In Mid-October, I ventured from New York City for a brief field trip (socially distanced and masked, of course) to visit NorthlandZ, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the World's Largest Model railroad.
Started in 1972 by Bruce Williams Zaccagnino as a hobby:
"In 1972, Mr. William's and his wife Jean built a small ranch house, with a
basement for his hobby; model railroading. William's had so many ideas
for his model railroad, he added 5 basements to his home over a period
of 18 years. The fourth basement being 3 times the size of the original
house. The township allowed the exhibit open to the public 2 weekends a
year - proceeds going to local charities."
NorthlandZ become an official entity in the 1990s:
"His hobby turned out to be the practice (not knowing it at the time) for Northlandz. In
1991, Mr. William's bought land on US 202 in Flemington to build Northlandz. It took 2 years to finish the building - 4 & 1/2 years to create the indoor museum, working 17-19 hours a day--every
day. Northlandz opened a week before 1997."
With vistas like the above constructed from thousands upon thousands of toothpicks, it's clearly a labor of love and art created by Bruce. When Bruce retired in the 2000s, the museum was fortunately acquired and restored by Tariq Sohail.
With over 100 trains running on 8 miles of track, you can imagine the control center is quite something to behold.
NorthlandZ has 4,000 miniature buildings, 400 bridges, half a million tiny trees, and a 30 foot mountain.
The ongoing series of buildings, each with its own unique landscape, continue to create an experience that is worth an afternoon with friends or family to visit.
Bruce also hid various small jokes and "I Spy" finds in each landscape, so you end up looking closer at each scene to find each reference. (Keep an eye out for the entrepreneurial Grandma!)
The scale of the NorthlandZ experience can be mind-boggling at times. The fact that this was the work of one extraordinary individual makes it something along the lines of Salvation Mountain or Coral Castle.
And the experience continues outside, with a small railroad that runs hourly for visitors to be able to ride in the woods around NorthlandZ.
I highly recommend making the trip to visit this truly original one-of-a-kind experience.