About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Miniature Wunderland

We slept in today, waking up around 8:30. We had breakfast in the hotel before heading out into Hamburg.

We caught the Metro line down to the Rauthause. The Rauthouse, by the way, is the civic building for a German town, like a town hall.


Hamburg Coat of Arms

We walked around a bit and checked out a few department stores. We also stopped to enjoy a strawberry & cream frappacino at Starbuck's.

We had a 2:30 reservation for Miniature Wunderland. Why a reservation? Because there can be up to 4 hour waiting lines to get into Hamburg's #1 attraction.

Well, we ended up near the harborfront and Miniature Wunderland, so we decided to see if we could get in early. They were having a light day, so we could walk right in...no lines.

Miniature Wunderland , I'm not really sure how to begin describing it. It's the worlds largest model train layout - recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records. And, they continue to expand.

Here are some of the facts:

- The #1 visited attraction in all of Hamburg, and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Germany.
- More than 6 million visitors since it opened in the fall of 2000.
- Over 4,000 square meters...or...43,000 square feet...and still growing.
- A full day and night experience every 15 - 20 minutes
- 200,000 mini HO scale figures
- 890 trains, 14,100 cars, and 27 ships
- More than 300,000 lights
- 22,000 meters of track
- Longest train: 14.51 meters - a BNSF coal consist in the American section
- 900 signals
- 2,200 switches
- 3,500 houses and bridges
- 215,000 trees
- 40 computers to run everything
- 625,000 hours
- 162 paid staff
- All at a total cost of 8.7 million euro to date.

Lets just say, we arrived around 10:30 and left at almost 7pm, and that allowed us to barely see everything once.

We started out visiting Switzerland. Some of the highlights include: tall bridges, the Matterhorn, two story mountains, alpine villages, a concert secen with 20,000 spectators, a Renaisance festival and so much more. The outdoor concert scene is spectacular, with a campground, porta potties, food booths, sound booths, trucks, backstage areas and so much more. The stage has a band and sets that match a real concert played on the jumbo screens.


Even 1/87th people watch the World Cup

Concert stage

Switzerland took us up stairs to the next level where we found more alpine villages and the new airport expansion.

The new Knuffingen International Airport is scheduled to open in late 2010. It will consist of hangers, support buildings, terminals, parking garages and much more. It will also be fully automated, with support vehicles tending to airplanes and.....airplanes actually taxiing and taking off to destinations unknown.

The airplanes will actually take off into cloud cover, where a mechanism will move them to a storage area, where they will wait fo their turn to return and land. Pretty cool!

Austria was next. It is one of the smaller sections, but big on mountains, ski lifts, funiculars, and gondolas.

Knuffingen is part of Germany. Here is where the Miniature Wunderland car system got its start. The cars and trucks in this area all drive around the layout. They are computer controlled and programmed to run many random routes. There are quite a few programmed emergencies as well, including fires, speeders and accidents. Any of these can happen at any moment, and the emergency vehicles will respond accordingly. Amazing. Basically, they started with a Faller car system and added steriods, lots of steroids.

Harz is the next area. Harz is the home of the ICE main station, with many ICE trains coming and going all the time. The town also has an outdoor Shakespeare festival with an audience, lights, actors that move on the stage, curtains and all that is needed to produce Romeo and Juliet. You can also find a large carnival display of operating rides with working lights.

Shakespeare theater

In Hamburg, one of the bigger sections, some of the highlights include the HSH Nordbank Arena. The local football team plays here to a crowd of 12,500 fans who roar, take pictures and watch the giant jumbo screens to see the replays. This stadium took over 2000 hours to build. You can also spot St Michaels church, built from more than 15,000 parts and based on the blueprints of the real church.

TV tower in Hamburg. The real one sits empty because no one can afford the 25,000 euro per month rent.

At this point the battery in my camera died, so pictures from America and a few more from Scandinavia will be posted in tomorrows blog.

Across the Atlantic - the aisle - from Hamburg is the America section. Here you can find area 51, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Key West, Miami, Cape Canaveral and the highlight - Las Vegas. Las Vegas depicts hotels like the Luxor, Excaliber, Treasure Island, New York New York and more. The highlight is during the night scene when thousands of LED's lightup the city in amazing color and glitz, just like the real thing. This area also has a car system with trucks rumbling down I-15 and several emergency situations, including a brush fire along the interstate.

The last area is Scandinavia. This is quite a large section with the following highlights: the Storebaelt, the larges bridge in Miniature Wunderland (its a true suspesion bridge), and the Northeast Sea. This is impressive. 30,000 liters of running water with high and low tides - a 4 cm tidal range. Their are 27 ships that run with mm precision by remote control. Operators work 8 hour shifts just operating the ships: grain ships, ferries, large container ships and even an impressive cruise ship. On one side of the sea are a set of locks that actually operate and allow the smaller ships to access a second backstage area.

One the far end of Scandinavia is Finland. Located in this area is a large ore mine with working excavations and mining explosions. In the far corner is another sea with ice bergs and a ton of snow. Very beautiful.

It is hard to do Miniature Wunderland justice without writing a book about it. There is so much to see and so many little scenes and details to explore. We had a fantastic time.

We finally made it back to our hotel around 8:30pm, tired and ready to rest our feet. We enjoyed some take out for dinner and watched some TV before calling it a night.

Tomorrow we will head back to Miniature Wunderland again.

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