Read why Allentown’s Merchants Square Model Train Exhibit is one of the most exciting destinations in the Lehigh Valley!Check out more reviews on Facebook and Trip Advisor
Merchants Square Model Train Exhibit gets visitors ‘all aboard’ for a wide-eyed, sentimental holiday journey
Morning Call Lehigh Valley Business Cycle, December 7, 2018 by Stephanie Sigafoos
“In south Allentown just off of Lehigh Street, hobbyists and generations young and old alike can experience 18,000 feet of model train tracks under one roof, providing them with new memories of an exhibit that is open nearly year-round but is especially thrilling during the winter months.
“There’s something – particularly around the holidays – where trains and Christmas are a magical connection,” notes Michael Roche, owner of the Merchants Square Mall, which has housed the exhibit since 2012. “There’s just something about a train where everyone can relate to it.”
“It’s easy to see why it doesn’t take being a true blue train enthusiast to enjoy working your way around the room. Visitors will come across Godzilla (complete with a car in his mouth) terrorizing a carnival, Becky’s Drive-In playing real feature films for its patrons, a parade of elephants marching down city streets, some of Washington D.C.’s most famous landmarks, and a buzzing New York City subway.”
“The Merchants Square Model Train Exhibit contains more than 1,000 structures, some handmade from scratch, and more than 40 model trains running continuously on 18,000 feet of track. The exhibit includes O-Gauge scale, O-Gauge semi-scale, and HO scale trains. The dazzling views include the historic Ebbets Field in Brooklyn; a G-gauge railroad yard complete with roundhouse and turntable; and a huge 24′ x 16′ lake with real water, over which storm clouds gather-bringing thunder, lightning, and rain!”
“…a feast for the eyes of anyone who appreciates the craft of model railroading… Brawny railroad lines like the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, Reading and others share the broad boards with Amtrak and Septa commuter lines. All told, there are 40 diesel and steam trains in action, not including the four subway lines (seen under the urban scenes through glass windows), five pantographic electric trains and five elevated trains… on nearly 3½ miles of O and HO-gauge tracks.
“Their tracks course around and through imaginative and often amazing settings with more than 1,000 structures that are illuminated by 30,000 lights. Many were scratch-built, and several are the work of Bernard Steinmacher, a renowned Muncie, Pa., modeler…. [There] are countless surprises, such as a fairly faithful reproduction of Allentown‘s iconic PPL Building, Brooklyn’s beloved Ebbets Field and a drive-in movie theater complete with three refreshment stands…
“… whimsical enough for children to thoroughly enjoy, but technical enough for adults to marvel at its intricate workmanship.”
“Whether it’s a doubting child’s magical ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve or an engine hauling cars around a circle of carefully-laid track on a “putz” under the tree, trains have become a magical part of the Christmas season for “children of all ages.”
Good news for train enthusiasts … Merchants Square Model Train Exhibit has opened its doors to the public – not only at Christmas time, but year ’round.
“A lot older version of seven-year-old me walked into the Merchants Square Mall… to take a peek at the simply massive new Model Train Exhibit and seven-year-old me walked out with a huge smile. The attention to detail, including some stone driveways with pebbles that must have taken hours to get just right, is mind-boggling.”
“This is a marvelous, miniature HO scale and “O” Gauge-sized world, covering 7,000 square feet of space and more than three miles of track. There are 40 trains — including underground subways, elevated trains, trolleys, steam engines and diesels — as well as operating amusement parks, more than 1,000 illuminated structures and a whole lot more.
“Like any great work of art, each time the display is viewed, something new is bound to be discovered. Consider, for example, the 67 working amusement park rides in the large “O” Gauge central section. There’s a working Cyclone roller coaster (made of wood, of course, just like the Coney Island original), a parachute jump and a tilt-a-whirl. Dazzling miniatures include Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, Berlinsville’s Becky’s Drive-In with a real movie showing (when I visited, it was a kid’s cartoon), a hardware store robbery in progress, and four subway trains which run underground and stop at stations visible through clear plastic panels.”
“There’s now a drive-in theater at Merchants Square Mall in Allentown. There’s also a carnival and even a ski slope. But these things are all inside, at a new train exhibit… there are over 18,000 feet of track and 40 trains, making it one of the largest model train exhibits on the East Coast.”
“It also has a feature no other exhibit like it in the country has: A thunderstorm… complete with lightning, and even rain.”
“… the most impressive feature is the large scale lake with rainfall, thunder and lightning. That’s right; the exhibit has thunder and lightning!
“While many train exhibits talk about their buildings and structures, the Model Train Exhibit at the Merchants Square Mall has a true Lehigh Valley feel. Two of the most unique structures are the PPL Building in Allentown and Becky’s Drive-In Theatre in Berlinsville. In addition to those two structures, the drive-in also features a working movie screen.”
“…the world’s most amazing model train extravaganza. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look… The main display is more than 78 feet long and 36 feet wide, and other displays are only somewhat smaller, with more model trains than I could count and hundreds of intricately detailed and electrified little buildings and other structures…”
“One display has a ski resort in the background, with tiny skiers schussing down the slopes (they actually move.) A farm is so realistic, one of the outbuildings has a roof that’s collapsing with age… In coming years, I’m pretty sure every model train enthusiast will seek inspiration in south Allentown…”