Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

United States' Largest HO Scale Layout

9082 views
27 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • From: Southeast Kansas
  • 1,304 posts
United States' Largest HO Scale Layout
Posted by wholeman on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:00 PM

I remember back in the late '90s or early 2000s of a layout that some wealthy individual built in a warehouse somewhere on the east coast.  It was published in the Guiness Book of World Records in the late '90s.  I have been trying to search for the name and was wondering if this layout is still operational.

Anybody else know of this or remember?  A Google search really hasn't helped much.

Will

  • Member since
    March, 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:26 PM

 I can't say for sure if it's the largest but Ken McCrory's Conrail layout is 5000 sq. ft. and owns it all by himself. I was speaking with a guy form California roadbed the other day and he told me there is someone not far form them who has a 9000 sq. ft. layout also privately owned but I can say if it's true or not but I believe the guy all I know is it isn't in my back yard.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • From: Southwest US
  • 11,593 posts
Posted by tomikawaTT on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:32 PM

Having just completed a brief Google search, I share your pain.

Apparently Miniatur-Wunderland, in Hamburg, Germany, is acknowledged to be the largest HO scale layout in the world.

There seem to be several contenders for Largest in the United States.  Among them are a nameless museum railroad in Medina, NY, (a work in progress) the Tehachapi Pass layout in San Diego's Balboa Park, the layout at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago...

I suspect that Northlandz, in New Jersey, is absolutely the largest HO gauge model rail display.  Calling it a scale model railroad (with its towering bridges apparently built of piano wire and uncooked spaghetti) stretches my modeling belief far beyond its elastic limit...

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - with bridges that look as if they can actually support trains)

  • Member since
    November, 2007
  • From: sharon pa
  • 384 posts
Posted by gondola1988 on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:32 PM

You might be thinking of Northlandz been there and it is a large layout and from what i heard he expanded it somemore .you can find it here http://www.northlandz.com/.

  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • From: Southeast Kansas
  • 1,304 posts
Posted by wholeman on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:39 PM

Thank you so very much.  You hit the nail square on the head.  I remember seeing this as part of a TV documentary years ago on the Travel Channel.  Once I saw the guys picture, it brought bach memories.  I remember seeing pictures of that and just dreaming of owning something like that.

Will

  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • From: Southeast Kansas
  • 1,304 posts
Posted by wholeman on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:47 PM

The scenery is just awe inspiring. I can't believe it is all cab control. I bet it would be a challenge changing over to DCC.

Will

  • Member since
    March, 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Friday, September 04, 2009 11:58 PM

Your correct it used to be in the guys house until the fire department stopped him from having people over to see it a few time a year. he used to open it up for charity events and such but they would get so mobbed with people it was deemd unsafe so he bought the building in Flemington and I believe he had added on to it also.

If you see it up close and personal you have to try and not choke on all the dust in the place and a lot of the scenery has seen better days. I refer to it as a semi controlled model railroading disaster. They did switch over from Dc to DCC and now run MRC Prodigy Advance Squared, at least according tot he full page add MRC took out on the back cover a few months back.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    May, 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,056 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 12:52 AM

Some of the guys at my club have been down to see Northlandz, and they were not impressed with the quality.  Of the quantity, certainly.  It's huge.  But the modeling was so-so.

One thing that distressed one member was that there was visible trash on the layout from passers-by who dropped their napkin or coffee cup over the rail.  There are apparently many inaccessible areas that they can't get at to pick up said trash.  So there it remains.

I wouldn't call Northlandz's system real "block control" because IIRC they have no working switches (track or electrical).  Each train running is alone on it's own self contained loop of track.  There are no blocks.  The control center had some 100 MRC Tech II's all lined up, and that was it.

Northlandz is an interesting display layout but really only because of it's size.  50,000 sq. ft. is impressive no matter how you slice it, considering that my club is one of the biggest in the USA and our building is "only" 10,000 sq. ft.  But I think I'd rather go and see a smaller, more high quality layout with trains that are more than 10 cars long and that uses equipment somewhat better than Athearn BB and locos better than...whatever Northlandz is using (F7A's and some SD's of one kind or another?).

If I was in the area, I'd probably go check it out.  But to make a special trip to see it?  Nah. 

Paul A. Cutler III
*******************
Weather Or No Go New Haven
*******************

  • Member since
    March, 2009
  • From: Just South of the Arctic Circle
  • 6,869 posts
Posted by Sir Madog on Saturday, September 05, 2009 1:11 AM

 I have read many a quite negative comment about this layout and I just can´t follow those remarks. It is, what it is - a huge display layout with a spectacular scenery, made for attracting people to view it and pay the admission. Certainly, it is not as refined as our home layouts or that wonderful Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, but whoever built it, has done a good job in setting up the whole thing, IMHO. Too bad, if some spectators misbehave and drop their trash on the layout - hey, that reminds me of a cartoon I´ ve seen in MR many years ago, showing a frankensteinesque character guarding a layout, with the owner saying " I keep him for people who pick up my rolling stock"!

Now I would not travel all the way across the Big Pond to see it, just like you would probably not travel to Hamburg just to see Miniatur Wunderland!

Cheers!

Ulrich

People in Hamburg don´t tan, they rust!

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • 8 posts
Posted by bobhoban328 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:30 AM

Some of you are missing the point completely....Northlandz is one guys model layout!  Is it the Franklin and South Manchester?  Not even close.  But this guy enjoys the hobby and to all intents and purposes has spent a small fortune on it.   Cripes, it looks like hes got two or three concrete mixer trucks of hydro-cal alone invested in this, if you click on the link posted above.   And, he has opened it to the public for display. For some people and especially kids, this is quite an intro to model railroading.  Remember, model railroading is supposed to be fun.  Ranging from an armchair modeler or a 36"circle on the floor or F&SM as noted above. Would I make a trip from south Florida to go see it? NO!  But, if I was within a few hours driving on vacation or business, of course I would. You always want to see what the other guys got.  As stated in a reply above, "It is what it is".  Just enjoy it for that alone. There are few 'rules' in model railroading, first of course is have fun! the second is thou shalt not pick at anothers layout. there are a few more, but those are the majors.

 

  • Member since
    April, 2001
  • From: US
  • 3,152 posts
Posted by CNJ831 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:52 AM

bobhoban328

Remember, model railroading is supposed to be fun.  Ranging from an armchair modeler or a 36"circle on the floor or F&SM as noted above. Would I make a trip from south Florida to go see it? NO!  But, if I was within a few hours driving on vacation or business, of course I would. You always want to see what the other guys got.  As stated in a reply above, "It is what it is".  Just enjoy it for that alone. There are few 'rules' in model railroading, first of course is have fun! the second is thou shat not pick at anothers layout. there are a few more, but those are the majors.

However...even many of the general public's posted reviews of Northlandz refer to it as being rather crude, strikingly dusty/dirty and with the building in general disrepair. While this situation might be acceptable for some large home layout that's hidden away from outside eyes, it is very disappointing when such is presented as an example of model railroading to the general public. Big, alone, should not be the deciding consideration here, at least in my mind.

CNJ831

  • Member since
    October, 2007
  • From: ohio
  • 1,240 posts
Posted by rs2mike on Saturday, September 05, 2009 9:41 AM

tomikawaTT

  Among them are a nameless museum railroad in Medina, OH, (a work in progress) 

Hey Chuck were did you find this info.  I live in Medina Ohio and know nothing about it.  There is a train shop called Ormandies on the square here that has a toy museum that has a ton of brass train stuff and also has a small european themed layout.  I would be interested to know where the other one is.  Pm me if you know where it might be or where you found it on the web.

Thanks

Mike

alco's forever!!!!! Majoring in HO scale Minorig in O scale:)

  • Member since
    October, 2007
  • From: ohio
  • 1,240 posts
Posted by rs2mike on Saturday, September 05, 2009 9:56 AM

Never mind Chuck.  I found it with broader search.  It is actually Medina NY not Medina OH.  Looks cool though.  Although my hopes of seeing it and possibly volunteering on it have been dashedSad

alco's forever!!!!! Majoring in HO scale Minorig in O scale:)

  • Member since
    May, 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,056 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 10:01 AM

Sir Madog,
The things I like to see in a model railroad are (in no particular order):
1). Realism - Northlandz is not realistic.  The bridges are laughable.  The spagetti bowl track plan is bizzare.  The trains are all short (less than 10 cars).  The speeds, judging by the video on their website, are quite high.  The scenery looks like green towels draped over a drying rack.

2). Operations - Northlandz does not "Operate", it only displays moving trains.  They have no working track switches.  They have no engineers, no dispatchers, no brakemen.  All the engines look like they are Tyco trainset locos.  The cars look like Athearn BB's at best.

3). Detail - Northlandz does not get better the closer you get, it looks worse.  The scenery looks like it was applied with a trowel, for example, and the bridges just have flex track draped over the bridge beams. 

Would the above stop me from seeing Northlandz?  No, as I said, if I was going by it I'd go in to see it because quantity is a quality all it's own.  But I would not try to emulate it in any way.  I would not look for modeling ideas there.  I would walk out of there saying, "I could do better than that.  Not as big, but certainly better."

bobhoban328,
Um, it's not "one guys model layout".  Oh, it belongs to one guy, but it's not like he built the thing himself.

And he's not doing this out of the goodness of his heart.  Not at $13.75 an adult and $9.75 per kid (family of four = $47.00).  It's a business like any other roadside attraction.  It could be a petting zoo, a theme park, or the world's largest ball of twine.  Northlandz just happens to be a model railroad instead of something else.

While I normally would agree that picking on other people's layout is in poor taste (especially in public), Northlandz is one of the exceptions.  Why?  Because they charge admission.

Let me put it this way.  I have a pretty good size layout for a home layout (25' x 50'), and it has no scenery other than some buildings on the plywood and one ballasted yard.  If I show it to someone for free and they start to give me the business on how bad my layout looks, I'll tell them where to go and how to get there and then remove them from my layout room.  But if I charged them cash to see my layout, at worst I'd grit my teeth and take it.  I might even agree with them and take their criticism under advisement.  Paying admission is the key.  If any layout asks for cash to see the layout, they open themselves to criticism.

CNJ,
This is one of those rare times where we are in complete agreement.  Smile

Paul A. Cutler III
*******************
Weather Or No Go New Haven
*******************

  • Member since
    September, 2006
  • From: Ogden UT
  • 1,055 posts
Posted by PA&ERR on Saturday, September 05, 2009 10:21 AM

 For my money, and even though it isn't HO my favorite "display" layout has to be Roadside America in Shartlesville PA. The day my dad took our family there (back in the 60s) the seed was planted in my little brain that one day I would build a model train layout of my own.

-Kosmo

"And the sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers ride their father's magic carpet made of steel..."

  • Member since
    March, 2009
  • From: Just South of the Arctic Circle
  • 6,869 posts
Posted by Sir Madog on Saturday, September 05, 2009 10:28 AM

Paul3

Sir Madog,
The things I like to see in a model railroad are (in no particular order):
1). Realism
2). Operations
3). Detail

 

 ... agreed, those are the things I´d like to see  in a good layout as well - in your layout, my layout - because we are model railroaders! As for commercial layouts, well, there are vast differences what the spectators are offered to see - from master model railroading to huge, well made, but maybe a little too gimmicky (Miniatur Wunderland) to just huge. Miniatur Wunderland attracts over 1 million visitors each year, at $ 15 admission, it is a multi-million dollar business. Their USP is detail, gimmick, variety (i.e. Hamburg, Alps, USA, Scandinavia parts) and size, Northlandz´s USP may be just size. As long as people are willing to pay to see it and have a certain grin in their face we all know best, it is perfectly ok for me. If it were advertised as the "best" layout, however, I would have my problems with it.

Edit:

Kosmo - your are right! If any of those display layouts around attract people to the hobby, they have served their purpose well. In my younger days, there were little layouts on display at train stations. You dropped in a coin and could watch the two trains circle around for a few minutes. To say they were crude is bragging already, but the got generations of kids into the hobby - even me!

Cheers!

Ulrich

People in Hamburg don´t tan, they rust!

  • Member since
    June, 2006
  • From: Maryville IL
  • 7,305 posts
Posted by cudaken on Saturday, September 05, 2009 10:44 AM

 There video left a more favorable impression on me than the pictures I saw last time. Two things I did not like where all the huge mountains, and I like mountains. Plus all the stupid bridges, and I like bridges.

 Far as no turn outs, that does not bother me, I like to watch most of the time anyway. Short trains? I wonder why they don't run Mu's and pull longer ones? Like some of the towns, some look pretty detailed, would like to see better pictures of the city.

 Far as the engines running fast, don't mot main line engines run 60 to 70 MPH?

 Would I like to own it, NO. Just to darn big, heck K-10 Model Trains layout is only 4860 sq feet and I get tired following my train around that layout.

 But it is big and most people that go to see it are saying OMG, this great. But, they are not modelers.

               Cuda Ken

I hate Rust

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • From: Southwest US
  • 11,593 posts
Posted by tomikawaTT on Saturday, September 05, 2009 11:00 AM

A gentleman who had converted his personal layout into a public attraction told me that once you establish business hours and start charging admission, model railroading stops being a hobby and starts being a business.Grumpy  After giving that idea some thought, I abandoned the idea of making my own dream railroad into a self-supporting entity.  That's why it's 16 x 20 in a garage rather than 40 x 100 in a storefront.Cool

As a private person, I can run when I want (2 AM after watching the Sumo tournament Whistling) and not run if I don't feel like it (altogether too often, thanks to this bum hip Sigh) or have other family responsibilities.  If I post operating hours and put up a fare box I HAVE to be there - even if nobody comes.Ashamed  Also, any construction, maintenance or simple cleaning has to be scheduled for times when paying guests aren't present.Shock

As things stand now, my life controls my model railroading.  I'd rather not have model railroading controlling my life.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - to MY schedule, not the public's)

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • 528 posts
Posted by RFinch on Saturday, September 05, 2009 11:08 AM

 FYI:  Northlandz was featured in one of the early "Dream, Plan, Build" videos that MR produced.  There is a video available from Mark I Video which I bought at Amazon.com for about $15.00.  It is one hour long and deals only with Northlandz.  I show it to my non-model RR friends to impress them with its size.  I have never visited it in person, but based on the video, I looks pretty crude.  The plaster in the mountains looks like it was slathered on with a trowel and colors of the scenery look pretty garish.  The bridges are pretty impressive if for no other reason than their size.  I don't think I'd make a special trip to see it, but if I were in the area I might stop.

Bob

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Lewiston ID
  • 1,677 posts
Posted by reklein on Saturday, September 05, 2009 2:22 PM

For those of us in the Pacific North West I'd recommend the Osoyoos desrt Railway in Osoyoos Canada. Its just north of the border on Hiway 97  about 100 miles north of Wenatchee. Remember them ? the apple people? Its a 400 ft. Marklin RR and in my opinion very well done. Over 11000 figures alone. Check out their website. BILL

In Lewiston Idaho,where they filmed Breakheart pass.
  • Member since
    September, 2002
  • From: California & Maine
  • 3,423 posts
Posted by andrechapelon on Saturday, September 05, 2009 2:58 PM

reklein

For those of us in the Pacific North West I'd recommend the Osoyoos desrt Railway in Osoyoos Canada. Its just north of the border on Hiway 97  about 100 miles north of Wenatchee. Remember them ? the apple people? Its a 400 ft. Marklin RR and in my opinion very well done. Over 11000 figures alone. Check out their website. BILL

This one, I assume: http://www.osoyoosrailroad.com/

VIrtual tours and video: http://www.osoyoosrailroad.com/html/video.html

Apparently it even has a working Faller road system.

Andre

My wife tells me that I'm beyond help. I think what she's actually trying to say is that assistance is futile.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Chamberlain, ME
  • 2,802 posts
Posted by G Paine on Saturday, September 05, 2009 4:02 PM

RFinch
I looks pretty crude.  The plaster in the mountains looks like it was slathered on with a trowel and colors of the scenery look pretty garish.

I have never been there, but from articles about it after it opened, it was built quickly. It went from bare floor and walls to open to the public in much less than a year. Is it any wonder that the scenery is crude and not up to modeling standards? From the sound of comments on the housekeeping, there probably is not a large staff to maintain it. Too bad, but that could be a result of the economy and what it costs to hire legal, mimimum wage enployees. The bottom line is that it's a tourist attraction first, not a fine scale model railroad.

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch

  • Member since
    March, 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 4:58 PM

 One thing that bugs me about the place in reference to maybe getting someone interested in the hobby is you should always put your best foot forward and try to make a good impression. On one had we have Northlandz charging what I feel is a ridiculous amount of money to see a dirty dusty poor excuse for a train layout. But travel 40 min. down the road to The Model Railroad Club of Union NJ and you will see for less then half the money which is only charged during holidays probably one of the finest model railroads you will ever see. With plenty of member eager to answer questions and spend as much time with the kids as necessary answering questions helping them see the trains etc. These guys are real ambassadors of the hobby. I have been there when kids tell their fathers hey dad can we build one of these and members have given them their home phone numbers telling them give me a call if you have any questions or if you run into trouble etc.

So someone walks away from Union seeing what the hobby is really all about form operation to simple running of trains to construction of bench work wiring etc. i have to wonder how many people walk away form Northlandz thinking that place was a rip off and the  model railroading guys are a bunch of pasty faced crackpots who live in their basements and only come out after the son goes down.

As mentioned earlier when you charge people good money for an attraction you should at least be a good enough businessman to give them what they paid for.

 

 

http://www.tmrci.com/
Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 63 posts
Posted by NEMMRRC on Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:49 PM
I decided to look around to find any news on Northlandz and found this entry from a visitor on August 11, 2009: http://blog.nj.com/njv_zohar_laor/2009/08/northlandz_a_new_jersey_treasu.html Jaime
  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • From: Southeast Kansas
  • 1,304 posts
Posted by wholeman on Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:59 PM

Will

  • Member since
    August, 2009
  • 8 posts
Posted by hoguy12 on Saturday, September 05, 2009 8:21 PM

NEMMRRC
I decided to look around to find any news on Northlandz and found this entry from a visitor on August 11, 2009: http://blog.nj.com/njv_zohar_laor/2009/08/northlandz_a_new_jersey_treasu.html Jaime

Apparently they havent seen too many private well done layouts Big Smile

 IMO they could have done alittle bit better on the rocks and stuff like that cause it looks horrible.

And it alsomight be a better idea to slow the trains down and make them longer. But that is just my opinion.

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Lewiston ID
  • 1,677 posts
Posted by reklein on Saturday, September 05, 2009 8:59 PM

Andre, thanks for the link, I had it here somewhere,and my wife called me for lunch just then,and the dog needed to go out,Blah blah blah,Clown Seriously,,,Thanks BILL

In Lewiston Idaho,where they filmed Breakheart pass.
  • Member since
    January, 2004
  • From: Memphis
  • 930 posts
Posted by PASMITH on Saturday, September 05, 2009 10:18 PM
Northlandz is not a model railroad. Rather, it is something right out of a Ray Bradbury novel such as "Dark Carnival" or, " Something Wicked This Way Comes". Think Gothem City and the Bat-mobile. Look closely at the dust and trash but particularly at the nightmarish scenes the owner has created or, listen to the large pipe organ that the owner is playing as you walk through a labyrinth of catwalks and you hope you do not slip off of and disappear into the scenery. It's like being in a fun house. My grandkids loved it. Peter Smith, Memphis

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!
Popular on ModelRailroader.com
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
Find us on Facebook

Loading...