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Miniature San Francisco

by Ernie Ng

If you missed the model train exhibit, Golden Gate Express Garden Railway, at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park last year, you have another chance. A model train and a cable car go through a miniature landscape of San Francisco with some of the City’s most recognizable landmarks made from recycled material. Small cars drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and the exhibit is landscaped with real miniature plants.

Coit Tower is made from white venetian blinds and measuring tape. The Ghirardelli Building is made from dark brown light switch plates. The Chinatown Gate is made from mah jong tiles; its roof is constructed of circuitry boards, imitating a green tile roof. Prominently displayed is the Ferry Building, using a rectangular food grater, forks, and chopsticks to construct the tower, and wine corks are stacked to represent the front columns. Scrabble tiles are used to spell out “Port of San Francisco.”

The exhibit this year has been expanded to include more landmarks such as AT&T Park, the Castro Theater, and the row of Victorian Houses at Alamo Square lined up alongside a hill. Sound has also been added including a rumbling earthquake, Luisa Tetrazzini singing at Lotta’s Fountain, the Castro Theater organ, and the bark of sea lions. Yes, fog does come through the Golden Gate.

Historical information about the San Francisco structures and information about their construction materials are on display in the room along the wall. The exhibit is on display until April 18, 2010. The plants, many with flowers, will be changed periodically. Flowering bulb plants will replace the holiday plants. You can see this exhibition a few times and feel that you are seeing something new and different each time.

The Conservatory of Flowers is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am until 5 pm, and closed on Mondays and the major holidays. Discounts are available for San Francisco residents with proof of residency. Call 415.831.2090 for more information.