Travelling by train, and without delay for a change, all the way through Germany to Switzerland—or even to America? It’s only in the Odenwald—in southern Germany’s biggest HO scale model railway layout with over 11,500 metres of tracks and more than 400 trains. Collector Michael Schuhmacher has created a fascinating world in miniature—where he sets great things in train.
The small historical train station of Fürth in the Odenwald is a listed building and since 1895, it has been the end of the line—but only for a ride with the “Weschnitztalbahn.” This train connects the Hessian part of the Odenwald with Weinheim, 16 kilometres down the track, having more and more passengers on board with one much longed-for travel destination: the “Modellbahnwelt Odenwald,” the world of railway modelling in the heart of the Odenwald.
Not far away from the tranquil train station in Fürth on the site of a former tennis court, the railway tracks are bustling. On an area of more than 900 square metres, steam engines rattle across bridges and through valleys, electric locomotives whiz into tunnels and through mountain ranges. Fast as an arrow, an ICE speeds along the Rhine valley—transforms the 1,000 kilometre trek from the North Sea and the Swiss Alps into a quick trip. Smokestacks fume in the smelters of Oberhausen; a few centimetres away, tourists sunbathe at a camp side; a modern Austrian Railjet arrives at Dürnstein train station; in Switzerland, the Glacier Express begins its adventurous trip to Zermatt, passing by weekly markets and alpine pastures from where cattle is driven home.
Everywhere you look, you see fathers and sons, pressed up closely to the model miniatures —eyes shining. One thing is quite obvious, railway modelling is not a pastime, it is a passion. The modelling gene is passed on from one generation to the next. Even in digital times of smart phones and gaming consoles, a model railway has lost none of its fascination—on the contrary: in garages, in attics, in developed basements and, above all, in the Odenwald, the cult hobby is expanding.
“It has never lost its attraction to me since my childhood, …” the man from Fürth says, while standing once again at the control station together with his head technician Michael Flössel, watching his wonderful 1:87 scale world like a hawk. He suddenly disappears under a low mountain range made of plastic, just to pop up again some seconds later above deceptively realistic treetop models, adding: “…but without my work it would never have gained these dimensions.”