Flemington, NJ is home to ‘world’s largest miniature wonderland’
FLEMINGTON — You don't earn headline-grabbing bragging rights without certification from Guinness World Records, and indeed, a haven for train and railroad enthusiasts nestled just north of this Hunterdon County borough has gone back and forth with a museum in Hamburg, Germany for the distinction of the "world's largest miniature wonderland."
That's the phrase emblazoned at the top of the website for Northlandz, which was the early-'90s brainchild of Bruce Williams Zaccagnino, and officially opened in 1996.
On site is an outdoor track on which you can take a brief, half-mile ride, and an indoor space full of models meant to make visitors think of trains as something more than vessels that get you from point A to point B.
"We send you on a path that's about a mile and a quarter long, and people are going to see, at this time, 80 or more trains running on about 100 to 105 loops of track," Patrick Bentz, just recently installed as the attraction's caretaker, said.
The original owner, who also goes by Bruce Williams or simply Mr. Bruce, sold the building in 2017, but Bentz said work continues to make Northlandz better "week by week, month by month."
That includes continuous examination of tracks that may not be working, or need to be restored or repaired, plus on-the-spot replacements of engines and trains.
"The trains run hands-off," Bentz said. "We turn them on in the morning when we're open and we turn them off in the evening, and then we'll walk through the museum several times a day to make sure they stay running. If not, we'll climb in, pull it off, replace it."
You can look at the model trains, tracks, and the scenery that surrounds them — including, in some cases, 30-foot-tall mountains — from a number of different levels.
It's fascinating for adults, but according to Bentz, one of the longtime goals of Northlandz has been to provide "a chance to expose kids to this hobby," especially relevant in this era of electronic devices.
Add to that, Bentz said, that not as many people work for the railroads as once did, making this site a nostalgic link to the past.
For children, the building has a party room, and for families that book it, a tour of the museum is offered.
Leave yourself at least an hour and a half to walk through, if you get the chance to go. Northlandz is currently open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.