Germany October 21st – 29th 2006

Richard Hingley, Tim Lockley, Mike Simpson, Nick Kelly

Introduction

As with previous reports this is a diary done (more or less) at the time with some later updates. This trip had two main aims – another repeat visit to the Harz mountain system (the third full visit to this system for me) and another look at some of the working fireless locomotives as well as following up reports of two other working ones.

Saturday October 21st

P&O ferry to Calais – usual fry up on the ferry then a very long drive for Tim direct to Quedlinburg (visited in the dark a couple of years ago and clearly worth a proper look) – a pleasant town with a very well preserved medieval centre that is reasonably well placed for all the visits we were intending in the former GDR. After a pause at the canal lifts in Belgium we finally rolled up to the Hotel-pension Ingrid at midnight – luckily we had warned them we might be late!

 

Sunday October 20th

There turned out to be a new motorway open through to Wernegarode (there are still many disconnected bits in the former GDR that make route planning rather difficult as maps often have the open sections wrong). Bought five day cards on the HSB and headed up the Brocken. At Drei Annens Hohn we were unexpectedly overtaken by one of the ‘Red Camel’ diesels which turned out to be on the way to rescue a failed steam engine stuck in the passing spur halfway up the mountain.

After a wait we eventually passed the failure (just about the worst place to fail as there is no platform to detrain there) and reached the top to find a special with vintage coaches behind the 2-6-2 (6001) which turned out to be for Ffestiniog travel.

 

We expected the diesel to come to the top but after the best part of two hours a steam train arrived as it turned out that the diesel had failed as well. Pity the poor passengers on it. Originally we had intended to go through to Isfelder Talmule but it was now too late so some night shots around the shed at Weregarode had to suffice, followed by a visit to the Chinese restaurant we last used in 2004 – still good although buffet only on a Sunday.

Monday October 21st

The Selketalbahn is my favourite part of the Harz system and the Quedinburg extension has meant the timetable has been changed so that the daily steam diagram no longer aims to connect through to the Brocken (in fact it is not possible to get up there and back off that diagram at all now, an early DMU providing the alternative). The first steam train is from Gernarode to Quedlinburg and the last train of any sort stops at Gernarode so we drove there to catch it. There will be busses back as an alternative. As 6001 was still on the Harzquerbahn this was worked by one of the Mallets but it turned out only as far as its turn round at Hasselfeld where 6001 was waiting to take over.

 

 

 

 As we did not see it again it is assumed it went to Wernegerode. We bailed off at Alexisbad for a coffee and to bash the old railcar along the Harzegarode branch for a shopping break. From there we headed back on the last steam working that we soon had to ourselves (the earlier ones had been quite busy). This slipped to a stand on the wet leaves on the steep bit so one wonders how the Mallet would have coped as it seemed quite slippery pulling out of Gernarode.

 

 

Tuesday October 22nd

First aim was a repeat visit to Romonta to see their fireless in service, the aforementioned gaps in the motorways still making route planning difficult so we were rather late as the usual arrival is a morning one. Non the less the locomotive was still working when we arrived and we were given a ride and some run-pasts once he had finished for the day until it ran out of steam. We also saw a pair of homemade cable powered electric locomotives stored out of use near the loading point that we had not noted previously. Herr Engler was also kind enough to drive us round the actual brown coal pit that formerly had an electric railway and is now having a motorway built across it.

 

 

 

From here we continued to Mibrag at Deuben where the briquette factory was occasionally using a fireless until 2003. We had been told that this was taken over by the US Washington group and the briquette factory closed but that we were welcome to visit the remaining electric railway and see the remaining (plinthed) fireless.

 

 

This actually turned in to an epic trip round not only the electric railway but also the whole mine from overburden removal through to coal extraction to replacement of the soil ready for final landscaping.

 

 

 

To British eyes the scale of much of the equipment was monumental and we are most grateful for the opportunity.

 

Wednesday October 23rd

We split up this morning – Mike and I for a morning stroll around Quedlinburg then the steam to Stege for the link to Eisfelder where Nick and Tim had driven earlier.

 

 

 

Mike then went to Drei Annens while the rest of us headed to Ilfeld to ride on one of the diesel trams that now run directly on to the Nordhousen system. We saw another ‘red camel’ just outside Nordhousen near some (newish) rollbocks but we saw now sign of it later so we assume it went on shed at Nordhousen. At this point we further split up – Tim baled out to do further trams, Nick to look at the locomotives in the mining museum further up and I went back to Eisfelder to bash the last steam working back in.

 

 

We had intended to use the Indian restaurant near the station but it has now moved (it is still good - get off the 1 or 10 tram at the stop after the Rathouse and it is a bit further up the road on the left). One thing that was noticeable is that the nicely rebuilt square outside the station has become a haunt for undesirables at night – not causing actual trouble while we were there but doing nothing for the atmosphere.

Thursday October 24th

The morning was a repeat (for me, Mike and Nick) visit to the soda works at Strassfurt – this is still using the three fireless locos and also the steam compressors as previously. This time we were able to see and photograph the narrow gauge railway that connects the limestone quarry to the plant – a highlight of the visit, a 2"gauge electric industrial railway being something very rare. From there we needed to head over to the Ruhr to see the Krupp fireless at Akzo Nobel at Herne.

 

 

 

Friday October 25th

The Hotel was right next to the works so we had time before our arranged visit to look round the chemical works from the outside – there is no real need to have permission to visit here as the loco works between the factory and a set of exchange sidings that are easily accessible by road. The exchange sidings are separated from the works by a gated both sides road crossing – the factory gate is closed between trains but it appears that the gates on the exchange sidings are only shut once the last train for the day has gone. Despite being a chemical plant (industrial alcohol) in the middle of a substantial town the setting is very rural and was very photogenic with the autumn colours.

 

As the locomotive was not going to do anything for a while we were shown round the control room while it ran up and down light engine for us. We then headed over to the nearby station of Wanne-Eickel where there was a lot of traffic. This filled in the time until the loco worked out to the exchange siding on the last train of the week, the loco then rapidly going on shed, as the crew were ready for the weekend.

 

 

 

As this gave us the afternoon free we visited the mining museum at Zollern II/IV Colliery (very early electric winder and some railway exhibits including two more fireless). This completed the German part of the trip, however we headed home via Holland to call on the Stibans group who are restoring a locomotive similar to mine.

 

 

 

 

Saturday October 26th

The group occupy a former wagon works, which offer a useful undercover working space and is next door to a Dutch national collection store. Their locomotive is being very thoroughly rebuilt to its original NS condition that includes some modifications compared with its earlier Army form.

 

 

 

Following a long look round the very interesting and varied collection here we drove to Hook of Holland for the overnight Stena ferry to Harwich. This ferry now requires you to book a cabin (although food is still in the ticket price) and we had a rather odd experience as the power failed halfway across just as we were settling into sleep.

Sunday October 27th (first day of GMT)

As Tim lives in Lincolnshire he headed home, dropping Nick in Colchester en-route, while Mike and I watched sunrise over the container port as the first Sunday train is a poor connection with the ferry (Mike has never done the branch).

 

 

 

Sunday engineering work at London Bridge did turn up a 73 on a train of rail pulling a spectacular wheel-slip in perfect sun. The journey home was trouble free until Ashford where yet again the Sandling service was bustituted. The last bit of the journey home was thus a pain – bus to Folkestone to save the walk from Sandling but missed the Stagecoach bus to Hythe so took ages for the last few miles. And £2-50 for 5 miles is a rip off bus fare by any standard.

Conclusion

The unexpected highlight was Washington group – we had understood there to be a residual operation only which is far from the truth and, while what remains is smaller than before and non-steam, it is still very interesting. The new Harz timetable needs some more tweeks but it is clear that the Quedlinburg extension had boosted traffic on the Selke side where at one time closure looked possible. Visiting Herne completes all the working fireless locomotives in Germany for some of us, however there are still some Austrian ones none of us have yet done as well as former Yugoslavia and the Czech one only Nick and Tim have done.

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