RG Express Holiday Train

The RG Express holiday train returns!

See it from November 19 to January 7.


Trains have come to the Gardens from November 19 through January 7! Visitors young and old will be enchanted by this custom-built garden-scale train. This unbelievably detailed “g-scale” (often called “garden scale”) display was created by Applied Imagination, an internationally recognized company whose train displays meld botanical design and architecture. Walk past, around, and under miniature buildings and bridges historically significant to Iowa State University and local history, rendered with clever use of natural materials and accented with a spectacular waterfall.

Due to capacity limits, the RG Express Holiday Train Display is not open during Winter Wonderscape. The display will be open daily during Reiman Gardens’ regular hours of 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. from Nov. 19, 2022 to January 7, 2023, except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Included with the regular price of admission (free for members and ISU students). 


holiday scaled train with poinsettias and Christmas trees
to view a photo gallery of the RG Express train.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Applied Imagination.
CLICK HERE to watch a 3D video shot from the train itself.



—The Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing —

The Butterfly Wing opened in November 2002 as part of the Conservatory Complex at Reiman Gardens. It houses a display of living Lepidoptera in flight, and includes both species that are native and nonnative to the United States. The 2,500-square foot space was built in the shape of a butterfly.

It houses up to 800 butterflies in flight from as many as 80 species at one time. Butterflies and moths are native to the United States, South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe. Exotic and native butterflies and moths range in size from one to eleven inches.

The tropical plants provide nectar for the butterflies in addition to a beautiful setting. There are around 300 plants from 30 plant families and 70 varieties.

Materials on the Butterfly Wing include birch sticks, horse chestnut bark, natraj sticks, rose of Sharon sticks, grapevine, winged euonymus, driftwood, turkey tail fungus, willow sticks, sinocalycanthus pod, and dried flora.


—The Dinkey and the Hub—

Back in 1891, the Iowa State campus was located west of the then much-smaller city of Ames. To help students and faculty travel back and forth, “the Dinkey” started service. It was a small, two-car steam engine train that billed itself as “rapid transit” and charged 5 cents each way. It was a far better alternative than the previous route — a muddy road that later became Lincoln Way. Besides passengers, it also carried mail, coal, and building materials. It ran until 1907 when it was replaced by an electric streetcar.

The Dinkey’s track ended in front of The Hub on campus, built as a college bookstore, post office, and depot for the Dinkey railway. The Hub today is restored and repurposed as a cafe.

In the miniature Hub, note the organic forms from driftwood. Other materials used include cedar, bamboo, birch bark, grapevine, contorta pine, and kiwi vine.


—The Campanile—

Perhaps no other building on the ISU campus is more iconic than the Campanile. Campus tradition has it that no student is a true Iowa Stater until kissed underneath the Campanile at midnight.

It was built in 1898 as a memorial to Margaret MacDonald Stanton, ISU’s first dean of women. Its top houses a carillon, which has 50 bells and is played by a keyboard struck with half-closed hands. Each weekday that classes are in session, a university musician plays the carillon over the noon hour. Special carillon concerts are also held occasionally.

Listen carefully. That music you hear is coming from the replica campanile and is the real thing. The scale model plays a recording of actual carillon music, performed by Tin-Shi Tam, an Iowa State music professor and the university carillonneur and produced by Chad Jacobsen, an ISU recording engineer. The songs include “The Bells of Iowa State,” “ISU Fights,” and “Go, Cyclones, Go!”

Materials include grout and sand, tiny gourds for the bells, pine cone scales on the roof, cinnamon curls, honeysuckle vine, elm, birch bark, white tallow berries, tiny dawn redwood pine cones, and more.


—Beardshear Hall—

The main administration building of Iowa State, Beardshear Hall stands in stately glory over central campus. It houses the offices of the ISU President and top administration. Completed in 1906, it was built in a neoclassical style made popular by the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

The fabulous triangular pediment at the top is made from pistachio, pine cone scales, and cinnamon curls. Pinecone-like sabulosum cones cut into sections replicate the original’s sculptural accents. Top corners of the roof are accented with striking cut magnolia and monkey face pods, cut into sections.

The front steps are fashioned from maple tree seeds. The dome and roof utilize green magnolia leaves, shag bark hickory, and cedar. The tall, rounded columns are crafted from honeysuckle branches and accented with dusty miller and pinecone scales. The lamps are made from gourds, peppercorns, mung bean, and beechnut. Horizontal trim is built of bamboo, reeds, cut pine cones, willow sticks, and birch bark. The facade is grout, while the door is made of birch bark. Beardshear’s foundation is replicated in cork and elm.


—Morrill Hall—

Built in 1890, the words carved at the top of Morrill Hall’s exterior are testament to all the many purposes that it has served: “Library,” “Chapel,” “Museum.” Over the years, it has been home to a wide variety of departments and programs — even a gym.

The building fell into disrepair, complete with recurring bat infestations, and was vacated. It was threatened with demolition, but students and alumni alike lobbied to keep this historic building that is so symbolic of Iowa State’s beginnings.

Morrill Hall was impressively renovated in 2007. Today it houses the Christian Petersen Art Museum, classrooms, and office space.

The scale version cleverly incorporates a gourd as a turret roof. A shelf fungus mushroom forms the distinctive front steps. Doors are made of black bamboo and walnut. The roof is walnut bark. The foundation is horse chestnut, and the windows are black bamboo. In the details, look for the use of grapevine, pinecone scales, reeds, willow, more gourds, acorn caps, willow, cloves, and driftwood.


—Marston Water Tower—

The Marston Water Tower is a part of Iowa State University’s central campus. Built in 1895, it was the first elevated steel water tower west of the Mississippi.

Today, it is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as named an “American Water Landmark” by the American Water Works Association.

Materials on the Martson Water Tower include willow, gourd, bamboo, grapevine curls, pinecone scales, salt cedar twigs, cedar rose pinecone scales, lotus pod, eucalyptus pod, and sisal roping.


This exhibit wouldn’t be possible without the support of