The question was, would the world feel compelled to receive it. Like most obsessions, Zaccagnino's started innocently enough. He began in 1973 by building a modest layout in his basement. As the amount of track expanded, he was forced periodically to find more space. "We had to build five cellars onto the house, he had so many ideas," says his wife, Jean, who enthusiastically supports her husband's hobby. "He'd tear things down to try something new."
In 1991, the couple, who have been married 27 years, bought a 16-acre site, and Bruce set to work building what he called Northlandz (the final "z" stands for his last name). Financed by bank loans and the sale of the Zaccagninos' home, the project required more than four years of 18-hour days to complete. Since opening for business in 1996, Northlandz has attracted nearly 400,000 visitors, including rocker (and model-railroad buff) Rod Stewart. Zaccagnino is installing a 35-foot steel bridge and sees no reason not to keep expanding. "Why this hasn't been done before," he says, "is a mystery to me."