Hamburg: The world’s largest model train exhibition


Where’s Gulliver?

If a long-hatched childhood dream is ever to come true, entrepreneurial reason mostly isn’t the proper leverage to make it happen. Frederik Braun and his twin brother Gerrit still bravely ventured out on a project not only demanding a vast amount of courage, enthusiasm, utmost technical aptitude, congenial logistics and never-ending perseverance – but also a mighty portion of disregard towards the shaky economical outlook and the financial risks lurking virtually everywhere. A browse through a model railway shop in Switzerland’s capital Zurich back in 2000, triggered the idea for what was to become the largest and most successful exhibition of model railways worldwide.

As cute as the name: The train station at Knuffingen.

As cute as the name: The train station at Knuffingen.

Clear vision – ethical mission

Were they unrealistic idealists rather than serious business people able to run a veritable enterprise responsibly? No, they weren’t. And, yes, they certainly are! Initial doubts raised about their sanity were defused quickly, they say. Today, 11 million visitors and 500,000 Wunderland handicraft hours later, the Braun’s’ are securing more than 150 workplaces in an environment that widely enhances the design team’s ability and creativity – and where a prevailing positive spirit is far more valuable than pecuniary issues could ever be.

Always in a cheerful mood: the founders Frederik and Gerrit Braun.

Always in a cheerful mood: the founders Frederik and Gerrit Braun.

„We do not want to run a heartless and boring profit-making machine. Profit will never dominate our actions. For us, people are more important than money“. One has seen philanthropists die of starvation… whereas these two have turned their boyhood dream into a thriving business so popular, that queues curling at the box office have to be tamed by a refined time management system.

Miniatur-Wunderland makes quite a unique MICE venue, too! Exclusive tours or entertaining team building required, perhaps combined with a meeting or a reception? Nord Event, a Hamburg agency whose success story is not all that different from the Braun’s’, is a long-term partner and a reliable all-rounder known for formidable fringe programmes and exquisite catering.

Maxi run on mini world

Channelling the stream of spectators to reduce waiting periods (advance bookings do rule them out completely!), has first priority. Once admitted, visitors will delve into a 1,300 sq ms toy paradise devised to the finest detail with a dedication and care that is not only astounding, but also most endearing. Who thinks all this up? How can anyone possibly construct or fashion minute objects like these? And so many of them?

It all started off in Switzerland.

It started off in Switzerland…

Hundreds of infinitesimal „people“ crowding train platforms and festival sites (a population of 215,000 in total), 930 trains, 8,850 cars, busses, fire brigades and police vehicles, an airport, train and metro stations and bus-stops, bi- and motorcycles, cranes and caterpillars, roads, motorways and tunnels, mountains and abysses, mines, cable cars, aeroplanes and helicopters, circuses and farms, domestic and other animals, schools, hospitals, hotels and regular buildings, bridges, rivers and lakes, castles and fortresses: you name it, it’s sure to be there! „Fire“ is burning, „water“ splashing, jets roaring, ships hooting, trains whistling, church bells ringing – and visitors happily immersed in midget proceedings. A day-and-night simulation mode is activated every 15 minutes. When „dusk“ creeps up, 335,000 LED lights illuminate this magic Lilliput scenery in a most captivating way. This isn’t reality? What on earth makes you think that!?

... down to the finest detail. :-)

… and goes down to the finest detail. :-)

It’s still growing!

This tiny yet grand world is far from being finished. While talented model builders and technicians in open-to-view workshops and construction areas are busy enlarging it, curious and thoroughly stunned visitors may look over their shoulders to witness, how much effort and devotion is invested into developing this exhibition further and further. Once completed in 2020, the model area will almost have doubled to 2,300 sq ms, the total working hours accumulated to 850,000 and the construction cost risen to 20,000,000 euros.

There's a busy airport, too!

Take-offs and landings by day and night.

All images courtesy of Miniatur-Wunderland©