One-Track Mind: Making a Massive Garden Train Set in Mooresville

ohn any night at The Point in Mooresville, you might hear the distant reverberation of a train. It could be real freight traveling on the Norfolk Southern Line which crosses Lake Norman from north to south. Or it could be one of Lou Paone’s four model trains, 1/32 scale locomotives and cars playing a train whistle recording as they circle the 485 feet of track in his back yard. .

Paone designed the grounds of the garden to evoke the “lush and rugged character” of the Pacific Northwest.

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Paone, a 72-year-old managing director at Deloitte Corporate Finance, designed and built everything in the 5,000 square foot garden behind his waterfront home, complete with shrubs, flowers, bushes and rock formations. He created it after two disasters. He and his wife, Rosemary, moved to The Point in 2007. A year later, Paone, a longtime gardener, stepped on a yellow jacket nest as he worked in a plant bed on the property. Wasps stung him almost 30 times. About a week later, while his wounds were still open, he contracted a water-borne bacterial infection. “I almost lost the use of my legs,” he says.

Paone had to recuperate for several months while working from home, unable to travel on business, and had some free time. He remembered the neighbor of a friend he had met 25 years ago who had built a model train exhibit in his small garden and spa. If I ever have the time and the space Paone thought then, I am going to do the same thing. Now he had both and he started to research garden railroads. “The internet is amazing,” he says. “I have found tutorials, articles, and discussion forums that have provided me with answers to many questions I have in designing and building a garden railroad.”

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Paone had always admired “the lush and rugged character of the Pacific Northwest”. As he recovered, Paone removed trees and dumped earth to level the 100 feet between his house and the shore, then painstakingly constructed over 125 feet of interconnected wooden trestles to guide the motors’ journey through. the garden. The land below contains waterfalls, a pond and cove, a river gorge, and a dry riverbed. He even took an online bonsai course so he could shape ornamental shrubs and trees.

He found a tutorial from a pair of model builders in Australia to learn how to build the stone bridges and another from a US based modeler on how to stabilize the stainless steel track as it expands into a extreme heat and contracts in the cold. One way to answer these questions: spend a lot of money. Stainless steel conducts electricity better than any other metal and does not corrode. It costs $ 15 per linear foot, and Paone spent $ 7,000 on the track alone. He used 500 plants at $ 30 each and 40 stone pallets. Each of the four locomotives costs between $ 750 and $ 1,500.

Then came the regulatory hurdles. “I received a cease and desist order from the (North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality) which read,” If you continue to disturb the naturalized area along the coastline without getting our approval , you will be fined $ 2,000 per day. ‘I immediately called them and said,’ What should I do? “

Paone had to add trees to the property to reflect the original number and change her original design for the pond, as it encroached on a shoreline setback requirement.

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Paone admired a model train exhibit 25 years ago and figured he would undertake a similar project if he had the time. A yellow vest attack and waterborne infection that nearly cost him the use of his legs gave him the opportunity.

Picture 0857“Duke Energy was also alerted by the NCDEQ because I was building a waterfall and a pond that used a secondary irrigation pump,” he continues. “Duke Lake Services only allows one irrigation pump per property for lakeside homes to conserve lake water. Paone redesigned the system to return water from the overflowing pond to the lake.

His latest hurdle: Point’s community architecture committee, who told him his plan had many code violations and that model trains were “toys.” (The committee prohibits permanent toys visible from the lake on waterfront properties.)

Paone did what he wanted at work: he made a PowerPoint presentation to answer every concern. “I then brought two of the railroad locomotives… and argued that they were essentially a unique garden prop to a naturalized garden landscape,” he says. “The committee was immediately won over by the visual appeal of model train engines. “

It took him about three months to get approval. But Paone says the trials were worth it. “People often say, ‘Your grandsons must love this,’” he says. “They love it, but kids get bored easily if they’re not constantly active. These are the adults who will stand there and be mesmerized by the layout and details.

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Img 1255 Lou and Rosemary Paone

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