The World's Shortest Runway
February 12, 2011 4:20 PM   Subscribe

The largest model railway layout in the world, Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland has been featured here before. Featuring areas modelled on real life attractions, it also is home to the fictional town of Knuffingen where the 200,000 mini-inhabitants are very much looking forward to the opening of their new airport.

Scheduled to open in May, the airport features a wide variety of real-life planes, from a 737 with winglets to 2 versions of the A380, that takeoff, land and taxi all by themselves, both day and night.

Project Manager Gerrit Braun has been keeping a video diary (in German) recounting the technical challenges faced and how they have been solved - how to turn a plane around for example (click CC on the YouTube toolbar to activate English subtitles).
posted by jontyjago (15 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Complete with miniature lost luggage, no doubt.
posted by punkfloyd at 4:44 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This makes me happy in a way the real world simply can't these days.
posted by Golfhaus at 4:48 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is delightful! Normally, I'm sort of a model railroad purist in that I only care about seeing the trains, but when it's this well done... wow!
posted by Krazor at 4:54 PM on February 12, 2011

It's super cool. This Video video explains take-off etc. a bit more. (Starts a couple of minutes in, after the parking structure stuff). Absolutely fascinating.
posted by defcom1 at 5:05 PM on February 12, 2011

Looks like the Germans like to play as hard as they used to fight. Or they redirected their energy.

I've always lived in the miniature world of scale railways in my young days, and when I was falling asleep, I imagined living there with the little people I that created and the houses that I built.

The thing that amazes me to this day is that If I was scaled down to 1/87, (i.e. to about 20mm tall) I'd still weigh about 1kilo, and a 747, which would be about 870mm long at that scale, would weigh an incredible 5 tons!

Makes you appreciate how dense we really are. Then I thought, wait, maybe I should not only scale down spatial dimensions but also the density, to keep the weights appropriate. And then I thought, where would the scaling stop? Should I scale time and have everything run 87x faster?

That was a philosophical dead-end to modeling for me and I stopped taking the model world seriously. But it still has a strong aesthetic attraction to me.
posted by Laotic at 5:43 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Laotic - So you're saying your 5 tons comes from... 396tonnes / 87 = 1.3tonnes. But you're scaling volume for weight, it should weigh about 600g (divide by 87^3)
(Think of a block of water. 1m3 of water = 1 tonne (1000kg). 1/100 scale (so, 1cm3) water, doesn't weigh 1000kg/100, or 10kg, but, actually weights (1000kg/100^3), or 1/1000kg, which is 1g. )
posted by defcom1 at 6:05 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

ehh.. 396/87 = 5 tonnes
posted by defcom1 at 6:06 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You got your scaling wrong there, Laotic. When you shrink something by 1/87, you're shrinking it in all three dimensions, not just one. It's 1/87th as tall, but also 1/87th as wide, and 1/87th as thick. That means it weighs 1 / (87 * 87 * 87) as much, or 1/658303.

I'm not sure what average weight is anymore, but it used to be about 180lbs for men, so assuming that you started at 180lbs, and shrank to 1/87 of your present height, mini-you would weigh 0.0003 lbs, or roughly 1/200th of an ounce. Think of those pictures of a little frog on a fingertip, and how little they weigh; you're made of roughly the same stuff (almost all water), and you'd be no heavier.

Interestingly, you'd retain about 1/87th of your present strength, which decreases linearly, rather than cubically. You would feel immensely powerful at 20mm, still able to lift a couple of pounds, thousands of times your own weight. And, because your surface area decreases on a square, while your weight decreases as a cube function, you'd likely no longer take damage from falling; air resistance would keep your terminal velocity low enough that you wouldn't be injured, no matter how far you fell.

An unloaded 747-100B, per Wikipedia, weighs 358,000 pounds. Divided by 658303, it'd be about a half a pound. Fully loaded, it'd be about a pound. This also makes logical sense when you realize that planes are ENORMOUS, but they're designed to be as light as possible. After all, they have to fly.
posted by Malor at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Oops, I completely missed a great example of strength versus size differential... 1/87th size you, if you're reasonably strong, could very likely lift a fully loaded mini-747.
posted by Malor at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Man, I first glanced that as 'Minotaur Wonderland,' and got really excited. Labyrinths! Greek guys! Lots of string!
posted by kaibutsu at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I love miniature stuff! It's just cute and cool!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:51 PM on February 12, 2011

I've never had the patience, and now I don't have the space, but model railroads have always been fascinating to me. My dad and I would, on the Sundays I was with him, head out to the train yards in Kalamazoo and watch the trains go by, then head home and fiddle with his set of trains for most of the day.

More recently, the retired former principal of the school I teach at just donated his old model train setup to the school. They aren't sure what they'll do with it, so it's sitting under one of the stair wells, yet it's all set up, and probably with a couple hours of work, could probably be running again. Every time I go by it, I end up stopping and looking at it for awhile.

I think one of my problems with models, and model trains, is what do you do with it when you're finished? The making of it seems to be the main point, and most train enthusiasts I've known have layouts that always seem to be growing in size and scope. Personally, my dream project is pretty much impossible, and would be just a tad too big for anything but a field house: A to-scale N-gauge model of the Tokyo subway system, and the JR trains that run above ground. I believe that involves at least 14 subway lines, as well as countless private and JR lines making various connections, but lord, it'd be amazing when it was finished.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

No. Just no. I'm sorry Miniatur Wunderland, but you've well and truly exceeded your awesome quotient with this. That's just too awesome.
posted by adamt at 8:15 PM on February 12, 2011

Well, guys, you did put me right there : ) I feel positively ashamed for having lasted one full semester at a math university all those years ago. I did not realize mass had to be scaled down cubically, probably because I got led astray by increasing density, the wrong approach, apparently.

Still, a fascinating little world.
posted by Laotic at 2:55 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Yes honey, we have a layover in Hamburg so we can see the miniature airport! No no no, we're not flying into the miniature airport; we'll have to take a taxi there from the 1:1 scale airport."
posted by yeti at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2011

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