The Record - Hackensack, NJ
Model choo-choos pull in for shows on a small scale

November 26, 2004

WHAT: Garden State Model Railroad Club Open House.

WHEN: Tonight, Saturday and Sunday; next Friday through Dec. 5; Dec. 10-12. 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

WHERE: 575 High Mountain Road, North Haledon. For more information, e-mail or visit

HOW MUCH: $4, under 12 free.
A train disappears into the tunnels at the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal. On the street, a line of yellow cabs waits to take passengers on the final leg of their journey.

What's that you say? Trains haven't operated in this Liberty State Park terminal since 1967?

That's right, they haven't. But the Garden State Model Railroad Club has brought the historic station to life as part of the club's permanent railroad display, featuring 20 trains chugging along a 40-foot layout of track. Visitors can see the display during the club's annual open house.

In the late 1800s, the Jersey City station, now a historic landmark, accommodated 300 trains daily. The model version features eight tracks and a selection of freight and passenger trains that leave the terminal and its tunnels to travel against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

What's special about the club's layout is that it's geared for both hobbyists and families, said Bob Savino, a member from Bergenfield who does most of the electrical work for the exhibit.

"Visitors can walk around the different scenes and get a real close-up look at the engines and how they are operated," Savino said.

Among this year's other highlights is the ice train that goes by so quickly that if you blink you miss it.

"One of our members who was in the service brought this model dart train back from Germany with him," Savino said.

Ongoing work on the mine perched along a cliff edge above the Middletown Station has been completed just in time for this year's show. A railroad line now climbs a steep grade to take trains into the mouth of the mine. Back by popular demand is Thomas the Tank Engine pulling his two coaches, Annie and Claribel. For Harry Potter fans, there's the Hogwarts Express, while children young and old can wave to St. Nick as he rides the Santa Express accompanied by a variety of Disney characters.

The open house is a once-a-year opportunity to glimpse what club members have been up to, Savino said. The rest of the year, members of the club, founded in 1952 in a two-door garage in Paterson, work at designing new scenery or meet to play with their trains.

"A love of trains is something you have to have in your blood - that's the only way I can explain it," said Savino of the hobby. "When we get together to run the trains, it takes us away from all the other pressures of life."

Here's a roundup of some other model railroad shows taking place this season:

  • The Holiday Train Show, through Jan. 9. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (to 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and closed Christmas Day). The Conservatory at New York Botanical Gardens, 200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard, Bronx, N.Y. (718) 817-8700 or Combination tickets are the best bet, as they grant access to all garden activities and exhibits. $13, seniors and students $11, children 2 to 12 $5, under 2 free.

  • Model Engineers Railroad Club of New Jersey Open House, tonight, Saturday and Sunday; next Friday through Dec. 5; and Dec. 10-12. 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $4, under 12 free. 569 High Mountain Road, North Haledon. This club shares a building with the Garden State Model Railroad Club.

  • The Station, an exhibit created by Broadway set designer Clarke Dunham, depicts real-life activities of New Yorkers in the 1940s and 1950s. Featuring 30 trains in a variety of scales. Today through Jan. 1. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Atrium, Citigroup Center, 153 E. 53rd St., Manhattan.

  • Ramapo Valley Model Railroad Club Open House, 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19. Featuring 50 trains on more than 500 feet of track. $4, under 12 $1. Family pass, $10. 620 Cliff St., Ho-Ho-Kus. Information: (201) 444-4546 or
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