Germany 15.11.02 - 18.11.02 <  >

With daylight nearing its minimum and having recently been abroad twice I wouldn’t normally have made this trip; but BA (or was it Air Miles?) were offering unusually cheap fares to Düsseldorf so I booked two flights a fortnight apart to chip away at a few more lines doable on local tickets. This plan didn’t get off to a particularly good start…

Friday 15.11.02

Those words again - following quiz defeat last night H was up betimes to take me to 0615 Telford - Birmingham New St. [Considering the monotonous regularity of this combination it’s surprising that a) our quiz team remains in the top division of the league and b) my wife hasn’t yet left me! 2008 postscript - we're in Div 2 but about to be promoted, and she still hasn't, bless 'er!] After passing up the chance to change to 0638 Wolves-Bournemouth at Wolverhampton in case it was late (it wasn’t) I just made it on to 0648 BNS-Coventry, which was a 150 due to the current ailments of class 323 which require underframe welding. This was on time o.n.o. though I had to wait for the Bournemouth to pass before the crossing opened at Tile Hill. Into work at 0750ish and out again, much delayed at 1720 instead of 1630. My line manager kindly gave me a lift to BHX (more or less) on his way home so the delay wasn’t a problem.

Bass in the Ab Dab was moderate, all was well until 1920 (due to depart 1935) when we were summoned to the BA information desk. Like the North Pole (never been there, but know it’s *y cold), I’d never been there, but knew it was bad! It was - plane cancelled, plutocrats on LH in a few minutes, riffraff on LH at 0810 tomorrow. Broken windscreen apparently. Off to BA ticket desk to rebook for 0810, then to another BA info desk to seek restitution of train fare and Düsseldorf hotel. While waiting I noticed the date on my new booking was today. Yes, she said, you’re on tonight’s flight. Steamed off to Lufthansa check-in to find flight had closed 5 minutes previously. Very irritated by now! Lufthansa despatched me to a BA person who told me to go and get my ticket changed and she’d see what she could do. While waiting in the ticket queue she reappeared and renewed BA’s offer of a room at the Novotel which I accepted this time.

By the time I got to the Novotel they were expecting me; dinner (£19.50) and room (£110 weekdays, £83 weekends) were for free. Decided to pass up the dinner and go to the Great Western instead but the trains were snafu’d so I settled for very nice Adnams at the Hogshead in Newhall Street and back to the Novotel via Silverlink (seriously filthy) for 2200. All well then until 0310 when the fire alarms went. This being a multi-storey hotel I hurtled out of bed terrified but they stopped before I was dressed so I phoned down to reception to check all OK (it was) and retired again!

Saturday 16.11.02

Up betimes for a shower, over the road to check in, and back for breakfast, which was all quite civilised. Obviously mine was the only flight to be delayed this morning (well, other than KLM-UK to AMS) but in the end it was only about 15 late. Absolutely packed of course, and I spent most of the journey talking to my neighbour, a German IT lecturer from Stirling University also bounced off last night’s flight. Nice breakfast from LH (Eurowings) it must be said, even if it was the second one today.

The (then) new Schwebebahn between Düsseldorf airport terminal and Düsseldorf Flughafen station, 15-11-02.

Finally in Germany, I sampled the scary new Danglebahn to D-Flughafen arriving just in time to catch the 1113 RE to Dortmund despite being told that the next train was 1138. Just like home really, except the 1113 was on time. Borussia Dortmund got on big time at Mülheim - very noisy and tedious though harmless (so far - Bochum). Continued harmless even unto Dortmund where there were hundreds more. Interesting that so many of their chants have middle of the road American/British tunes (e.g. Bo-russia Dort-mund as in the Andy Williams ‘I love you ba-by’, Auld Lang Syne, When the Saints, etc., etc.).

Nothing for it on arrival at Dortmund around 1210 but to regain the plan by getting 1244 S5 to Hagen via Witten. First track of the day; but look on the bright side, I’ll have to come again to do Enschede! Or maybe I’ll do that in 2 weeks time, assuming BA can manage to fly round the birds, and leave the Dortmund area tat until later. On balance that’s probably more sensible, on the other hand let’s wait and see what time breakfast is…

S5 wasn’t the most exciting ever. Suburbs/modern industry/flat then a bit of ‘Old Ruhr’ before Hagen which was its usual woebegone self in lightish rain. On from Hagen on 1339 RE to Siegen, an electric kart with its sole toilet defektiv… Into P3 (or at least, third one from the east) at Finnentrop, due to relaying of P1 and engineers train in P2. I strongly suspect P3 is the Olpe branch platform and if so this was a Very Good Thing! [P5 is the Olpe one in fact, but currently no passenger movements are listed on the sheet for P3 or P4 so I think this train was actually in P5 and there’s no P3 or P4 (or they are bays)]. New track from Finnentrop to Kreuztal albeit on a dismal grey afternoon with cloud down to maybe 250ft. Or maybe lower.

Slight lateness from waiting connection at Hagen was korrekt-ed by Siegen where arrival was on time at 1514. There is substantial heavy industry in the Kreuztal-Siegen area with Herr Krupp much in evidence and substantial amounts of steel plate on special wagons which must be at the limit of the loading gauge at least for width.

The 1518 to Frankfurt (cross platform from P55 [sic] to P3 - how do you work that one out?) was a lengthy loco-shoved push-pull set properly equipped, albeit still with one defektiv toilet. This (the train, not the toilet) provided an opportunity to consume my can of Dortmund’s very own Brinkhoff’s no 1. A bargain at 99 cents (about 73p/pint) you might think, but honestly, I was done. It’s not worth half that. A genuinely revolting beer to my taste, only marginally better than Thursday’s Stone’s (keg) bitter, and a yardstick by which even Bitburger could be judged.

It being a murky afternoon the light failed early but it didn’t matter, being dead track from Siegen to Frankfurt via Giessen (reverse). I continued on 1809 RE from Frankfurt to Mannheim via Bensheim and Weinheim. Dark and wet by now, of course. The Ramada Treff Page Hotel, whatever that may mean, was easily located and acceptable if not top notch. The hotel for which I’ve booked in two weeks time, on the other hand, looks very dodgy and I’ll try elsewhere.

Meanwhile, back to business. First move was to obtain tomorrow’s SWT, Monday’s Baden-Württemberg-Ticket, and a single Mannheim – Frankfurt Flughafen from a cheery English-speaker at the Mannheim Reisezentrum, and the next was to book in at the hotel (breakfast 0630 weekdays, 0700 Sun). I then set off for ‘Zum Habeereck’, the home brew pub at Q4 13 (this is the way it works in Mannheim. Q4 is the block, and you go round clockwise. Obviously 13 was on the 4 th side). It turned out to be a very smart Italian restaurant where the beer only trade was not required. A tiny bit on the expensive side but not seriously, does steaks and H would love it! The beer is spectacularly indifferent and not worth the bother. The Italian waiter (Antonio, naturally) should have found out whether I understood him before taking the mick for the benefit of the proprietor. Thanking him in Italian was sufficient…

Retired thence to the Eichbaum brewery tap in Käfertalerstrasse, as recommended by the Rough Guide. A thoroughly admirable establishment with a quality weizenbier and as good a pomme frite as you could find in Europe. Some really bizarre entertainment going on in the back room; why they were applauding escaped me. ‘Yellow Submarine’ featured among other favourites!

Just made the 2219 tram back, in time to be travel surveyed (is there no escape?) which caused an interesting debate as to the validity of the SWT (it is valid in fact). And so to bed (sorry for plagiarism, Mr Pepys) after a quick conversation with H.

Sunday 17.11.02

Nice breakfast, pleasant staff, NatWest card worked even at 0720 on Sunday. [I frequently have trouble with early checkouts on Sundays abroad, presumably because it’s even earlier in the UK and the banks’ end-of-days haven’t finished running.] Unfortunately 0750 to Mainz was 8 minutes late, perhaps even more by Frankenthal, and ‘twas all for nothing as I missed 0805 Frankenthal-Eiswoog. You’d have thought they would have held it. So did the other passengers. I had a pleasant enough wander round Frankenthal for half an hour anyway before returning to the station for the 0905. This, a 628, appeared first with the 0844 from Mannheim and a Koblenz to Mannheim train arriving together. All connections were made this time. The Freinsheim Gavotte is still occurring because of the peculiar layout, but the station is much modernised with standard height platforms and a lift which seems a bit OTT.

628 299 stands at Eiswoog on 17-11-02. The line used to continue beyond the buffers (R of the 628) to Enkenbach on the line from Kaiserslautern to Bingen.

There was no sign of the 600mm line between Ramsen and Eiswoog shown in Schweers & Wall – whether this was on the DB trackbed and has been evicted or whether it’s lower down and not visible, I don’t know. [Enquiring further into this while transcribing these notes I found the 2006 timetable for the Stumpfwaldbahn. It’s not only alive and well, but actively extending from Eiswoog towards Ramsen, seemingly reaching the outskirts of Ramsen this year (2006).It is indeed lower down and not visible!] At Eiswoog there is a simple gravel surfaced platform with track disappearing beyond a buffer stop. The reopened line has a substantial viaduct and its Sunday only train service hardly seems sufficient justification. Apart from me the only other passengers on quite a pleasant morning were three walkers who seemed quite surprised that the train would take them as far as Eiswoog. Anyway it was a job well done, track you’ve tried and failed to do before is always highly satisfactory!

At Grünstadt the two platforms nearest the buildings have been converted to road use with the trackbed made up so that the platform surface is at kerb height. How sensible and unBritish. The connections all worked again at Frankenthal and I was safely into Mannheim Hbf (a new bridge is being built across the Rhein to the south of the old one, which will necessitate slightly more sharply curved approach from Ludwigshafen) by 1117 in good time for the 1136 RB to Karlsruhe, another 628.

A dull trudge was had to Karlsruhe, all stations via Hockenheim. It’s electrified all the way so no apparent reason for the 628s. Maybe their electrics need welding too, like CT’s 323s, but more likely the power’s off somewhere. Into Karlsruhe Hbf on the westernmost track. The trams all seem to live outside, with the ‘main line’ ones obvious by virtue of being taller with a lot more clearance underneath, no side valances and big couplers (presumably Thunderbird-compatible) on the ends. [Not strictly true. Some S-Bahn tram workings use the main line station, or at least did so in 2005.] I think they’ll probably have to be done properly which will make for a dull day or two sometime. [Not strictly true either. I did do the whole S-Bahn network later and quite enjoyed it.] Back on P4 I was pleased to find the 1314 to Freudenstadt with proper coaches and Rabbit 218296. [Tram operation was extending towards Freudenstadt at the time and I wasn’t quite sure how far it had got.]

The route to Rastatt was via Durmersheim which will provide some useful overlap at Rastatt. Some Hasserode purchased at Karlsruhe was a pleasant change from some of the rubbish I’ve been forced (obviously) to have this weekend. After a good thrash to Rastatt we spent some time waiting at km 81.2 just outside, perhaps because of crossing the layout? Another Rabbit went past the other way going like, er, a train just before we set off again so perhaps there is just a single ladder across the station approach (we used P5, the easternmost, having approached on the westernmost track). It could also be that only P5 has access to the Freudenstadt line; this I didn’t notice.

The River Murg, a fairly harmless looking thing, has quite substantial ‘levées’ so presumably it gets fairly rabid in the winter. It seems that the trams go all the way to Freudenstadt now, as the next departure from Gaggenau after us was S41 at 1421. Anybody wondering where Raumünzach is might want to know that it’s at km 31.4. No, in fact the trams don’t go to Freudenstadt. There are certainly no wires beyond Raumünzach. Staggering gradient up to, and down from Freudenstadt Stadt which not surprisingly is more convenient to town than the Hbf which is about a mile out of town and 100 metres lower.

218 296 at Freudenstadt Hbf with a train from Karlsruhe on 17-11-02. It doesn't matter how much platform furniture is in the way, I still like the look, and particularly the sound, of the Rabbits.

Nevertheless, as I had over an hour to wait I did the mile back up from the Hbf to the Markt and was rewarded with a brand new home brew pub on the square. The beer is called Turm Bräu, the brew pub (catchily) Freudenstädter Brauhaus am Markt. A curious cloudy Pils, very bitter at first taste, but grew on you rather… Only time for one though so I paid my €2.16 (£2.56/pint) and tottered down (fortunately) the hill again. There appeared to be a dark beer as well, possibly others. No English spoken and I didn’t see the menu.

A little under 15 minutes to get back down, arriving with about 10 to spare. 1602 to Hausach arrived with red lights at the front (OK, it was reversing) at 1554; another 628. A nice run to Hausach ensued with some cutesy Balck Forest settlements along the way, notably Alpirsbach (which also has a brewery with shop etc.). At Hausach one of those things happened which you’d like to pretend didn’t. After 11 years of Eurogricing, mainly in Germany, I got on the wrong train. Hausach looks like this:

My kart arrived at P2. P3 (the one booked for 1705 to Konstanz) was cross platform. There was a 1613 to Konstanz and a 1705 (it was 1648-ish by now). There was an announcement made regarding Konstanz and Villingen. A train arrived in P3 with window labels showing Offenburg <-> Konstanz. Because of the announcement I took it to be the 1613 running late. It wasn’t. As it left I realised belatedly that it was heading towards Offenburg (despite the ‘wrong line’ departure) so I dived out at the next station, fortunately in time still to get the 1705 ex Hausach to Villingen which was a few minutes late. So no harm done and a useful lesson in remembering your geography!

Dark descended after leaving Hausach for the second time so it remained only to trundle up to Villingen (busy, looks pleasant) and then on a 628 to Trossingen and Rottweil. Trossingen looked completely Godforsaken - it’ll be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. At Rottweil a bus turned up outside just as I did, so I had a ride part of the way to the hotel with the help of an amiable English-speaking driver (you’d be lucky to get one of those in Telford, let alone Rottweil).

The hotel was fantastic; antique from head to foot. I have a four poster bed dated 1854 with the late owner’s name on it. Sadly breakfast starts at 0730 so no hope there, but they did knock €7 off the bill without even being asked, which I thought was more than fair.

Once again, nowhere to eat but an Italian. Moral: don’t stay in small German towns at weekends. Or at all, preferably! [Only kidding. I’ve stayed in lots more since!] That said, very nice pork fillet with what was alleged to be Alpirsbacher Pilsener. It came in a Warsteiner glass with a Jever beermat and tasted like both, but there you go. The waiter was very civil, unlike yesterday’s.

Monday 18.11.02

Up betimes as usual, this time for 0659 bus to the station which I narrowly made. Ticket purchased to Trossingen Stadt, I continued to Trossingen Bf. on a 628. The first two miles or so out of Rottweil are two parallel single lines, to Tutlingen and Villingen, then the Villingen line rises and curves away to the right. There are (at least) two large holes on the left which look a bit like ex-open cast, but this seems highly unlikely to say the least, so I remained baffled.

Trossinger Eisenbahn electric railcar no 5 at Trossingen Bahnhof, 18-11-02

In daylight Trossingen Bf. still looked Godforsaken. It’s unmanned; there’s a guesthouse opposite but little else. The Trossinger Eisenbahn line has a short rounding loop, both lines of which looked seriously rusty and I was starting to worry a bit until I walked up to the end of the platform to find that the last few metres did indeed show some signs of use. All the printed information concurred with what I had, including bustitution of the first, and last two, services. So nothing for it but to sit and wait. The unit, 4 wheel 600V DC overhead ‘railbus’ duly arrived, full (seating capacity 30) mostly with children/students. It carries a plate inside ‘Maschinenfabrik Esslingen ME24836 Baujahr 1956’ which though nearly 50 years ago could even be a rebuild. [Web enquiries plus an attempt to translate, suggest this was its original build date.] After waiting connections we trundled off to Trossingen Stadt with 5 passengers, only one of whom was gripped (me) as everybody else seemed to know the driver. For some reason he slightly resembled Albert Einstein - must have been the grey lab coat!

The line runs beside the main road for the 4 km into Trossingen (I’m slowly learning that in Germany ‘xx Bf’ means much the same as our GWR’s ‘xx Road’). It all seems in fairly good shape though why it survives, Heaven knows. Coming back, the 2 minute connection was a bit alarming though it seemed as certain as anything ever is, and in the event we were a minute or so early and there was time for a phot before 0921 turned up right on time (another 628, though from a photo at Trossingen, the service used to be Rabbit-powered.

Trossingen Stadt station on 18-11-02. The passenger platform can be seen beyond the goods shed on the left.

Forgot to note that it’s a seriously steep climb up to Trossingen Stadt, also that T-Stadt is all remarkably tidy and well cared-for with a small modernish depot-cum-museum (not a joke, it contains several splendid old relics). It’s a pity the present kart is in faded light blue and cream and not the very handsome dark maroon of the (even) earlier stock.

On then to Neustadt (Schwarzwald) via a reversal at Villingen, and Donaueschingen. A useful through journey which ensured that physical connections were done at Villingen and Donaueschingen. It’s a less exceptional journey than the map might suggest, though there’s a formidable climb and an impressively steep and narrow valley as you get near Neustadt. Weather conditions varied from blue sky to cloud outside the windows (to be fair, it’s quite high). A very hasty change at Neustadt (booked 1027-1031 but we didn’t arrive until 1029). I thought trotting down the platform to the first coach was probably unnecessary despite all the whistle blowing but I’d only just reached a seat when the train went at 1032. Anyone slow moving might have been left. A Rabbit and a 143 were top and tail on a push-pull set in the next platform – why the Rabbit was needed was unclear as the line’s electrified west of Neustadt. Perhaps there are some through workings. For the record, I arrived in P1 from Trossingen and departed from P2 to Freiburg.

Quite interesting going down to Freiburg particularly after Titisee where the gradient is prolonged and in places quite hairy-scary. It must have been excellent in steam days. The scenery is also spectacular for quite a while. After this Freiburg is a bit of an anti-climax – just a big modern city it would appear, pending closer examination. Slight problem with track too – the station operates (almost) in two halves with PP1-4 Rhein Valley and PP5-8 (or maybe 7) for Neustadt etc. There are some workings which cross over though, for example some Offenburgs from P6. My train arrived on P7. Staying here might be a good tactic some time as there are quite a lot of local branches to be done.

It’s really awful dull from Freiburg to Rastatt - not so much Rhein Valley as Rhein flood plain and long stretches of noise barrier (sometimes known as view-blocking walls) as well. Terrible stuff, relieved only by a 5 minute change at Offenburg, from double deck RE to a single deck one for Karlsruhe. Rastatt-Karlsruhe was via Durmersheim again. Unfortunately the 1348 RB to Mannheim was via Hockenheim (also again) but not a 628 this time.

363 045 on station pilot duty at Mannheim Hbf, 18-11-02.

And so, after an hour’s wait and a few photographs, to ICE574 ‘Lessing’ (aka Lufthansa ‘flight’ LH6797) for Frankfurt Airport via the direct curve off the Gross Gerau line (KBS655). One of their weird and wonderful services which reverses at F-Flughafen and again at F-Hbf before heading off to Hamburg via Kassel and Hannover.

Fog came on suddenly and very thick (<50m visibility, not flyable through) after leaving Mannheim but it cleared about half way between Gross Gerau and the airport. OK for the curve (which is partly underground anyway) but worrying for the airport. 80 minutes to go currently, and getting a bit murky…

Eventually the fog cleared, the plane turned up (half an hour late and an Avro RJ100 not the supposed Canadair) and we got away to BHX at 1930, arriving at 2010. Back in Blair’s Britain everything was as filthy and unpunctual as ever, people were smoking on non-smoking trains, using their mobiles in the ‘please don’t use your mobile’ coach to which I’d moved to avoid a mobile phone salesman yapping incessantly on his mobile, and so on, and so on.

To their credit, one of the few trains on time (though filthy and smelly) was VT’s 2039 Birmingham Irrational - Wolverhampton. It was still on time at Wolves, too. CT evened the score by providing a 170 6 minutes late on the 2135 to Shrewsbury.








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