Hamburg's Miniaturbahn is bigger thrill than Reeperbahn
As a minidote to our visit to InnoTrans in Berlin (the one for the big boys) we took a side trip, by Deutsche Bahn, of course, to Hamburg to visit the world's largest model railway, Miniatur Wunderland. If you ever find yourself in Hamburg, forget the Reeperbahn and spend your money on the Miniaturbahn. You'll remember the experience for a lot longer.
This orgasmic display of little trains and motorised vehicles occupies four floors in an old waterside warehouse. My friend Ralf (@trainphilos) had arranged a special behind-the-scenes tour which invoved much stooping and crawling around the nether regions, under the Rocky Mountains, through Hamburg station and round the back streets of Las Vegas.
The railways, buildings and scenery are magnificent, but I was intrigued by the automatic trucks and buses which wend their way around the vast area, obeying traffic lights, using indicators correctly and switching on their lights as night falls (it happens once an hour in this parallel universe).
One feature I loved was the automatic vehicle charging station, hidden from public view underneath a mountain. The little trucks know when they need fuel and branch off through a tunnel to park themselves in one of the charging bays. After loading, they return to the fray, ready for a few more circuits of the building. I want one of these arrangements for my iPhone and iPad. When the juice is low my devices could just trundle off and park over the induction charger. I suppose they'd need wheels, but it was a good idea for at least 30 second.
Another hit is the massive Miniatur Wunderland airport which was completed in 2011 at a cost of 3.5 million euros. It is just one of the many special features to keep you busy.
Above Left: Central control room, just like a real railway; this is the perfect job for Hamburg's young computer geeks. Centre: Detail of control layouts cropped from the first picture. Right: Model truck and bus charging station, a masterpiece of model engineering, sadly hidden from public view