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Planes, trains, and hackers
November 30, 2011 6:03 PM   Subscribe

The world's largest smallest airport has finally joined the world's largest model railway [YouTube, has some discreet miniature people nudity]. As discussed previously, after six years of work Miniatur Wonderland has the airport its 10,000 train cars and 200,000 inhabitants require. Though Miniatur Wonderland has little close competition for size, it is far from the most important model railroad. That honor goes to the ugly tracks of the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT. Rather than focusing on beautiful railroads, the TMRC fixated on building the best control systems for their model trains. As a result of playing with ever more complicated programming challenges, from the TMRC came some of the first important hackers and hacker culture, and the seeds of the modern video game industry.
posted by blahblahblah (29 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
I make wargaming miniatures for a living. If we could figure out a way to get Germans as excited about wargaming as they are about model trains, I would probably be a lot wealthier (well, my employers would; it's arguable whether any of that would trickle down to me). But maybe Germany isn't ready to game WWII yet. And maybe that's totally fine. Whatever - they sure do have some awesome, tiny shit over there. I totally approve.
posted by Soulfather at 6:25 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good stuff!
posted by mazola at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2011


Oh my god. I want to work here.
posted by azarbayejani at 6:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adding this to my list of places to visit. (I love how America is represented by oil trucks and The Grand Canyon.)
posted by mochapickle at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2011


I like that you get to travel below the sir face. That BELOW the beard, people.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2011


Large and small ships arecruisin'.
posted by howfar at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2011


But maybe Germany isn't ready to game WWII yet.

Yeah, I kind of hope Germany's hobbyist gaming market isn't ready yet to wargame Panzer Strike or whatever on highly detailed hexcell foam complete with incredibly detailed miniatures. It's disturbing enough when people in other nations do it.

It's much more comforting to think of them making real and miniature - I'm not ashamed to say it - model transportation systems and other peaceful pursuits of engineering.

Actually, that brings up an interesting question. Would it be legal to play a wargame/RPG like Panzer Strike in Germany? I know there are laws against Nazi paraphernalia, but I don't know if that would extend to, say, pushing little painted tanks around a map that happened to have Third Reich markings on the models or something.

Back on track, the TMRC is a totally weird nexus of phone and computer hacking inspired by model railroad systems, but there was probably a long thread tying computers, telecommunications, actual railroads and the general concepts of switches and signals together long before TMRC existed.
posted by loquacious at 7:42 PM on November 30, 2011


Back on track

I swear this wasn't intentional. Please don't throw rotten fruit and/or veg at me.
posted by loquacious at 7:43 PM on November 30, 2011


Further to my comment above. The voice-over on that video is one of the best things I've ever heard. It's packed with more gems of bizarre enunciation than pretty much anything I've ever encountered, while still being absolutely clear and engaging.
posted by howfar at 7:43 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Uh oh, only a few posts into a Germany related topic and WWII has already come up twice.

Looks like this thread's going to get...
derailed
*sunglasses*
posted by Winnemac at 7:59 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


So I know nothing about Germany or Germans, but this strikes every preconceived notion I hold, intricate detail applied to the most boring things on earth.

My dad was a model railroader and to his dismay I never took any interest in the hobby. "Why are we spending an evening gluing moss to toothpicks Dad?" "Can't we just go outside and play catch?"
posted by Keith Talent at 8:15 PM on November 30, 2011


Because you're very boring, Keith. He'd rather play with boring miniature representational of large boring things.
posted by LoudMusic at 8:20 PM on November 30, 2011


Totally worth watching the first video just to hear the narrator say, "The world's probably smallest commercial airport".
posted by mrnutty at 8:40 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And your Dad was boring. He only wanted you as a boring miniature representation of his large boring self. Then you went and ruined that for him too, with your eating and your growing.

Rotten kids... you work your life out!
posted by howfar at 8:42 PM on November 30, 2011


An excellent simulation, but let me ask you this:

Does the preflight security screening area at the US departure gate come equipped with teeny little bodyscanners? Have the passengers waiting in line removed their shoes?

Can they simulate a transit strike? Flight delays and cancellations due to weather? Overbooked passengers stranded at the airport during major holidays?

Did the Knuffingen Airport Development Committee make any shady land development deals with the Miniatur City Council for the new terminals? Does airport law enforcement monitor long term parking for suspiciously abandoned vehicles? Have the increased noise levels lowered the surrounding property values?

I don't see any airport hotels for stranded travellers? Is the fleet of rental cars any good? Do they have a light rail link to public transit or do you have to take a taxi to Knuffingen? Can passengers make it to the boarding gate within two hours of arriving at the airport?

posted by ceribus peribus at 9:11 PM on November 30, 2011


I just happened to visit the worlds largest miniature railway this past weekend... It's in New Jersey, only 20 minutes from my hometown! Check out northlandz, it really is amazing...
posted by joecacti at 9:17 PM on November 30, 2011


I've been building a model railway for my son. I started when he was three months old. He is now 16
posted by the noob at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The video is brilliant, I'm wondering if it's a style of humor in Germany.

@joecacti, you mean northlandz.com (with a "z") .. but the site is down for me at the moment.
posted by stbalbach at 9:22 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is really cool. Thanks for the post.
posted by brundlefly at 11:31 PM on November 30, 2011


I fixed joecacti's link.
posted by taz at 12:32 AM on December 1, 2011


I visited the Wunderland with my wife in the summer. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't been so crowded. One cultural difference that my Canadian sensibilities can never seem to get past is the German propensity for sharp elbows.

The level of detail is amazing with some rather strange scenarios being played out, like the underground grow-op in one area. We also visited another miniature railway earlier in the year which included an open-air strip club.
posted by vansly at 1:25 AM on December 1, 2011


I visited the Wunderland with my wife in the summer. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't been so crowded. One cultural difference that my Canadian sensibilities can never seem to get past is the German propensity for sharp elbows.

The level of detail is amazing with some rather strange scenarios being played out, like the underground grow-op in one area. We also visited another miniature railway earlier in the year which included an open-air strip club.


In the shopping district in Aachen, I once looked in the window of a hobby store to see a display of model railroad figurines. Unlike the North American default of Norman Rockwell small town idylls with men in suits and fedoras striding purposefully along, or women in long skirts and Sunday hats pushing baby carriages, these figures were groups of two and three people engaged in acrobatic sex. I suppose the idea is to put some visual interest into the windows of your train layout's village, but I was tempted to buy the whole set for a friend, as I knew she would make space in her apartment for an elaborate HO-scale orgy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:31 AM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: HO-scale orgy
posted by i_cola at 4:40 AM on December 1, 2011


Arggh!

Metafilter: An elaborate HO-scale orgy.

(Stupid inability to type properly and eat a smoked mackerel bagel at the same time.)
posted by i_cola at 4:42 AM on December 1, 2011


I love model trains! When I was growing up, both of my uncles (one on either side of the family, coincidentally) each had a collection of Lionel O-gauge trains. Also coincidentally, neither of them had space where they lived for the trains. So they all ended up in our house. It became a tradition to pull them out after Thanksgiving and set up a little railway as part of the Christmas decorations.

We never had them up permanently - they're just too damned large - and it always seemed a shame because there are a lot of good set pieces with the trains (the ice house was always my favorite). They're in my basement now, and despite living in a smaller home now than when I grew up, I'm going to pull them out this weekend and set them up as we decorate for the holidays.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:21 AM on December 1, 2011


Whenever I have people visit me here in Germany, I take them to Miniatur Wunderland. At first, they're like, "Model trains? I dunno....." and I say, "Trust me on this."

It is awesome. Had it existed at the time when the Beatles were in Hamburg, Paul probably would have written a sappy little song about it and let Ringo sing it.
posted by chillmost at 5:37 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


What exactly is going on here?

The German text of "Ein geheimes Laboratorium erstreckt sich unter dem Knuffingen Airport. Hier werden geheimnisvolle Substanzen zu einer berauschenden Mischung zusammengebraut" for this image translates (via Google Translate) to "A secret laboratory extends under the Knuffingen Airport. The mysterious substances are merged together into a heady mixture."

Is this a miniature marijuana / methamphetamine lab?
posted by coachfortner at 10:08 AM on December 1, 2011


Is this a miniature marijuana / methamphetamine lab?

Yes. The description is a bit tongue-in-cheek.
posted by chillmost at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2011


Then, chillmost, I must give kudos for miniaturizing this scene.

Do all European airport hubs have illegal substance processing facilities incorporated into their infrastructure?
posted by coachfortner at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2011


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