By Don Bradley
Bob and Frances Schmuck had so many people walking through their Raymore backyard they had to put down artificial turf.
Bob found some that used to be used on a soccer field.
“We just had so many people we had to do something,” Bob said.
Most homeowners don’t have that problem. But if you turn your backyard into a botanical wonderland with six trains, both steam and diesel and a trolley, running wide open _ whistles and flashing lights _ through a countryside of shrubs, petunias, mums and begonias and past the koi pond into the village with houses, fire station and a dry goods store and all the little people… you do all that _ gawkers at the fence are going to end up in your yard.
More than a thousand came this summer to see the garden railroad of the B&F Railroad. Neighbors, garden clubs, train clubs. A busload of special needs kids showed up.
“They liked the trains,” Bob said.
He wasn’t expecting to show the place this week. He thought he was done for the year. He’d already gotten rid of a lot of flowers.
“Probably two-thirds of it already gone,” he told the October visitor. “You should have seen it early on.”
Well, now’s not bad. His remaining one-third is a whole lot grander than most people’s three-thirds.
Bob worked in grounds and security at Overland Park Regional Medical Center before retiring a few years ago. He had some spare time.
The backyard did not start as a grand plan. More organic. Started small and kept growing. More flowers, more koi, more little houses, more track, year by year.
People started to notice the backyard on the corner lot. Then more people. They told friends and, finally, Bob and Frances invited them all in for a tour.
Bob said that not long after that unveiling, people asked him when the next tour was.
He shrugged. “We didn’t have another tour planned. Figured it was just that one time.”
He and Frances hosted four tours this summer: 200 to 300 people each time.
Next year, maybe more. Bob is already ordering flowers for next spring.
“Thinking about adding some hibiscus,” he said.
Sounds like he’s warming up to the tour idea.
“We don’t do it for ourselves anymore. We like to share.”
Now, he’s done for the summer. Maybe.