The Highlandtown Train Garden started in 2009 as a Highlandtown Main Street project to draw people during the holidays back to the traditional business district around Eastern Avenue.
For decades, generations of Baltimoreans participated in the storied tradition of constructing holiday train gardens during the Christmas season to delight children and their families. Locally, firehouses developed train gardens as fundraising tools, or just as a way for the firemen to pass the time when they were not on call. Today, firefighters have many more and different tasks, such as distributing smoke detectors when they are not on call.
First District Councilman Jim Kraft loved the idea of a train garden in Highlandtown, and convinced the Fire Department, including the chief, battalion commander, and union representative to provide space in Engine House # 41 on Conkling Street, and for the CSX Railroad to fund its start-up costs.
Jackie Watts, then the editor of the Baltimore Guide, issued a call for volunteers to construct the train garden. Several train enthusiasts answered the call, and the Highlandtown Train Garden became a reality.
A holiday favorite
As the years have passed, the train garden has grown in size, and the number of visitors continues to increase. This is truly a community train garden!
Requests for donations are mailed out every year to the businesses and community associations in the area. When a donation is made, the business or association has its name placed on a building or billboard in the train garden, their logo on a banner, and any relevant literature — ads, menus, coupons etc. — are placed at the Train Garden for visitors to peruse.
What will you find?
Visitors have commented how much they have enjoyed finding items in the Train Garden by doing the scavenger hunts. In the past, they have seen a miniature Grand Theater, Patterson Park, Mr. Boh atop the brewery building, Highlandtown’s favorite streets, an amusement park, and a Blizzard of 2016 scene!
This year, they can look forward to replicas of the Southeast Anchor Library and the Mimi DiPietro Skating Rink, Bump and Go Trolleys, and also an entire platform featuring old industrial Highlandtown.
In our 11th year — with the continued support of the Baltimore City Fire Department and the Southeast Community Development Corporation, the 2019 Highlandtown Train Garden had another amazing year! Volunteers worked many months creating a Train Garden that all can enjoy. Thanks to the many volunteers who works in many capacities to bring this event to the public at Christmastime.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the Train Garden is not open in 2020. We can’t wait to return in 2021!
The Highlandtown Train Garden is closed for the 2020 season due to COVID. It will reopen again in 2021 at Engine House # 41, 520 S. Conkling St. The hours are 11 am to 5 pm.