LONDON TERMINAL - The main starting-point of the innumerable trains of the World's Largest Model Railroad spectrackular is seen above. Passengers and porters go about their business on the platforms, while trains arrive and depart. Shunting engines on side tracks marshal new trains into position. From here leave the main trunk lines which run around the entire 3000-square-foot area of the Spectrackular. This is the corner of the layout directly in front of the control panel.

London Terminal

BERTRAM OTTO, builder of the Spectrackular, explains his display to a group of children during a "preview" visit. In the center may be seen the passenger rocket of the future, circling in its cradle, to find its proper orbital angle for blastoff. Passenger and freight trains run around the perimeter of the layout. This corner is diagonally across from the control panel.

Mars Launcher


The World's Largest Model Railroad Spectrackular is located on the ground floor of the Better Living Center at the Rodman Street entrance of the New York World's Fair. This is designated as gate 7 on maps of the Fair area and is Stop #7 of the Greyhound Rapid Transit line which carries passengers through the Fair.

The Spectrackular can be seen at the end of your visit to the Better Living Center as all ramps lead down to it. It can also be seen first by swinging around to your left from the front entrance of the Better Living Center, to the side entrance facing Rodman Street.


Scientists and those interested in space developments and other problems of modern science will find The World's Greatest Spectrackular's "City of the Future" of special excitement to them.

Mr. Bertram Otto has incorporated into it many new ideas of his own. These include revolving silver spheres, with antennae projecting from them, which are intended to absorb radiation, fallout, germs and dust, and thus make the City of the Future almost aseptically clean.

There are also various levels of transportation, for freight, for passenger cars, for pedestrians, and for public transportation, making life as simple as possible for the people of the future.

In addition, each section of the City of the Future has its own color, so as to facilitate postal delivery - better, Mr. Otto feels, than any system of zone number or zip-codes. The colors of the various sections also serve as guides for the landing of helicopters, which will in his future conception normally come in to land on the roofs of large office and apartment buildings.

In five years that the City of the Future has been part of the Spectrackular, Mr. Otto has had to change and update it several times - for many of the ideas he introduced as dreams of the future have now become reality. It is safe to assume that what he is showing us now is at least as good likeness of the "shape of things to come."


The result of some eight years' work, and a cumulative investment of almost $200,000, the Spectrackular is the scale-model hobbyist's dream come true. As presented on the ground floor of the Better Living Center at the World's Fair, it is the largest model railroad display ever assembled anywhere.

It has over 8,000 little people in its miniature world, engaged in every business, pastime and activity conceivable.

It's many trains, the mainstay of the exhibit, number over 1,000 pieces of rolling stock. These include more than 400 locomotives, from a wide variety of countries: England, America, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Japan, and even Russia.

Huge Area

The area of the Spectrackular is approximately 3,000 square feet, and there are more than two and three-quarter miles of track laid on the baseboards and the superstructures such as mountains, viaducts, bridges, trestles, and so on.

The scaled-to-life settings include 24 churches, 148 country cottages and farm buildings, 400 shops and stores of all descriptions, 200 schools, fire stations and other public buildings, 150 factories and administrative buildings, 100 skyscrapers, supermarkets and multiple-business structures, and over 500 railroad stations and siding sheds.

Throwing geography to the winds, Mr. Bertram Otto, president of the Thames Ditton Model Railway Society, Surrey, England, who built the Spectrackular, has included within its boundaries such diverse locations as London Terminal, New York, and a "preview" idea of its World's Fair, Rome, Paris, Switzerland with its Alps, Germany, a City of the Future, and even rockets taking off for Mars.

All HO Scale

The entire Spectrackular is scaled to HO size, the most widely-used of railroad modelers' scales (3.5 mm. to the foot, or 1/87th of actual size approximately). Needless to say, "modeler's license" has been exercised in a few cases. On the scale, if London and New York were actually separated by the scaled distances, the Spectrackular would be some 35 miles long.

Tells Story

The careful observer will note that every unit of activity and every group of people in the layout has its own justification and story. While the modeler leaves it to the viewer to interpret these in his own fashion, the narration presented from time to time at the display explains many of the individual aspects of the different sections.

It will be seen that, as the viewer goes around the Spectrackular, passing from section to section, the trains in each area are those of the country represented, the signs on the stations and buildings, the costumes of the people, the local cars and street transportation, and so on, are all in character for the given country.

BLC Logo


Visitors to the Spectrackular will get six chances to participate in actually running the world's largest scale model railroad display.

At various points around the layout, there are buttons inside the barrier which spectators may press. As marked, these buttons will operate the Monorail, make the Churchbell ring, run the little yellow Trolley, activate the Cablecar, send Stephenson's Rocket whizzing on its way -- and the last one, marked Mystery Button, will bring about a surprised on the layout, which it is left up to the viewer to locate.

B&W Better Living Building


Bertram Otto is one man who can be said to have turned his boyhood hobby into a life's occupation - and a highly-successful one. All his life a model-railroad enthusiast, Otto seven years ago put together his first public display, for exhibit at the British resort of Eastbourne. He has built it up and added to it year by year, until today it is unique, the most fantastic world-in-miniature ever constructed. It is, of course seen in the Better Living Center of the World's Fair as The World's Greatest Spectrackular. When not displaying the Spectrackular, Otto continues to make his living as a theatrical entertainer, magician and illusionist.


Railroaders and model railroaders throughout the U.S. observe the date of May 10, as the 95th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah. This famous event in 1869 signalized the completion of the first transcontinental rail route in the United States.

Rolling stock of the period can be seen in the Spectrackular, World's Largest Model Railroad, in the Better Living Center at the World's Fair.


When Bertram Otto's record-size "world-in -miniature" and model railroad exhibit was on display last year at the British resort of Eastbourne, one of its key features was a fanciful "preview" of the 1964 World's Fair in New York. Now, his own prediction coming true, Otto is starring with his display, The World's Greatest Specktrackular, in the Better Living Center at our Fair. But he hasn't changed his "preview" version of it. Americans may get a chuckle from the trans-Atlantic vision of the Fair.

It is estimated that there are over 2,000,000 scale-model railroad hobbyists in the United States. A majority of them are grouped in some 200 hobby clubs.

About 84% of these hobbyists build their models in HO gauge, the scale of the Spectrackular. The balance are split just about evenly between the larger O gauge, and the smaller S and TT gauges.

Most of the clubs are affiliated with the National Model Railroad Association, which has its headquarters in Canton, Ohio.

Those interested in forming clubs or joining the national association may write to Bob Bast, Office Manager, National Model Railroad Association, P.O. Box 1238-K, Station C, Canton, 8, Ohio.

The principal magazines of interest to scale-model hobbyists published in the United States are:

Model Railroader, published monthly by the Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1027 No. 7th St., Milwaukee 7, Wis.; and

Railroad Model Craftsman, published monthly by Model Craftsman Publishing Corp., P.O. Box 469, Ramsey, N.J.

When the U.S. Lines cargo-liner, S.S. American Courier, transported The World's Greatest Spectrackular from England to New York, the bill of lading caused quite some shock to the shipping officials. It read "400 locomotives, 6700 assorted railway cars" and various other such huge consignments -- an insuperable problem, until they realized that these were scale-models in HO gauge (3.5 mm.-to-the-foot scale). The shipment arrived safely and is now being seen in the Belter Living Center at the World's Fair. The only casualty was a few gray hairs for the steamship officials.

SPECTRACKULAR! Model Railroad Display - 1st Floor Better Living Center


New York World's Fair 1964-1965 Corporation Records,
Source: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library,
Source: Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Source: Reproduced here courtesy of The New York Public Library, with permission
Source: May not be reproduced without written consent of The New York Public Library

SOURCE: Long Island Sunday Press, May 3, 1964

Spectrackular in World All Its Own

Every father who has ever bought a model railroad for his son so he could play with it himself, and every son who lets him help play with that railroad, should high-ball it over to the World's Fair.

For there, in the Better Living Pavilion, they will find two equally fascinating attractions under one roof: the Spectrackular, which is the largest model railroad in the world, and its bouncy, bubbly creator, Bertram Otto.

Otto is a short, heavy-set pixie of a man with a British accent and a quick eye for even the most minute of details. He has built, in the past seven years, an exhibit which defies all imaginations except his own.

* * *

OTTO WAVES a hand over the 3,000-square-foot exhibit with its nearly three miles of track, its more than 1,000 pieces of rolling stock and 400 locomotives and he says simply: "It's all a bit easy, you know."

Otto explains the electronic intricacies of his railroad with the same ease he explains life itself.

"Take life and break it down into little cubes and it's all not so complicated," he says. "A field of daffodils overwhelms you. But one daffodil by itself, is easy to understand."

Otto applied this same theory to the construction of his model railroad. And bit by bit, scale model by scale model, he put it together.

His obsession with detail is everywhere in this vast, moving exhibit which encompasses much of the world.

You can see much more than the trains moving back and forth in every direction, busily loading and unloading, switching and turning, stopping and going.

* * *

ONE TRAIN pulls up to a chute at a uranium mine. It stops. The open car is filled with ore. The the train moves on to a conveyor belt and empties the ore onto it. The conveyor belt takes the ore up to a special machine which crushes it and empties it into another car for shipment someplace else.

Ships move back and forth in the many lakes and rivers. A bride and groom walk out of a church after their wedding. They're "married" thousands of times each day. A church bell rings off and on. And with the regularity of Old Faithful, a volcano erupts complete with fire.

But it is not only in the hundreds of moving parts that Otto has displayed his great love for detail. It is in the tiny corners and crevices of the display which the average person would never see.

He points to a tiny nest on top of a building and says: "See that. It's a nest of storks. Cost me $12. Spent I don't know how long getting it just right. Lovely, what?"

You walk with Otto around this exhibit and as you do you pass from one country to another. One minute you're at Waterloo Station in England, the next you're in a station in Germany. Then you're high above the Alps, riding in a cable car similar to those at the fair. Soon, you're at Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

* * *

BUT IT IS Otto's City of the Future which makes him beam with pride. He claims this city, complete with its monorail, is already being studied by planners for real-life cities of the future.

"In one corner there," he says, squinting for it's hard to see from where you stand, "in one corner of my city I have a museum. You can't see it from here but it's there. I have a museum with all the things obsolete in that era. There's a modern-day telly and a traffic light and so many other things which science has replaced."

Otto is a television entertainer and businessman in England. And it's the ham in him which makes him build such things as the model railroad.

"It's a way of performing you know," he says. "I'm a bit of a big head, I am. I think if nobody listened to me, I'd just get up somewhere and start shouting my head off."

His railroad was born about seven years ago when a theater became empty in a town in

England where he was performing.

"I couldn't afford to have someone else in that theater because maybe they would be competition for me," he says. "So, I'd always wanted to build a model railroad. I figured this was as good a place as any to start it."

Otto started building and the more he built, the more fascinated he became. He scoured Europe for things to add to his display, but much of the HO models were built by hand.

* * *

BY THE TIME the exhibit had toured England and most of Europe and was shipped to the fair, it had grown to many times its original size.

In his world, which he says is "like the world but not exactly like it," there are 24 churches, 148 cottages and farm buildings, 400 shops, 200 schools, 200 city houses, fire stations and dozens of other public buildings. And thousands of people and even a polar bear who plays tennis.

The entire railroad is mounted on plywood and and breaks up into sections which fold and fit into packing crates. It takes about five days for a crew of nine men to assemble and just about as much time to pack up.

Behind the scenes is Otto's engineer -- his mother-in-law. Wearing a fireman's uniform and cap, she efficiently switches the switches and dials the dials to keep the hundreds of yards running smoothly.

Otto's wife keeps a sharp eye on the yards for possible breakdowns.

And Otto runs around the exhibit, excited as a boy with a new toy, pointing here and there and beaming proudly when someone comes over to tell him how much they enjoyed his "Spectrackular."

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