Northlandz in New Jersey is more than a model train installation: It’s an entire miniature world. With 100 trains running on over 50,000 feet of track, the model train exhibit was built by hand by eccentric artist and former computer game designer Bruce Zaccagnino.
Zaccagnino, who opened Northlandz to the public in 1996, spent up to 19 hours a day, seven days a week, over the course of four years making his vision into a reality.
Featuring cities and suburbs, vast mountain ranges, winding streams, Western ghost towns, industrial factories, and, of course, various model trains, Northlandz is a breathtaking achievement, and the result of years of passion. According to The Washington Post, Zaccagnino began building train layouts as a hobby decades before the idea for Northlandz ever entered his mind. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he built elaborate model train installations in his basement, opening his exhibit to the public biannually to raise money for charity.
But despite the popularity of his early train worlds, many people doubted he’d be able to get Northlandz off the ground. In the short documentary “Some Kind of Quest,” Zaccagnino tells filmmaker Andrew Wilcox about the early days of Northlandz, and what it took to build the train world of his dreams.
“As I decided to try to do this, everybody thought I was a total idiot, whether it was town officials, relatives—I lost a couple friends,” he tells Wilcox. But Zaccagnino was determined.
“I don’t know why I did it,” he says. “I just had to do it. I had no explanation. I’d wake up in the morning sometimes when I was constructing, or before I was constructing, and all of a sudden there’s a new idea. This is a whole new thing that comes into my head out of nowhere. Out of absolutely nowhere.”
Watch the short documentary above to learn more about Northlandz and Zaccagnino's quest.
Banner Image Credit: Andrew Wilcox, Vimeo
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