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."
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.
This is one of those rare times where we are in complete agreement.
Paul A. Cutler III
Weather Or No Go New Haven