Stroll through the NJ’s record-breaking railroad exhibit for a miniature slice of Americana

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Even the world’s most scenic train rides couldn’t come close to the jaw-dropping topography you’ll find in New Jersey. Northlandz.

Vast expanses of tracks wind past peaceful hamlets located just a few millimeters from towering mountains. A colorful carnival, with roller coasters and Ferris wheel rides, wobbles peacefully on a plateau in the distance, not far from a complex of crisscross bridges spanning jagged cliffs and a yawning canyon below.

And to think that it was all done by one man.

Located in Flemington, Northlandz has held the record for the largest small-scale model railroad exhibition in the world for 24 consecutive years. Photo by Hunter Hulbert

While the constraints of practical engineering do not allow such extreme landscapes in our world, creator Bruce Zaccagnino, or “Mr. Bruce,” did not follow the rules of reality in his world. Never mind that he’s never been on a train before. Here, Northlandz was the name, the imagination was the game, and there were no limits to this brilliant idea. Just ask the Guinness Book of World Records. During their visit in 1997, the world authority awarded the over 50,000 square foot giant the title of the largest small-scale model railroad exhibition in the world. Today, 24 years later, Northlandz still sits atop the summit. (Click on here to see the magical scene come to life.)

Of course, some things have changed, like Zaccagnino who is retiring in 2018, but the heart and soul of the place remains strong and his unbridled creative spirit continues to move forward. Inside the museum, you’ll hear the harmonious tune of over 100 trains, in fact, soaring in all directions over 8 miles of track and around 1,000 scale structures of all sizes. Mountains and skyscrapers, some of which rise to three stories, dominate you throughout the kilometer-long self-guided tour, but don’t let the distance deter you. Time will pass when you see the fun of this wonderful world come to life in Flemington.

Inside Northlandz, you’ll hear the harmonious air of over 100 trains spinning in all directions over 8 miles of track. Photo by Hunter Hulbert

“There isn’t a lot to see that is done by hand and with passion at the same time,” said Tariq Sohail, owner of Northlandz, who decided to save the display by dipping over $ 600,000 (and counting) in restoration efforts. “Northlandz is a man’s life of manual labor and vision in the form of this work of art, which could never have been achieved without great passion. We consider Northlandz to be one of the largest canvases in the world with trains running through and around it. Besides trains, there are bridges, tunnels, mountains, valleys, villages, towns, cities, canals, streams, lakes, rivers, the list could go on and on. .

Admiring all the fantastic sights is no small feat despite its miniature nature, but the reward comes with the journey. And this trip is not just a great powerhouse; it’s a historic master class in Americana and all of its forms, from Civil War battles to mines and factories, plus a touch of funky. The “world’s only toothpick farm”, the “Tomb of the Unknown Hobo” and the global doll collections (especially The Peep Doll House) that line the catwalk are definitely among the stars of this department.

It’s fun, yes, but not entirely surprising. After all, anything goes when it comes to the imagination, and you must expect the unexpected. Northlandz is no exception.

The Peep Doll House is a 94-room miniature mansion housing dolls depicting various scenes. Photo courtesy of Northlandz

When you step back in the process, it’s not hard to see why over a million people from countries as far apart as Germany, Japan and Sweden have stopped by to see what all the buzz is about. . The size of the attraction alone is something you don’t see every day. But whether it’s for a sense of nostalgia or to learn something new, everyone is sure to come away with an appreciation for the unparalleled talent of Mr. Bruce and the Wonderland he formed with his hands and heart. .

“Northlandz surprises people because they never imagined it would be this big and with so much detail,” Sohail said. “Videos and stills can never do justice to what’s inside, and every scene is Mr. Bruce’s imagination – he hasn’t copied anyone else. It’s incredible.”

Northlandz is currently only open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. due to the pandemic. Tickets are $ 12 for ages 11 and under, $ 24 for ages 12 to 64, and $ 20 for seniors, military, and teachers. You can buy tickets online here.

Address: 495 Route 202, Flemington, NJ 08822

As you take in the sight of this incredible creation, remember you can only find it Just … in Jersey.

Hunter Hulbert is the editor of Just in Jersey for Jersey’s Best magazine. A suggestion for a story? Contact him at [email protected]

To explore other unique destinations in the state, check out other Just in Jersey features here.

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