Germany (mainly) 4th – 14th June 2010

Richard Hingley and Nick Kelly


Basically a trip to Frankfurt to see their compressed air loco work but as the extra cost was quite small we extended it with a visit to Dresden, a quick look into the Czech republic and a lot of trundling on local DB.

Friday 4th June 2010

Network rail inspection train passes while waiting for the high speed at Ashford

Probably as a market builder for their aspirations to run to London DB now offer very cheap advanced booking fares to Cologne and Frankfurt so despite the need to go up to London to catch it (the connecting Eurostar does not stop at either Ashford or Ebbsfleet) it still worked out much cheaper to book though from the DB website than from either of the Kent stops to Brussels then onward. With HS1 now running a proper service the time penalty from my local station is much less too – just over an hour and a half compared with three hours plus when it was necessary to use the Southern plus underground. The extra cost is more, however, but still far cheaper than any other option we could find.

As there are only a few Brussels – Frankfurt ICEs the choice of service is limited but the early afternoon one worked well (leave London at ~14:30, arrive Frankfurt at ~21:30 European time making the all up journey time 6 hours with a 45 minute connection in Brussels) – pretty much unbeatable unless a very good cheap air connection is possible (the cheap carriers fly to Hann which is nowhere near Frankfurt).

Both the Eurostar and the ICE were well filled and the food on the ICE is very good. Lovely day too.

Hotel Topas is just around the corner from the Hbf and seems fine @ €58 per night for two with breakfast.

Saturday 5th June 2010 

The main aim today was the Feldbahn Museum – this runs in a very pleasant park and duly became the only aim. We went this particular weekend because they were running a compressed air locomotive that finally came out into the park in the evening. A rather decent barbecue was provided as well.

In the park

Compressed air loco running through the allotments

How many stamps would this parcel need?

Sunday 6th June 2010

We first went back to the Feldbahn Museum as we were promised a repeat of the compressed air loco but this time were able to have a ride (for which many thanks as I have never done one before).

Compressed air loco in the park

Ok the shot is pants but where else can you see running diesel, steam and compressed air locos all at once?

We then went to the transport (mainly tram) museum, which was also good and contains two very early electric cars that have been preserved for over a century. The staff here were very helpful and showed us the vehicles kept in another shed to the rather cramped museum that is soon to close for rebuilding.

One of several nicely sectioned engines in the museum

The very old tram

The tram terminus by the museum

We finally did a variety of tram routes and went to the Hbf for a snack and some train watching as the lovely weather turned to a thunderstorm. 


Monday 7th June 2010 

As we are visiting Romonta tomorrow we needed to end up within shouting distance of Halle, as hotels there seemed expensive I ended up booking us one in Sangerhausen that is at least on the same line.  We got to the Hbf in good time so there was a chance to take a few rush hour shots.

Class 110 electrics are looking old now

These were the only diesel loco passenger trains we saw

We started on a booked ICE to Gotha where there is a rather decent meter gauge tramway that runs out into the country (we used the excellent value local train only Lander tickets from here).

Gotha tram

This took a while to bash then we got back to the Hbf just in time to miss the train to Naumberg where there is another meter gauge tramway which is the exact opposite – running just over 2km into the town but with distinctly DDR vintage cars. Nick was here in 1979 when the route was a circle, only half now remains.

Naumberg tram

The DDR diverted it in the early 70s which is a shame – I walked most of the way back via the original route (much track remains) and it passed through a very lovely town while the present route runs outside the old walls. 

Former tram route in the town square (it may yet be reinstated)

It would have been nice to get to Sangerhausen via one of the routes north of here, but one has been cut back and it was getting late to try for the other so we went via Halle which has a rather impressive station still.

Local we used from Halle

Newly realigned tramway in Halle

Garni Hotel-West looks DDR-era on the outside but is very nicely modernised inside, it is a taxi ride from the station though. 

Tuesday 8th June 2010 

A minor cock up caused us to go to Romonta via Halle as the regional express does not stop there and we missed the need to change (DB station timetables are a bit of a pain in that they often only show principal stops and never show connections, while there is no all-Germany printed timetable and you have to download the tables one at a time – the ticket machines will do printed journey itineries but these are a bit slow for journey planning). This did not really matter, however, as we were expected and given a cab ride on their diesel (the working fireless is away at MaLowa for overhaul). The diesel has been overhauled since we last visited and looks very smart in light blue. The larger preserved diesel has gone (assumed scrapped), the electric and the two other fireless locos remain – one of the fireless is technically stored but looks unlikely to be used again, the other is preserved. 

The working diesel and the stored fireless at Romonta

From here we nicely caught a Halle train but there was no hope of getting to Oshatz for the sparsely served narrow gauge in time for the only train the full length of it.

Loco hauled local trains call at Amsdorf (across the road from Romonta)

Instead we opted to trundle to Dresden by way of Nossen (a one hour stop as not all trains go through to Meissen where it meets the Dresden S-bahn). There is a preservation centre in the roundhouse here but in the time available there seemed no way in. There were also two of the Russian Co-Cos here, both manned but with nothing obvious to do (one eventually trundled off light engine but the other in Railion livery did nothing). There is a freight only (now) line branching off here so there is presumably some local industry to serve and we also saw another Russian Co-Co in what looked like DR livery but was actually a private company with a train at a cement terminal nearer Meissen. A very nice scenic way to get to Dresden and a line neither of us has done before. 

Ludmillas at Nossen

Signal box at Nossen

Wednesday 9th June 2010 

Having arrived at Pension Einkehr (a bit run down but cheap) in Dresden (fairly near the Hbf but exactly in the middle of a housing estate annoyingly circumnavigated by all forms of public transport) rather late we overslept this morning and were late for breakfast. Today was aimed at a leisurely trundle around Dresden on the trams with a ride on the two funiculars, one of which is an odd suspended monorail design similar to the one in Wuppertal (they had the same designer) but the reason for using this rather expensive design in Dresden is far from obvious and it remains the first and last of its type.

One of the freight trams used by VW

Lunch was in a rather nice café at the bottom of the funiculars (recommended by Nick’s father) and very unusual as it has been in the same family since the nineteenth century. 

Conventional furnicular

Suspended monorail furnicular

There was just time for the last runs on the Park railway (no steam on a weekday)

Who says factories can't be art? - VW factory

Final target was the plinthed fireless at the power station, this had moved since Nick saw it last but we found it at the main gate as reported by others.  Another fireless dumped nearby for many years appears to have gone (assumed scrapped).

Plinthed steam yet built in the late 80s

Thursday 10th June 2010

The first target today was the line to Altenburg, which meant changing at Heidenau, and we were unlucky and encountered a gap in the weekday service meaning a one-hour wait (should have checked this one).  Built as a narrow gauge line this is still very sinuous and offered very nice views. 

We continued to Bad Schandau where we had time to do a quick out and back on the partly solar powered tramway into the national park that takes one to a frankly pathetic waterfall in an old 4-wheel Gotha car. 

The main reason for going this way, however, was to take the last steam paddle steamer of the day back to Dresden – on a lovely afternoon a more civilised way to travel is hard to imagine than eating one’s lunch and consuming a rather nice dark Czech beer while slowly trundling down the Elbe.

PS Meissen

PS Meissen's engine (not only steam but oscillating)

The monorail viewed from the steamer

PS Dresden going the other way

Lastly we did the longest tram route out to Weinböhla via a quick look in Neustadt station (now much quieter than in the past and part way through a rebuild).

Friday 11th June 2010 

An early start for Usti (in the Czech republic) where two of the DDR fireless locos are now used by Setuza.

Austrian loco a long way from home

Nick’s usual contact was away but we think we were expected and despite about two words of mutual language we were very kindly shown the working loco (finished for the day) and given a ride up the yard.   They also have several diesels including one that belonged to a now closed transport company that seemed to have been abandoned with engine problems.  The other fireless is now stored out of use.

One of the working diesels at Setuza

The working fireless at Setuza

We then had a quick look at the plinthed loco at Zwolle Chemie and for a bonus a shunter that had been in the state railway yard suddenly appeared with a tank train and the time taken to open the gate made a photo possible.

Trip working enters Zwolle Chemie

We then split up – Nick wanted to do the trolleybus network then a tram system in Most Litvinov while I went back to Dresden (using a local train to Decin that was rather run down and had the noisiest brakes I have ever experienced). There is a little 4-wheel railbus that shuttles across the border but a late running international train had caught up and would go first so I used it. 

The least prestigious international train ever?

I then went back to Meissen for a look round the town which has been very well gentrified and was hosting a culture evening with live book readings (pity I cannot understand them).

A quick ride back meant I also had time for the last of the evening light in Dresden where the changes from my last visit in 1995 are profound. To round it all off nicely I was just heading over the bridge for a tram when a steamship came underneath with the band playing as it turned and headed back up river. 

Saturday 12th June 2010 

A deliberately fairly easy day today – we needed to end up in Sangerhausen once again but used the Lander ticket and went Via Zwickau, Weimar, Erfurt, and Nordhausen where we were by luck just right to see the HSB steam working return, although the weather had turned and it was raining hard.

Czech freight passing through Dresden

Zwickau - the station remains interesting but the roundhouse sheds we saw at a banhofsfest in 1995 are now long derelict

Nordhausen HSB arrival

This time we used Hotel Bierstübl which is walking distance from the station and is a pub / pension type place with our room actually being a nicely converted attic bedsit. 

Sunday 13th June 2010 

Also intended as an easy day but this turned out a little more involved. We got the happy weekend ticket (as we need to cross Lander boundaries the extra €10 is justified) and went to Cologne via a fairly involved route to Kassel, Frankfurt, then along the Rhine to Koblenz (a painful connection here as both trains arrive / leave from bays at the opposite ends of the station and are right down the platform).

Part of the mosaic in Sangerhausen booking hall

Sangerhausen signal box

Kassel - an odd mix of styles here!

Two generations of ICE in Frankfurt

Just time for a quick look round Cologne as dark fell, one can also watch trains from the corridor in the Hotel Madison am Dom (which despite the name is the other end of the Hbf from the Dom).

Interesting to compare Cologne with Dresden – the lack of being bombed flat and DDR poverty have not been long term kind to Cologne that one guide book rightly described as a 3-D architectural textbook, including all the crap ideas – I find the 20’ above ground district heating pipes particularly odd.

Koln Dom

Remuddleing? I don't know the history here

Monday 14th June 2010 

The only aim today was to return home – an early ICE to Brussels then Eurostar and HS1 as on the way out (I could have bailed at Ebbsfleet this time but took time for a quick stroll around in London instead). At €59 each this was cheap enough to make the extra night in the hotel worthwhile. 

Back to Blighty


An interesting contrast to previous visits – apart from several car based trips to the Harz and our fireless visits it is 15-20 years since I did much in Germany and it is amazing how much has changed. The ex-DDR now often looks better than the former west as so much restoration and gentrification has taken place. On the other hand much of the railway interest in the east has gone – the most noticeable thing in the former DDR is the number of derelict roundhouses most of which were stuffed with diesels on previous visits. The only diesel loco-hauled trains we saw were peak hour ones in Frankfurt, all the remaining DDR ones are now railcars and just about all the DR rolling stock has gone apart from the now preserved narrow gauge.