The ‘Whippanong Valley Railroad’ is the centerpiece in the main exhibit area of the Museum Building. This “O” – gauge model railroad is a favorite place for visitors to gather and watch the exciting parade of trains. People of all ages take delight in watching speeding passenger trains and long freights glide over the rails.
The Lionel Trains® that thunder down the tracks pass through a representation of the North Jersey landscape which includes a rail yard and station area very much in likeness to the actual Morristown & Erie (M&E) facility at Whippany, complete with the fieldstone depot, water tank and the Whippany Railway Museum’s freight house.
A huge viaduct that passes over a deep gorge and flowing river was inspired by the massive concrete structures built by the Lackawanna Railroad in the early 1900’s.
The mainline rails bore through a dark tunnel, pass by the Becker Dairy Farm (once located not far from the M&E’s mainline), and wind their way through a haunted village.
The layout, measuring 6 feet wide by 16 feet in length was constructed by the friendly folks at Rails To Cottages (RTC). RTC owner Lorenz Fischer and his crew constructed the layout over the course of nearly a month of non-stop, feverish work. The layout was completed and installed at the Museum in early-December 2005.
The layout was pre-constructed in the basement of the hobby shop. Its foundation was built, tracks laid, fully wired for electricity, landscaped, buildings set in place, and trains test-run. The entire layout and wooden platform weighs at least 1,500 pounds, and represents about 500 hours of volunteer design, planning and construction work by 4 craftsmen.
Once everything was custom fit and in working order, the layout was taken apart in pre-fab sections and loaded into Lorenz’s delivery truck. Had the volunteers charged for their labor, the project would have cost about $25,000. The Museum paid for much of the supplies required for the layout, including lumber, wiring, structures, and scenery materials.
At 6:30 AM on December 5, 2005, Lorenz’s truck arrived at the Museum Building. 15 hours later, with hardly a break for lunch and a bit of dinner, the layout was standing in the center of the room, with a tired but proud construction crew looking on as the Lionel “Polar Express” made its way on an upper level, passing through towns and villages. On a lower level, the magnificent “Phoebe Snow” of the Lackawanna Railroad slipped through tunnels, bridges and farmland. In the main part of town a streetcar traveled back and forth bringing commuters to their destination.
Truly a work of beauty, the layout presents a wide variety of model freight and passenger trains that are changed out many times throughout the year. Additionally, various landscaped scenes are rotated to represent a particular season of the calendar or a historical event in history.
The layout has been featured in both The Star-Ledger and The Daily Record newspapers. The Whippany Railway Museum is extremely grateful to the fine people at Rails To Cottages for all their outstanding craftsmanship, hard work and long hours that was put into creating this exciting model railway. A brass plaque attached to the layout frame has the following message:
Donated by Rails To Cottages
Designed by Lorenz & Mike Fischer
Track by Gargraves Trackage
Switches by Ross Custom Switches
The Whippany Railway Museum extends its sincere Thanks and Appreciation to the above individuals and corporations for a truly wonderful addition to our displays…one that has been enthusiastically welcomed by everyone at the Museum, and of course, our visitors.