About the tour...

The 2019 tour has been cancelled. See you in 2020!

The Water & Rails Pond & Garden Tour is proud to announce it’s thirteenth year hosting Nevada’s most unique backyard adventure to benefit ALS of Nevada. The tour has grown tremendously over the past thirteen years, during which time it has managed to raise over $400,000 for ALS research and support. Organized by MacLean Financial Group and Rail City Garden Center, this family-oriented event offers self-guided tours of serene gardens, koi-filled ponds, and model trains that travel more than 1,000 feet of track, under tunnels, over bridges, and through miniature towns.

Many of the innovations on the tour are do-it-yourself projects that the homeowners love to share. Tour goers can expect to see more than 25 of northern Nevada’s most spectacular ponds and garden railroads during this two-day event. The self-paced tour allows tour goers to visit as many of the ponds and gardens as they like and children under age 12 are free, so it’s a fun day for all ages!

Proceeds from the event benefit ALS of Nevada, an independent nonprofit organization serving ALS patients and their families in the Silver State. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, is a fatal motor neuron disease often called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the New York Yankees baseball icon that was diagnosed with it in 1939 and died two years later.  ALS affects the cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement, progressively decreasing physical function.


Water gardening is becoming increasingly popular. More and more people are searching nurseries for rare aquatic plants, traveling to koi shows to purchase the best and brightest fish, building gazebos and decks to get better vantage points of their ponds, and taking photos of their water gardens as they grow and mature. Northern Nevada is no exception; numerous area residents are realizing the peace and joy water gardens bring.

Why Get a Pond? There’s no comparison to the beauty and serenity of a pond, especially after driving home in gridlock traffic—just slip out the backdoor for a little taste of paradise. A water garden is a great place to forget all the troubles of the day and lose yourself in the beauty and tranquility of plants, fish, and water.

Ponds are oases. They can also become a passion. Perhaps no one in the area has developed more pond passion than Verdi resident Jim Fernhoff. He first wetted his water-feature appetite with a modest front yard pond. Not satisfied, Fernhoff embarked on a massive backyard pond environment in August 2004. By June 2005, he had created a 260,000 gallon water extravaganza featuring six waterfalls and hundreds of koi. Fernhoff continues to develop and improve on the project to this day.

Pond owner Ken Nelson also shares a passion for ponds—though not on such a grand scale. His water garden features two streams and a number of koi—the largest one, which will eat out of your hand and enjoys being pet, Nelson named Cuddles. Nelson says he enjoys the sound and movement of the water. A visit to any of these water gardens will no doubt reveal the joy and peace these beautiful features create.

& Rails:

Garden railroads been a passionate hobby for many for more than a century, mostly in Great Britain. The hobby became popular in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, but it’s popularity died out by the end of World War II. More recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in garden railroading as more and more American-style trains have become available.

The main difference between a traditional indoor model railroad and a garden railway is realism. The topography of the land, as well as existing gardens, trees, ponds, and obstacles in the yard, must be taken into account when planning the track layout. By having the trains outdoors, the scenery can be real trees, plants, bushes, rocks, and dirt. Shrubs and trees can even be groomed to be in scale with the train. The environment can be further enhanced with miniature buildings and other structures—which can be left out to naturally age and weather—as well as figures. Entire miniature town scenes can be created.

Garden railroad tracks can have all the same features as their full-sized counterparts; they can have a complex track plan with many electrical challenges or a simple loop. The trains themselves can be identical replicas of real trains with working doors and lights and can even feature authentic sounds.

Garden railroad enthusiast Hawley MacLean has built a track in his yard that is just under 1,000 feet, making it one of the longest garden railroads in northern Nevada. Known as the Alpine & Western Pacific Railroad, MacLean’s set-up features ten tunnels, 5 bridges, lakes, waterfalls, and even runs through a section of his house.

However intricate or simple the design and features, garden railroads can bring hours of enjoyment to the whole family.

The Northern Nevada Garden Railroad Society

The Northern Nevada Garden Railroad Society was formed in 2003 for the support and enjoyment of the hobby. Membership has grown and diversified. Layouts are made from natural materials and feature a variety of plants and shrubbery to give a feel of a railway-like environment. Please visit their website at www.nngrs.com for more information.