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My visit to Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg Germany

November 23, 2007
By Mark J. Redmond

Note: There are about 350 small pictures on this page so may take some time to load fully. Sorry.

I was lucky enough to be sent to Munich Germany on a business trip in October 2007. Even luckier that my company allowed me to schedule my trip so that I was there over a weekend to sight see. This being my first trip to another continent was a wonderful opportunity both personally and career wise.

This article is split into 2 parts. The first and the smaller of the 2 covers railroading in Germany. The second covers my visit to Miniatur Wunderland, the worlds largest model railroad display.
I have to take a minute to apologize for my pictures not being the best I would have wanted. I thoroughly used and abused my digital cameras taking a total of 750+ pictures. With the size of Miniatur Wunderland and my limited time, I let myself be rushed on my pictures and trying to take train pictures through glass doing 150KPH is tough.

Before I start, I have so say a big thank you to Helmut Faderl and his Fabian for their kindness and the translations given me during my behind the scenes tour at Miniatur Wunderland. I got a much better appreciation of what I saw and some things I would have missed thanks to them. They were also kind enough to send their pictures so about 70 of them they took.

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Trains in Germany.

I would say 90% or more of trains in Germany are electric. I saw very few diesel engines there. There are catenary wires almost everywhere, except for the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, they used a third rail. I was informed that Germany does have very many light railways where only trains with diesel engines are used. Especially from Schwandorf to Nuernberg, there are railcars with tilt technology in use.
Unlike the US, most of the trains in Germany are passenger. The city of Munich has 3 types of trains for commuters. The S-Bahn, surface train, U-Bahn, underground train, and trolleys. Also different, is the way you pay. It's on an honor system. You buy a pass for a day or week or X amount of trips and get your ticket stamped in a automated ticket stamper. No one asks for a ticket to ride a commuter train or bus. Yes, they do have police that will do sweeps to check tickets. Munich's train system is very good. You have information signs at many train stations telling you when your train is due and how long it is. Very handy for the central part of the system where you can have 8 S-Bahn trains stopping at 1 station. One sign you don't want to see is 'Zug Fallt Aus'. Roughly translated, means 'Train Not Running.' I found this out the hard way my first day when my connecting train had someone walk in front of it. Besides that, I have nothing but good things to say about the trains in Germany. They are clean, graffiti clear and every where. I did not need a car to get around.

My trip to Hamburg was a long one, about 500 miles. Airline tickets would have been cheaper but based on arrival times of the airlines vs. the train, I chose to take an overnight train so I could arrive in Hamburg at 8AM. I took an overnight Die Bahn train which was very comfortable. I had the top bunk of a 2 person compartment. Privacy was the use of a curtain. You could not see the person below you and there is another compartment across the aisle. Being 5'11" I had enough space to sleep stretched out. I never heard the person below me or the couple across from me leave the train. This train was not the high speed train, ICE, so it took about 9 hours to arrive in Hamburg. On the way back I took the high speed ICE train which took about 4 hours to get me back to Munich. The ICE train was also very nice. We hit speeds of 300KPH (190MPH) and you did not hear anything outside. No clickity clack of the rails and no wind sound. It was also a very smooth ride. Not a lot of swaying back and forth. The ICE does have a small dinning car but only carries drinks and snacks since most trips are short. There is a fair amount of freight trains too. Their rolling stock is much smaller than that in the US. I saw some container cars but only 1 container per car. There was a lot of logging cars. In Hamburg while waiting for my train back to Munich, I was able to watch some crews working on the track at the station. In the pictures below, check out the most dangerous job I saw. The crane operator. Why? The crane boom was only a foot or two under the hot catenary wire.


Here is an S-Bahn arriving at Ostbahnhof a main train station in the east end of the city.

A view at Ostbahnhof to the east.

Another picture towards the east.

A picture of a Die-Bahn train next to an ICE train at the main Munich train station.

A picture of the ICE train.

What looks like an observation type passenger car.

A coach passenger car.

A typical seat on a Die-Bahn sleeper car.

Me sitting in my seat.

My bunk.

A view from my bunk. You just can see the top of the window on the right side of the picture.

The Hamburg train station.

The Hamburg train station.

The Hamburg train station.

One of the few diesel engines I saw.

The Hamburg train station from the other side.

The Hamburg train station from the other side.

The Hamburg train station from the other side.

A freight train rolls through the Hamburg station.

A Hamburg U-Bahn train.

A Hamburg U-Bahn train..

The next several pictures are of workers doing track work at the Hamburg station. You cannot see it but right below where they are working are U-Bahn tracks.



This is the crane I mentioned. Notice the catenary wire.




Hard to see but the U-Bahn track is down there.

Next pictures are of trains I saw along my trip home. Not the best because I was taking pictures through glass at some high speeds but I wanted to show some of the trains, engines, work cars and rolling stock I saw.


An engine at Hamburg.

An ICE train coming into Hamburg. Notice the space between the head lights. A coupler is hidden in there to connect trains.

An S-Bahn train passes my ICE train in Hamburg.

Some freight cars.

Logging cars behind a auto carrying car.

What look like coil cars with a work car in the back ground.

A tank car and empty logging car.

A string of container cars.

My seat in the ICE train.

You can see another ICE train coming in to town and work cars in the background..

A couple of ICE trains with a diesel engine.

Another diesel engine.

A container crane.

A little larger diesel engine.

A different passenger train engine.

A work train engine.

A better look at a work engine and another style of commuter train.

Another local passenger train.

These pictures were taken in the Munich area.


An S-Bahn train arrives at an underground station in the heart of Munich.

2 S-Bahn trains at Tutzing.

The old train deport at Possenhoffen.

My S-Bahn train arrives.

Doing some trolley track repair.

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My visit to Miniatur Wunderland

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Miniatur Wunderland calls itself the largest model railroad display in the world. They are NOT kidding either. This place is huge. One of the things I messed up on was the time I needed to check it out. I thought 5 hours would be enough. I could have spent 3 days there and not really seen everything. I am glad I took the behind the scenes tour too, well worth the money and you see things you cannot see from the visitors area. Although it was done in German, (can be done in English if all 6 people speak it), the tour guide did speak English and Helmut Faderl, who was also on the tour was kind enough to tell me about key things so I did not interrupt the rest of the tour too much. If I were to go again, I would have done the tour later in the day as it gets very busy and you have to wait to get close to the action.

My total cost for entry, the tour and the 1 DVD I purchased was about $75 US. Very reasonable considering what I got. Miniatur Wunderland is located on the 4th floor of a water front warehouse type building and has 2 floors.

Here are some facts about Miniatur Wunderland.
Miniatur Wunderland was started virtually on a whim. Frederik Braun was in Zurich and visited a hobby shop. Bringing back childhood memories, who can't say they have not had that happen to them, came up with the idea to build the worlds largest model railroad. To make a long story short, Frederik got his twin brother Gerrit to believe he was serious, they got financing, a place to build it and the rest you can see for your self. I saw they had their 4 millionth visitor earlier this year. Not bad for a place that opened in August 2001.

Site facts.

After final construction phase 2014 Current May 2007
Leased Floorspace 6,000 m² / 19,700 FT² 4,000 m² /13,100 FT²
Model Area over 1,800 m² / 5,900 FT² 900 m² / 2,950 FT²
Track Length approx. 1,300 700
Wagons (rolling stock) 15,000 Over 10,000
Longest Train US section 14.51 meters / 47.6 FT 14.51 meters / 47.6 FT
Signals 1,900 900
Switches 4,000 1,900
Computers 64 33
Lights Over 500,000 About 250,000
Buildings & Bridges 6,000 2,800
Figures 300,000 160,000
Cars 10,000 4,000
Trees 330,000 165,000
Work hours 850,000 475,000
Staff 170 162
Construction cost est. 15,000,000 € /$19.5 Million 7,300,000 € / $9.5 Mil

There are currently 5 sections open, America, Germany, (consisting of Harz, Knuffingen and Hamburg), Alps/Austria, Scandinavia and the newly opened Switzerland. Switzerland opened in November. They have 3 more sections planed. An airport section, estimated to open in 2009, (that will not feature trains but airplanes that taxi, take off and land), an Italy section and France section.
The trains run on plain DCC and can be controlled from the central command center. There are trains running everywhere. There are even local trains going back and forth. Cleaning the trackage is a daunting task. To accomplish this, they have about 40 dedicated track cleaning trains. They consist of at least 2 engines, a track commercially available track cleaning car, and a track polishing car. The track cleaning cars are fitted out with a technical rubber that scrubs the dirt off the rails and the polishing cars use felt tips to polish the track. The longest train is over 47 feet long. It runs in the USA section and has at least 1 set of helper engines in the middle of the train.
Also running are vehicles. That's right cars, trucks, buses and emergency vehicles run in may places. All computer controlled. Some have specific places to go, some run random and there are events that happen. There are several buttons to push to have things happen. From a police shoot out in the US, to a weather balloon launching in the Scandinavia section. Some buttons cause accidents or fires for scripted events. You see smoke coming from a building, fire trucks race to the fire. If the fire gets too big, a second alarm is sounded and more fire trucks go to the scene. The computer can sense when a vehicles battery gets low and tells it to leave and go to a recharging station. During my tour I saw a vehicle do just that. Came out of nowhere ran to a charging station and stopped.
In the Scandinavian section they even have operating freighters and a cruise ship. Currently a person operates the ship(s) using an airplane remote control. Attempts to use sonar and motion sensors have not worked out. They use electromagnets on the docks to keep ships at the dock or push it away from the dock. They are still working on ways to computer control the ships but it will take a while. On attempt resulted in scrapping of 19,000 of computer code because errors could not be fixed.  A couple of other spots have running water or rivers.
Another feature is the lighting. Every 15 minutes it goes from day time to night time. The lights in the ceiling start to change from daylight to red to a dark blue to simulate night. When that happens a truly magical thing happens. The lights on the streets, buildings, and ships turn on. All of the LED's they use are individually wired so each LED and be on or off. This is very evident in Las Vegas. They really captured how bright that city is at night.
You really have to keep an eye out on the layout. As it was Halloween time, the USA section had a Halloween train running around. Spiderman can be seen on a roof top in Las Vegas. There is a Sumo wrestling event in Germany right beside a monster truck crushing cars. I found a couple having a picnic in a field and a cross in the woods. There is even a amusement park with rides that actually work. The layout is extremely detailed. The work the Miniatur Wunderland team put into this is truly amazing. In fact many of the staff are not model railroad enthusiasts but artists who what to show of their talents.
Most of the electronics used on the layouts are custom built. Because of the size and complexity of the layout off the shelf products would not work. All of the moving vehicles are custom built. The motion sensors and sonar for the ships were all custom built. They have hundreds of small cameras in the hidden sections to monitor cars and trains. The wiring had to be a monumental task. The track has feeder wires about every 6 feet. They have a mix of standard DC track and Marklin AC track. Marklin has done a good job hiding the center third rail.
One more fascinating think. Gee just one?? The snow. They used a product called Diamantine. Diamantine is the same material is used in reflecting street markings (in real life), only Diamantine is a lot finer ground. It's the best snow I have ever seen. In my pictures you can even see some 'flakes' gleaming while others did not.

Picture time. Again I allowed my self to be rushed and the pictures are not my best. I left many in to show as much of the layout as possible along with the complexity. I put the pictures in their prospective sections the best I could.

I have 1 video. This is a 3:47 minute combination video of the amusement part showing the rides working, the flashing lights on the roller coaster that look like the real thing, a freighter in Hamburg Harbour and some trucks running. Click here for the VIDEO.

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General and behind the scenes pictures.


The real home of Miniatur Wunderland.

A model of their building.

This and the next few pictures are of the control center.




A close up of one of the vehicle monitor screens.


Entering the behind the screens tour.

Very tight quarters.

Hidden staging tracks in the USA section.


A close up shot of #3413.

Switch machines and wiring.

The Halloween train.

Another view.

A work dolly used to get to the middle of the layout.

One of the many monitor cameras.

Behind the building wiring.

A better view.

In Las Vegas at night the wiring for the LED's..

More massive wiring.

Water flows out to be reused.

Behind the scenes area for storing ships not in use. Note the sonar device in the top center of the picture.

Your intrepid webmaster.

Staging area for the Scandinavian section.

More switch machines.

The wiring on this layout is huge.

Storage area for ships not in use.

A container ship on the other side of the storage area.

Check out the rope work on the life boat.

Storage area for emergency vehicles.

A better picture of the sonar dish.

Staff are visible working in items for the layouts.

A train crosses over your head.

A closer view of vehicle storage.

The charging station for vehicles.

They even have trains running under the floor.

Not a great picture but I got a train running.

A charging station for the big rigs.

A closer view.

Power for the charging station.

Lots of hidden track.
Storage for trucks. Notice the 4X4 in the right

A very cool paint job.

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The America section.


An area representing the Dakota area. Mount Rushmore is way in back.

A western tourist town.

The same area entering twilight.

Night time. You can really see all the Christmas lights.

Night time in a mine area.

Indian ruins at night.

Same area but with light.

On of the many scenarios I mentioned. A tanker truck jack knifes and emergency crews arrive.

Right out of Texas on Route 66 the painted cars.

A closer view.

A canyon area. Notice the wrecked train at the bottom and the aerial dare devils.

These dare devils did not have good luck..


More of the canyon area.


The Southwest Chief.


A rock quarry.

Las Vegas in the day.

A steam engine runs past the space shuttle. Better watch out for the tornado coming.

More Las Vegas.

A Pennsy A-B-B-A train.

Yes, the pirate ship at Treasure Island sinks.

The Florida coast.

More Florida.

Look at the detail for the ocean. Truly a work of art.

Swamp lands.

A closer look at the space shuttle. Yes, it launches too.

The Las Vegas train station.

A police shoot out. Push the button and mini LED's flash and you ear gun fire.

Vegas at twilight.


Only visible on the behind the scenes tour, Spiderman battles a bad guy.

The Strip. Notice the Manhattan Express roller coaster to the right.

A train runs through a deep canyon.

A closer view of Mount Rushmore.

A Freeway, I-15 I think. The signs change messages and the billboard says to write to a Vietnam vet.

A Big Boy.

Whoa! Area 51 is visible.

They have an alien space craft too.

More western views.


NMRA train Tracks In The Sand 2002.


A passenger train passes some steel work cars.


A steel mill.

A Pennsy A-B-B-A passes the steel mill.





Cape Canaveral.







A close-up of the Halloween train.

Mount Rushmore.


Somebody is in trouble.



Dolphins at Seaworld.

A close up view of the Manhatten Express.

A parking garage.



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The Germany (Harz, Knuffingen and Hamburg) & Austria/Alps sections


One of the few areas without catenary wires.

A play being performed.

A busy market place.

A slightly different view showing how far back the layout goes.

Country side in Germany.

An ICE train flies out of a tunnel.

Mini golf anyone?

What can you say except it's big.

An industrial area.

A amusement part in the foreground with the Hamburg tower in the background.

The North Sea. You can see the ship operator as well.

An oil rig.

A light house.

An operating freighter.

What is a city without a garbage dump.

A large train facility.

A switch yard.

Beautiful track work.

Look at all the catenary wires.


Night time starts.


Look real curtains.


More great building detailing.

A new dawn.


.



Lets all step into the way back machine for these gas prices.

A beautiful aqueduct.



Oops. Even here they have mishaps. Fabian is the first person in the picture.





Bull fighting under the lights.


Real running water.

A small lake.

Logging in big business.






Trains pass a Halloween hedge maze.



They even have a rope making facility.


A mine shaft with elevator.










Some battle exercises.




Next few pictures are of an a-typical U-Bahn station.




A funeral topside, a crypt below.


A UFO flies over Germany



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The Scandinavia Section


The snow is made of Diamantine.

The roads even show wear.


You get very close to the rocks.

The snow looks like the real thing in this picture.

Rudolf lives here.


Recognize him? The Coca-Cola bear.


A pirate ship navigates past icebergs.

From the back of Scandinavia looking toward the Alps.

Same shot but with a 400mm zoom. Just to show the size of this place.

Amazing the detail for the miles of catenary wire they strung.

OK, I could not help it. Visible only on the tour, a romantic couple being spied on. Have to love the sense of humor they used on the layout.

Night time in Scandinavia.

Took lots of night pictures it was just so cool.


Same picture just with my flash on this time.

More logging.








Yes, that is a Great Northern engine.


A train station


The tide is out.

Hidden track is not so hidden.

Low tide uncovers hidden treasure.






Notice the glacier.


The weather balloon going up.

Crystal clear water.

The Ice Hotel at night.








One of the many small things to find.

A personal favorite of Helmut's. This is a special is a photo of the "Pipi Langstrumpf Haus". Pipi Langstrumpf is a child (the girl who stems the horse) in a children's novel of Astrid Lindgren.

Even snowmen like to ski.

This is where you go for the behind the scenes tour.








A closer picture of the pirate ship.

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The Switzerland and future airport sections.


The area for the airport section.

The sign basically says opening in 2009.

Getting ready to open November 2007.

This is how they work in the center of the layout.

The height of the mountain does not translate too well in some of these pictures.

It's 2 stories high.


Just beautiful.




That is one high bridge.




More of the team working on the section.



Showing off some limestone caves.


A big rock concert.

It came out blurry but had to show off the Port-O-Jon and the huge crowd.





Well, that's it. This was a wonderful trip. I hope I can someday go back and see more and take better pictures. If you ever get the chance to visit Germany I could not recommend it enough that you take at least a day and visit Miniatur Wunderland. It is time well spent

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