Flemington, NJ – June 2018 – Northlandz Model Railroad Display

As you drive along US Route 202 near Flemington in western New Jersey you will come upon a building alongside the road that at first glance appears to possibly be vacant. Set behind a small parking lot, and on this summer day somewhat overgrown by weeds is a 50,000 square foot gray building.

When you stop and walk inside you see a small snack bar and gift shop, and the appearances of something past it’s prime. However as you pay your entry fee and head in you are in for an amazing experience.

For it is here in Flemington, New Jersey that you find what is one of the world’s largest model train display.

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What started as a hobby in the basement of Bruce Zaccagnino in the early 1970s eventually developed into something much larger.

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Bruce was a musician and computer game designer but whose passion was model railroading.

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The display has over 400 bridges …

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Eight miles of track ….

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They also have some static displays including this train wreck – note the passangers hanging onto the side of the car.

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Some of the displays appear to be 15′ high.

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The rail yard.

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Another of the 400 bridges across a deep ravine.

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The detail is great – this is a tower in the amusement park.

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Another massive bridge with a monastery on top of the mountain.

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More ravines and bridges.

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There were a few trains running but with the size it became a game to listen for the trains to come across the features.

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A model of the famed Firth of Forth bridge in Scotland.

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Another view of the same bridge from below.

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Putt putt course from hell.

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The Golden Spike location in Utah.

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The control room. Northlandz is an amazing place to see – don’t let the slightly worn look of the outside and lobby deter you – it is well worth the visit.

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Jersey City, NJ – May 2018 – Liberty State Park

Our day ended in Jersey City with a stop at Liberty State Park. As we entered we paid our respects at the 9-11 Memorial. With the late afternoon sun and lack of crowds it was a moving moment to see the names of those who lost their lives that day.

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Nearby is the iconic view of lower Manhattan.

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The former Jersey City rail station continue to be refurbished.

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There were numerous sailboats out in the harbor.

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Including a large sailboat for tourists.

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The last of the day’s Statue of Liberty cruises was returning.

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Later we were treated to a great full moon over Manhattan.

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New York City – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 3 – More Manhattan Museums

Monday was museum day in the city, taking the 7:30 AM PATH train with a few commuters on their way to work. The train into New York City was not crowded at this time of day so we were able to find seats as we rode the train.

Just up from Penn Station is the Tick Tock Restaurant, my favorite Manhattan breakfast diner, where we had a lobster omelet and a sausage omelet, as good as ever with the quintessential New York atmosphere. From there the C and the 4 subways took us up to East 72nd Street, speinding some time walking through Central Park before it was time for the Guggenheim to open.

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Fifty people waited in line with us for the museum doors to open. Upon entering the museum, I was able to receive our tickets from the membership desk and so we bypassed the fifty people standing in line before us. It felt like cheating, skipping passed all those people in line, and getting in for free as well.

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The Guggenheim designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a cylindrical building that is wider at the top than the bottom. Its unique ramp gallery extends up from the ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight.

The ceiling skylight opens to the main lobby while all levels of continuous spaces flow freely from one level into another. The concrete spiral building is designed for viewing from the top down and my impression of the Guggenheim is that the building is more impressive than the art inside. The art at the Guggenheim had an early modern flair by artists such as Picasso, and Chagall of many geometric brightly-colored paintings and mobiles but the theme seemed repetitive to me as we wound our way down the ramp. The Guggenheim also houses works of impressionism, expressionism, and surrealism.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not a far walk from the Guggenheim and is a museum that we had always wanted to see. The Met is the largest museum in the United States with more than two million art items.

One of the current exhibits on display this day was a fashion display called Manus and Machina –The Fashion of Technology. The main attraction, a hand-stitched haute couture wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel had a 20-foot train that projected the detail in its embroidery onto the ceiling. The pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. The gist of the ensemble is to force a change in image of hand-sewn (manus – haute couture) versus machine (machina – ready-made) fashion combining these techniques. Ensembles of ordinary materials such as embroidery, feathers, artificial flowers, lace, and leather were transformed into extraordinary gowns and dresses. Exhibits tucked into alcoves showed dresses made of plastic drink straws and some of only fur.

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The Met offered a chance for us to see Greek and Roman art, jewelry, and sculpture. A young woman visiting the Greek/Roman wing seemed especially in awe of a man’s ass on a Roman statue. The African and Pacific Island wing featured exquisite ceremonial carvings of stone and wood, masks, bowls, and spears. The Asian and Middle Eastern area exhibited helmets, sarcophaguses, ancient pottery, and jewelry. There was also an American wing that displayed American furniture and paintings.

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The great hall of the museum led us to the medieval section for an impressive display of life-sized armored soldiers mounted on armored horses. The European wing had sculptures of all sizes, some very large and dating back to the fifteenth century. We ate lunch at the Met’s cafe and realized we would not be able to see everything in one day so we saw as much as possible before leaving to meet  my co-workers for dinner.

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Dinner was at Bertucci’s Pizza back in Jersey City, where we enjoyed the company of my work group. Finally to end the evening we walked around the Newport neighborhood with my New York City expert who is also interested in photography, who provided us interesting history of the redevelopment of Jersey City as well as the growth of lower Manhattan, directly across the river.

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New York City – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 2

An early Sunday morning start allowed our 5 hour drive from Greensburg to Jersey City to be completed shortly after noon. After dropping the car off with the Courtyard Hotel valet, and the bags in the room we caught the Path train for Manhattan, specifically the new World Trade Center.

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As we came up the escalator we entered the Oculus, the transportation and retail center designed by a Spanish architect Santiano Calatrava. Designed to resemble a bird being released from a child’s hand, the roof was originally designed to mechanically open to increase light and ventilation to the enclosed space. Due to budget restraints, a 355 foot operable skylight was built with 224 pieces of glass in 40 panels that can be cantilevered from the surrounding steel skeleton. When the skylight is opened, its panels retract into pockets in the roof.

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Each September 11th, the skylight will be opened to the elements for 102 minutes. That is how long the 2001 terrorist attack lasted, from the time the first jetliner hit the trade center at 8:46 a.m. until the collapse of the second tower at 10:28 a.m. “In all weather conditions, the public will experience a subtle sense of man’s vulnerability, while maintaining a link to a higher order,” as said by Santiago.

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The project was grossly over budgeted and critics complain of the narrow halls to handle the mass of commuters. Some describe the “Oculus” as a stegosaurus or white elephant monstrosity rather than a bird. I thought the building was very modern in appearance with the spiny ribbed ceiling and white interior and it suited New York to match the chic style of the city providing a real statement in architecture.

We went out into the streets and found the Fulton Street Cafe for something to eat, followed by a walk uptown to the  J. P. Morgan Library. The company I work for supports the arts in New York, and as a result, we have access to most of the New York museums without charge, a great perk. The Morgan Library is a personal collection of books and items of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan. The collection was so dear to him that he had a building added on to his home to store his books and historical documents, drawings and prints. The library was built in the Italian-Renaissance-style with three magnificent rooms.

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After Pierpont’s death, his son J.P. Morgan, Jr. fulfilled his father’s wishes by transforming the library and its treasures as a public institution. Late in the 1920’s the Library and Museum expanded replacing the Morgan home. Although a staircase which led from the Morgan home to the library remains hidden behind two bookshelves, the staircase can still be seen if looking through the screen and behind the books on the shelf. In 1988, the Library and Museum annexed the brownstone home of J.P. Morgan, Jr. so that a garden courtyard now connects all the various buildings of the campus.

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Our tour of the Morgan Library began at the entrance into the rotunda. The rotunda had a vaulted ceiling and the room was made of marble surfaces, mosaic panels, and columns of lapis lazuli. We toured the original reading room that also served as Morgan’s office with the fresco painting on the ceiling and antique artifacts and items on display. Morgan’s office also served as an important point in history where the most influential bankers met to design a plan to pull the United States out of debt and save the economy. Art and books filled the room. In fact, books scaled the height of the walls so that a ladder was installed to reach the upper shelves. We saw the first ever electric light which hung from the ceiling and Rembrandt’s first masterpiece painting in the same room.

The Library also has a rare collection of illustrated manuscripts decorated with silver or gold. The Crusader Bible, also called the Morgan Bible, is probably the most famous manuscript in the world because this picture book, which was likely made in Paris about 1250, has long been associated with the court of Louis IX. The book originally had no text, but along the way, inscriptions indicative of changing owners were added in Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian. The illuminations represent one of the greatest visualizations of Old Testament events ever made. Other items included great works of artists—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Gainsborough, and Picasso; early printed Bibles, among them three Gutenberg Bibles. There were also Bob Dylan’s scraps of paper where he jotted down his song “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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We walked from the Morgan Library and picked up the High Line, once a railroad track, but now an elevated walking trail lined with shrubs and natural flora. The old tracks were hidden along side the paved path where we walked until we reached the Chelsea District for a beer. A great walkway, it has been discovered by tourists (like us) as a result it is very busy.

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Eventually we dropped off, had a beer, and continued south on the streets past the meat packing district, Greenwich Village, and SoHo until we reached the World Trade Center about dusk, which was great timing for photographing the Oculus exterior.

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The PATH train took us to Hoboken, New Jersey for us to have dinner at Del Frescoes, where we had sole with crab and filet mignon. The food was not as tasty as expected but the views from the restaurant were spectacular. The restaurant was located on the bank of the river with the best view of New York City. The entire New York City skyline was lit and shimmered onto the river as we walked the short trip back to our hotel in the Newport area.

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Pittsburgh to Boston – May 2011 – A Train Trip

Having yet another trip planned to Boston I decided to do something different, take Amtrak. Yes I knew it would be slow (it was) but it was something different than driving or flying.

My train left Pittsburgh early one morning.

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We rolled through the shabby little station in Latrobe without stopping.

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As we neared Altoona we went around the famous Horseshoe Curve.

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We had an extended stop in Harrisburg where they changed the engine from Diesel to Electric. With the extra time I could wander around the station a bit.

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Eventually we reached 30th Street Station in Philadelphia where I changed trains for an Acela on up to Boston.

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The Acela made much better time, passing through New York City on the way.

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I arrived in Boston well after dark 🙂