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If you ask German model railroaders or railway enthusiasts where to find the most outstanding permanent model railway exhibition in Germany they will probably tell you that would be the “Modellbundesbahn”. In fact, the “Modellbundesbahn” is a superb HO scale permanent display layout constructed to museum quality. In 2007, the British railway journal “Continental Modeler” called this layout the “German equivalent of Pendon Museum”.

Contrary to many other model railway layouts present in Germany, this HO scale display is an accurate and historically correct scale model of the Ottbergen railway station and its locomotive shed as they existed in 1975. Buildings, locomotives and trains are carefully weathered. There are no high speed trains. There are freight trains, local passenger trains and a lot of railway traffic at the classification yard or marshalling yard as was typical in the early 1970’s.

Over time the loco depot at Ottbergen, housing the strong steam locomotives type Class 44, was to become famous as one of the last major centers of steam in Germany. Also in the early 1970’s there was a young boy named Karl Fischer living near the railway line in Ottbergen. When he was a child he stood near the railway line and watched the large steam locomotives of the German Federal Railroad. He was fascinated by the Class 44 steam train locomotives and, of course, he was fascinated by the big marshalling yard right behind his parent’s house.

Twenty years later Karl Fischer had a dream. He wanted to recreate Ottbergen in miniature as an authentic historic record. Captured by its memories of the steam age, 30 years later in October 2005, the first stage was opened in Bad Driburg. The layout was built in sections and was assembled into a large U shape. On one side is a scale model of the Ottbergen railway station and the famous loco depot. On the other side is an accurate scale model of the Bad Driburg railway station.

The HO scale display was built over a period of eight years taking about 35,000 man hours. It occupies nearly 100 square meters consisting of 1,100 meters of track, 216 points and 83 signals. Building this miniature world was done with great attention to detail. There are no gimmicks, just high quality railway modelling using authentic train formations. Trains run at authentic scale speeds. The landscape is modelled to a very high standard. The first stage of the railway layout was constructed by professional builder Gerhard Dauscher, while the second stage has been supervised by Michael Butkay. The buildings are mostly scratchbuilt, or at least heavily adapted, as few commercially available kits were historically correct.

In 2009, Karl Fischer and his team decided to expand the layout. This was not just a simple case of an addition but involved modification of the entire existing installation. A large new central module was added with a new railway station. If you look at the cab ride, you will discover this new section because it was used as a starting point of the POV drive. Furthermore, this “point of view video”, is a very good way to get to know this model railway layout exactly.

By 2017 Karl Fischer and his team, especially Norbert Sickmann, decided on more change. The old location of the model railway exhibition had become too small. An enlargement of the layout or an extension of the exhibition area was no longer possible. Therefore, the entire installation was dismantled in the summer of 2017 and rebuilt in a completely new exhibition hall. At the end of May 2018, the new exhibition was opened in the city of Brakel, approximately 15 kilometers away from it’s old location.

Today, the size of the whole installation makes it necessary to use a digital control system using TrainController software. Control of trains, accessories, occupancy detectors and locomotive decoders are based on the “Selectrix” digital model train control system. Finally, there are more than 80 locomotives, 900 items of rolling stock, 150 buildings, 7,000 figures, more than 1,500 trees and 2,500 shrubs. There is an ongoing program to fit interior lighting into all coaches.

We hope you enjoyed this video. There are beautiful cab rides and a lot of outstanding video footage of steam trains and steam locomotives. It you’re ever in Germany, don’t forget to visit this layout, called “Modellbundesbahn”