Inside the world’s largest model airport and railway


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(CNN) — There is a low rumbling sound of landing planes and humming engines. Bags are loaded onto airplanes. In the terminal, people drink coffee, wait for their flight and are reunited with loved ones upon arrival.

An Emirates A380 prepares to take off, accelerating before flying into the clouds. A crowd of spectators gasps as the superjumbo disappears from view.

No, they’re not plane spotters — or at least not in the traditional sense, because this isn’t a real airport. The planes are fake. The clouds are painted. The airport occupies only 1,614 square meters.

Welcome to Miniature Wonderland. This is the world’s largest model railway, with not only a functioning miniature airport, but also small replicas of some of the world’s most popular destinations: Venice, Machu Picchu and Las Vegas, to name a few.

Spread over several floors in an old warehouse in Hamburg, Germany, Miniatur Wunderland is an engineering marvel and one of the German city’s best-loved tourist attractions.

The crown jewel is the airport – a meticulous recreation of Hamburg’s real transport hub, complete with 52 moving planes, carefully painted with livery to match their real, larger counterparts.

Miniatur Wunderland is the vision of twin brothers Frederik Braun and Gerrit Braun. The couple once owned a nightclub, but a childhood spent playing with model trains sowed the seeds of an idea that returned to Frederik in 2000.

Frederik remembers calling his brother and telling him, “I have the best idea.”

Gerrit was immediately on board.

“We had a dream of building a very big modeling world in our childhood, but we forgot about this dream when we were 15 or 16 years old – girls, cars and everything else came into our lives,” Gerrit tells CNN Travel .

As soon as Frederik spoke the words out loud, this childhood vision returned to Gerrit.

“It took seconds. All the pictures from our childhood – and what we could do today – came to my mind,” he says. “And these pictures didn’t stand still. It was movement. It was life. Lights going on and off, trains moving, planes moving and flying…”

Within weeks, the brothers sketched out ideas. Within months they had signed the lease for a building in Hamburg’s harbor district.

Frederik and Gerrit were convinced that the idea had legs. But naysayers abounded.

“A lot of people around me said to me: ‘No, it can’t work. Model trains? That’s for old men,'” says Frederik.

But Miniatur Wunderland had huge appeal and became a word of mouth when it opened in August 2000.

“It’s an exhibition for the whole family, for every person, one to 100 years old, women, men, it doesn’t matter,” says Frederik.

Designing a mini version of our world

For the brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun, creating Miniatur Wunderland was a dream come true.

Miniature Wunderland Hamburg

Before opening the doors of Miniatur Wunderland, Frederik, Gerrit, and their third co-founder, friend Stephan Hertz, sat down and listed all the scenes they’d like to see played out in miniature.

The next step was to find a modeller who could help bring their dream to life. An internet search led them to the skilled German modelist Gerhard Dauscher.

Dauscher initially turned down the opportunity because he was fully booked with work for the next two years.

“Two days later he called me,” remembers Frederik. Dauschler couldn’t shake the idea. He adjusted his schedule and joined the team.

Speaking to CNN Travel, Dauscher says Miniatur Wunderland tapped into his long-standing love of railroads. He was also excited about the prospect of creating fantasy versions of our reality.

In the two decades since, the Miniatur Wunderland team has grown to more than 250 employees, including a skilled team of modellers who are constantly inventing new ways to surprise and delight visitors.

“Everyone has built part of the layout, everyone feels a little bit” [them], [their] heart, is in the layout,” says Dauscher.

Electricians are also on site and a team of technicians monitor daily events from an internal control room.

Frederik and Gerrit’s younger brother, Sebastian Drechsler, is also on board. Drechsler is more than a decade younger than the twins and says his childhood was mainly spent accidentally destroying his older brothers’ model railways.

Today Drechsler is responsible for the marketing of Miniatur Wunderland. Meanwhile, Frederik is the dreamer and Gerrit the doer.

“Freddy always had the big ideas, and I always had the solutions to make these ideas,” says Gerrit.

Building a model airport

The airport of Miniatur Wunderland is a replica of the real airport of Hamburg.

The airport of Miniatur Wunderland is a replica of the real airport of Hamburg.

Miniature Wunderland Hamburg

Perhaps Frederik’s most ambitious idea was the Miniatur Wunderland airport, which opened in 2011. This expansion took almost six years and cost €400,000 (about $400,150). The end result includes 62 miles of wiring, 75 buildings and 40,000 LED lights.

Unlike most of the landscapes in Miniatur Wunderland, which are approximations of their real life counterparts, the airport is an exact replica of Hamburg’s real aviation hub.

Gerrit explains that this is partly because it was easier to copy and then shrink the airport layout than it would have been to “learn all about airplanes, how they move on the ground, what the spaces are.” they need.”

Gerrit spent four months making regular visits to Hamburg airport, speaking with workers and taking thousands of photos to use as inspiration.

Creating realistic aircraft and simulating take-off and landing was central, but Gerrit also spoke with the airport fire department, airport cleaners and the team that defrosts the aircraft.

“We wanted it to have a real airport vibe,” explains modeller Dauscher. That meant that every aspect of the transport hub had to be recreated.

When CNN Travel visited the attraction, a “fire” broke out at the airport, and the airport’s fire engines intervened – all part of the simulation, of course, but seeing a plane up in smoke was equally worrisome. to go.

The airport contains a detailed recreation of the terminal building.

The airport contains a detailed recreation of the terminal building.

Miniature Wunderland Hamburg

The Miniatur Wunderland planes range from A380s to Cessna private jets and are designed to take off and land in a way that feels as “real” as possible.

“They drive to the runway, and under the structure there are two pipes, they lift the plane and give them speed. It’s very complicated, technically,” explains Dauscher.

Many of the events in Miniatur Wunderland, including the take-off and landing of planes and the regular lighting changes to simulate day turning into night, are automated.

Dauscher explains that the technicians in the control room are mainly focused on checking for – and then fixing – any errors. The most common cause of errors? Dust.

“The more dust we have on the surface, the trains don’t run, the planes don’t fly,” Dauscher says.

More than a decade since its launch, the airport remains a highlight of Miniatur Wunderland. The only problem, Gerrit says, is that when something changes at Hamburg Airport — if only the position of the taxi rank — the team is under pressure to adjust their model.

The Miniatur Wunderland team aims to surprise and delight visitors with their detailed creations.

The Miniatur Wunderland team aims to surprise and delight visitors with their detailed creations.

Miniature Wunderland Hamburg

Still, nothing at Miniatur Wunderland is static – it’s an attraction that is constantly evolving.

The expansion of Miniatur Wunderland South America continues to grow and will be completed in the next five years with the addition of a mini Amazon rainforest and the Andes Mountains. Miniatur Wunderland also plans to expand into another building to support future growth.

In addition to holding the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest model railway and the world’s largest model airport, Miniatur Wunderland also set a record in 2021 for the longest melody played by a model train.

Exploring worlds

The most recent expansion of Miniatur Wunderland is the South America section.

The most recent expansion of Miniatur Wunderland is the South America section.

Miniature Wunderland Hamburg

Miniatur Wunderland remains open until 01:00 on certain summer days. When CNN Travel visited at 8pm on a weekday summer evening, the attraction was packed with visitors pointing out small details and marveling at the different worlds.

Gerrit suggests that Miniatur Wunderland’s appeal is that it’s not just the pinnacle of the Braun brothers’ childhood aspirations. It is the model world that many of us dreamed of creating as children.

“[Visitors can] two or three fun hours of their childhood,” says Gerrit.

Certainly walking through the building is pure escapism. Its appeal lies in the mix of quirkiness and technical prowess.

There are over 1,000 trains that vary in size and speed depending on location. There are also mining caves, cruise ships crossing real waterholes and a hot air balloon. And there are thousands of tiny figures and almost imperceptible levels of detail. Wherever you are in the building, it is exciting to see the world from a bird’s eye view.

That’s Frederik’s favorite part of the attraction. Standing and looking down.

“The night is coming and you close your eyes a little bit, you can imagine it’s like flying through the mountains,” he says.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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