Here are all the surprising world-record breaking model railways and their facts and figures.
Here it is, the ultimate collection of model railway world records. I’ve read through my library, scoured the internet and spoken to people around the world to find this collection of facts and figures that will surprise and amuse.
Roy Castle would be proud.
The Single Most Expensive Model Train
In 2006, a Lionel Train sold at auction in America for $250,000.00 other trains have been sold for $150,000 and a home with a model railway in it that sold for $3.5million.
The World’s Biggest Model Railway
The clear winner by a long way is Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg. It has 1,300 trains made up of over 10,000 carriages, over 100,000 moving vehicles, 500,000 lights, 130,000 trees, and 400,000 human figures.
The Most Model Trains Made By One Person
According to Guinness World Records, the largest collection of model railway vehicles made by one person is the James P. Richards Collection owned by the National Railway Museum in York, UK. There are 610 models in the collection handmade to scale.
The World’s First Model Railway
The picture of the figure of 8 railway opposite is also the world’s first ever photo of a model railway, and is from the 8th October 1859 issue of the magazine Le Monde Illustré which described the clock-work railway.
“The railway built for the amusement of the Prince Imperial is a real toy as well as a masterpiece of mechanical science. It has been set up in a corner of the private park of Saint-Cloud. Its track is in the shape of a figure 8, and the curvature of its tiny rails is reminiscent of the surprising curves of the railway from Paris to Sceaux.
It has a small station, its small viaducts, its small bridges, its small inclines and ramps. The engine, which is about fifty centimetres wide, has wheels driven by an internal spring which can be wound up as desired.”
Source: Railway of the Prince Imperial
The World’s Fastest Model Train
A OO gauge, live steam, model train version of the Mallard has been clocked at 186 scale miles per hour. Although Steve Burdett has a video of a model train doing 400 scale mph.
The Largest Model Train Engine
The largest model railway engine built, as recorded by Guinness World Records, is the Thomas the Tank Engine character ‘James’ built by BBC Visual Effects for a Thomas the Tank Engine tour in 2003.
It measured 264.3 cm high, 149.6 cm wide, 652 cm long (104.05 x 58.59 x 256.69 in) and weighs nearly 1.5 tons.
The Most Expensive Model Railway
Model railway enthusiasts spend a lot on their passion but the most expensive yet assembled is Miniature Wunderland in Germany. In 2015 it was valued at an astonishing £10million (€15million).
The World’s First Model Railway
The first model railway ever built was for the 3-year old son of Emperor Napoleon III in 1859 at Château de Saint-Cloud.
Most Famous Model Railway Enthusiast
There are lots of celebrity model railway builders, include Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Gene Hackman, Elton John, David Hasselhoff, Michael Jordan, Pete Waterman, Roger Daltrey, Michael Palin, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart and Neil Young but perhaps the most famous is Tom Hanks.
Other notable past and present model railway enthusiasts include Tim Berners-Lee, Warren Buffett, Winston Churchill, Alan Cox, and Walt Disney.
The Oldest Model Railway Club
There are hundreds of model railway clubs around the UK and thousands elsewhere but The Model Railway Club in London, which was formed in 1910 and is still going strong.
The Largest Personal Collection Of Model Trains
I thought I had a lot of trains until I read about Bernd Schumacher in USA. Bernd started collecting in 1992 and now has 2,956 model trains and won him the world record in 2016.
The Worlds Longest Train Set
The world’s longest train set, confirmed by Guinness World Records, is Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg, Germany, and had a total length of 50,525 ft (15,400 m) in 2015.
The Worlds Smallest Working Train
According to Guinness Record Worlds is 1:1000 scale, where 1ft becomes 0.012 inches.
How Many Model Trains Does It Takes To Pull A Real Train
Can a model train pull a real train? Yes, and it takes 198 model trains to pull a real train.
The Smallest Commercially Sold Model Railway
While OO gauge, made famous by Hornby, and HO Gauge are the most popular model railway formats, the smallest is T gauge, where every 1ft in real life is reduced to .0267 inches in models form.
The Longest Model Train
The record for the longest model train was set on 23rd April 2011 when an HO Gauge model train of 31 locomotives and 1,563 carriages measuring 925 ft 6 in (282.11 m) was built and run by the Wilmington Railroad Museum Model Railroad Committee (USA).
The Longest, Heaviest, Fastest Real Trains
The Longest and Heaviest Train In The World
This eye-popping record is held by Australian BHP Iron ore train. On 21st June 2001, 8 GE AC6000 locomotives pulling 682 loaded iron ore wagons measuring 4.568 miles (7.353 km) in length and weighing 100,000 tonnes (82,262 tonnes of ore) travelled 170 miles from Newman to Port Headland.
Longest Train Journey Without Changing Trains
The longest train journey without changing trains is the line that runs a frankly staggering 6,346 miles (10,214 km) from Moscow, Russia to Pyongyang in North Korea. It takes a whopping 7 days 20 hours 25 minutes for the train to complete the journey.
Fastest Steam Train
For a couple of minutes on 3rd July 1938, the locomotive Mallard achieved 126 miles per hour on a stretch of track just south of Grantham, UK.
The fastest train isn’t steam or diesel but Maglev (magnetic levitation). The Shanghai Maglev achieves 267 mph on its way from Pudong International Airport to the Longyang metro station.
The Most Popular Model Railway Size
This depends on where you are. In the UK OO gauge, where 4mm represents 1ft in real life. In America and elsewhere, the most popular size is HO Scale.
The Longest Lego Model Train
Comprising 93,307 LEGO parts, the longest Lego railway was built in by 80 Lego enthusiasts in 2013.
The final record-breaking track measured 4000.25 meters long. A Lego electric train took almost four hours to journey from start to finish.
The Heaviest Train Carriage Ever Pulled By A Model Train
On 21st February 2007, 200 electric model locomotives Märklin pulled a 47-tonne carriage 32 ft 9 in (10meters) at the DB-Gelände in Munich, Germany.
The Oldest Model Railway
As recognised by Guinness World Records, the oldest model railway was built for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1912 to train railway signallers. It is now in the National Railway Museum, York, England.
That’s it for now but I’ll update this regularly as new records are set. If you know of any other model railway facts, figures or records, drop a comment below and I’ll add them here.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Picture credits: Tom Hanks photo reproduced under CC BY-SA 2.5