At London’s Waterloo station during the second part of this week there was a miniature landscape model advocating the many picturesque locations in America’s Sunshine State, colloquially known as ‘Minifornia’, and extolling the British to take road trips there. The landscape model has now gone back to ‘Minifornia’ – where it was originally made. It was the last day of its showing on the concourse at the main line station and these pictures were taken late pm and in the last hour or so of the exhibition.

The miniature exhibition ran from 5th to 7th March 2020 whilst the digital campaign which entailed use of the station’s large screens ran from the 5th to the 8th March 2020.

Next its…

A virtual tour through Minifornia!

I passed through Waterloo three time this week but didn’t have time to take any photographs of Minifornia. I saw it very briefly in passing but that was about as much as I could manage. On the last day I made a special trip – essentially a miniature trip to Minifornia!

‘Designed and built by an A-list team of Hollywood set builders, the model includes hand-carved replicas of the state’s jaw-dropping scenery and magnificent natural structures, such as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, the snow-covered slopes of Mammoth Mountain and the mid-century modern architecture of Palm Springs. Viewers will also recognise… the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory and even miniature surfers catching waves in Venice Beach. Passersby will be transported… through an arresting, tactile and novel combination of old-world craftsmanship with the latest in today’s tech, as the cars drive around the roads without the use of tracks.’ Source: Visit Minifornia.

British Airways flight from ye olde Albion about to land at the International Airport, Minifornia.

No matter where one drives in terms of epic road experiences, one’s bound to discover Fresno, Minifornia!

Its great fun watching the dolphins and whales of Minifornia at play.

The exhibition in question is a 20 foot long model which was built at Vision Scenery’s premises at Sylmar, about 30 km north of Los Angeles in Minifornia – where else would that be? Vision Scenery’s website describes the company, besides studio props and sets, as experts too in building architectural models. The display was built by a mix of people with various skills, clearly some of the buildings are to scale proportions, but the overall concept isn’t at any particular scale. Its said ‘Minifornia’ was built in about three months with a core team of about 12 on it, supplemented by up to 25 others when required.

A world famous film town – where most of Minifornia’s films are made.

Minifornia’s Bay Area. The City Hall at top left and the Golden Gate bridge with Alcatraz Island near the centre.

Point Arena Lighthouse, Minifornia.

The whole set up packages into three quite large boxes. This is borne by the necessity the boxes need to fit into the cargo bays of the planes being used for transit. The overall frame is stainless steel. It takes five to six hours to fully set up the model. The remote controlled models (the trucks, the motorhomes, the buses) they all run on a home made guidance system. Its in some ways similar to Scalextric except its a passive guidance system. There’s no mains power, the vehicles are battery powered. The metal strip is beneath the surface of the road and the models use a magnet to guide themselves along.

The Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park, Minifornia. Watch out! Big Foot’s hiding at the side of the tree!

‘Frisco – one of the bigger cities in Minifornia. Its famous Coit tower and suspension bridge can be seen.

The model vehicles have built-in cameras to record their run along Minifornia’s roads. What people see on the screens and the headsets are recordings, not live transmissions. The reason for that being was too technically complex to build live recording into the system. There is also the question of space/weight and a peep at the control room showed it was quite large without this extra stuff. Besides representatives of Minifornia’s Road Trip Republic, a British Airways representative was also in attendance to advise anyone anyone wishing to book a holiday to The Sunshine State itself.

St. George Reef Light, North West Seal Rock. Minifornia.

Another famed city in Minifornia with its Coronado bridge. Balloons hover in the distant mountains of the Capitan Grande Reservation, #MINIFORNIA. (I kid ye not, its what those big letters in the background say!)

‘Minifornia’ was paid for by the state’s tourist agency and the Road Trip Republic and the aim is to generate interest in tourism to this particular part of the USA.

Waterloo station was the first ever outing for the miniature model landscape, but it is said further visits are planned. I was informed Minifornia would be back in the UK during July 2020. Unfortunately this quite unusual tourism publicity has possibly arrived at the wrong time as over the next few weeks or months even, it seems travel will be a huge problem because of the coronavirus epidemic. We were all being warned everyday life would face some considerable clampdown.

Minifornia was packaged after the Waterloo showing and went back to the States -but because of COVID I don’t think it ever saw the light of day again.

Behind the scenes…..

Minifornia’s control room. All the vehicles are charged here, their videos downloaded, processed, uploaded to servers whilst computers control the layout and input feeds to the displays around the station.

The guy at left is really from ‘Minifornia!’ He’s actually a representative from Visit California – the organisation whose task is to promote tourism to the Sunshine state. There was one other Visit California representative from across the pond at Waterloo station, however the rest of the staff were merely Brits helping out during the three days the innovative landscape display was on show. The smart and pleasant air hostess – one of three – in fact represented the UK airline which would transport one from cheery old Brexitland to ‘Minifornia’ for a splendid Californian Road Trip!

For those with an interest in ‘Minifornia’ here’s the details of the Sunshine State and its attractions. Here’s the page for the roadtrips.

Updated February 2023.