Modellbahn Köln
37th International exhibition for model railways and accessories
30. OCT.–01. NOV. 2020

Final report: Happy days! The 35th IMA International Model Railway Exhibition scores again with colossal diversity and contented faces at Kölnmesse

We are drawing to the end of an even year, and that means happy times for the railway modelling community, as the IMA, International Model Railway Exhibition, takes place biannually at the Cologne Exhibition Centre. This year the Who's who of the railway modelling industry came together again from 15th - 18th November 2018. All well-known brand manufacturers were at hand to present their innovative models and accessories at well-stocked exhibition stands, as well as numerous small series manufacturers with their specialised and unique products for miniature railways. More than twenty impressive model railway layouts from all over the world, some on show for the very first time, attracted the attention of an admiring audience. Many hands-on activities for all ages invited the next generation of modellers to play, join in and try out. At the Cologne Live Steam Meeting, shiny steam engines were constantly in motion, pulling trains full of passengers around the hall, while next door at LEGO FanWorld and the LEGO KidsFest had hours of fun playing and building with mountains of the colourful little bricks. In total, more than 50,000 visitors enjoyed the event and by the end of the fair on Sunday evening the organiser was able to confirm the complete satisfaction of exhibitors and participants alike.

IMA again at last! From 15th - 18th November 2018 some 200 exhibitors from 12 nations presented the latest innovations and trends of the model railway industry at the 35th International Model Railway Exhibition in Cologne. Manufacturers from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Finland and USA brought a miniature world alive by presenting to their audience innumerable charming scenes and railway stories with their products in action. Or course the branch's number one Märklin took on a leading role, and their latest highlight for young railway enthusiasts based on the movie "Jim Button and Lucas the Engine Driver", with the little Island with Two Mountains and charming little engine "Emma", was a great success. Brawa's latest assortment includes a traditional beer brewery. At Bemo's stand the Glacier Express travels through a breath-taking Alpen landscape, while Roco presented their ICE train on a fully equipped track layout and at the ideal eye-level for younger spectators. Digitalisation was the buzzword at IMA 2018: digital Plug & Play systems, controlling whole model railway layouts via Wifi on tablet or smartphone, with digital locomotives and wagons including camera locomotives, were on show to be inspected and tried out at close quarters.

The multifaceted hobby of railway modelling requires an infinite amount of accessories in order to create life-like scenery and fantasy-filled scenes, and at the 35th IMA in Cologne there was certainly enough variety to peruse and purchase. One of the many exhibitors was the Busch company, celebrating their 60th anniversary. Their wide assortment of materials for the creation of civil engineering scenes, from road construction and repairs to self-adhesive street patches with which every model road can be 'aged', was attractively presented under a fine-meshed metal building fence.

Collectors of display cabinet models were also in their element and found many a gem at the 35th IMA. For example, Märklin's highly anticipated 2019 Insider Club model celebrated its premiere in Cologne. Discussing and acquiring precious collectibles is a popular feature of Europe's major model railway fair.

Particularly noteworthy is the dedicated support given by the model railway industry to the next generation of modellers. Large play areas invited children and teenagers to try out railway modelling for themselves or in teamwork, resulting in happy faces deep in concentration with their new-found hobby. Children happy, parents happy! The fantastic opportunities offered by exhibitors and modelling clubs at the Cologne event actively bring generations together. "The promotion of young modellers was a central topic for the panel discussion at this year's press conference, which took place with the industry's creative forces," Project Manager Sascha Bürkel summarises. "There was unanimous agreement that the model railway industry is on the right track and that young people can be reached through innovative, target group-oriented offers. Thanks to modern technology, model railways continue to attract youngsters and a change of image with great potential is evident. To achieve more youth work within model railway clubs was the agreed foremost task. This is where experienced railway modellers should invest basic work, to make the hobby more accessible to children. This, in turn, can be achieved through the continued support of the large brand manufacturers. Especially here at IMA, we have seen once again how passionately kids and teenagers embrace the hobby by participating in the many hands-on activities".

Focus at IMA can be summed up in one phrase: Model railway fun for everyone! This was clearly the intention of the many international clubs and societies who presented their railway layouts at the show, such as the Cologne-Bonn Model Railway Club who came up with the idea of assembling a child-friendly module layout based on a wooden railway set, demonstrating the functions of a real railway. Likewise, children were entranced by the miniature world created by Die Buntspechte e. V. where the probably smallest motorised and transportable model railway layout equipped with 20 attractions was presented on a Piaggio Ape. There is always so much to see at IMA - families and friends enjoyed wandering around the venue of Europe's largest model railway event discovering the exciting and diverse world of model railways, such as the gauge N layout by the MAK Modellbahnfreunde with its amazing lighting system and beautiful mountain landscape, or far-away places like the Shark Bay Railroad 0-gauge layout depicting an imaginary harbour town in Maine, USA, presented by Alexander Sannemann from Finland. Thanks to the latest MTH-WIFI technology it can be operated via smartphone and tablet. The display layouts demonstrated not only the practical use of the latest technical developments, but also genuine rarities such as Horst Lemke's gauge II layout featuring unusual forest railways. With its double-track bridge made with 206 metres of wooden strips, the design of this layout is unique.

The popular Model Railway Forum conveyed first-hand knowledge in short informative lectures, emphasising the practical orientation of IMA. The list of topics was long enough to include interesting input for everyone. Another of the many highlights at this year's model railway exhibition was the autograph session with Hagen von Ortloff, inventor and creator of the popular television series "Eisenbahn-Romantik", who enjoyed signing autographs and chatting in a relaxed atmosphere with his audience from Thursday to Saturday.

Fans of the Cologne Live Steam Meeting were happy to spend hours indulging in their unconventional hobby. Steam-driven trains offering rides were constantly full of passengers whose infectious good mood was evident among all the steam modellers with their hissing and steaming exhibits in the hall. In addition to models in various scales and gauges, a wide variety of materials and accessories were on show. Clubs, societies and model owners were happy to answer questions on all aspects of steam model construction.

On Friday the two additional events LEGO Fan World and the LEGO KidsFest kicked off, attracting fans of all ages to a wonderland consisting of millions of colourful bricks: on the one hand a play paradise where children and their parents could practically immerse themselves in mountains of LEGO bricks and build to their hearts' content, on the other hand an incredible fantasy world full of gigantic LEGO models and buildings. The audience could take a trip to the USA to the Wild West or marvel at the legendary Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, built from an amazing 65,000 bricks; they could wave up to the Statue of Liberty or play around on an arcade computer made of LEGO bricks. Gigantic Star Wars spaceships were among the popular exhibits, as well as a large fire brigade festival and a model of Hamburg's ultramodern concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie. In addition to the official LEGO store, numerous retailers were on hand offering everything from single bricks to whole sets, ideal for looking for that elusive missing piece or for finding rare models as Christmas presents.

"The exhibitors and participants of the 35th IMA are highly satisfied with the outcome of this year's event, as is everyone involved in the accompanying events Cologne Live Steam Meeting, LEGO Fan World and LEGO Kidsfest. That's why we and our exhibitors are happy to continue hosting the IMA here at Koelnmesse, a location where we all feel comfortable. In order to do so however, the classification of the IMA must be modified by the regulatory authority of the City of Cologne: After 44 years, the authority has now classified the IMA as an exhibition and not a trade fair, without any detailed justification. This is despite the fact that the IMA meets all the necessary criteria in accordance with the commercial regulations of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to be classified as a trade fair. As a result, Sunday would only be able to be used to a very limited extent in the future. So now we trust that the City of Cologne will re-define the necessary framework conditions in order to continue holding IMA successfully in the future." This is the clear statement of Andreas Wittur, managing director of event organiser Messe Sinsheim.

A solution will hopefully be found. The model railway industry and the organiser fully support the event in Cologne and so everyone is optimistic that they will meet here again in 2020.

The 37th IMA - INTERNATIONAL MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION is expected to take place from 19th - 22nd  November 2020 at Koelnmesse.



Model railway enthusiasts don't have to wait two years for the next highlight though: Under the motto "100% model railways" Faszination Modellbahn from 15th - 19th March 2019 premiers in the legendary Maimarkthalle in Mannheim.


The next great Indoor Live Steam Meeting by organiser Messe Sinsheim takes place in two large halls parallel to the 18th Faszination Modellbau Friedrichshafen from 1st - 3rd November 2019.