RICHLAND - The Patcong Valley Model Railroad Club here is celebrating its 32nd annual Open House where everyone is welcome to come in and explore the detailed scale model trains that were lovingly handcrafted by members of the club.

“We get people from all over the world, it’s quite amazing. It’s one of the few authentic looking clubs in the country,” said Joe Natale Jr, a longtime member of the organization. Natale became interested in the group when his father, Joe Natale Sr., became a member.

The club was created in 1962 and members originally began meeting on Patcong Avenue in Linwood in a chicken coop belonging to member Hank Force.

After a year, the club had to move from its Linwood location. For the next few years, the club met in the homes of various members. In 1967, the club was able to find and acquire a building in Ocean City where members could begin building their dream of a scale model railroad.

Sadly, despite the hard work that was put into the building in Ocean City, the club had to leave the building in 1973 due to the building being deemed unsafe by the city. Once again, the search was on for a new home. For the next few years, the club would alternate between the homes of various members before finally finding a building in Egg Harbor Township that would house the club for the next 27 years.

When club members began looking for a new building due to the sale of the old one, they searched high and low until Buena Vista Township Mayor Chuck Chiarello encouraged the club to move to Richland Village to be a part of the revitalization of the area. The offer proved too good to resist, and with a lot of hard work the club opened in its current location in 2005.

Today, people of all ages come to see the startlingly realistic scale model trains and towns. Oftentimes, those who come to the Patcong Valley Model Railroad building make it a family affair. Kathy and Jack Datz brought their grandsons, Evan and Andrew, on Saturday to enjoy the open house. “They love trains and have a whole collection of them,” said Kathy Datz about her grandsons.

Alexia VanAcker also came with her grandparents and her little sister to see the trains. “I like what the trains carry inside of them, like the Army vehicles,” said Alexia as a model of an Army supply train went by.

The Patcong Valley Model Railroad located off Route 40 in Richland Village has one last weekend open house for this season on Jan. 21 and 22. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free but a donation is very much appreciated. It is recommended that a step stool is brought for the younger children so they can see the trains better.

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