Wroxham Miniature Worlds
Wroxham Miniature Worlds in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, Norfolk is the biggest indoor modelling attraction in the UK, stretching to over 10,000 square feet with some of the largest model railways in the world on permanent public display. This is an insight into how this attraction came about and how long it took to create and also what there is to see
What you can see at Wroxham Miniature Worlds has been in development since early 2011 and has taken a small team over three years of hard work to bring to you. The attraction is spread over nearly 15,000 square feet that’s almost 1/3 of an acre of undercover attraction! The first 12 months was spent developing the model prototypes, detailed business plans and the inevitable planning applications that would be required to get the project off the ground. It wasn’t just raising the money or getting the planning permission, building the models would consume more model railway products than any other single project ever in the UK!
It was a nervous moment when six months into the project the planning application was submitted to North Norfolk District Council being such a large scale attraction right on the boundary of the Broads National Park. We had an idea, a proposal but it all hung on how the idea would be received by both the planning department and the local residents. Just before Christmas 2011 the project was given the “green light” by the council having received no objections whatsoever.construction4
We began building the full scale prototype layouts in February 2012 in what was essentially on open 5,000 sqft building developing what would be the largest model railway layouts on permanent public display. The build time was estimated to be approximately 18 months, which would mean opening in time for the August Summer holidays in 2013. A tentative date was set for April/May 2013 opening but we knew we had a long way to go and no idea how we would shave the three months from the build schedule.
So far the project had had a charmed life garnering the support of the bank, the planners, the local residents, the model railway trade and we had built up a band of volunteers to work alongside the development team of contractors and employees. It would take around 100,000 man hours of work and the complete overhaul of a warehouse into a building suitable for the admission of the public and all we could do was hope that everything would go to plan. With luck this good we knew it would run out at some point… it was just when!
The plan was simple we would build four of the largest models of their type in the UK and then move them from one building into another! The final home of the attraction was a building that was still being used as a warehouse and would not be available to us until November 2012 at the earliest so the layouts some up to 100ft long would have to be built on wheels and rolled into the building next door. This kind of thing had never been attempted, moving layouts this size in one piece with all the track work electrics and scenic foundations in place. The team had put a lot of work developing the framework system to be both strong enough and flexible enough to be moved and negotiate their way through the only doorway big enough to move them. As we constructed more and more layouts it became a massive game of “Tetris” that was planned down to the last foot.
The inevitable delays began to mount but they came from an unexpected source. We had pre-bought a lot of the materials we needed for the project before we started construction however as we got towards the half way point in the build we were ordering specific items to finish off areas and we were causing many of these items to go “out of stock” with the UK Wholesalers and sometimes even the manufacturers. Items that maybe sold 100 a year we were buying by the thousand and some items would be months before being back in stock. The project paused for a while in summer 2013 while a small but dedicated team started constructing the 12ft high mountain range at the back of the European Layout whilst we struggled to resolve the issues with supply.
We started importing items from Europe, America and Japan individually whilst our suppliers began getting batches of items “flown in” for us rather than waiting for it to come by sea and within a month or so the items started to arrive and we were back on track, albeit a month behind schedule. It is at this point that one company in particular “Gaugemaster” proved to be a life saver their sales manager “Julian Lilley” doing everything to locate some of the most obscure items from around the world.
It is not just Gaugemaster we have to thank, Hornby and Bachmann also helped us greatly to procure the supplies that we needed. Although it must be said that some items we wanted are still out of stock today, it seems that the ripples caused in the supply chain by devouring so much equipment are still being felt 18 months later. The shortage of model bits and pieces meant that instead of being able to draw in more staff to try and get ready for spring 2013 we were back to our original 18 month build schedule and meant opening mid September 2013 was inevitable.
The delays didn’t stop with the lack of model railway track and scenic items the conversion of the building next door involved erecting a 40ft high wall and emptying racks and racks of furniture meaning that this was running over two months behind schedule. Everybody was working as hard as they could but the sheer scale of the project was making life difficult getting items in sufficient numbers from simple things like the dozens of display cabinets and pots of floor paint to cover 10,000sqft were all becoming difficult
In mid January 2013 the big move finally took place almost three months behind schedule and the attraction you see today began to take shape. The layouts were tentatively rolled into their new homes. The problem though was we had been forced to build more in the development building than we had originally planned so there was far less space to move things around in. I had a very sleepless night the night before the big move, it had been planned down to the last foot and there were only inches to spare as the layouts negotiated through the doorway. It all went well, one set of trapped fingers and some damaged pride the only casualties of the move.
The whole attraction is more than 250ft long and over 80ft wide at its widest point covering almost the size of a football pitch! It was only as we started to finish things off does the number of corners to be protected, the amount of walls to be painted and glass to be fitted hit home. We were behind schedule but plans for a mid September opening were in place until at the beginning of August 2013 tragedy struck when an adjacent building caught fire. Nobody was hurt in the fire but it gutted a warehouse, filled the attraction with smoke and burned for over 6 hours. More than a dozen fire trucks filled the site and the Wroxham to Cromer railway line had to be closed. We were unable to get back inside for 4 days to assess the damage and the warehouse was without power for almost four weeks. I am not sure if this was the only bad luck the project would suffer or if it was good fortune that it didn’t happen whilst the attraction was open but it was certainly a game changer.
We struggled on finishing off the model railways without power but it became clear that the fire alarm system of the site was damaged, that the contractors we had booked couldn’t do what was necessary without power and getting the site safe for the public would be impossible for a mid September opening. With a heavy heart we put off the opening until spring 2014 and reduced to a skeleton staff to finish the last few jobs off. The models were complete by mid October 2013 and staff moved onto “phase 2” of the project getting ready for the construction of the indoor garden railway and the centrepiece of the attraction preparing the room for the construction of the world’s largest “OO” gauge model railway covering over 3,000 sqft.
We have used over 20 miles of wire to wire up the layouts
We have used enough wood if laid end to end to stretch from Wroxham to Norwich.
We have used enough Plywood to cover 4 tennis courts.
We have used over 5 miles of plaster bandage to create the scenery.
We have used over 1 ton of plaster to create the mountains and other scenery.
We have used enough fibreglass to build a yacht in creating the mountains.
We have used more than 10,000 screws in assembling the layout frames.
More than 50,000 man hours have gone into creating the attraction.
We have used over 10,000 trees to create the scenery
There are over 5,000 individual model people.
There are over 2,500 individual pieces of model railway track about 70 scale miles.
There are over 300 model buildings more than some villages!
There are over 100 trains and over 1000pieces of rolling stock.
There are over 1000 non model railway items on display.
We have used over 75,000 Lego™ bricks.
We have used over 10,000 pieces of KNEX to construct a massive ball machine.
At peak, we have had over 25 people working on site at any one time.
Our displays are:
EUROPEAN RAILWAY LAYOUT
This is the largest HO scale layout on permanent public display in the UK. This model layout takes you from a detailed model city with its theme park , detailed model buildings, its population many of which you can see performing actions alongside moving cars busses and trucks. The layout takes you past the castle and the holiday lake out into the mountains. Model trains weave through the city and the mountains where the railways weave into and under the snowy mountain village. Currently our biggest layout it covers over 800sqft of fully detailed scenery.
JAPANESE RAILWAY LAYOUT
This layout is the largest N gauge layout on permanent public display in the UK. This miniature scale model layout has trains weaving around a fully detailed city complete with skyscrapers and a full model coastline. The layout takes you from the city out into the Japanese countryside with a fully detailed mountainous background complete with a Shinto temple. Trains of all types pass into and out of the stations including the amazing Bullet trains whizzing along the mile long elevated track that crosses the water outside the little Japanese fishing village. This layout covers around 260sqft of fully detailed scenery complete with buildings and numerous cars. People populate the city and 100’s of trees form a spectacular layout in one of model railways smallest scales.
GREAT BRITISH LAYOUT
This is a massive scenic spectacular layout with trains passing through the British countryside over bridges, through tunnels and weaving its way through over 500sqft of OO Gauge model scenery. It’s not just modern trains travelling via computer control but the freight trains weave under the station and a preserved model railway with its steam trains form a scenic centrepiece. At around 60ft long the layout is one of the largest modern image layouts in the country all computer controlled allowing the trains to shuffle in and out of the city station and see the freight trains move in and out of the freight yard making for an ever changing display of railway models. The traditional village forms one end of the layout with its church, pub, cricket pitch and houses forming a tranquil scene that the trains meander their way around.
SLOT CAR LAYOUT
Our fantasy slot car track cuts its way through the dunes with the desert roadway at the bottom two race tracks on the middle level and a high level rally track. Running under automatic control the layout brings to life slot car racing on a giant scale with loads of cars whizzing around the 400sqft of full modelled scenery including a racetrack complete with pits. The racing display is accompanied by row upon row of slot cars from all the ages of scalextric including a full display of sport cars from a local collector. Its unique automatic operation lets you watch the cars speed up and brake for corners without having to pick them up off the floor when you go too fast!
INDOOR GARDEN LAYOUT
Bringing the outdoors indoors our G scale layout brings to life the largest commercial scale of trains as they wander their way around the garden. Around 400 sqft makes this a whole outdoor layout indoors running under automatic control the trains shuttle back and forth and run around the loops stopping in the station. Lots of people dream of having a garden layout and it gives a taste of what is possible in the space of an average garden. With trains from around the globe chugging around this layout it gives you the chance to pause by the railway fence and watch the trains go by.
THE WORLD'S LARGEST "00" GAUGE LAYOUT
Come and see the worlds largest “OO” gauge layout under construction. Our on-site team is busy creating this amazing 1950/1960 steam and diesel layout creating an enormous 3000+ sqft layout which will undoubtedly become a scenic spectacular. Eventually dozens of trains will weave their way around this layout alongside rivers, over bridges through familiar scenes from across the UK. This centrepiece layout will take around 18 months to complete so you can see how such a detail project starts its life and if you come back, you can see how it grows and develops. It is the first time that such a large scale “OO” layout has been able to be viewed in construction offering you the chance to learn how things are done and see how the scenery is created. Its a truly unique opportunity!
LITTLE BRICK WORLD
Something here to thrill both the children and the adults with what can be created with the humble LEGO™ bricks that hurt so much when you stand on them. This little world of its own is not just a 250sqft lego city fully populated with cars, building and little figures it also has lots of neat touches such as hidden super heroes and even a Delorean. Its not just a city there are cabinets full of themed sets from classic movies such as Star Wars™ laid out in scenes from the movies. Even sets now deleted make a display covering years of production including the Harry Potter™ collection, Indiana Jones™ and massive models of things like Tower Bridge and even a large scale Batmobile™. Over 75,000 bricks were used to build this amazing little world all assembled by one collector.
New for 2015 is a collection of dolls houses, scenic displays and work by local artist Sue Wiley who sadly died from cancer in 2014. Her family approached us to ask if we would be able to house her extensive collection as she hoped it could stay together after she passed away. Working with her sister Linda and her husband Ian and several friends from local dolls house clubs they put together a fantastic display and a recreation of her workroom of the tools and unfinished projects. This fascinating display of mainly hand made pieces shows the amazing works in miniature that epitomizes the craft of dolls house creation.
VINTAGE TOY WORLD
At the heart of every adult is a small child screaming to get out. Well come and see hundreds of vintage toys from many local collectors lovingly curated into one place. Action Figures, Toys, Games all form a part of our childhood and are here for you to enjoy or try and show your own children what a real toy was before video games changed childhood forever. Come and be a child again for a few minutes and explore this fabulous ever changing collection.
The centrepiece of what we want to do is bring the world of modelling and collections of models to a wider audience. Our modelling display cabinets offer local model makers and collectors a unique opportunity to put on display the beloved collections to the public. Whatever it is we will try to accommodate it as part of our ever changing and evolving modelling displays throughout the attraction. We hope you will enjoy this aspect of the modelling hobby whatever happens to be on display when you visit.
TOP 100 TOY DISPLAY
We have now completed the UK top 100 toy display as voted for by the British public and the trade. Taken from the Channel 4 show we have created the history of each toy and its place in people hearts. Can you guess what is number one?
VINTAGE ARCADE DISPLAY
Produced by a UK based artist we have collected loads of miniature video arcade cabinets from the 1980’s and so everybody can enjoy a drop of nostalgia we have recreated the vintage arcade experience to allow you to play them. Come and shoot some space invaders, eat some pac pills or thrash the buttons of track and field and relive the days of classic arcades. Leg warmers and floppy haircuts are optional.
Wroxham Miniature Worlds
Station Business Park
Horning Road West
T: 01603 781728
E: [email protected]