the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Denver Botanic Gardens’ Science Pyramid and lots more.

The railway – a Morris 25-year tradition – will also add 300 feet of track this year, growing this favorite feature to a full third of a mile. For model train lovers, that’s the railway’s largest expansion since it was installed in 1998. The track includes several loops, tunnels and bridges, including a trestle bridge you can walk under.

The arboretum has new, slightly longer name, too – the Morris Arboretum & Gardens, honoring its origins as a gift from Lydia Morris to the University of Pennsylvania as a center for botanical research and education.

“As we stand on the cusp of our second century, our role as a research institution and a place for joy and healing has never more critical,” said executive director Bill Cullina.”With the expansion of our research program, educational opportunities for children, students and adults, and a focus on beauty and color in horticultural design, I believe we are celebrating Lydia’s gift in all we do.”

Among the new additions this year are bluestone pavers in the Rose Garden for more accessibility.

June 24 will bring the opening of Exuberant Blooms, an immersive display over 10,000 plants spread over a quarter acre of gardens of varying color, form and height.

Other programs and tours will be held from the spring through the fall.

Rita Giordano
I tell stories about people – how we live, the things that matter to us, and the ways that issues impact our lives.