Robert Hampton

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10th October 2015

Masterpieces in Miniature
Posted by at 8.11pm | No responses | Out and About

Speicherstadt

Apologies for the delay in posting the next instalment. I have been quite busy recently!

Our Saturday morning in Hamburg was something I had been looking forward to for a long time – our visit to Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway (bigger even than Rod Stewart’s).

Miniatur Wunderland is so popular that you generally have to prebook an admission slot, especially at weekends. This was something we had neglected to do, but after a little bit of wrangling with our hotel’s computer terminal and its intermittent wi-fi connection, I had a printed PDF voucher which would allow us to gain entry between 10.30 and 11.30 (once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like).

Miniatur Wunderland is spread across two floors of a giant warehouse in the Speicerstadt area of the city. When we first arrived at the Wunderland building, there was a brief bit of misdirection where we walked into what appeared to be a fire escape (we only noticed our mistake after going up three flights of stairs).

With our pre-booked voucher we were quickly inside the main building, and on to the models themselves.

I have been to plenty of model railway shows (I’m still single, fellas!) but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. One of the first things you see when you enter the exhibition is a breathtaking model of the Alps, with mountains so tall that balconies have been installed above so you can see them from below.

Alps

alps-4 alps-3

alps-1

The Alps is one of several areas that have been modelled. Elsewhere, the American west is simulated, with desert scenes and buildings that may or may not be meant to represent Las Vegas.

Las Vegas American West

There is also “Scandinavia”, which features ships sailing on real water.

Scandinavia

Snow scenes are modelled as well:

Snow

Hamburg itself features, with a stunningly detailed recreation of the cityscape, with a giant Hauptbahnhof taking pride of place.

Miniatur Hamburg Olympic

model-station miniatur-hamburg-2

The big attraction at the moment is not even a model railway, but Knuffingen airport, a model of a full-sized airport, complete with planes which taxi and even take off and land!

Knuffingen Airport

OK, so you can see the stick which is holding them up, but it’s still an incredible thing to see. A nice touch is the “departure board” which shows which planes are arriving and departing. There’s even a model Concorde, although I didn’t get a picture of it.

Knuffingen Airport landing Knuffingen Airport departures

The really great moment, however, comes after a wait of 15 minutes or so. The lights gradually dim, and then all of a sudden it’s night time! The buildings light up like a miniature fairyland:

Night time Night time

Night Night

Night Knuffingen Airport

All this is overseen by a massive network of computers and CCTV cameras which are linked to a control room where the operators keep an eye on everything. It’s not just a masterpiece of model making; there is some ingenious technology here too.

It’s not all about massive landscapes, though. There are some lovely little details to be found as well.

america-3 castle

stadium showjumping

There are some amusing dioramas hidden in the scenery. Like Superman flying to the rescue of a car teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Superman to the Rescue

Below left, you can see where they faked the Moon landings. As to the picture below right, well… I have no idea what’s going on.

Fake Moon Landing What

In the American desert, aliens are swarming all over Area 51:

Area 51

Elsewhere, in a secluded bit of countryside, a rabbit is working as a teacher, for some reason:

hasenschule

And it wouldn’t be Germany without a Freik√∂rperkultur area:-

Freikörperkultur

It’s an astonishing achievement, and well worth a visit, even if you’re not particular interested in model railways.

The Wunderland’s creators are not resting on their laurels, however. A ninth section, Italy, is under construction, and a model representing London is planned for the future. OH NO THAT MEANS I’LL HAVE TO COME BACK WHAT A SHAME.

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