The Maranatha Garden Railway, or MGR for short, was an idea conceived by Maranatha Aged Care volunteer John Swinbourne. Hoping to bring delight, wonderment, and a joyous laugh to those who experienced it. The effort and time that went into the creation and implementation of this project, perfectly captured the spirit of Maranatha Aged Care.

With over 100 volunteers helping our wonderful staff at Maranatha, it’s not an exaggeration to say we wouldn’t be where we are without our volunteers. Some of our volunteer & ecclesial members have collaborated to bring a remarkable train garden display to Maranatha Aged Care.

John Swinbourne, the project manager of the Maranatha Garden Railway, tells us how the project went from an idea to reality, and why after 40 years in the Maranatha community he wants to give something back to it.

“Maranatha Aged Care run a fair every year in September, which has been held for the last 20 or so years. Peter Shaw always had this fantastic garden railway display at each year’s fair, which was always a great spectacle to see.”

Inspired by this, John had created a mini train-display at his home for his grandkids to come visit and play with. After visits to his home, fellow ecclesial members, volunteers, and Maranatha employees had a collective thought on a project grander in scale.

“Around September 2018, a group of us got together including Peter Shaw, Stuart Muir and myself, to discuss bringing a permanent garden railway display to Maranatha. We knew we wanted to create something that would carry a community spirit with it.”

After a few months of discussion, a location was needed to get the project rolling, and the perfect spot was decided – the life-size chess set garden – the idea was slowly turning into a reality.

But the project wasn’t finalised just yet.

“Joe Hoskin, a member of one of the Queensland Chrisadelphian Ecclesias, coincidentally worked for Queensland Rail. So naturally, Joe was tasked with the design, sketches and layout of the railway display. From there it was tweaked and refined by our team, and just before Christmas we sent a proposal to the Christadelphian Aged Care board.”

The proposal was a means to gauge interest in the project from the board, and it quickly gained momentum and was approved. The idea could now be a reality. John as project manager, had the task of completing the train display before Easter.

“15 people were involved in this project, which was comprised of volunteers & ecclesial members.”

With invaluable assistance from Peter Shaw, who looked after the financial aspects with the Maranatha Fundraising Committee (Dawn Middlecoat). John allocated everyone into 4 teams and gave each team a section of the track to focus on.

One of the major difficulties with a project like this, is the environment itself. The track involved going through tunnels, moving arounds shrubs, making steady inclines, and would be exposed to the sun on hot summer days. It was important that John gave tasks to the right people.

“I thought the best way to get progress done efficiently was to look at everyone’s comfort zone. Everyone who worked on this project played a part in helping achieve our end goal through their own strengths. Whether it be drawing on their previous job experience, anything they could bring to the table was a huge bonus.”

When asked what this project means to John, he said “It’s not a toy that we’re making for myself, what I’m trying to do is give something back to the community. Maranatha looked after my mother for 5 years, and several other of my relatives have been here also. I’ve had a long involvement at Maranatha, for over 40 years.”

The train display was finished on time, and on March 30th it was officially opened. A fantastic event was held for the occasion, with a tremendous turn out from volunteers, residents, families, and staff.

A great deal of time, effort and passion was shown to create the Maranatha Garden Railway. With the ongoing support from Kerralye Wright, the Leisure and Lifestyle Team Leader, the Mens Shed at Maranatha, and the gardening team. The residents and community will enjoy many years of activity together outdoors in the garden.

Regular running days are now being held on the 2nd Thursday of every Month from 10.30am.