Review of Friar Mountain Model Train Museum
In Northern New Jersey, it can be extremely hard to find places that will interest the entire family, from the adults to young children. The majority of the area is rural, with few large cities. Often,there will be places geared toward just the child, or just the adult. Very few places actually have both. Friar Mountain Model Train Museum managed this neigh impossible feat.
For hard core model train enthusiasts, the model trains here are all from before the 1950’s, giving a sense of the history behind these trains. It's amazing how well kept these models are. It honestly looks like they were just taken out of the box! This also shows just how long this display has been worked on. There are over 100 buildings in the scenes, every single one hand made. It’s easy to see the work behind the model, especially when you first walk in and see an eight feet high “mountain” with a miniature replica of High point on top. It is a truly impressive sight to behold! There is a small carnival scene, as well as cable cars, making this not only about the trains, but also about the history. There is definitely passion here. Despite the size and age, the display is kept in very good condition.This is an amazing hobby, transformed so that all can see it and maybe get a little interested in trains themselves.
The level of detail found in these models is simply amazing. This huge model was clearly the work of decades. I can only imagine the level of time, energy, and money that went into making this display. This is a very true example of dedication to your work, as well as passion for what you love.
Not only are there model trails, but for the younger visitors, there are trains from Thomas the Tank engine series, along with some “hidden” characters, such as Snoopy and Woodstock, as well as Sir Topamhat. An owner, Lou Molinari, thoughtfully provides step-stools so that it is easier for younger kids to see the work. Finding these hidden characters makes for a great game with the younger children. My younger brother was very excited to see his favorite characters in the display.
Besides the model trains, there was a section of Revolutionary War era history, including post (Mail) from several Founding Fathers. There was information on battles, some items apparently used by Washington, and a prayer for peace, as well as many more fascinating things, such as a model car collection. The history section contains memorabilia on George Washington, General Lafayette and the Jersey Blues. They focused on the history of the region, which is of particular interest to those that live or work here. It is surprising to see how many important moments in history happened in this small region.
The owners had put the scenes in and around the trains together by hand over many years, as well as collecting the trains and pieces of history. It has only been recently that they have opened their collection to the public, and it is definitely a place to visit if you are anywhere in northern NJ. The owner is friendly, and if you have any questions, happy to answer them. He has an amazing amount of background knowledge on all the history in this area of New Jersey, anything from the Revolutionary period right up to the current events going on, and is typically happy to explain the history of any part of his collection.
All in all, the Friar Mountain Model Train Museum is a place worth visiting, at any age. The history will captivate you, and the work put into it will astound you. It is a “hidden treasure” of Northern New Jersey. I actually had no idea that there was anything like this near my hometown until I found a coupon for it in a book! It just goes to show that you don't have to go far to go exploring!
To find the museum here is the address: 240 Demarest Road, Sparta, NJ 07871
It is open from 10:00 A.M to 5:00 PM on Friday to Sunday.