Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg

(Click on any of the pictures to get a larger version of that image.)

Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg is a gigantic display railroad in Hamburg's Speicherstadt. By any scale, it's impressive -- it cost 4 Million Euro to build, takes up around 5,500 square feet of space, and has over four miles of track running between its various scenes. For much of the layout, the builders decided to go for big, dramatic settings -- high alpine peaks, tall bridges stacked above smaller bridges below.
A large part of the layout is designed to appeal to the local population -- it's a 1:87 scale reproduction of Hamburg, with lots of prominent local landmarks, like the AOL Arena (on the left), where the Hamburger SV soccer team plays, and Landungsbrücken (on the right) in Hamburg harbor, where harbor tours and ferries up and down the Elbe leave around the clock.

The arena was full of the sound of cheering fans; little "flashbulbs" would go off in the crowd from time to time, and the two video screens at either end of the stadium were broadcasting the action.

Container ships in Hamburg harbor. The Hauptbahnhof, Hamburg's main train station, was still just a skeleton waiting to be filled in -- -- but a sign in front let us know that things should be finished later this year.
Every fifteen minutes, the entire layout cycles from "day" to "night", with some twilight and sunrise inbetween.

On the left is "Michel", St. Michaelis Kirche, in the "sunrise"; to the right, some nighttime traffic. There are hundreds of cars moving semi-autonomously throughout the layout; they turn on their lights at 'night', and use their turn signals while they wait to make a turn. (Police cars and fire engines have flashing lights, too.)

Under, over, and around it all, the subway comes and goes.
All of this is orchestrated from a control room with all sorts of video screens, blinking lights, and computer-generated maps and status updates. I guess that it works; after the only crash that I saw (one train was patiently waiting for another to pass, but had stopped just a few millimeters to far), somebody came running pretty quickly to set things right.
One section of the layout represents "America", mixing together a strange combination of the American Southwest, Florida, the Rocky Mountains (or the Sierras; it wasn't quite clear), and Las Vegas.
Vegas, baby!
The Rockies (or the Sierras).
Yet more Las Vegas (can you really ever have enough?) was under development back in their workshop.
I was consistently impressed by their attention to detail; look in every corner, and there was always something interesting happening. (Visit if you don't get this one.)
You even had to look under the layout! Maybe you'd see the subway coming and going; maybe you'd see tourists walking through a dramatically lit cave (with gnomes?)

This page last modified on Monday, June 07, 2004
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