The Riviera Beach volunteer fire department has outdone itself again with this year's train garden, adding on the largest new development in the ever-growing model city's 12-year Christmas tradition.
Three firefighters -- volunteers George and Jim Boney and full-timer Ted Heinbuch -- ripped out a wall in the firehouse basement to find the room for expanding the 294-square-foot train garden.
The garden includes eight trains, two trolleys, two subways and 50 cars.
A counter at the entrance to the train room -- located under the Railroad Crossing sign behind the firehouse -- says about 2,000 visitors have come to see the exhibition since it opened during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Donations to pay for next year's renovations already are coming in at a rate of $100 per night, said Jim Boney, who has been working on the train garden for five years. The money, he said, will help pay for plans to build along a third wall of the massive basement.
This year's additions, he said, mark the beginning of a gradual change in the look of the project.
"Now we're bordering on what the modelers call a 'Train Layout,' " he explained. "We're in transition from being a 'train garden.' The difference is, in a train garden the trains just go around-and-round for no reason, but in a train layout it's more realistic. They go from one place to another and carry cargo."
The Boneys, a father-and-son team, have relied on their electronics skills to add such new touches as a working fire engine with flashing lights that follows the path of an underground magnetic signal. New wiring on the "train-cam" allows a miniature camera in the nose of one of the engines to draw power from the tracks and send an image back to a television that shows the train's progress through the lighted tunnels.
Hundreds of other carefully, hand-crafted details in the project can keep the eye busy for hours.
The Train Garden will be open to the public through Jan. 6. Hours are 7-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.