Bergen County Model Railroad Club

The Bergen County Model Railroad Club and the United Methodist Church of Pearl River, New York will have its 27th annual model and toy train show starting February 18, 2017 at the Church at the corner of John and Franklyn Streets in Pearl River. This is one of the largest and most spectacular displays of toy trains in the nation with four operating displays.

The display includes the Island of Sodore with Thomas and friends, a display of tin plate trains from the post World War two era, mixed with New York City elevated trains, a display of scale model trains of all eras and a display of Lionel Standard gauge trains including modern reproductions’ of these classics as well as originals. Lionel stopped making these in 1939 but reproductions have appeared more recently. The oldest train operated is an Ives Standard Gauge set the cars of which were manufactured before World War I.

Toy trains were synonymous with Christmas for most of the 20th Century. Joshua Lionel Cowen invented the toy electric train in 1900. The first product was not a toy. It was a flat car designed to display wares in a store window. It led to the trains when customers did not want the buy the merchandise on display, they wanted to buy the car. Six years later Lionel developed standard gauge track and the era of the toy train began. But standard gauge is big and does not fit nicely into a middle class home. Thus in the 1920’s he came up with 0 gauge about half the size and produced both until 1939.

Boys dreamed of Lionel Trains through about 1960, when other toys overtook the toy train as the penultimate Christmas gift for a boy.

In the last half of the Century, those boys became collectors, beginning in many cases when trains, long stored, came out to again to run around a Christmas tree for a new generation, this time the trains were no longer limited to boys. The Bergen club started when one such boy set up a small display in the Waldwick, NJ Public Library in the mid 1970’s. A second saw the display and suggested forming a club to make the display an annual event. At one time the club ran shows several times a year in several different locations. The Pearl River show is now its only major display. It does have open houses at its home display is in a small railway station in Hillsdale, NJ. But space issues limit the size of these functions largely to residents of that town.

The show runs from 9 to 5 Saturdays, 1 to 5 Sundays and 1 to 5 on Presidents day from February 18 to March 12. The adult donation is $6 and children are $2.00. The Church Ladies also sell lunch and snacks. Thus, visitors can stay all day.

The photo is of the 2016 Standard gauge display but this is built new each year in three weeks and each year it is different.