Model train center hosts holiday display

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Trains are associated with the holidays, and many of us have memories of setting up a train set around the Christmas tree. Residents of Union County have an opportunity to visit one of the largest model train displays in the state this year, in Lenape Park, off Rt. 22 East. Complete with lighting and sound, the show promises to be an experience.

Residents are invited to the A. Paul Mallery Model Railroad Center until Sunday, Dec. 11. Hours of operation will be Fridays from 7 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tickets for the show are available at the ticket window and gift shop on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

According to a Nov. 23 Union County press release, the Model Railroad Center is run by the nonprofit association, the Model Railroad Club Inc. The Railroad Center’s displays are highlighted by an intricately designed layout and a double-decker layout complete with a miniature circus.

“The Model Railroad Club, Inc is an education charity founded by the late A. Paul Mallery in 1949,” Model Railroad Club President Tim McCollum told LocalSource. “Paul Mallery was a pioneer in the hobby of model railroading and wrote several books on the subject. Our facility, the A. Paul Mallery model railroading center is a realization of his vision to share his passion for model railroading and trains in general with the world.”

Each November, the club dresses up the facility for the holidays and invites the public to view the layouts enhanced with lighting and sound effects. Visitors can observe the show as long as they wish from the overhead gallery surrounding the scale layout. The visitor gallery also wraps around the new section currently under construction. The new section allows visitors a chance to see the attention to detail that goes into a world-class model train display.

“Our light and sound show takes place on a 40-by-30-foot section of our main railroad display,” said McCollum. “During the show, the lights in the room go completely dark with theatrical lighting spotlighting the display, while a narrated soundtrack tells stories about the love of trains and our railroads. During these spotlights the trains are moving through the scenes and serve as the actors for the play.”

The Model Railroad Center has been a part of Union County since its foundation in 1949. About 170 volunteers dedicate their time to maintaining and running the trains, creating scenery and educating the public about the historical role of railways in the region.

The Model Railroad Club is dedicated to preserving the history of rail transportation in the New Jersey region. The club has earned a reputation for their attention to historical and geographical details.

All ticket proceeds go toward the Model Railroad Club. Free parking is available on-site and there is a handicapped accessible entrance. While attending the show, visitors are welcome to the snack bar and gift shop where they can shop for train-themed presents. There is also a toddler play room area to occupy young children.
The Model Railroad Club is always seeking new members. Current members are always on-site to talk about their activities and explain how to join. Anyone interested can also send an email to

“Memberships are available to all persons, regardless of their level of expertise in the hobby of model railroading, or to persons who simply love trains as much as we do,” McCollum told LocalSource in an email.

Michael Miller, another member of the Model Railroad Club, was unavailable for comment prior to press time when contacted by LocalSource.