Model train sets are supposed to be relatively small affairs, fitting an entire railway line on a table top. For Bruce Zaccagnino,, however, the small scale hobby became life-sized. Started in his basement 40 years ago, the train sets grew into larger and larger complexes, until Bruce was forced to renovate and build a second basement. Bruce is now on his fifth basement excavation.
This basement project however was merely practice for something larger yet. Originally twice a year, Bruce would open up the basement to the public and give the proceeds to charity. People however were so excited and amazed by what they saw, Bruce decided it was time to "give it to the world," and so Northlandz was born.
Northlandz, "Home of the Great American Railway" where 135 locomotives pulling thousands of railroad cars run over eight miles of track and cross bridges more than 40 feet in length, is the biggest model railroad on the planet, and by many accounts a true wonder of the world.
Bruce has a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor so when an 18-month-old kid climbed into the exhibit wrecking some of the trains and town, Bruce simply made that area into a miniature train wreck complete with broken track and derailed trains. Nestled among the 4,000 buildings, 400 bridges, a half-million lichen trees, and the 30-foot mountain, one can also find both a toothpick farm and an outhouse factory.
The museum also houses a collection of over 200 dolls and a 94-room dollhouse. Each day, Bruce, a concert organist, gives a performance in the 300-seat concert hall on his pipe organ.
In Northlandz, Bruce wears many hats: creator, engineer, artist, musician, and collector. He puts on whichever one fits best that day. Ironically, Bruce began this as a love of art and entertainment and not of trains and has himself never ridden one.