Google helped develop new miniature cameras to capture the Miniatur Wunderland. (Google)
A special, small camera used to take Street View images of Miniatur Wunderland. (Google)
Death comes to Miniatur Wunderland (Google)
A tiny parade in Tiny Hamburg. (Google)
Passing by a miniature farmer's market. (Google)

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Get a Big View of the World’s Largest Miniature Train Set

All aboard the Cute Train to Tinytown

smithsonian.com

Aside from it being a great help in making sure you’ve ended up at the right place, Google Maps’ Street View feature is full of all sorts of little quirks—from the all-too-candid images immortalized by the Google Street View car cameras to the ones that capture people going out of their way to troll the tech giant. Now, Google has teamed up with Hamburg, Germany's popular "Miniatur Wunderland" to bring a model’s-eye-view of the world’s largest miniature train set to the Internet.

The Braun brothers, 48-year-old twins Gerrit and Frederik, constructed Miniatur Wunderland after Frederik dreamed up the idea when he came across a railway model shop during a visit to Zurich, Switzerland, in 2000. Since then, the brothers have set about faithfully recreating parts of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the United States in the world’s largest model railway. But the setup isn’t just about the trains: the models are incredibly detailed, down to the brickwork on the model buildings and the seasonally-appropriate clothing worn by the tiny model people who populate the set. The enormous set features cruise ship stops, fire trucks responding to emergencies, a carnival and even working planes that take off and land at a tiny airport, Rhiannon Williams reports for the Telegraph. Oh, and of course there are the model trains.

Despite the name, the set at Miniatur Wunderland is massive for a miniature, with more than eight miles of train tracks. The set contains more than 930 model trains that zip along their tracks around recreations of the Alps and through tiny European villages. Over the years, it’s become a popular tourist destination for Hamburg, drawing more than a million people a year, Chris Plante writes for the Verge.

While Google pieces together its regular-sized Street View images from photographs taken by its ubiquitous cars, that would be a bit too big to capture the world as it is seen from the perspective of one of the hundreds of thousands of model people that populate the train set. In order to capture this minute point of view, Google partnered with mapping company Ubilabs to develop cameras tiny enough to fit onto Miniatur Wunderland’s trains, planes and automobiles, Jamie Condliffe reports for Gizmodo.

“Street View cameras have floated on gondolas in Venice, ridden on camels in the Liwa Desert and soared on snowmobiles on Canadian slopes,” Google wrote in a statement. For the Miniatur Wunderland project, though, “tiny cameras were mounted on tiny vehicles that were able to drive the roads and over the train tracks, weaving through the Wunderland’s little worlds to capture their hidden treasures.”

And hidden treasures there certainly are. The model contains all sorts of funny, mundane, and downright dark scenes, including the Grim Reaper standing over a group of capsized whitewater rafters. And the model isn't finished yet: the Braun brothers are working on adding scenes from Italy, England, France, and Africa in the coming months. If you can’t make it to Hamburg to see the Wunderland in person, at least Google Maps can give you a glimpse.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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