Miniatur Wunderland has become the world’s biggest model railway since it opened in 2001. Founded by Frederik and Gerrit Braun, the twin brothers turn 50 on December 21, 2017. To mark the occasion, the brothers recently published their biography and look back over their lives. And to stir up enthusiasm for small bookshops, the twins have urged fans to actually step into bookstores instead of purchasing their book online. Their appeal has not fallen on deaf ears and the book has soared to the top of Spiegel’s bestseller list (paperback non-fiction), based on sales in bookshops.
Exciting childhood together
Miniatur Wunderland clocks up well over 1 million visitors every year. In August, international visitors voted the exhibit Germany’s number one tourist attraction for the second consecutive year in a survey by the German National Tourist Board. This tremendous honour is doing wonders not only for the exhibit but for Hamburg and Germany as well.
Frederik pointed out: “We have lived our lives very publicly over the last 20 years. But actually, the first 25 years of our lives have made the biography likeable and pleasant.” Their parents separated when the twins were just two years old. “We had an exciting childhood and lived in a commune with our mother. That wasn’t easy, but my brother Gerrit and I were always together. That made us rock solid and we were happy in our own creative world.” The twins have given full flight to their fancy from a young age. An extract from the 240-page biography reads: “When we were allowed to, our railway tracks covered the entire flat (...). Basically, we preferred building things than actually playing with them. Experimenting and trying out new things was always more important to us.”
Special wish for little bookshop
Frederik and Gerrit are big fans of the “little bookshop around the corner” which is in danger of being wiped out by online trade. The twins hit on the idea of “selling our book offline and not online,“ Frederik recounted. A fortnight before their book was due to be released in stores, the twins went online in a Facebook video and urged fans to pop into their local bookstore in search of their biography rather than buying it online where it is presently unavailable. To stir up even more enthusiasm, the twins have signed every single book in the first edition – a whopping 31,700 copies. “At first, we were expecting 2,000 to 4,000 books. The final count was 31,700 and I ended up with tenosynovitis from signing them all,” said Frederik grinning. “That was not planned. But it has burst the banks in a good way.”
Political and social commitment
The brothers are known for their appeals in favour of good causes – and their political and social commitment goes way beyond the box. To give vent to their anger, the twins recently fenced in their miniature model of Las Vegas to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-Mexico course. And to coincide with general elections in Germany recently, they released a fun video on Facebook in which they urged their fellow countrymen, depicted as residents of Miniatur Wunderland, to live up to their democratic duty.
Not surprisingly, their enthusiasm and enjoyment of games continues unabated: “Our adventurous spirit drives us on. We get up in the mornings with a smile on our faces and come together in Miniatur Wunderland to make our dreams come true.” And their creativity is boundless. At present, nine themed worlds in Miniatur Wunderland depict entire countries in miniature – with more than 15 kilometres of tracks, 15,000 locomotives and carriages, 215,000 figurines and 4,000 miniature houses in minute detail. The depicted countries include Austria, the Nordic countries, the United States and most recently, Italy. A special section on Venice has just been completed. The twins are now aiming to add another 3,000 square metres in 2019/20 to depict Monaco and it’s Formula 1 racing track, France and England.