The Full Story
The NJ Hi-Railers are incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of New Jersey. We incorporated on April 4, 2005 when the Articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws were approved by the membership. We are located at 185 6th Avenue, Paterson, New Jersey 07524. Phone: 973-553-1555 Click to Email.
The NJ Hi-Railers train club is an organization of train enthusiasts that currently operates a 3-rail O gauge Hi-Rail train layout in Paterson New Jersey. The club was originally founded in the late 1990’s and called the Northwest Jersey Hi-Railers. The club operated a modular 3 rail layout that was set up at many local train shows in New Jersey. There were about 10 members at that time.
A 10-year-old boy named Mat Horning befriended the members of the club while they were set up at local shows. Mat’s love of trains was evident, and members started letting Mat run trains on the modular layout.
Silk City Station
Mat’s father Marty and his uncle Bernie became involved with the trains because of Mat’s obsession and his continuous attendance at these shows. Bernie and Marty were business partners that owned a large building in Paterson NJ. The building is a silk mill built about 1880 that measures approximately 120,000 square feet. One of the floors in the building was empty and the plan for it was renovation and conversion into office space. The room measured 250 ft. by 50 ft. When the club was asked to vacate their original space where many of the modules were stored Mat told the club about this large vacant room. Mat suggested the club’s modular layout be moved to this empty space. Bernie and Marty were gracious enough to let the club set up their modular layout in this room. This was late 2002. The original intention was to leave the layout there until Bernie and Marty were able to obtain a tenant for the space.
Since the building was so old and the room was vacant so long it was in a very dilapidated condition. Bernie and Marty started to renovate the room. They installed two new bathrooms, lighting, new windows, a new heating system and a sprinkler system. They also paid for the electricity, heating, and materials to transform the room into a great place for Mat and the club to enjoy railroading. They gave the club members full access to the facility.
The Layout & Membership
Bernie really started to get involved with the trains He started to collect trains himself. Bernie and Marty then purchased a large layout that was in the basement of a house in Franklin Lakes, N.J. The owner was selling his house and needed to empty the basement. The layout measured 60ft. by 30 ft. and was still unfinished with only benchwork, track and wiring installed It did not have any scenery. The layout was cut into sections by the club members and brought to the building in Paterson. A crane was needed to transfer it from trucks on the street to a door in the outer wall of the room.
Once the Franklin Lakes layout was reassembled it was decided to expand the portions to fill the center section of the room. A large freight yard and a city were added with all new benchwork added to the original. When this addition was connected to the modular section it measured 180 ft. in length. A large Helix, a number of Bridges, and a turntable were added to the new section
Realizing that more help was needed to create the finished product the club began looking for new members. It grew quickly from the 10 original members to a roster of 40 in 2003. While the modular club members were working on Bernie and Marty’s layout they decided to upgrade their own modules.
The club was incorporated in 2004 in the State of New Jersey. Many of the original members also moved on in 2004 and removed their modules. Since so many modules were removed it was decided to build a larger permanent layout in their place
A new President took the helm in 2005. This is about the time the progress on the layout exploded. The modular layout was completely removed. A new replica of the N.Y. transit system was created in its place. The layout grew to 185 ft. and an enormous amount of scenery was added including hundreds of buildings, a transfer station, turntable, 2 round houses, rivers, boats, refineries, amusement parks, and miniature subway stations.
Several other additions were made to the club room. The three layouts that were used in the filming of the HBO series the Sopranos were acquired and installed across the hall. The standard gauge layout that belonged to the television personality Tom Snyder was also acquired and is now located on one end of the main room. The 120-foot original Model Board from Grand Central Terminal has been reconstructed on the far wall of the club room. A Christmas layout that was donated to the club is housed across the hall from the club room. Cabinets that house club members equipment have been installed around the room. A trolley line has extended the layout an additional 50 foot above the heads of guests as they walk in. A commercial kitchen was also added to supply food to members and guests at the open houses.
The Club has officially changed their name to the NJ Hi-Railers and became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The layout is open to the public about ten times a year and progress continues. The club is very strong and current membership is about 70 full members and 8 associate members.