RG Express train treks through 'Snow and Ice'


Reiman Gardens volunteers Brenden Johansson (on ladder) and Tracy Stajcar string lights on flocked trees while setting up for the upcoming “Snow and Ice” exhibition. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Reiman Gardens' staff and volunteers are transforming the conservatory into a winter wonderland for the upcoming "Snow and Ice" exhibition, Nov. 18 through Jan. 6. The event wraps up the gardens' 2017 water theme.

The RG Express holiday train returns for the third time during the exhibition. This year, the G-scale engines and cars will traverse a forest of snow-flocked trees, glistening icicles and snowflakes, and white poinsettias. As in years past, replicas of several Iowa State buildings and landmarks also will dot the landscape, including the Dinkey train, the Hub, campanile (complete with recordings of "The Bells of Iowa State," "ISU Fights" and "Go, Cyclones, Go"), and Beardshear and Morrill halls.

New to this year's display is a replica of the Marston Water Tower, made from natural materials including willow, gourds, bamboo, grapevine curls, pinecone scales, salt cedar twigs, lotus and eucalyptus pods, and sisal roping. The replica was created by Applied Imagination, the same company that constructed the other buildings. 

"We wanted to add a new building or structure to our train display to keep it fresh and exciting for visitors," said Maria Teply, communications coordinator at Reiman Gardens. "Since our theme for 2017 is water, we thought it was fitting to do the Marston Water Tower."

Built in 1895, the water tower was the first elevated steel water tower west of the Mississippi River. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association.

Reiman Gardens is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. each Thursday in December. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. Admission is $8 ($4 for kids ages 4 to 17; free for kids ages 3 and younger, members and ISU students).