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A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate

Gulliver’s Gate is an attraction near Times Square in New York. It bills itself as “a technologically advanced, interactive and immersive world of miniatures covering 50,000 square feet that will ignite your imagination and challenge your perspective.” Surprisingly, it was my wife and kids’ idea to visit it, not mine. My spouse actively hates modeling and neither of my boys are into it. But somehow, when a miniature/model display was packaged in this form, it was attractive to them. Go figure. Anyway, I was happy to go and check out the workmanship.

Taking up a couple of lower floors of a prewar skyscraper, Gulliver’s Gate is a tabletop display of various cities, cultural and historical sites from around the world, generally in 1/87 (HO) scale. For a hobbyist, it is painfully easy to see what happened here. Some guy loved building HO train layouts but ran out of room. Being the type who thinks big, the guy thought, “What if I could rent a whole floor of an office building for my layouts and even charge people to see them?” That’s clearly how this started. It would be unfair to call GG just an overgrown train layout, but on the other hand, there are a lot of trains in it. An alien, surveying GG for a sense of what Earth is like, would come away with a very exaggerated sense of the importance of railroads in the modern world. But most of the display is architecture, terrain, figure and vehicle modeling.

The work is to a high standard. It is made with lots of off-the-shelf model railroad accessories, some of which are available for purchase in the gift shop, but also a lot of original items, especially for the unique historical sites. 3D printing is used extensively, and one of the things you can do there is stand in a booth and have your entire self scanned and then 3D printed in whatever scale you want. There is a lot of detail and quite a bit of whimsy, with humorous Easter eggs such as the Beatles crossing Abbey Road or the filming of the tarmac scene from Casablanca scattered throughout. There are also many clever animations, and a day-and-night cycle every several minutes.

Although most of the layout is consistently HO scale, it drops down to a smaller scale, probably N (1/160), for some of the larger buildings and background items. In the fourth photo below, you can see that the base of a skyscraper model is HO scale but it switches to N scale for the tower. That’s one of the more awkward transitions; mostly it is more seamless, and just acts as forced perspective.

A couple of the photos below show the workshops, which you can peek into. It’s pretty much your dream hobby work space and tool assortment.

The biggest nod to aviation modeling is a scale replica of part of JFK airport which takes up probably 20% of the display. Model jetliners take off and land using wires and gantries, according to complex programmed patterns. It’s quite impressive, although the scales are a bit jumbled. There are also planes and helicopters in flight over various parts of the display, and even a small air museum with some 1/72 planes on display.

Again to my surprise, my family quite enjoyed all this. And yet, it did not spark any interest in modeling in my kids, or change my spouse’s attitude to my modeling at home. They just failed to see any connection between Cool Thing in New York and Stupid Thing Dad Does, even though I was not subtle in pointing it out. Personally, I had a great time, but it was a bit tinged with envy. After all, if you’re a modeler and you’ve never at least momentarily thought it would be cool to display all your models on a giant set of tabletop dioramas taking up a thousand square feet or two, then I just don’t think we can be friends. And this is that, on steroids. So if you’re a hobbyist, by all means go. It will be a source of inspiration, some concrete new design and building ideas, and above all, hope that someday all those models crammed into your bookshelf will be able to have a proper home.

19 additional images. Click to enlarge.


5 responses to A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate

  1. Looks great but from your interesting description we could have done with a lot more pictures ,any chance of adding more ?
    N.

  2. I love miniatures like this!

    I’ll add a request for more photos, August … if possible.

  3. OK, I’ve added a bunch more pics. These include scenes from the Italia in MIniatura park (a miniature within a miniature), the Abbey Road and Casablanca scenes, a few scenes from the China area (spot the Crouching Tiger reference), the Panama Canal locks, and the Area 51 UFO. I think this is about all I have.

  4. Looks very similar to Miniature Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. However, that one is a dedicated railroad scenery display (plus a working airport, just like this place in the article) in an old warehouse, near the harbour area.
    I am not a railroad modeler, but these displays are just amazing, especially if you have kids.

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