When you think of model builders, the image of someone hunched over a model airplane or car probably comes to mind. Model building has always been an exercise in patience, creativity and attention to detail, but for some models, those traits aren’t nearly enough. Imagine spending millions of dollars or more than 70 years working on a single model and you might understand the incredible effort involved in some of the following projects. Here are 10 unusual scale models from around the world.
10. Largest Model Rocket Launch
By trade, Steve Eves is an auto-body specialist, but he’s always been a fan of space travel. That inspired his quest to stage the largest model rocket launch in history. Eves’ model of a Saturn V rocket — the rocket that sent the Apollo astronauts to the Moon — stood four stories tall and weighed 1,648 pounds when he launched his way into the record books on April 25, 2009. An estimated 5,000 spectators turned out in Price, Maryland, to watch as the rocket soared to almost a mile in the sky before breaking apart — by design — and parachuting back to Earth nearby. The mission didn’t come cheap, as Eves spent some $30,000 on the launch, although donations covered much of the cost.
9. Largest Model of E. Coli, Birmingham, England
Microbiologists by definition spend a great deal of time peering into microscopes, but Dr. Henry Tribe had bigger things in mind when he set out to build the world’s largest model of an E. coli bacteria. Installed in October 2011 at Aston University in Birmingham, England, the model measures 2 meters wide by 5 meters long, roughly 2 million times the size of an E. coli. E. coli bacteria features some amazing properties, including the ability to swim with flagella powered by motors spinning some 1,000 revolutions per minute. In case you’re wondering, “How can we be sure that’s the largest E. coli model in the world?” It’s already been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
8. Model of Holy Land, New York
In the late 19th century, Chautauqua Institute founder Rev. John Heyl Vincent had an idea to help him teach visiting Sunday School teachers. The result: a 350-foot-long scale model of the Holy Land that has become one of the featured attractions at the institute. Markers in Palestine Park represent sites such as Jerusalem, Jericho and Bethsaida; an artificial stream plays the role of the Jordan River. Small hills represent sites such as the Mount of Olives and Mount Tabor. Nearby Chautauqua Lake stands in for the Mediterranean Sea. The institute offers guided tours of the park during the summer.
7. Largest Model of Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee
This five-block-long scale model of the lower Mississippi River is located on a peninsula, Mud Island, in the river itself. Walk the Mississippi River Walk and you’ll find cities mapped out, along with all the twists, turns and oxbows you’d encounter on a trip down the river itself.
6. LEGO Model of Manhattan
You’ve undoubtedly seen Lego models of cityscapes, but probably nothing like this. Here’s an impressive model of Manhattan constructed using Legos, recycled pens, cigarette lighters and other small plastic pieces. To be fair, it’s a misnomer to classify this as a scale model, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.
5. Ave Marie Grotto, Alabama
As detailed in a July 2011 Listosaur story, Benedictine monk Joseph Zoettl spent 50 years creating miniature models of 125 of the world’s most famous religious structures. Spread across four acres within the St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, the display is open to the public.
4. Oldest HO Model Train Layout in the United States
In 1940, a handful of model railroad hobbyists formed the Pasadena Model Railroad Club, and set about building a model railroad in a modest 500-square-foot building. More than 70 years later, those humble beginnings of the Sierra Pacific Lines model railroad have evolved into the largest HO model train layout in the United States. Covering some 5,000 square feet, the layout features more than five miles of hand-laid steel rail, and can accommodate multiple 30-foot-long trains at once. It’s not the largest HO model rail layout in the world, but at more than 70 years old, it is likely the oldest built to such an enormous scale. A quick note on the embedded video: This was part of a one-hour video produced on this model railroad in 1990. For rail fans who want to check out the full-length version, it’s currently available on YouTube. For those who just want a quick glimpse at the massive scale of this model railroad, fast forward to the 2:00 mark.
3. Largest Model Solar System, Sweden
The solar system is a vast place, so it’s no surprise this model in Sweden is by far the biggest on this list. The Sun can be found in Stockholm, represented by the unique Ericsson Globe, the largest hemispherical building in the world, with a height of 279 feet. The Earth and other inner planets are also located around Stockholm — the 2-foot-diameter Earth resides in the Swedish Museum of Natural History — but the edge of the 1:20-million-scale solar system sits almost 600 miles away. Despite its demotion from planetary status a few years back, Pluto still has a spot in this model, represented by a tiny sphere less than 5 inches in diameter, 186 miles away. If you think you’ve seen something like this before in the United States, you probably stumbled across similar but much smaller solar system models in Colorado, Oregon, Illinois or one that stretches 40 miles along U.S. 1 in northern Maine.
2. Largest Revolving and Rotating Globe, Maine
David DeLorme, founder of the DeLorme map company, provided the inspiration and funding for Eartha, a 3-D scale model of the Earth that measures 41.5 feet in diameter and is on display at the company’s headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine. The model’s mind-boggling size draws oohs and ahs, but the attention to detail on the project is also remarkable. It took more than a year just to compile the mapping imagery used for Eartha, using satellite images, ocean depth surveys and other sources. The globe is even tilted at a 23.5-degree angle, like the Earth, and rotates and revolves on a cantilever arm. The display is open to the public.
1. Largest Model Airport, Germany
Take an estimated budget of $5 million and six years of construction, and this is the result — the world’s largest model airport, located in Hamburg, Germany. Finished in 2011, the 1,600-square-foot model features incredible attention to detail, including some 15,000 mini people, 40,000 lights, 10,000 trees, and, of course, planes. Known as the Knuffingen Airport, the facility boasts 40 model planes, which roll around on the runways and even appear to take off, thanks to wires that lift them off the runway. The airport was built as part of the city’s Miniatur Wunderland attraction, which also features the largest model railway in the world.