FT Traveller Captures Germany’s Heritage Railways

Ffestiniog Travel once again invites you to enjoy yet another wonderful photo review of one of our recent escorted rail tours by blogger Vince Chadwick. If you enjoyed Vince’s review of his previous Ffestiniog Travel tour to Ireland you will not be disappointed by his bird’s eye view and informed commentary of our Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany tour in July 2016.

A train of the Minden Museum Railway - © Vince Chadwick
Freital-Hainsberg, the terminus of the Weisseritztalbahn line - © Vince Chadwick
You wouldn't get this in UK; not only is the driver's cab visible from the passenger accommodation, but the driver deliberately latched his door open to give us a clear view of the line ahead as we return along the standard gauge railway from Zittau to Dresden in a diesel railcar - © Vince Chadwick
Dresden tram - © Vince Chadwick
Cranzahl - © Vince Chadwick
Street running train at Bad Doberan. This the one we caught back to Bad Doberan station for our main line trains back to Stralsund - © Vince Chadwick

This is a Connoisseur tour for rail enthusiasts, but you will see from Vince’s photos that the scenery and places visited will appeal to many travellers who enjoy train journeys and the camaraderie among the group is clear to see, with one image captioned ‘Happy folk after a really great holiday’.

The blog on the Vince’s World website takes you on a journey through East Germany’s surviving local railways which thrived during the Cold War, travelling through stunning scenery and interesting towns and cities.

Vince’s photo blog features images and video footage of no less than seven narrow gauge steam railways including the Weisseritztalbahn, Lobnitzgrundbahn, Zittau line, Fichtelbergbahn, Mecklenburgische Baderbahn (better known as the Molli), Rugensche Baderbahn railway and finally the Harz Mountain network. With stays in Dresden, Stralsund, Wernigerode and Wuppertal this rail holiday explores a very scenic route through Germany’s former Communist Bloc. Maps of railway routes are also included, providing a very comprehensive overview of one of our most popular tours.

In his summing up Vince ends his review with the words:

‘Another superb holiday, with great company. I wonder if we'll meet up again on another of these adventures?’

For those who are tempted to experience his last adventure Ffestiniog Travel will return to Germany for another Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany tour in September 2017. Full itinerary details will be available in September 2016 but if you would like to register your interest now contact us on 01766 77 2030 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Click here to see Vince’s picture blog.

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Comments 3

John Oates on Monday, 01 August 2016 20:12

Hi, Vince,

Great post and with more on your own Blog.

This brought back memories for me from when I visited the Harz Mountains in April 2015 as part of the biennial exchange visit between HSB staff and Ffestiniog / Welsh Highland staff and active volunteers. There were around 30 of us from FR/WHR organised by John Bell. The local directors and staff were incredibly hospitable. I speak German, though not fluently, and was put to work with guards on the trains which was very interesting. It was all over too fast. If all goes to plan the HSB people will be visiting us at the FR/WHR next April.

We had our breakdown on the HSB too. When we went on a special visit to the works they were putting the final touches to an overhaul of Mallet 99-5906 before a special on vintage coaches to the top of the Brocken 2 days later. On our way down from the Brocken 2 days later, we were put in the refuge siding for the special to come past. I'd never seen a Mallet hard at work. As it came past, it was making dreadful banging noises. We reversed out of the siding and carried on down to the next station where we heard 5906 had failed 300 metres from the top. At least the passengers were able to get off and walk the rest. After some delay, the following train pushed it into the platform. It returned to Wernigerode late that evening after its motion had been dismantled, it and its train being dragged by a Neubaulok (one of the 72xx series).

I then stayed in Germany for another 2 weeks to practice my German - it needs it!

Highlights (lowlights) were:
- arriving from Bruselles into Cologne on the Thalys 109 minutes late after being held for ages. We were told this was due to something on the track. It turned out the "something" was a pantograph that had fallen off a TGV coming the other way! As soon as we were over 100 minutes late the traincrew proudly announced in French and German that because of this there was now free food and drink (not alcoholic) for everone. This food turned out to be an excellent pasta meal with lots of other goodies, so good that on arrival in Cologne I didn't need to find a restaurant. Apparently these trains carry over 500 of these meals around with them all the time, these being dated to last 18 months.
- Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg was better than I ever expected. http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com I've never seen anything like it as good anywhere. The Airport layout with the planes taxiing, taking off and landing was amazing, complete with moving road and rail traffic. Apparently this layout alone cost €6m to build. 6 other superb layouts, too. The DB ICE arriving into a station on the US layout having come from another layout through the Atlantic Tunnel was very amusing. I expected to be there for 2 hours and left after 6!
- sitting behind the driver on an ICE wizzing along at well over 100mph watching the scenery and lots of trains coming the other way. Why don't we let people see out of the front of our trains? We do with road coaches.
- And yes, German train running. Much worse than here. One day in Freiburg-Breisgau in SW Germany on the main North-South line the departures board was so full of delayed trains, the "on time" ones weren't shown and the staff on the Information kiosk cleared off. Hmmm.

Great Irish blog, too.

Keep posting!

Hi, Vince, Great post and with more on your own Blog. This brought back memories for me from when I visited the Harz Mountains in April 2015 as part of the biennial exchange visit between HSB staff and Ffestiniog / Welsh Highland staff and active volunteers. There were around 30 of us from FR/WHR organised by John Bell. The local directors and staff were incredibly hospitable. I speak German, though not fluently, and was put to work with guards on the trains which was very interesting. It was all over too fast. If all goes to plan the HSB people will be visiting us at the FR/WHR next April. We had our breakdown on the HSB too. When we went on a special visit to the works they were putting the final touches to an overhaul of Mallet 99-5906 before a special on vintage coaches to the top of the Brocken 2 days later. On our way down from the Brocken 2 days later, we were put in the refuge siding for the special to come past. I'd never seen a Mallet hard at work. As it came past, it was making dreadful banging noises. We reversed out of the siding and carried on down to the next station where we heard 5906 had failed 300 metres from the top. At least the passengers were able to get off and walk the rest. After some delay, the following train pushed it into the platform. It returned to Wernigerode late that evening after its motion had been dismantled, it and its train being dragged by a Neubaulok (one of the 72xx series). I then stayed in Germany for another 2 weeks to practice my German - it needs it! Highlights (lowlights) were: - arriving from Bruselles into Cologne on the Thalys 109 minutes late after being held for ages. We were told this was due to something on the track. It turned out the "something" was a pantograph that had fallen off a TGV coming the other way! As soon as we were over 100 minutes late the traincrew proudly announced in French and German that because of this there was now free food and drink (not alcoholic) for everone. This food turned out to be an excellent pasta meal with lots of other goodies, so good that on arrival in Cologne I didn't need to find a restaurant. Apparently these trains carry over 500 of these meals around with them all the time, these being dated to last 18 months. - Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg was better than I ever expected. http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com I've never seen anything like it as good anywhere. The Airport layout with the planes taxiing, taking off and landing was amazing, complete with moving road and rail traffic. Apparently this layout alone cost €6m to build. 6 other superb layouts, too. The DB ICE arriving into a station on the US layout having come from another layout through the Atlantic Tunnel was very amusing. I expected to be there for 2 hours and left after 6! - sitting behind the driver on an ICE wizzing along at well over 100mph watching the scenery and lots of trains coming the other way. Why don't we let people see out of the front of our trains? We do with road coaches. - And yes, German train running. Much worse than here. One day in Freiburg-Breisgau in SW Germany on the main North-South line the departures board was so full of delayed trains, the "on time" ones weren't shown and the staff on the Information kiosk cleared off. Hmmm. Great Irish blog, too. Keep posting!
Guest - Vince Chadwick on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 11:07

Thanks John. Glad you like it. Seems we had fewer hold ups that you did!

View out of the front of trains - I suspect the powerful rail unions in this country insist their drivers are not exposed to passenger gaze. Even back in first generation DMU days you got quite a few meanies who'd pull the blinds down so you couldn't see ahead through the cab (I'm sure you remember those).

As you say, road coaches, and indeed trams, offer an 'ahead' view, as do many modern regional EMUs and DMUs in Germany. Why not rail units in UK?

Cheers

Vince

Thanks John. Glad you like it. Seems we had fewer hold ups that you did! View out of the front of trains - I suspect the powerful rail unions in this country insist their drivers are not exposed to passenger gaze. Even back in first generation DMU days you got quite a few meanies who'd pull the blinds down so you couldn't see ahead through the cab (I'm sure you remember those). As you say, road coaches, and indeed trams, offer an 'ahead' view, as do many modern regional EMUs and DMUs in Germany. Why not rail units in UK? Cheers Vince
John Oates on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 13:16

Hi, Vince,

View out of the front – yes, but I was told that the ICE drivers have some sort of “blackout” button where they can make the screen go black so those in the train can’t see into the cab. Apparently, they use it quite often at night to assist with signal sighting. On the local and regional trains it's a physical blind and I find it more variable whether the drivers have the blinds up or down.

Also, the drivers union, the GDL (Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer) in Germany hasn’t exactly been a walkover in the last few years. There were a series of strikes in 2014/15, now behind us after a "binding arbitration settlement" was agreed in July last year, this being in force until at least 2020.

Best wishes, John

Hi, Vince, View out of the front – yes, but I was told that the ICE drivers have some sort of “blackout” button where they can make the screen go black so those in the train can’t see into the cab. Apparently, they use it quite often at night to assist with signal sighting. On the local and regional trains it's a physical blind and I find it more variable whether the drivers have the blinds up or down. Also, the drivers union, the GDL (Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer) in Germany hasn’t exactly been a walkover in the last few years. There were a series of strikes in 2014/15, now behind us after a "binding arbitration settlement" was agreed in July last year, this being in force until at least 2020. Best wishes, John
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