Germany 30.3.02-7.4.02 <  >

Still working my way south, I found an impressive assortment of dross that needed clearing up, all the way from the Ruhrgebiet to Stuttgart! In particular the Frankfurt area was neglected, and Enzweihingen had survived against all the odds. All this was combined with a bank holiday. Would I never learn? No pictures on this one, for reasons which will become apparent!

Saturday 30.3.02

Yet again my poor wife was dragged out of bed to deliver me to Birmingham Airport at 0600 for the 0730 flight to Frankfurt. This being Easter Saturday I thought the rather business-oriented Eurohub wouldn’t be very busy… A lengthy queue completely filled the rat’s nest but although it wasn’t moving when I arrived, it seemed that all the check-in staff started at 0600 and once the panic stricken punters for 0630 Paris were dealt with, things progressed rapidly and I was checked in by 0620.

Boarding punctually on to yet another ‘Chatham Historic Dockyard’, this one an Embraer 145, we were met with the news that Air Traffic Control were in full revenge mode and wouldn’t let us go until 0820. We trundled off and parked by the old terminal. ATC were nearly as good as their word and didn’t let us go until 0817. With an alleged 90 minutes flight and the inconvenient layout at FRA, the 1118 S-Bahn wasn’t looking good. In the event we landed at 1030 (nice breakfast too, as far as I could tell through my cold) and despite getting lost, getting the bus instead of the people mover, getting comprehensively lost for a second time and having to queue for my SWT, I made the platform at 1114.

There followed some pretty dull S-Bahn stuff to Ostendstrasse (underground from F-Hbf, where 103s 122, 148 and 220 were noted) and changing to an S4 on to F-Süd (last few metres above ground). Back on another S4 to Ostendstrasse, thence to return to my original route and join an S8 to Hanau. This surfaced after Mühlberg for one station then back underground through Offenbach, surfacing at O-Ost. Having probably averaged less than one grippage per year on S-Bahns I was surprised to find two out of these four trains carrying BSG paramilitary gripping squads!

Half an hour’s wait at Hanau but I didn’t feel the taste buds were up to beer yet so I settled for an expensive can of pop. I’ll not bother with that shop again… The polizei were much in evidence outside, awaiting football idiots it would seem. Certainly an RE to Würzburg was carrying some, as was the incoming Schöllkrippen kart, an Adtranz trapezoid windowed single unit. Pleasant amble up to Schöllkrippen, a small town in a valley, with the usual well organised public transport interchange. Somewhat infuriated to find my camera not working after being dropped last night, but nothing to be done other than use it with no meter, I suppose. [Not half as infuriated as when I got back to the UK and found that the £3 battery was flat.] KVG HQ is at Schöllkrippen, as well as the Adtranz box they have two other kinds of kart, one two-car possibly ex-DB of the sort which work Erfurt-Schweinfurt etc., and a couple of ‘high floor’ ones.

Back down the branch to Kahl which is in effect a ‘V’ station although there is a rusty through siding (with parked wagons) from the KVG line to the main line towards Heilbronn. Being a bear of very limited brain I failed to recall that I was supposed to change at Kahl! It didn’t matter though as the intended RE runs behind to Hanau and was in any case 10 late. It all ended up for the best as I caught the 1500 RB from Hanau and might yet make the connection at Frankfurt Süd. The RB went via Maintal rather than the intended Offenbach Hbf., which may well prove to be a Good Thing.

Made the connection with relative ease. I saw something disappear at F-Süd which may have been the errant RE - certainly said RE was just pulling away from a signal stop as we arrived at Stresemannallee. Fairly tedious trundle down to Darmstadt, basically to do the Stresemannallee - Louisastrasse curve but worthwhile, if you have nothing better to do, for the diveunder where the S-Bahn lines cross from west to east (going south) and a few odd bits of debatable separate alignment. 50 minutes to wait at Darmstadt so a visit to the shop was made for Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen (only comes in 0.5l cans, possibly so they can get the name on) from Binding Brauerei of Frankfurt. To my delight I was able to taste this, but I’d also bought some lemon/menthol sweets in case of a relapse! [Since childhood I’ve had a couple of colds a year, almost always depriving me of my sense of taste. For some reason this irritates me almost beyond endurance (born grumpy I guess), but the up side is that when my sense of taste returns it’s like a minor miracle!]

Off to Wiesbaden next, at 1644 via Klein Gerau, Gross Gerau and Mainz Hbf. This is a very dull ride other than the last bit through Mainz to Wiesbaden. Another red line on the map, but not much else you can say for it. Grabbed the 1738 S1 from Wiesbaden rather than the planned 1808; Kursbuch, CD and ticket machine timetable all disagree so ETA at Wetzlar is when I get there,

It worked out quite well, after another dreary S-Bahn ride via F-Höchst to F-Hbf. There turned out to be an RE to Siegen, calling at Wetzlar, at 1850 so all being well I’ll be there half an hour early. It also gave me time to decide that in view of my cold I’d have a McDonalds, on the basis that if it tasted like cardboard it would make no difference. In the event, I could taste it. It tasted like cardboard. And luke-warm, soggy cardboard at that. Frankfurt was its usual horrible self with screaming punks outside the station and a beggar in McDonalds. English speaking too. I’m really looking forward to staying in Frankfurt on Wednesday and Thursday…

Back on the train, the RE obligingly stopped at F-West in the last of daylight so I now know where I am with that! Reversal at Giessen was on the Marburg line (west side of the ‘V’).

The Pension Domblick at Wetzlar was located without difficulty, just over 10 minutes walk and in a very quiet alleyway. Sunday breakfast is advertised as 0900 (on the breakfast room door), 0830 (on the German language sheet in the bedroom) and 0800 (on the language sheet and from the concierge). The train is at 0932 so I’ll try the 0830 approach!

I felt duty bound to try the Euler brewery tap but on getting there found it to be a posh, expensive and nearly empty retaurant so decided against. I set off for the Altstadt, as you do, and found it to be a long uphill walk not particularly enjoyable for those with heavy colds! Nice when you got there though, with a cluster of acceptable pubs round the sandstone Dom. I managed to pick the one which didn’t sell Euler’s, asked for the advertised draught Maisel’s and got bottled. Ah well. Retired back down the hill (much easier). Wetzlar is like Bridgnorth in being high and low, either side of the River Lahn, but the low town (the modern part) is much bigger, and as far as I know the station buffet doesn’t sell Batham’s.

Sunday 31.3.02

Excellent breakfast at the Pension Domblick (out of whose windows you can see the Dom close by. Grr…) probably the best I’ve had in its range. The sausage and ruhrei option was streets ahead of McDonalds. After a NatWest credit card glitch (used Visa instead) off to the station to do the Siegen avoider on the 0932 IR to Norddeich. This was posted 5 late but in the event was less. 112s both ends, both with pans up.

The Siegen avoider was duly done, with its curious arrangement at the southern end. After the Siegen line diverges to the east, both the Siegen station line and the avoider go into tunnel. On emerging from the tunnels the avoider crosses over the Siegen station line which has also emerged from its tunnel. The IR was 3 late at Siegen Weidenau, the connecting RB to Siegen being dutifully held for 2 minutes to allow the Important Passengers From The Big Train (me) time to stagger across the platform. And so I ended up with half an hour in which to sit in the sunshine outside Siegen station, a pleasant enough place even if it does contain one of Those Burger Bars, listen to the church bells and write these notes. All say ‘aaah,,,’.

Once away from the recessed P4, 10 late due (I assume) to late running connection from Krefeld and Köln, enjoyed a very pleasant run up to Bad Berleburg. By Erndtebrück the deficit was down to 2 minutes, just as well with a Siegen train waiting to cross and a Marburg one waiting connection. The last mile or so into Erndtebrück (which looks a pleasant place) is very slow, alongside the main road with numerous ungated crossings over side roads. Didn’t have time to see the whole layout but the Marburg train was in P2 which is rusty westwards and clearly doesn’t have through traffic. Freight (presumably) uses the southernmost platform line which was shiny; certainly there were loaded timber wagons just east of the station. P3 was used by my Bad Berleburg train and P4 by the Bad Berleburg - Siegen train.

Arriving at Bad Berleburg more or less on time at 1226 and with an hour to wait, a beer seemed a top plan. Despite being a good sized market town, pubs are very thin on the ground. Station buff was closed (only Easter Sunday, it proudly said) as was the pub outside. After that - I’ve seen less licensed premises but to date, only in Bournville. I eventually found something which resembled a pub in as much as it took money in exchange for beer, and settled for the large Krombacher which was all I was going to get!

Back at the station, The Man seemed very fretful about the kart which was stabled just beyond the platform end (at the buffer stops, this being a single plain line sort of station). Not sure why - everyone else was happy sitting in the sun and the driver returned the kart to the platform in good time at 1326.

The connection at Erndtebrück was fine but lost a little time en route, causing some concern about the 10 minute connection at Marburg. Then minor diaster at Cölbe where the level crossing barriers had failed just before the station. 6 minutes late into Cölbe was judged as cutting it too fine so rather than wreck the plan I baled out at Cölbe, leaving the physical connection for later (in fact there is a well used connection from P2 to the main line but it doesn’t look to have booked passenger trains). To add insult to injury there was a pleasant looking pub outside the station (open, too) but with German beer pouring times the quick half is not an option.

The Frankenberg train was also caught up by the crossing problem and reached 6 minutes late - bus connection was 9 minutes but advertised so no too much wrong there. In the event we were 4 late at Frankenberg where the bus was waiting outside the station. This appears to be a rail replacement bus service (though not SEV) and detours here and there to serve former stations. It doesn’t go into the villages and not surprisingly carried only two rail passengers, both going through to Korbach. Despite doing my best to ask the driver clearly for Korbach Süd he went past without stopping. You can’t see the station from the road identifiably and only a new footbridge over the road and a bus stop labelled ‘Süd’ gave it away. I leapt to my feet and persuaded the driver to let me off at the traffic lights so that I could walk back. Reasonably enough I suppose, you’re expected to go to the main station.

Notes for travellers: from Frankenberg alight at the Süd bus stop, head south for 100m or so and then turn left into Am Südbahnhof. The station entrance is by the footbridge. From Korbach Süd station walk down Am Süudbahnhof to the main road, turn right and you’ll see the bus stop. [Goodness knows if the driver will stop for you though.]

Track seems to be in place all the way from Frankenberg to Korbach though becoming overgrown and in one place covered by Portakabins associated with nearby civil engineering work.

1735 from Korbach Süd to Kassel Wilhelmshöhe is the last train for today so barring the minor loss at Cölbe, a pretty good day so far. Parish notices at Korbach Süd indicate a closure 1600 Sat-1600 Sun next week. If they’re as bad as Railtrack that could have spoilt my day. Doubt they are though, and in any case for once I got the right week.

Another very pleasant ride to Kassel in a 628 (all there’s been since Siegen). In via Harleshausen - must check if the other route needs doing though it might get done tomorrow. Uncertain as to why, I pottered round to Wilhelmshöhe to get the tram as recommended by the DB website, to find that the Astoria is nearer to Hbf than W/höhe. Caught the no 4 tram still a bit peeved (individual tram journeys being a bit expensive at €2.00) and booked into the Astoria which looks OK and claims breakfast to be at 0630. Washed and brushed up, I set off again by tram to Am Stern to locate the homebrew at Mauerstrasse, which I did. It was shut, 8.30 pm on a bank holiday. Sometimes Germany can be wearing. No signs of life as far as I was prepared to walk so ended up, yet again, at McDonalds. A further €2.00 on the tram got me to the hotel whence I walked down to Goethestrasse to check trams to Hbf for the morning. These only run during the afternoon on Sundays and holidays so the DB website was absolutely right to send me via Wilhelmshöhe.

Quick replan for tomorrow followed. Leave W/höhe on 0800 IR, leave out Willingen on the grounds of going back when it reopens to Korbach (if it does) [it has], then run 2 hours earlier and get to Dortmund at a civilised hour. No doubt everything will be shut, but surely I can get a meal at the station if desperate? One other possibility for later - leave out Bad Wildungen and do it by bus from Korbach. The whole thing could probably be done on a SWT.

Monday 1.4.02

Easter Monday, Germany closed no doubt, but trams running from 0600 and breakfast (very sound) at Astoria from 0630. It was, too. Altogether good value, a friendly place and if you’re prepared to walk the 100 metres down the hill to Bebelplatz, only 4 stops and therefore €1.50 from Wilhelmshöhe. €41 for the hotel was very modest, I felt.

IR2556 originates at Kassel and the ECS arrived at great speed and 0745 (zeugma). This was most welcome, providing a warm and comfortable ‘waiting room’ instead of the tidy but basic one upstairs. I’d arrived somewhat early having allowed for 15 minutes to walk to Bebelplatz which took 3, 15 minutes for the tram which took less than 10, and 15 minutes in case one tram didn’t turn up (it did).

Uneventful jorney to Warburg on the IR, thence a 628 to Bestwig where we sat outside and watched the 0931 to Winterberg go late. Grrr. It appears the timetable has been recast as there were hourly through trains to Willingen, at least on Sundays and public holidays, of which this was one. The two I saw were 612 tilting karts of which there seemed to be a lot around. The physical connection for Winterberg is some way east of Bestwig; the train left from P3 which is the northernmost one so ‘twould have been OK anyway (and the kart from Warburg also arrived there). It remains to be seen what happens going back… The kart was a 624, one of the less common varieties, and made (at least) 3 different types for the area. It seemed to be working hard up to Winterberg, which is a pretty steady climb. Winterberg itself looked pretty bleak but as the station seems to be some way out of town that might be quite wrong. Track ends with a buffer stop just beyond the platform end; the second platform and three sidings all look disused.

Good news on the return to Bestwig; back into P3 again and when I checked the timetable, found that the 1237 goes from P3 on Sundays and holidays. Why they bother at such a one-eyed station, who knows. It’s a Czech type layout where P1 has all the buildings and you wander across to P2 and P3 which are not much more than a slightly raised and tarmaced six-foot. Anyway, celebration seemed in order so I wandered into the station buff for a Warsteiner which under the circs went down quite well. Oh, and the Hagen train, a pair of 628s, did go from P3!

Very dull stuff too, once out of the hills before Wickede. Fröndenberg is very much a ‘V’ station, between Bestwig and Neuenrade lines and east of their junction, entirely vindicating my decision not to change trains there!

Which will teach me not to be smug. Schwerte is a V also, at least to the purist. There is a connection between PP1-2 and the rest of the world, but nothing booked over it! There being nothing more exciting to be seen outside, I retired to the station gaststätte to lick my wounds. This was presided over by a cheery soul quite unable to grasp the idea that there are persons in this world who neither speak nor understand German! Still, communication was established and €2.20 procured 2 x 20cl of Iserlohner Pilsener which was quite pleasant and also suitable as I won’t have time for one at Iserlohn.

A very pleasant semi-rural trundle it was too, on a sunny afternoon and another 624 (more zeugma). Iserlohn is a bit of a curiosity in that it’s a terminus (now - it wasn’t) served by two routes which although they terminate side by side aren’t physically connected. This saves no end of fretting for the likes of me. Rather a different sort of line to Hagen - a short sharp descent through urban/quarrying surroundings to the Siegen-Hagen line at Letmathe.

Sorted the Schwerte Problem by leaping on to 1512 Hagen-Warburg which happened to be cross platform at Hagen, with a view to picking up 1530 Hagen-Unna at Schwerte (which was done). Unna turned out to have a rather nice ramshackle look without being so - newly rebuilt platforms in fact, with P18 apparently reserved for Neuenrade trains (though it is accessible from the Schwerte end). The Neuenrade kart was an Alsthom low floor with proper windows.

Neuenrade was quite an entertaining ride. Rolling countryside as far as Fröndenberg where the branch descends quite steeply to cross the main line, then flat for a while, then quite a dramatic stretch with a large cement works generating significant rail traffic, followed by a narrow valley with limestone outcrops either side. At Neuenrade the terminus adjoins a light industrial area about half a mile from the centre. The no. 64 bus goes to Werdohl station on the Hagen-Siegen line on the hour most hours: note that it goes (or appears to) from the stop outside the fire station and not the one outside the railway station.

On the return there was a 3 minute connection at Fröndenberg, including subway transit, but the only problem was falling asleep en route and waking up at one of the intermediate stations thinking it was Fröndenberg. We were on time at the real thing and I was on P2 well before the 628s arrived for Schwerte and Hagen. Final connection of the day, at Schwerte for 1842 to Dortmund, was also made comfortably, on to a 624. The absolute purist could demand the last few yards into Schwerte on a Dortmund-Unna train, but apart from that quibble, a successful day.

Obviously, the Thier pub in Dortmund Markt was shut (see 31.10.01 or thereabouts) but the Kroner brewpub opposite wasn’t, and provided a large schnitzel and a litre of as good a pils as I could ask for (not a fan, but maybe could be converted??) for too much money (€16.60). Actually it’s only a little over ten quid so shouldn’t really complain I suppose.

The Tryp proved a little difficult to find - the S-Bahn station is right in the middle of the campus and only labelled with campus stuff (Campus Nord etc). However there’s a street map outside, well, a campus map anyway, and Hafas’s 13 minute walk proved as infuriatingly accurate as usual. The hotel is typical ‘Ibis’ style but with a vile smelling room - only with all drains covered and window open are things improving. Recommendation: don’t go there under any circs, even if €52 does compare rather well with the rack rate ‘from 102’.

Tuesday 2.4.02

A normal working day at last, though you wouldn’t think it on the university campus. Schoodunts all off for Easter presumably. Having irritated me by asking for a specific breakfast order ‘because there are only two guests’ the Tryp put on a good spread but went downhill when the snotty receptionist insisted on checking that I’d paid. Fair enough with a full house, but a note saying ‘112 has paid’ would have done the job. Anyway, having gone back to sleep for half an hour after the alarm I arrived at the bus stop at 0732. Germany being Germany I didn’t bother waiting for the 0730 bus (rightly) but walked down to Dortmund Universität S-Bahn which was almost deserted. Eventually found the hidden composteur (wouldn’t next to the VRR ticket machine be more sensible than next to the DB one?).

The S-Bahn was on time and enabled me, just, to get an S4 15 minutes earlier to Unna. This is a remarkably tedious suburban line enlivened only by a postman getting on at Do-Stadthaus with his trolley and off again two stations later. That’s how dull it is. To be fair there’s a bit of excitement at Königsborn where not only does the train reverse, but another one comes in alongside. Wow. The last ‘semi-circle’ to Unna is single track. At Königsborn the line continues for freight; at Unna ‘proper’ the S-Bahn trains have their own platform, an extension of P4 at the Hagen end.

The early arrival at Unna led to an earlier departure on 0851 RE to Münster instead of the planned 0914; it was 8 minutes late which really didn’t matter, particularly with a 10 minute stop booked at Hamm.

From Münster ‘twas the ubiquitous 628 to Bielefeld, another flat, straight and tedious run alongside the main road, diverting only at the towns. After diving under the Hamm - Bielefeld line before Reyda-Wiedenbrück the branch comes up to what appears to be two dedicated platforms. There is access to the northernmost one from both main line and branch but if your train uses the southernmost (this one did) you need to go past R-W to do the connection (I did). The slow lines have a separate low level alignment at Isselhorst, so there’s a lot of added value in going on to Bielefeld!

On time at Bielefeld but with 10 minutes connection there was only time for the station shop where the best (= only) offer was Herforder Pils, a substance I’d kind of hoped never to encounter again. Overpriced at €1.50 in my book, and yes, I know that’s only £1.10 a pint.

The kart to Dissen-Bad Rothenheide was yet another 628. Fortunately these are about the most comfortable thing DB owns now [harsh judgment on the ICEs really], otherwise they’d be getting a bit wearing by now.

D-B.R. turned out quite pleasant in the end. Bland modern outer suburbia for the first part but then more rural, notably at the farm where two horses were being harnessed to some astonishing piece of ancient machinery - Acton Scott to the life. The whole farm looked (and smelled!) different from its surroundings, and is presumably run on traditional lines. At Dissen-Bad Rothenheide the station gaststätte seems to be a serious jazz venue (Erroll Dixon and his Blues and Boogie Band aus England, amongst others) and as befits such a place it wasn’t open at 1300.

Back at Bielefeld (no sign of the horses on the return) the ICE to Berlin was 9 late, causing minor delay to IC620 to Braunschweig and Leipzig. It was further delayed by (I think) engineering to be about 6-7 late at Herford. This was cut back to 2 by Minden but (again I think) waiting connections caused us to leave Hannover 5 late.

More entertainment from Braunschweig than I expected: though tempted by the Thüringer bratwurst stall outside, I staggered across the road to the hideous shopping precinct through which I’ve walked (hastily) a number of times en route to/fro the Hotel Fürstenhof. It proved to contain the K-(something) Bahnhof, a cellar bar with attached bowling alley, railway and brewery themed. An LGB railway runs round the pub and is advertised as delivering your drinks, though I somehow doubt it! Ludicrously expensive, but quite entertaining with Sam the Sham, Searchers, Sandie Shaw etc. 40cl of Wolters Pils was €2.80 which was seriously out of order. Back to the station then, for 1648 to Salzgitter-Lebenstedt, an interesting mixture of countryside and steelworks (with a large private rail system). Lebenstedt itself lies between a large housing development which wouldn’t look out of place further east, and a very attractive publick park. It’s a single plain line terminus with minimal facilities; although now blocked by buildings, the line obviously went further. [It did, through to Derneburg on the Hildesheim-Goslar line]. As well as the more traditional industrial lines there’s a large rail served Ikea depot just south of Salzgitter-Innendorf.

Back at Braunschweig it was a short wait for ICE 965 to Stuttgart which had plenty of unreserved seats and got to Hildesheim about 5 late due to being delayed crossing on the single line. Nothing doing on the food front near the station (except McD’s which doesn’t count) so I kept my fingers crossed for Bodenburg. Should have had that Thüringer…

Indeed I should. Bodenburg is a nice little line, more like former East than former West. It looks as if it’s going to wind up into the hills and is pleasantly rural after the junction at Grossdüngen. The only intermediate town, Bad Salzdetfurth, looks smart but things get a bit ramshackle thereafter and Bodenburg is like any run down ex DR branch you care to name. The line obviously continued beyond [indeed it did, dividing after Bodenburg with one line going round to the north-west and through to Elze on the Hannover-Göttingen line, and the other going south via Lamspringe to Bad Gandersheim on the Kreiensen-Seesen line.] and there seems to be a preservation society with a kettlet, at Almstedt-Segeste, 3.9km on towards Elze.

OK, here’s my entry for P*ll*ck of the year 2002. I know it’s early, but… Fretted all day about connection at Braunschweig. 2133 ICE ex Hildesheim arr Braunschweig 2158, last train to Salzgitter Bad dep 2204. Booked connection supposedly, but? Alternative was 2105 IRE to Salzgitter-Ringelheim arr 2129, dep 2130 for last train to SZ-Bad. Unlikely (and unbooked) connection but taxiable distance. Dithered over this for ages (as well as spending half the morning trying to replan to avoid the situation, Lebenstedt and Bodenburg timetables being totally incompatible). Finally decided on the IRE option on the grounds that being stranded in Braunschweig was a bit serious. Then realised that Ringelheim’s in the middle of nowhere, no taxis, so reverted to the ICE idea. Asked the machine at Hildesheim en route to Bodenburg, it gave me the ICE as a booked connection. Still fretted. On return from Bodenburg decided to get a printed schedule, asked the machine again. It being before 2100, machine offered me ‘20’ as departure time. Tried that. It gave me 2059 RB to Braunschweig, arrive 2145. Piece of cake. D’oh!!! Tried to pretend it wasn’t in the Kursbuch, but it was.

As luck would have it, of the 11 trains on the display at Braunschweig, only one was late. Yep, the ICE from Hildesheim. Had I been on it I’d have been going ape. We’ll see if the connection’s held.

I think it was, though I didn’t see any ICE so maybe not. A handful of passengers arrived hastily, then we left with only an IC in view. Phew. ‘Twas only 2210 when we left.

Straight to the Hotel Ratskeller which is only 5 minutes walk. Lots of yoofs in street, mostly harmless. I think.

Wednesday 3.4.02

What a nice hotel the Ratskeller is. Sympathetic restoration plus extension. Thoroughly satisfactory, nice breakfast, friendly people, altogether good. Off to the station on another cloudless morning for 0835 to Braunschweig which was a 614 (similar to 624 but with nicer 628 type seats).

At Braunschweig the incoming (arr 0854) service from Uelzen had 218152 and two coaches, but disappointingly a 628 appeared from the sidings for 0906 departure. Long trundle through the fields to Gifhorn and longer on to Uelzen, but pleasant enough on a nice morning in a reasonably full but not crowded train.

Remarkably cheap beer in the shop at Uelzen (unlike the buffet, see previous visit), €0.80 for 0.5l of Wernesgrüner. Very palatable too, comes from somewhere in the Vogtland. The Hannover train, a HH-Altona to Konstanz IR, arrived on time and packed. Being a short run to Hannover I dived into a smoker to be sure of a seat; very few people smoking anyway, so bearable [Unfortunately this situation didn’t continue]. It’s time smoking in public was banned, everywhere, all the time. So there. [Written, of course, before the unthinkable happened and smoking was banned in UK public buildings and workplaces. Soon Germany will be following suit.]

There’s engineering/SEVs currently on the Celle-Burgdorf-Hannover orute. The IR went via Grossburgwedel and Langenhagen (probably its booked route anyway, given the layout). Stopped briefly for single line working on this route too, we were enjoined not to get out! Better part of 10 late at Hannover but it didn’t matter as I wasn’t due out until IC529 to Bielefeld (‘Regensburger Domspatzen’ one of DB’s weird near-circular services from Leipzig to Passau) at 1238.

Slightly late away from Hannover (awaiting late running ICE), arriving at Bielefeld (why did we hang around at Herford?) and leaving Bielefeld (incoming kart from, presumably, Münster late). A low floor kart to Altenbeken, whose maker was too ashamed to admit to it, but I think was Siemens. On from Altenbeken by IR to Kassel Wilhelmshöhe then decided to go straight to Frankfurt by ICE, leaving Bad Wildungen to be combined with Brilon Wald-Korbach. (Note: IR took westernmost track all the way to Wilhelmshöhe except for using P2 not P1.)

Diabolical (or so it seemed, lots of slowing down, out of course stops, finally wrong line to pass a freight) run to Frankfurt via NBS and Aschaffenburg. Amazingly only 2 late - was it an easy schedule or a remarkably powerful kart? Probably a bit of both.

Hotel Astoria was located very close to Messe U-Bahn station - seems satisfactory though breakfast not until 0700. Certainly hugely better than the Europa and pretty good value for downtown Frankfurt. Via U-Bahn to Konstablerwache for a very nice steak and 0.8l of ‘home brew’, specified only as light or dark. Very pleasant if not exceptional (other than in price). RMV day ticket purchased at Hbf on the way back so all set for tomorrow.

Thursday 4.4.02

Cloudless again, and the Astoria’s breakfast well up to scratch. Irritated on arrival at F-Hbf to find a Königstein train in the platform next to mine. If I’d had my brain in gear I could have done the connection at F-Höchst. All irritation ceased on the Branoberndorf kart, however. This went to F-Rödelheim, its first stop, via the line to the west of Rebstockpark which I wasn’t expecting. Must check EGTRE, perhaps I misunderstood. Nice bit of unexpected track, either way. Looking at the RMV map I think I did misunderstand - it’s marked as passenger track. Ran into P5 at Bad Homburg; only FKE karts and the 0559 M-F Bad H-F - Süd S5 do this so it was worth the replan on two counts.

At Friedrichsdorf, Friedberg trains have access to P4 and P5 (the east side island platform). There was an S5 parked in P5 when I went past; the shine on the rails suggested P4 is used by the Friedberg service, but we’ll see.

Eventual failure at Wilhelmsdorf (which for future reference, is a passing loop). ‘An accident fis two causs’ had blocked the line beyond Grävenwiesbach and service prospects were uncertain. As we had to wait to pass a southbound train I decided to cut my losses and see if I could pick up time elsewhere.

In fact looks quite hopeful that I can get Offenbach - Dieburg - Dreieich-Buchschlag in before regaining my original plan. If successful, this retrieves tomorrow’s breakfast! Notived that Sunday Brandoberndorfs go from P5 at Freidrichsdorf - all Friedbergs to/from P4 though.

Friedberg train was one of the strange low floor devices with the engine on its own bogie in the centre, outer semi-trailers hanging on it. No obvious marks of ownership, just an RMV logo, as had the Friedberg-Hanau one (which was a bit of a rush - arrival in the bay platform at the south end 1012, a minute late, departure from P8 on the other side of the station 1016.)

Forgot the pop shop at Hanau was expensive (see 30.3.02!) Connection made with ease - after all the struggles with Bodenburg and Lebenstedt the other day this one hung together perfectly with 10 minutes at Hanau and 5 at Offenbach Hbf. The trains to Rödenmark-Ober Roden go from P4 at Offenbach Hbf - suspect not much else does but there are a couple of (used) connections between there and Offenbach Ost where the lines divide. Electrification and provision/reinstatement is in progress, presumably indicating conversion to an S-Bahn line. Motive power on 1108 from Offenbach was 215119; passed 215110 en route. The S-Bahn conversion appears to end at Rödenmark-Ober Roden. Didn’t see if there’s still a physical connection but you certainly can’t do it at present. The station is undergoing major rebuilding. Funny kart again (they’re BLE in fact, just not very obvious) to Dieburg, stepped on to the platform for a minute or two, then back on the same kart to Dreieich-Buchschlag .

At Dreieich-Buchschlag the Dieburg karts use an isolated bay platform on the east side of the fast lines. The S-Bahn lines are to the west at this point do it’s an inconvenient connection through the subway both ways. 4 minutes was more than enough though and I made 1253 to Bad Soden off the 1249 arrival with ease. A very dull trundle followed, via the Louisastrasse - Stresemannallee - Frankfurt Süd - Ostendstrasse route, on to Bad Soden. Glad I made all that effort to do it last Saturday - but how was I to know. Bad Soden, like Iserlohn, is the terminus of one diesel (from F-Höchst) and one electric (S3 from Darmstadt) service. The two are connected at least by emergency crossovers, the line didn’t go any further as far as one can see, and the diesel line still has catenary. There are two hotels in easy reach, and a decent looking pub just down the street (Dortmunder Union) which if I’d had more than 14 minutes would have been just the job! As it was, the local supermarket supplied 50cl of beer for 51 cents. The station shop at Hanau supplied 33cl of Sprite for €1.30. Hmm…

I returned to Niederhöchstadt to await the 1415 to Kronberg; this is the slightly shorter of the two branches and all above ground (Bad Soden goes very briefly underground for the station at Schwalbach). Kronberg is very exciting in that it has two sidings, one electrified, and a (shut) pizza-based bahnhofsgaststätte. Other than that not a lot to say: one platform and a shelter allowing me to consume my beer in the sunshine and out of the wind. Not bad either - Binding from somewhere near Frankfurt. 4.9%, and some acquaintance with malt unlike most of these pilseners.

Splendid view of the Frankfurt skyline on the way back from Kronberg Süd to Niederhöchstadt - New York it ain’t, thank goodness, but pretty impressive for Europe. Shame it’s all about money. One or two good views further south, too.

Fortuitous connection on to a Friedberg S-Bahn at Frankfurt West gave me the rest of the S-Bahn flyover there (wow) and got me to Bad Vilbel in good time for the 1533 to Glauburg-Stockheim, a.k.a Stockheim(Oberhess). There I was thinking Bad Vilbel would be a nice big station where I might get a sandwich or something - wrong. Desolate, unmanned, with a permanently shut Gaststätte and a chocolate machine. Never mind, Rabbit 218412 was on the Stockheim train, and there are a few S-Bahn trains out of P1 so I needn’t bother too much about the connection.

At Glauburg-Stockheim no such luck - P1 is raised to current standards and seems to be reserved for the DB trains. BLE use the island PP2-3. Their kart arrived on time and set off to Nidda for more gap-filling opportunities (and a station buff? No chance, this is getting to be a real backwater). Nothing at all at G-S, just one closed shop.

Half an hour at Nidda so I set off for town. By the time I found the delightful little square in the centre of town, surrounded by open pubs with people sitting outside, I’d been walking for 13 out of the 30 minutes. When I got back to the station I saw the pub opposite…

Very slow going from Nidda to Friedberg - the couple of 218-powered REs run by DB amongst the BLE karts are stretching the RE definition a bit. There’s a plinthed centre cab electric loco at Weckesheim, together with some narrow gauge mining equipment. Three tracks at Beienheim, only the centre one accessible to both lines. At the time I was there these were occupied by (west to east) Beienheim - Hungen kart, 215109 with the second F-Hbf - Nidda RE, and my Nidda - Friedberg kart. The southern access to P1 looked rusty so the prophecy is that the Friedberg - Hungen working will use P2.

Of course, on arrival at Friedberg the kart headed for P8 whence I went this morning to Hanau, then at the last minute lurched across the layout to P12. Although I didn’t have time to check the workings on the yellow sheet there are enough crossovers etc. not to be of much interest.

Correct guess about Beienheim! Had to invoke the ‘part train’ rule as there were two karts splitting at Beienheim and I started in the rear one. Other than that minor glitch, a successful day, causs notwithstanding. A plan is germinating to do Brandoberndorf in October on the Plandampf weekend… Right across the layout at Hungen, no worries (stabling sidings are on the east side luckily).

Up to Giessen on time, then as is the way of these things the last train of the day was late. Couldn’t begrudge it really, everything else having worked. 8 late, down to 5 by F-Hbf, took the through lines past F-West. ‘Dined’ at McDs for speed and economy, and back on U4 to the hotel.

Friday 5.4.02

And the sunshine goes on, as promised by the concierge last night. Arrived at breakfast (starts 0700) at 0704 to find a large proportion of it gone, and almost all the tables used. No wonder they have this reputation for sun loungers. Enough left for a good breakfast though, then off to F-Hbf on foot (must be mad) for 0815 to Stuttgart which is a proper hauled train, 6 coaches + 218167. 103101 plus a (the?) red and cream one noted stabled. Excellent bonus curve bash leaving F-Hbf from P1a (south side bay) via Niederradbrücke. Somewhat delayed at Frankfurt Süd so 8 late at Hanau; although line limit seems to be quite low to Babenhausen, some splendid full throttle departures from intermediate stops so 6 late from Babenhausen (southern route into here, crossing the electric line before the station). A most enjoyable run followed, very much southern-type scenery and some excellent bellowing from the 218 which delivered us to Eberbach on time. It was unhooked here (to my alarm as it was unexpected) and repaced by 143904, the route being electrified from here on (to my relief really; the noise was fun but the fumes ‘was awful’).

Another very nice run to look at, if not to listen to, up the Neckar valley to Heilbronnand Bietigheim-Bissingen where, naturally, nothing is booked to/from Vaihingen to/from pp8-10. I arrived at 8 - never mind, should be able to deal with it on the way back having previously done Vaihingen-Ludwigsburg. On arrival at Vaihingen all the indications were that the Enzweihingen service was running - as I’d arrived earlier than planned, decided to get the 1208 to V-Nord and back to V-Stadt for the valid reasons that a) if the kart broke at least I’d tried and b) more likely to find a pub at V-Stadt.

So far (1315) so good. The WEG kart is indeed a splendid antique, though much refurbished, and well worth while riding on. There is in fact a pub at Vaihingen Nord (to which the kart took me - a bit of extra track though only the length of the platform). With proper dedication I stayed with the train though, and decamped at Vaihingen Stadt (there is also Vaihingen(Enz) Schlossberg which appears to be closed). At V-Stadt there were six wagons carrying sheeted skips, contents unknown . As the line curves south east between the DB line and the town there is a branch northwards (used) which seems to serve an industrial estate on the northern edge of the town (according to the streetmap anyway).

Vaihingen itself is another delightful market town like Nidda but unlike Nidda isn’t blessed with open pubs round the square. I did find two suitable ones, both shut, and ended up in a one-ale bar on the way back to the station. Friendly enough though, and a nice bottle of CD-Pils for (ahem) only €2.00. Suspect this was tourist price.

At Enzweihingen, reached after a steep descent to cross (presumably) the river Enz, WEG has a small depot containing two more modern 4-wheel railbuses, at least one from the Untergröningen line, and an ex DB class 360 shunter. There is also a breakdown crane.

Back at Vaihingen, late, I had 2 minutes to get up an awesome number of steps, rucksack and all, to the 1405 RE. Somehow made it, more dead than alive. Prodded severely by conscience (there being no access to the Heilbronn line west of Bietigheim-Bissingen) I changed at B-B to get a train off P8 (only had to wait 3 minutes for 1424 RB) then again at Ludwigsburg to get an S-Bahn into Stuttgart.

There was just time before the S1 to Untertürkheim for a lightning visit to Calwerstrasse to see if the Stuttgarter Lokalbrauerei had a Märzenbier. Rising to this challenge I discovered that - it had. 5.5%, stupidly expensive just like the Christmas one, but lighter in taste and very palatable.

Got back to Stadtmitte without any great rush and with 6 minutes to spare. Out to Untertürkheim on an S1, where the RB (two train pairs each rush hour M-F) to Kornwestheim was waiting – on a platform of its own unfortunately. The unit was a new low floor one, class 425. [Possibly my first encounter with one of these dreadful things].

A surprisingly pleasant ride to Kornwestheim with some good views of the Neckar valley, particularly where the line crosses the valley on a substantial viaduct. The 3 (?) intermediate stations are in good repair and each provided at least a handful of passengers, none of whom seemed in fear of their lives. This being 1545 on a Friday the contrast with Stockport - Stalybridge was notable!

Passing Feuerbach on the way back from Vaihingen had jogged the memory about the rush hour only services to Heimerdingen on the Weissach branch, from the bay platform 1a which is without doubt a separate alignment if you’ve done it. The train I’d planned to catch to do the connection at Korntal was just such a one and a quick replan had me down at Feuerbach for the 1641 instead of picking it up at Zuffenhausen. This worked well – straight to Korntal Gymnasium, 20 minutes sitting in the sun on a grit bin (!) and back to Stuttgart via the bay at Korntal and a Weil der Stadt S-Bahn. This was a bit late, requiring a bit of a dash from S-Hbf tief to P10 upstairs, enlivened by a phone call from my client in Coventry. Some good CT commuter tactics got me a forward facing non smoking seat in an open section on the IR to Saarbrücken which was very pleasing. This went straight from Vaihingen to Mannheim, not via Heidelberg, which was also pleasing, and of course went on to fill in the Kaiserlautern-Landstuhl gap.

Hotel Stadt Hamburg is an uninspiring establishment in a shopping precinct with the usual miserable git (meaning usual for, er, budget hotels in the evening) at the desk. Trotted off to Zum Stiefel for some very nice pork and a couple of beers; it was surprisingly quiet for 2100 on a Friday, and I retired to bed somewhat dispirited by Saarbrücken.

Saturday 6.4.02

The new tax year dawned cloudless and very cold but without snow (see last year). Once again breakfast plundered by overalled oafs arriving early. Bread stale, oafs smoked. Animals. Morning factotum was more pleasant than the evening one, thank goodness. Nevertheless if I never have to stay in Saarbrücken again, I won’t feel deprived. In retrospect it would have been better to stay in Pirmasens.

Anyway, off to Pirmasens on a 628 having paid my €2.80 for a return Forbach Frontière – Forbach. Bet I don’t get gripped, and could pay on the spot anyway, but best be honest – I’m British, dash it all! Meanwhile, the physical junction used at Rohrbach was west thereof – there is one to the east as well but as P3 is marked ‘Richtung Zweibrücken’ presumably the western junction is standard, and you should do the line from St Ingbert. Didn’t affect me of course as I was doing Saarbrücken - Pirmasens and return.

Quite an interesting ride to Pirmasens, notably the Pirmasens Nord – P-Hbf stretch where a second line, now closed, overgrown and blocked by fallen trees, parallels the current single line at a lower level. Just outside Pirmasens is a tunnel, in the course of which the lower line climbs (towards Pirmasens) and emerges slightly above the current line before joining it.

It all looked pretty much the same going back. Couldn’t find anywhere to buy a beer at Saarbrücken – typical, all the pubs were open! SNCF diesel (5)67464 provided power to Forbach, with two 4-car TER sets, which are cloth seated nowadays, and quite comfortable. This was a Metz train, French crewed of course. As predicted, no grippage on the short, and mostly French, journey to Forbach. Station buff was open hereat, but not a runner with 8 minutes. EC57 ‘Goethe’ turned up a bit late and left a bit later, which at least reduces the opportunity to get frozen at Saarbrücken. Fabulous day again, not very warm though. Yet. ‘Goethe’s’ motive power was a 181, as was an IR departing from Saarbrücken for Münster. No grippage, again. I did at last manage to procure a can of pop at Saarbrücken – what cost €1.60 from a French machine cost €1.05 over a German counter.

1302 to Mainz was a Rabbit plus three coaches. ‘Goethe’ finally ambled out at 1259, 13 late. As befits a posh international express from France to Germany, the arrival announcements for Saarbrücken were given in two languages, German and English.

The Rabbit also left late and trudged very slowly to the first stop, by which time it was 13 late too and causing alarm. This reduced to 12 and stayed at that for a while before Rabbit and/or driver got themselves sorted and time was regained until we were about 4 late joining the Rhein valley line at Gau-Algesheim. Quite spectacular scenery en route, particularly in the upper reaches of the Nahe (?) valley.

Nice pub opposite the station in Ingelheim (had to happen eventually) where Reinhard, brought up in Preston, recommended Flensburger (from the swing top bottle) Pilsener. Disaster struck on the return with the 1544 to Bingen (Rhein) Stadt and Koblenz announced 7 late. With a 4 minute unbooked connection this looked bad. In fat we were 10 late, and the intended 628 went past on the approach to Bingen. Retired hurt to the town where a pub run by an amiable English speaking ex-seaman (he had a friend called Sid from Cuxhaven, honest – though to be fair Sid was English) dispensed Henniger Pils from Frankfurt.

Returned to the station in good time for 1702 to Worms, intending to go to Bensheim and back on the last train. Had a leaf through the Kursbuch to see what might be dome tomorrow, realising that unfortunately the train to Eiswoog one hour earlier than planned didn’t run until 14 th April. Gave up, at least until finding out what time I might get breakfast tomorrow.

Just before Albig (thank goodness) the pfennig dropped – Kirchheimbolanden runs every day and I didn’t have to wait until tomorrow. I dived out of the 628 at Alzey, into the waiting Eurobahn kart, confirmed validity of EuroDomino with the driver (didn’t seem worth volunteering, though I’d happily have paid!) and off we went. And it had a working toilet too, unlike the 628. Another nice little branch with a reasonable level of patronage for 1800 on a Saturday. At Kirchheimbolanden there is a temporary-looking wooden platform labelled ‘Bahnhaltepunkt Kirchheimbolanden, 5 min Fussweg zur Stadtmitte’. The trackbed towards Langmeil, on the Bingen to Kaiserslautern and Neustadt line, disappears beyond the bufferstop, though devoid of track.

Back to Alzey well pleased, and on to Worms with another 628. The Central Hotel was easily located and being made welcome was a nice change! The young lady spoke good English and was able to offer an 0600 breakfast (on a Sunday – not a standard feature, it’s normally 0800) as well as directing me to the home brew establishment (Hagenbräu) on Am Rhein. This last provided poor food but an excellent weizenbier of which I had two in the interests of statistically valid sampling.

The 0600 proposal left me wandering about the early train to Eiswoog: I’d already asked the machine at Worms Hbf, which said it was a bus. Potentially most reliable source of info seemed to be the departure sheet at Frankenthal, so I made haste there on the much delayed 2137, returning on the equally delayed 2204. The upshot was that the sheet showed an 0805SuO to Eiswoog, which I shall endeavour to get.

Sunday 7.4.02

Breakfast duly provided at 0600 for more oiks to smoke over. Once they’d gone (fortunately I arrived about 0608 so this was quite soon) the breakfast was much enjoyed, especially the fresh pineapple. Some problems with SWT – not sure if it’s valid on RMV privatised lines or not.

Got to Frankenthal OK after a little shunt at Worms because of a crossover being renewed. Should have seen it last night but didn’t – should have believed Hafas but didn’t – Eiswoog bustituted 3.4.02-12.4.02! At least I found out before wasting time going to Grünstadt. The 0803 back to Worms had an impressively disreputable clientele, one of the grottier features of early Sunday trains in Germany. Was hoping for the connection to Bensheim, now looks unlikely (0808). Highly unlikely – missed it by about 12 minutes. Grumped to Mannheim on a punctual RB which at least gave me the 4 minute connection on to Weinheim where the kart (a 628) for Fürth was waiting.

Nice amble up to Fürth – commuter villages, a bit of light industry and some proper countryside. Stuck at Fürth for 40-odd minutes I pottered around the town, a pleasant place though strung out along the main road somewhat. One pub was open but the Puritan streak said 1045 was too early for beer. The station is unmanned and the line ends at one platform on plain line. It appears to have gone further north at one time. The stretch of line immediately after leaving/before arriving in the Rhein valley is impressive – a steep gorge with evidence of substantial quarrying.

Back at Weinheim I had 50+ minutes to kill so went to have a look at the OEG tram which serves Weinheim, Mannheim and Heidelberg on a circular route. It was judged interesting enough to do one day! (Metre gauge, triple articulated). The Bahnhofsgaststätte at Weinheim was open but didn’t look all that appealing so I whiled away the rest of the time with an Eichbaum Ureich Pils from the bakers’. It’s a local brew from Mannheim, with hop extract and carbonic acid among the ingredients. Nuff said.

Journey to Bensheim was enlivened by a brake failure (on, not off) at one of the intermediate stations. Fortunately it was dealt with summarily and delayed us only 6 minutes, with a 16 minute connection at Bensheim. The Worms service was a 628; it appears (unfortunately) that all Worms services go out of P4 and nothing else does.

What a boring line. Trundle, trundle, trundle across the Rhein flood plain. They should move it to Schleswig-Holstein where it might feel more at home. Half an hour to wait at Worms (again) so I repaired to the Bistro whatever-it-is which had an Apostelbräu sign outside. Inside, only Park which I suspect is from Kaiserlautern or Pirmasens. [Pirmasens in fact, though whether that’s where it’s now brewed is unclear.It’s now owned by a Mannheim company and has links to a brewery at Bellheim in Baden Württemberg. http://www.parkbrauerei.de/ but it won’t help you much.] ‘Die Reine Pfalz’ is presumably their idea of a joke. Wisely the beermat doesn’t give the address of the brewery. Dreadful stuff, and in a cold, bleak and characterless bar to boot. Apart from that it was OK. Back to Bensheim on the 628, where Amershamplatz and Leslie Mackay Passage are outside the station. Seemingly they’re twinned and the eponymous Leslie was the burgomeister. Bensheim also has a nice looking gaststätte, which was open but I didn’t have enough time. On again with an RE to Frankfurt, following which there was nothing for it but to refuel and head for the airport. Home from there to BHX on an Airbus.

 

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