Editor's Choice

The world’s greatest model railway

June 2024 Editor's Choice Motion Control & Drives

Visit the most diverse regions of the world in just a single day. Explore Las Vegas, the Alps or the Norwegian fjords in only a few hours. This is possible in the Miniatur Wunderland. Located in Hamburg’s traditional warehouse district, Speicherstadt, it features the largest model railway in the world, and is one of the most exciting tourist attractions in Germany. Far more than ten million visitors have marvelled at this wonderland which – in an area of 1300 square metres – features miniature replicas of sights from Scandinavia to the USA, and from quaysides to the mountains peaks of our world.

Life in all its facets

Miniatur Wunderland offers much more than just a huge model railway. In addition to the 930 trains, which travel several hundred kilometres each day, visitors of all generations can observe the 8850 automobiles and ships, and more than 20 000 tiny residents. They visit big festivals or memorial ceremonies, police set up radar traps and chase after criminals, and the fire brigade is constantly responding to calls. Life in all its varied facets can be seen in Wunderland. Among the most recently completed sections is the Knuffingen Airport. From the engineering hangar to the arrivals and departures terminal, the airport amazes with its many meticulous details. Over 40 aeroplanes take off and land here daily.

Unique technology

The impressive scenery conceals unique technology. “One of our key principles has always been to face every technical challenge, no matter how hopeless the situation might seem at the outset. With this attitude we have managed to use technologies which cause amazement among visitors”, says Gerrit Braun, who founded Miniatur Wunderland together with his brother Frederik. Some 335 000 lights, which dynamically switch on and off, are combined with a self-developed light control system to provide for a nearly perfect day and night simulation. Numerous vehicles and aircraft are computer-controlled, or can be set in motion by visitors with one of the more than 200 pushbuttons.

Drives from Faulhaber

For many of these pushbutton-activated functions, DC micromotors from Faulhaber provide for the movement. “We employ various Faulhaber series depending on what the purpose requires,” explains system technician, Mathias Stamm. For the aircraft models of the Knuffingen Airport, motors of the 1717 series are utilised. The little fire brigade in the airport and the trains are also driven by Faulhaber motors. For example, 1524 intricate motors provide for the movement of a roll-up gate. “The motors are internally integrated and wind the gate upwardly around itself,” says Stamm.

Reliable and professional

What speaks in favour of Faulhaber motors, in Stamm’s opinion, is the technical reliability. “The Faulhaber motors are of the highest quality and run maintenance-free,” he continues. Another thing is the professional support. “We order smaller quantities,” he explains. “Nevertheless, when questions arise we have direct access to the telephone support of Faulhaber.”

Miniature train races on British television

The Miniatur Wunderland was also able to score points at a special event on British television thanks to Faulhaber technology. The well-known BBC presenter, James May appeared in a miniature train competition against Miniatur Wunderland in his Sunday evening show. The task was to travel the 15 kilometres of railway line from Bideford to Barnstaple with a model railway. Accordingly, the stretch was first laid with small rail tracks before the start of the race. For the show, Miniatur Wunderland came up with a special gag. “We developed a train that ran on sauerkraut fuel. We then had it dramatically blown up halfway there, but with another train we were first to cross the finish line,” recounts Braun. The locomotives for this race had been first refitted with Faulhaber micromotors in order to be up to the demanding task.

Two brothers and one idea

The early days of the impressive Miniatur Wunderland go back to the summer of 2000. Frederik Braun was ambling through the back alleyways of downtown Zurich and stumbled upon a model train shop that rekindled his childhood memories and inspired him with a vision. He called his twin brother, Gerrit and proposed building the world’s greatest model railway. The project was born. Up to now, the facility covers over 1300 square metres. More than 300 employees build and maintain it, and take care of the visitors.


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