Over the years, I have had many people email me, tag me, and in other ways share with me videos of the Miniatur Wunderland airport, which is located in Hamburg, Germany. I enjoyed watching each one and was quite impressed with the videos. That said, no words, no video, no photos, not even this story can come close to convey just how freak’n awesome this place is!
When I was preparing for my recent trip to Hamburg, Lee Zerrilla, was telling me I needed to go to Miniatur Wunderland. I think my initial reaction was, “dude, this where a bunch of old people go to look at train sets?” No. He pointed out that not only was it way beyond just train sets, but this is also the location where all those videos had been taken… I was now very interested and made it my mission to check this place out.
The Wunderland Airport (also called Knuffingen Airport) has a striking resemblance to Hamburg Airport and is nothing short of amazing. The airport (which I am going to give the airport code WUN for this story — sorry Wiluna Airport) started construction in 2008 and was finished in 2011. It flies about 40 different aircraft, “from Cessna to Airbus A380,” but I also caught a rather large bumblebee going through as well (like the insect — the size of a plane). It can handle about 180 flights per day (bumblebees and all).
At any given time, there are 90 cars, 70 signals, 150 switches, 15,000 figures, 6,000 trees, 4,500 parked cars, 40,000 LEDs, and 40 trains as part of WUN. The display is about 1,350 square feet, and took an impressive 150,000 hours to build. The cost (ready for this) was about four million Euros. So, if you were thinking about creating a replica in your extra room, it is best to start saving now!
When seeing the videos, I just thought it was some track system where the planes are attached to metal poles and driven around on a set course, reset, and do it all over again. Not even close. When I first arrived I saw an Air Berlin Airbus A330 in a hangar. Then the lights started coming on it and taxied out — cool. I saw a car come up to it figured, it would hang out for a while, then the plane would back up into the hangar and restart. Not only did the plane keep going, but it ended up taking off, as it started to turn to night at the airport — damn.
The system is extremely dynamic and the only part that has the metal poles is when a plane is taking off or coming in for a landing. As they put it, the vehicles are, “equipped with sensors, which transmit all data via infrared signals. Thus, it is possible to simulate a more dynamic movement of any vehicle, and lights, turn signals, as well as speed levels can be switched and altered while driving. Furthermore, infrared technology enables a more precise position analysis. Thus, the vehicles can drive with a shorter safety distance to other vehicles in traffic.”
In simple terms, this is no short of an amazing ballet, where everything needs to be what it is supposed to be doing. As I watched all the complexities, I thought about how the timing had to be almost perfect for it to function properly. I started to see the parallels to a real airport — and how if things do not go right, stuff starts going wrong. Unlike a real airport, when stuff goes bad at WUN, a big giant (an employee) is able to go and reset things, either from their computer, or by walking on top of the platform.
The airport is just one of the many different, impressive things to see while there. Is it worth going to the Miniatur Wunderland? Absolutely. Even if you are not an AvGeek, there are PLENTY of things to see that should interest you! No question, this is worth the time and money to view. But this place is popular — VERY popular. Even on our mid-day, weekday trip, we had to wait 45 minutes to get in. To cut down on your wait, you can either make reservations or check out their busy times. If you do end up waiting, they have a cafe where you can sit, eat, play games, and wait. Just make sure that once you get in, you leave yourself with enough time and patience!