Botanical Architecture brings old train station back to life

PARKERSBURG – Botanical Architecture was on display Saturday during the open house of the Mid-Ohio Valley Model Railroad Club in the basement of NOE Office Equipment at 610 Green St?in Parkersburg.

Jeff Stephens, with Applied Imagination and owner of Stephens Outside Railways, said the company does layouts across the country.

“All of this has been made with botanical architecture,” he said. “There’s everything here from grape vine tentacles to bark, willow and shelf fungus. Everything you can think of is used.”

Stephens said the construction is much like the floats made for the Tournament of Roses Parade, where the floats are covered with flowers of different kinds, leaves, seeds and other floral items.

One of the pieces on display Saturday was a botanical replica of the old Parkersburg railroad station. Stephens said the building represents more than 200 hours of work.

“That station was built in 1883 and was demolished in 1973,” he said. “It’s one way to bring the Parkersburg station back to Parkersburg.”

Stephens said the roof was made from eucalyptus leaves, each placed individually, the doors are from white birch bark and the door step from shelf fungus from trees. He said pieces of seed pods, seeds grape vines and acorns are used to recreate the building.

In the future Stephens would like to make more replicas of buildings in Parkersburg.

“I’d love to do the courthouse,” he said. “Parkersburg has such beautiful architecture and one thing Applied Imagination is good at is Victorian homes. There are so many here.”

Stephens said while they are not limited by their imagination, they are limited by funds.

“We have to get one paid for before we start the next one,” he said. “We are trying to get to doing these of the Wood County Courthouse, landmarks in City Park, all of them will be placed in the Mid-Ohio Valley Railroad Club.”

Stephens said others have been made such as the Daisy Theater in Nashville and other older houses using photos instead of kits. After doing a number of buildings in an area, he said they begin work on a layout.

Stephens said the replicas can be costly. He said the train station cost about $4,500. Recently a replica made of the U. S. Capitol Building was insured for $200,000.

Stephens said the company’s work is not limited to train displays.

“I’ve worked with them for five years and we travel to the New York Botanical Gardens, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, the Texas State Fair and others,” he said.

Stephens said the company is based in Alexandria, Ky.

“Paul Bussey, owner of Applied Imagination, has been with the New York Botanical Gardens for 21 years,” he said. “Applied Imagination has 14 full-time employees and five part-time. The busy season is during Christmas season and we are gone from October to January.”

Last year he said they logged 6,500 miles in their travels.