Northlandz, A Quirky New Jersey Stop


Flemington, New Jersey may not be one of the most talked about places in the state. The small borough, located a little more than 100 miles from Atlantic City, was home to just 4200 people as of the 2000 census but, like many small towns, it has one claim to fame. For Flemington that claim is Northlandz.

Northlandz is a miniature railroad, but it's not very miniature. The railroad includes eight miles of tracks and over 4,000 buildings. It was all designed and built by Bruce Williams Zaccagnino, who now operates the tourist attraction along with his wife, Jean.

While impressive in size, Northlandz was not intended to be an accurate scale model. Even though some things may seem out of sync, such as too-big buildings or varying sizes of model trains, a visit to the site is entertaining.

Zaccagnino made a point to include some bits of humor to keep visitors entertained as they meander through his attraction. Playing on the not-so-perfect scale of the exhibit, Zaccagnino placed a sign that read "World's Tallest Outhouse'' on one of the buildings.

It's hard to explain the sheer size of Zaccagnino's creation. On his website, www.northlandz.com, there are photos that attempt to do that. As the creator stands in the middle of a portion of his "Great American Railway'', he is pretty much lost amidst the sprawling bridges and massive cliff sides that have been carefully carved from plaster.

The mile long museum, which sits on 16-acres, features over 100 trains. There are other surprises along the walk to keep visitors entertained. There is a large art collection on display as well as over 200 dolls that have been collected by the Zaccagninos from all over the world. There is even a 94-room doll mansion ("doll house'' just isn't an accurate description) that has been dubbed "La Peep Doll House''. There is something for music lovers, too. Zaccagnino plays a huge pipe organ at different times throughout the day. The music can be heard as visitors stroll through Northlandz, or they can take a rest and sit in the theater and listen to him play.

There is a snack bar with a fair number of offerings and the tour ends with a ride on a 2/3 scale steam engine.

Kids will love Northlandz and adults will admire all the work that went in to building such an attraction.

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