Disney, P.I.

About the Column

As a Disney detective, Debra Peterson always packs her 'mickifying' glass. Her cases often take her to poorly lit, sparsely peopled, but still well-themed areas of Disney World, where she counters shenanigans with snark, and sometimes silliness, but most of all with keen insight and insouciant style. You're invited to accompany Debra each week as she solve baffling mysteries and pursues adventure. Quick, now, the Mouse is afoot!

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FROM: Disney P.I. Published As Uncovered

Epcot's Garden Railway Miniature Train

In the rush to "do" Epcot, many Guests bustle right past the Garden Railway Miniature Train, a quaint exhibit in the Germany Pavilion that's worth the time to enjoy - or investigate, if you happen to be - like Debra the Disney P.I. - on the case.

Perhaps it's my not-so-secret desire to ride the rails, but one of my sweet surveillance spots at Epcot is Germany in the World Showcase. It's home to the Epcot Garden Railway, a miniature train and village that is one of Walt Disney World's small - pun intended - delights.

The area is a natural for a private detective, even if I'm not investigating anything in particular. Like so much of the Disney magic, the Epcot Garden Railway is all about noticing the details. And that makes this theme-park spot ideal for any Disney investigator looking to practice her craft.

The model railroad and village is nestled in Epcot's Germany. In fact, it's just steps away from the dual distractions of Karamell Kuche, the caramel kitchen which tempts with the fresh sweet smell of Epcot candy, and Sommerfest, with its savory tastes of a pretzel and beer.

It's fitting that the Epcot Garden Railway is so close to such tasty German fare. The model was originally created for the 1995 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. But the display turned out to be so popular that it's become a permanent fixture of the Germany Pavilion.

And I like to think Walt, a rail fan himself, would have enjoyed seeing the Epcot Garden Railway as a permanent addition.

Riding the Disney Rails with LBG Trains

The three electric traveling trains, primarily locomotives that may pull a car or two, are the highlight of the 50 x 130 model garden layout. The trains move through the village and into the countryside, in tunnels and over bridges, past people and picture-postcard scenery.

The railroad uses model trains from a German company, Lehmann Gross Bahn (LGB and German for "Lehmann's Big Train"). LBG introduced G-scale, the standard for garden railways. That scale, for those with more of a head for numbers and figures than I have, is 1:22.5. The train is designed to run on a 45mm gauge track that takes a tour around the village and countryside.

The Bavarian village is both picturesque in its overall appearance and detailed in its execution, as is the surrounding countryside. Buildings represent different functions and architectural styles. There are public spaces, such as city hall and a church, as well as businesses and private residences. There's even a mountainside castle. Naturally, there is also a train depot.

Most of the fascination and the fun of the layout derives from something that comes naturally to a detective - snooping around. You can investigate all the secrets of the Epcot Garden Railway on your own, at your own pace. You can even get relatively close to the various scenes by following the human-sized footbridge that runs through the layout's middle.

But Disney, being Disney, also has created a video called "Garden Railroad at Epcot" that shows off a miniature "train's eye" view of a trip on the Epcot model railroad:

Epcot's Miniature Railroad a Garden of Disney Details

Similar to Walt Disney World itself, the miniature village would be something of a noirish landscape - visually striking but a bit creepy - without people to populate it. The display is filled with villagers going about their daily lives, from conversing with neighbors to working in the orchards. For eagle-eyed guests, there's even a happy gathering of people celebrating one couple's wedding.

The display's landscaping assists in creating a sense of scale and place. There's a meticulous attention to details in the trees, miniature topiaries, and other plants, their use common to garden railways in order to evoke a realistic miniature world.

I regularly stop at the Epcot Garden Railway to spot any details I may have overlooked during previous visits. Disney also wants to keep guests alert and returning to the "scene of the crime." The model village and railroad regularly change in some details, especially to mark special Epcot events.

Subtle alterations include adding shaped topiaries during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival; small Marketplace Kiosks to complement the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival; and Christmas decorations and a nativity scene during the holidays.

The more time I spend at the German pavilion display, the more I notice. And the Disney Parks video I mentioned above has been a big help in my investigations.

Of course, even after multiple visits, I still have questions unanswered. What was the size of the miniature camera Disney attached to the Epcot Garden Railway train? And how can I get one? It would be perfect the next time I'm on super-secret assignment.

And speaking of which...

Until next time, consider me on the case.

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