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Miniatur Wunderland is a model railway or in German – eine Modellbahn – in Hamburg. But it’s much more than a model railway. It’s a miniaturised version of the world, or at least a sample of it, realised in astonishing detail. It’s located in Hamburg in the Speicherstadt, the area of waterside warehouses, about five minutes walk from the Elbphilharmonie. Miniatur Wunderland takes up three floors in a former dockside warehouse.
Miniatur Wunderland has some remarkable statistics: 1040 locomotives run on 15,400 metres of tracks – that’s 15.4 kilometres or nine and a half miles. Like most model railways it uses the H0 or HO gauge of 1:87, so at Miniatur Wunderland scale, the length of track is equivalent to about 1,340 kilometres or 837 miles. The miniature cities and landscapes are populated by more than a quarter of a million tiny figurines, in German they’re called Preiserlein and are named after the firm that makes them – Preiser.
It’s the largest model railway in the world – Es ist die größte Modelleisenbahn der Welt! with an area of 1,499 square metres or around 16,130 square feet. There is so much detail and variety, it’s overwhelming. There are 390,000 tiny LED lights, dreihundertneunzigtausend. This is truly a miniature world of superlatives – eine Miniaturwelt der Superlative.
We start on the third floor and in front of us, an astonishing recreation of Hamburg. Like all the models it’s not an exact representation. The main attractions are there, including the Landungsbrücken, the Hauptbahnhof or central station, Hamburg’s famous churches and the docks area. The Fernsehturm had to be reduced in height in order to fit under the ceiling. The Elbphilharmonie opens up to reveal the interior. There’s a magnificent view along Hamburg’s iconic but doomed Köhlbrandbrücke. Which crosses over water made of rippled glass. Alle 15 Minuten wird es dunkel – every fifteen minutes it goes dark – the lights on the bridge come on in spectacular fashion.
In nearby Skandinavien a ship makes its way along a stretch of real water and soon we are looking over a snowy scene. As in real-life Sweden, the trains run on the left – die Züge fahren auf der linken Seite – the trains, buildings and tracks are carefully made to be true to life in Sweden.
In Amerika we start at Key West and a couple of metres away is Las Vegas. As night falls the lights come on. Though only a tiny fraction of the size, it captures the essence of the real thing. We continue across the desert towards the Grand Canyon but theres no Chicago or New York – personally I’d like to have seen them.
Österreich – Austria is all mountains, valleys and ski slopes. The trains weave in and out of tunnels and across bridges and viaducts.
We can look down on a large railway station from above. Part of one floor has been removed so the mountains can extend up two storeys to the ceiling, where there are thundery clouds.
Trains make their way around tiny tracks everywhere you look, often passing each other in opposite directions. It’s impossible to see where they have come from or where they are going . The mountainous theme is continued as we enter die Schweiz – Switzerland.
There’s one word that describes the experience so far – unglaublich! Unbelievable. But there’s a lot more to see yet.
We continue into Mitteldeutschland with its hills covered in trees, rivers and valleys one of them crossed by a new bridge carrying the ICE the Inter-City-Express. The trains move at the right speed according to the scale. Only when they stop suddenly is the illusion broken. Another slight departure from reality is that the pantograph doesn’t touch the overhead cables. Some aspects of reality are too difficult to recreate in miniature but it’s okay, our imagination does the rest.
As night falls again, the lights are bezaubernd – they’re magical or enchanting. Ab und zu fliegt ein UFO runter – from time to time a UFO flies down. A UFO hunter is waiting. There are many humorous references. A subterranean area contains some famous Verschwörungstheorien – conspiracy theories, including the one about the moon landings.
The most astonishing part of Miniatur Wunderland is the airport. Es ist wahrscheinlich der kleinste Verkehrsflughafen der WeltI – it’s probably the smallest commercial airport in the world! It has all the features of a real airport, including terminal buildings based on Hamburg Airport, tiny buses that move and more than over 40 aircraft. The most astonishing thing of all is that – die Flugzeuge landen und starten genau wie echte Flugzeuge – the planes land and take off just like real aircraft. I haven’t fully figured out how they do it, but it’s an amazing sight. There are some classic aircraft, such as the Constellation, and every so often, you’ll see a Star Wars spaceship or a stange, bee-like creature flying low along the runway before disappearing into the clouds.
Es ist atemberaubend! It’s breathtaking – and there’s still more.
Das Modell von Venedig wurde 2018 vollendet – The model of Venice was completed in 2018. Rome and the Vatican City are represented in incredible detail. The Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, all reproduced magnificently.
The locomotives are manually controlled. There’s a huge variety of trains. We have Passagierzüge – passenger trains, Güterzüge – freight trains, Hochgeschwindigkeitszüge – high speed trains – Dampfzüge – steam trains and many more. They’re all operated by Miniatur Wunderland staff who sit in a control centre. A very cool feature is the train driver’s view seen via a tiny camera on the train.
If you’d like to watch how the models are made, you can see the workshops, and for an extra fee there’s a tour hinter die Kulissen – behind the scenes.
Die Attraktion ist 365 Tage im Jahr geöffnet. it’s open 365 days in the year. Millionen Menschen haben Miniatur Wunderland besucht. – Millions of people have visited Miniatur Wunderland since it was opened in 2001. It’s best to book online to avoid waiting times.
What’s in store? Monaco is under construction and Britain is set to arrive in 2020.
There’s no doubt that Miniatur Wunderland is one of the top attractions in Germany and in Europe but I have a challenge: I’d like to see moving traffic on highways.
Der Modellbau kostet viel Zeit – Building models requires a lot of time. In fact the entire exhibit is the product of over 790,000 hours of work – 790 Tausend Arbeitsstunden.
Miniatur Wunderland is an educational experience. the key word is Wunder – nowadays we are often jaded and have lost the childish ability to bewundern – to look in wonder at things.
After visiting Miniatur Wunderland you will see the real world with new eyes – man sieht die Welt mit ganz neuen Augen.
And so here’s the summary – in German for the benefit of my students and others learning German:
Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg ist die größte Modelleisenbahnanlage der Welt!
Hier einige Statistiken.
Sie hat 1040 Lokomotiven, 280 fahrende Autos, 390.000 Lichter, 263.000 Miniaturfiguren, 15.400 Meter Gleislänge.
Die Anlage hat eine Fläche von mehr als 1.499 Quadratmeter, wird von 50 Computern gesteuert.
Sie ist in Abschnitte aufgeteilt: Hamburg, Skandinavien, Amerika, Österreich, die Schweiz, Mitteldeutschland, Italien, Venedig und der Flughafen.
Alle 15 Minuten wird es dunkel und Tausende von LEDs werden eingeschaltet. Sie sind bezaubernd.
Seit der Öffnung im Jahre 2001 haben Millionen Menschen Miniatur Wunderland besucht.
Die Attraktion ist 365 Tage im Jahr geöffnet.
Die Modellwelt so detailliert, so beeindruckend und so realistisch, dass man die reale Welt mit ganz neuen Augen ansieht.
If you’d like to learn German, please visit aidan.co.uk/german
Vielen Dank für’s Zuschauen und auf Wiedersehen in Hamburg!