Prague’s Railroad Kingdom planning railway model of Czech Republic
Located under a shopping centre in the Smíchov district of Prague, the Království železnic, or Railroad Kingdom, today features a number of model railway layouts on an area of 115 square metres. When it is completed, however, it will measure over 1000 square metres and be home to a kind of railway model of the Czech Republic.
“Our aim is to show what it’s possible to do with model railways today, to show people that railways of this size can be about more than just functioning locomotives. We also have working vehicles, by which I mean cars and trucks that move about on roads. And they don’t just move, they also stop at red lights and at crossroads and generally behave as they should on the roads.”
Rudolf Pospíšil is the director of Railroad Kingdom. He explains why the lights go down there every so often.
“We have something here we call ‘model time’, which means that at the railway layouts there is 15 minutes of daylight followed by five minutes of darkness. The reason is when you see those layouts in the dark, when the only light is from houses and model trains, it looks really great. At the same time, the trains follow what’s called a timetable graphic – that means that our locomotives run at the correct speed for that section of track, relative to the size and speed of real trains in the Czech Republic.”
As well as that, the rail systems at Království železnic do run according to actual “timetables”.
“The trains have set concrete timetable graphics. They are computer operated, and trains depart at concrete times and travel at concrete speeds and arrive at set times at concrete destinations. By the way, trains here travel six and a half kilometres a day – each train.”
Model railways sometimes recreate periods in the history of rail transport, and when it comes to such history this part of the world has much to boast – for instance, the first, horse-drawn railway in continental Europe ran from České Budějovice to Linz. But the creators of Railroad Kingdom chose to focus on another era, says Rudolf Pospíšil.
“We have one layout which attempts to simulate Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. There you’ll find only steam or diesel locomotives, there are no electric ones. The buildings are also quite shoddy, there are old cars from that era, and also military exercises featuring Warsaw Pact soldiers: that’s something that ceased a long time ago now.”
The underground miniature world of railways is linked to a street-level shop selling all kinds of model trains and all the paraphernalia that goes with them. But the locomotives, rolling stock and so on are generally not Czech produced, but often Made in Deutschland.
“That’s a problem we have faced with the second part of this project, which is building a model of the Czech Republic, because most of these things can only be bought in Germany. Just a small amount is produced here in the Czech Republic. So most of the little houses we have to combine, add a new finish to…it isn’t possible to assemble them as you buy them and immediately place them on a layout.”
Be that as it may, many of the tiny structures have been “Czechified”, with signs visible for, for instance, a local kino and potraviny.
Though it is far from completed, the Království železnic, which opened a couple of months ago, was quite full when I stopped by. Many of the visitors were mesmerised children, but there were also a lot of adults in attendance.
Middle-aged man: “It’s great, I like it a lot. Apparently it’s supposed to get bigger, I’m curious how it will look. I travel a lot by train myself – I’m not in favour of car transport. As for toy trains, I used to have some myself, but in the end I had nowhere to put them!”
Old lady: “It’s beautiful. You mean everything here? It’s beautiful, and especially for children it’s amazing. But I myself, even though I’m old, I love looking at such things.”
Middle-aged man: “It’s very nice, the makers have put a lot of work into it. It’s great that we now have a centre for modellers. I myself make model railways and also have little landscapes like these at home, I come here to see how I could make mine better, nicer. I’m looking forward to when they complete it: it’ll be a centre for modelling here in central Europe. Then it’ll be big competition for Hamburg, won’t it?”
That model railways enthusiast is referring there to the world’s largest model railway in HO Scale, the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, which reportedly attracts more than a million visitors a year.
The owners of Railroad Kingdom are hoping to try to emulate that success once the Prague project is finished, in a few years time. The plan is to expand to a remarkable 1000 square metres – and build a kind of mini Czech Republic. Rudolf Pospíšil.
“As well as standard things, such as an autodrome in Most, on which we are working at the moment, it will contain some of the biggest Czech cities. That means, Plzeň, České Budějovice, Prague. The Prague Castle complex will also appear, though not actually to scale, because it wouldn’t all fit…You’ll also see Ještěd and Karlštejn, as well as Temelín and the Škoda plant in Mladá Boleslav.”