Experiencing Království Železnic - The Kingdom of Railways
Království Železnic exhibits the second largest model railway in the world
For the past four and a half years something special has been building down in Smíchov, Prague 5. On the 1st July in 2009 Království Železnic opened its doors, revealing the first stages of its model railway that has since grown to become the second largest in the world. And it’s still expanding! The entire exhibition takes in 3,100m² and its main attraction, the huge living and breathing model railroad of the Czech Republic, scaled at 1:87, currently covers 550m². When fully completed it will be an impressive 1,009m².
It’s fantastic to watch as trains and cars go round this immensely detailed model world. Lorries indicate when they turn, cars slow down and stop at red lights, trains pull into stations and the thousands of people inhabiting this miniature environment have different poses for the numerous activities they partake in. From protesters strapped to a tree to people enjoying a festival, every inch has something different. Understandably the whole project requires a lot of work, each section takes at least six months to create and currently five of the fourteen Czech regions are complete.
“In every region we are trying to show the most important things in each area,” says Rudolf Pospíšil, head of marketing and PR. “So we have castles, railway stations and factories, such as the big Škoda works in Plzen. The first models we had made (exhibited upstairs and based on fantasy not the Czech Republic) were good but not perfect. You can see the difference between upstairs and downstairs.”
As well as a few smaller model railroads separate from the Czech Republic one, upstairs also features a screening room complete with seats taken from an old train and an engine driver’s simulator where children can sit and see what it’s like to drive a train. It was children in the first place that inspired the whole idea behind Království Železnic (which interestingly translates as ‘British Railways’).
“The CEO of Království Železnic always dreamed of having the biggest model railway in the world,” explains Rudolf. “That is unlikely now as Hamburg has the largest but they have ten years on us as they opened in 2000 and have 1400m² while we have 550m² and when finished it should be 1009m². But we are the second biggest in the world, not just Europe.”
They currently get around 200,000 visitors a year, from parties of schoolchildren to adults who want to see the fascinating models in action, and are open 362 days of the year. There is more to it than just watching trains go round and round though, as buttons need pressing to make trees fall down, chickens start pecking and more. Every 20 minutes the lighting changes too so visitors view the country in a night-time setting. There are information and navigation systems using cameras to help see all the minute details and short stories about many objects, available only in Czech at the moment but an English version will be active soon.
The screens also provide video and audio guides including a version in sign language for any deaf visitors. Not only are deaf people catered for but, as Rudolf reveals, the place gets a lot of blind children visiting. Even though they are unable to physically see the trains they can still hear the sounds and are provided with special opportunities.
“We have a big number of people who cannot see come in and they love it. Our people take them round and give them the chance to hold models of trains, buildings and trees. It is beautiful to give the children models of buildings because they’ve never had the chance to see inside before. We were also surprised and afraid that we would not be gender balanced but lots of girls enjoy it too.”
For those who can see, it is quite a spectacle. The whole of the Czech Republic may not be fully finished yet but there is still plenty to take in, from Prague’s TV tower to the giant Škoda factory near Plzeň and Dino Park in Ostrava. Even the bits waiting to be finished have been filled with LEGO models to avoid visitors getting bored. There are so many bits to take in that Rudolf struggles to decide on his one favourite part.
“Maybe the castle at Karlovy? Or maybe the train station in Plzeň? It is difficult to choose one thing as it is so big you can spend three or four hours in here and still find something new.”
Visit http://www.kralovstvi-zeleznic.cz/en/ for more information.
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