"Wunderland" indeed: A visit to the largest model train layout in the world

"Berlin ist eine Reise wert!"

"Berlin is worth visiting". So goes a German proverb. I am not sure who came up with this bon mot, but I could imagine that it was most likely some clever chap with the local Chamber of Commerce. Whatever the saying's origin, I find it to be true. Berlin is fascinating. Not in a New York City or London in your face kind of way, but more subdued and quiet. More hidden. And it still is a lot less expensive than NYC or London.  

Brad and I just spent a week in Berlin. I tend to go more often than he does and, invariably, I always do a side trip from Berlin to Hamburg to visit the "Miniatur Wunderland" (MiWuLa). That supposedly is the largest HO gauge model train layout in the world. So it was that this time we both hopped on a Deutsche Bahn high speed ICE train for a day trip to Hamburg. It takes a little less than two hours from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Central Station. From there it is an easy walk to the "Miniatur Wunderland", located in Hamburg's old harbor warehouse section: The Speicherstadt, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The Control Center of Miniatur Wunderland

And here is one of the many computer banks running this:

The good folks at Miniatur Wunderland also give tours. Those are called "behind the scenes tours" and they are limited to about 8 visitors at a time. These tours (in English or German) take about an hour and one is taken into the guts and nitty gritty of the model train layout. It is fascinating to see what is behind and underneath all the track and scenery. It is a bit tight going through the back doors and service holes and such. If one is considering taken the "behind the scenes tour", the guides will not take anybody over 6 foot 4 and over a certain girth. People simply will not fit through some of the spaces. Also this particular organized tour is not handicap accessible.

So without further ado here are my photographic impressions of the "behind the scenes tour":  

A case full of HO scale fire trucks at the entrance to MiWuLa.

Even an old style US fire truck is on exhibitFurther down the corridor are offices and repair shops:

Test track for repaired rolling stock. Note the dual gauge track:

A fair:

Same fair during the night:

One of the many "shadow yards", just before reaching the USA part of the layout:

Part of the USA portion of MiWuLa:

The Canadian Pacific "Christmas Train":

The Norway part and the Oslo central station:

A NSB (Norske Statsbaner) snow removal unit:

The "harbor" staging area:

Approaching the Hamburg station:

The train yard at Hamburg station:

In some areas there are five levels of train tracks:

A Swiss themed train station and some impressive bridges in the Swiss Alps:

A couple of the Faller Car System vehicles:

And the totally automatic and computer controlled charging station for the vehicles. The on board vehicle chip tells the computer that the battery in the vehicle is getting low. The main computer then directs the vehicle to one of the charging stations, where the vehicle drives into a bay. A charging paddle on either side of the vehicle then makes contact and recharges the battery and the vehicle is then sent on it's merry way again to do it's rounds for about two hours:

Not to be missed is the outdoor concert by DJ Bobo:

A video I took while doing the "Behind the Scenes Tour":

Here is one of the videos produced by MiWuLa:

I would really encourage readers to check out Miniatur Wunderland's website. There is much more technical information available than I could ever present here, plus heaps of videos and photographs:

www.miniatur-wunderland.de (in German)

www.miniatur-wunderland.com (in English)

All photographs and videos (unless otherwise stated) by Ralf Meier, using a Sony alpha7RII 4K camera.