Reviewed by Sally Ellis
We had the great pleasure of visiting this lovely attraction in its infancy, having only been open to the public around 6 weeks or so. On arrival around 10:15am, we were met by Jane, one of the Directors, who opened the attraction with her husband Steve and their business partner Peter. She proceeded to give us a guided tour.
Now this wasn’t just special treatment for my husband, son Tristan and I, as the people at The Wonderful World of Trains & Planes are dedicated to the personal touch and are on-hand to show visitors around and answer any questions, although they may introduce tour times during busier periods to cater to larger groups all at once.
We started by seeing a tiny train running around a track (forgive me for not knowing the gauge, but it was adorable!) and my son was immediately transfixed. Being only 3 years old, he unfortunately wasn’t able to see most of the tracks as they are high off the ground, so there was a constant call of ‘pick me up!’ and some rather sore arms by the end, but Jane assured us that they were ordering some stools to allow children to see properly on their own.
Steve then talked us through some technical details at the next track – a beautiful countryside and town model (1930s and 1960s sections I believe) with one side of landscape temporarily missing due to a track issue that needed to be sorted – explaining the complexities of the computer system that runs the trains. It really was wondrous to see so much detail and how the computer runs everything from speed to track changes, allowing the trains to run like a real network. The wiring must take quite a lot of expertise and for someone who is eager to understand how everything works, I was very intrigued.
The ground floor also hosted some lovely model aeroplanes, although they are yet to be labelled, so not much information was available just yet, however Steve told me that signs/labels are due to be put up everywhere soon to give visitors some information about each display.
We actually thought the tour was over, but no, there are two more floors! They have a fantastic array of trains and landscapes that bring different countries/cities to life, although many are still in different stages of design and production; Balmoral, Canada, a Japanese Bullet Train, French, German and American trains… the list goes on.
Although the tracks are mostly still being worked-on, the whole experience gives one a sense of community, where like-minded enthusiasts are working to bring their ideas to life, coming in voluntarily to help construct models (a very slow and painstaking process, with stunning results nonetheless) and sharing their passion with others.
The second floor also included the flight simulators, an experience of flying different types of aircraft with realistic simulation, which had my husband hooked. You can fly over cities, to different airports and even pilot a water plane, making it a little easier not to crash!
The most fun part for my son was the obligatory wooden railway track, which unlike the ones on display in toy shops, thankfully was not bolted down and encouraged even the youngest of train enthusiasts to build the track however they liked. We couldn’t tear him away! There is also usually a mini electric railway for children to control the trains, but this was out on loan to an event on the day we visited… something to come back for next time.
For those wanting to try out their own trains, there is also a test track – you can bring trains with you or buy something at the shop and test it out there and then. Another interactive activity was the racing car track, with 4 lanes and a controller for each car – another big hit with my son. I also saw two older boys trying it out later on, having a brilliant time trying to beat one another.
Finally we enjoyed a locally made lunch in the café, served by one of Jane & Steve’s son (a family business indeed) then I treated the boys, husband included here, to toys from the well-stocked shop. All was quite reasonably priced and the current introductory entry prices are a bargain – details on their website.
Although there are parts that need a little more improvement, this is obviously a work-in-progress and a true labour of love. It’s a fun-filled and educational family day out, with something for all ages and a caring and engaging staff who are devoted to making your experience as fulfilling as possible – thumbs up for this top Birmingham attraction!
Some Fun Facts About The Wonderful World of Trains & Planes: 283 Models Made, 2 Miles of Wiring, 720 Hours Making… and counting, 11,000 Metres of Track
Ticket prices: Children £3.75, Adult £5.95, Senior Citizens £4.50, Family Ticket £13.95
Opening Times: Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
For more information or to book tickets visit www.wonderfulworldtrainsplanes.co.uk.
3 Mary Ann Street, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham, B3 1BG | 0121 227 4000