Archive for July, 2009

Architectural Dreams

I came across this incredible video of a 3-D animated building that I thought was very cool. This is a 3-D projection system by Urbanscreen in Germany. Why do all these cool things seem to be in Germany and not in the US?

“How it would be, if a house was dreaming”

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Boys and their trains

Many years ago, I had a big HO Scale train set in my basement. (This is the best photo of it I could find, at right.) I made mountains out of plaster with tunnels for the trains, I had a house that was on fire, a McDonalds, farms, neighborhoods and, of course, a train station. I thought it was pretty good.

But my piano teacher’s husband had a much more impressive train set-up in his basement. He had used several different train scales to create the illusion of distance. He also made most of his houses by hand. It was very impressive and inspirational. I have some of the homes he made to this day. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the rest of them.

I grew up in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and not too far from us in Shartlesville, PA, was a tourist attraction called Roadside America. It was a most impressive train panorama covering 8,000 square feet, and claimed at the time to be the largest in the world. It was like condensing different areas of America into one location. You could walk all along the outside of the room to view the different areas. There are underground sections including a recreation of Luray Caverns, and you can choose to climb into some of the mountains to view the entire set-up from above. There are buttons located at strategic places around the room that let you operate parts of the display such as a merry-go-round. At certain times (once an hour, I think) Roadside America has a nighttime phase. Everyone gets a good location to watch and the "sun" sets and all the lights come on in the homes and streets of the little village. There’s also a patriotic display on one wall of the room. Most of the work at Roadside America was done by Laurence Gieringer and it has remained basically as it was when he died in 1963.

In recent years, my sister moved to New Jersey and I became aware of another railway near her called Northlandz in Flemington, which claims to be the "Worlds Largest Model Railroad". We visited a few years ago and it is quite a bit bigger than Roadside America. At Northlandz, you weave your way in and out of different rooms for nearly a mile, sometimes viewing the same location from very different viewpoints. Northlandz boasts 52,000 square feet with up to 100 trains traveling more than 8 miles of track, 400 bridges and trestles, and thousands of buildings. They claim that the building materials used would construct about 40 houses. Their tallest mountain is 30 feet high, which would be about 6,000 feet if it was life-sized. Northlandz also has a 2,000 pipe theater pipe organ, a large doll collection, and a 94-room dollhouse.

A few days ago I stumbled across a video online of an attraction in Germany called Miniatur Wunderland. I don’t speak German, but I think the translation is obvious. Miniatur Wonderland was created by brothers Frederick and Gerrit Braun and boasts that they are the largest model railway in the world. However, they currently occupy 43,056 square feet, which, by my count, puts it almost 9,000 square feet less than Northlandz. I believe we have a controversy here. At least for a little while since they have plans of expanding by 2014 to 64,583 square feet. (Although on their website, they also say that the "model area" is 900 square meters (which is 9,687 square feet, so it may be somewhat smaller, if I’m doing my math right.)

Some of Wunderland’s stats:
9,000 meters of track length
700 trains (longest is 14.51 meters)
250,000 lights
2,800 buildings and bridges
160,000 figures
4,000 cars

They have a staff of 162 people, requires 33 computers, and they have about 475,000 work hours into the attraction.

Whatever the stats, this project is impressive to say the least. They have wonderful details throughout such as a crime scene with a floating body, boats that travel on real water, cars that drive on roads (how do they do that?!), and a nighttime with an amazing light display (check out Las Vegas!)

Of course, I haven’t been to Germany lately, so I haven’t seen Wunderland myself, but from what I’ve seen online, it appears to be more colorful and bright than most miniature train displays I’ve seen.

Here is a wonderful "corporate" video of Miniatur Wunderland.

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President Obama in Disney World (sort of)

My friend Rich sent me a link to the following video (scroll down), which is very cool. It is a "behind the scenes" look at President Barak Obama recording his audio for the Disney World Hall of Presidents.

Well, I love Disney. I respect Barak Obama. Love the Hall of the Presidents. And I really enjoy behind the scenes stuff. So I don’t need to tell you how much I enjoyed this.

The Obama Animatronic will have a speaking role along with Washington and Lincoln (who will, for the first time, recite the entire Gettysburg Address). The revised and updated attraction reopened July 2, just in time for Independence Day.

Apparently, the Bill Clinton animatronic was recycled for President Bush, and now once again for Barak Obama. This is done because it is a much more complex animatronic and is needed for the current president’s speech. Once they are out of office, they have much less movement and do not require as complex an animatronic. It takes some time to re-work the show as the presidents must be moved around to make a space for the current one and the entire roll-call of presidents must be re-recorded and implemented.

Here is the behind-the-scenes Obama video as posted on the White House blog. I must say that one thing about this following video that I noticed is that President Obama didn’t seem to be aware of the attraction, asking if they were "holograms". Seems odd to me that the President wouldn’t be aware of this show.

Following is a video of the updated show.

One last thing that I find interesting about this is that the animatronic presidents receive applause. Very strange.

Writing this post reminded me that I forgot to post about our excellent visit to the Toy Story Zoetrope in Disney Land this past holiday. Watch for that post soon!

Dave’s Cool Toys

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Dave Ference

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