This was the second of my late autumn (being generous, or early winter) discount trips. The previous one having gone a bit pear shaped I had to recover the situation with Enschede first, then resume the gradual move south…Friday 29.11.02
A better start than 2 weeks ago! After a quiz win last night H again delivered me for the 0615 from Telford. Missed the 0648 BNS-Coventry this time (see 15.11.02) and had the very doubtful pleasure of a Virgin Voyager on the 0707 Bournemouth. Clean this time but noisy, rough ride and seriously uncomfortable seats. They’ve really got it thoroughly wrong. Evening trip via the no 12 to Coventry station and 1729 Coventry-Birmingham International, a nice comfortable proper train hauled by a blue liveried 86 ‘Alsthom something’. BA were on their best behaviour this time, a fairly full Embraer arriving slightly early at DUS. I just made it to the platform at D-Flughafen Terminal for the 2203 (scheduled flight arrival was at 2155), only to see it go while I was still trying to locate the ticket machine code for D-Hbf. Off to D-Flughafen main line therefore, via the Danglebahn, and into D-Hbf on the late running 2222 S1. Eventually reached the Hotel Regina at 2300 which was fair enough.Saturday 30.11.02
Nothing much to commend the Regina except it was quiet and I got a good half night’s sleep (2340-0505). Memo: the CVJH/YMCA looks the best bet at Düsseldorf, other than the Ibis perhaps. Too early for breakfast at the hotel obviously, so sandwich and water obtained at D-Hbf before the 0555 S1 to Dortmund with the usual complement of early morning weekend travellers, without whom I could happily do.
It’s odd how the atmosphere seems to change around 0700; today is no exception with the emphasis changing to people going to work. A very long trudge all stations to Dortmund-Dorstfeld where S1 is underground and S2 and S4 upstairs, neatly timed for cross platform connections just like we don’t. Mine was S4 at 0733 for Dortmund-Lüttgendortmund – daylight just starting to show as the train arrived. Fortunately Do-Lüttgendortmund is underground (the only such station on the branch) and we were 1 minute late leaving at 0748. This gave an extra 3 minutes for the daylight which was just about enough! A sunny morning would have helped, but mid-grey had to do. A quick change at Do-Dorstfeld for the third 143 of the day to get to Herne, finishing off the S2 route in the process (via Do-Westerfilde). This also was a minute or two late which spared me from the full 24 minutes at Herne, and there was still time for the purchase of a new timetable CD, bargain of the year at €5 even if it does only last 6 months. The new K-Buch was also in evidence but deemed not suitable for cabin baggage. With so much done now, the purchase of local K-Bs for Baden-Württemberg and Bayern might well suffice.
0847 Herne-Dortmund via Castrop-Rauxel Süd was a pair of low floor single unit karts, with welcome warmth. A very lethargic trundle back to Dortmund with the karts appearing to have slight adhesion problems.
Minor confusion at Dortmund Hbf with the platform display showing ‘listen for announcements’. It was also showing Dortmund to Gronau via Bremen and Bremerhaven so there was, presumably, a fault! At any rate the kart, a 624, left on time and treated me to a very, very dull 2 hours across the foggy (cleared in the end) wastes of north Westphalia. A reasonable level of patronage was retained throughout though I may have been the only one to suffer the whole thing. Beyond Gronau was (marginally) more interesting. The two intermediate stations are Dutch and have two ticket machines side by side. At Enschede the two services use the old northbound (German) and southbound (Dutch) through platforms, terminating side by side provided you sit in the northern end of the German train or the southern end of the Dutch one. There is no physical connection, both lines ending in buffer stops. Having half an hour to wait (Dortmund and Münster services alternate, giving a half hourly Enschede - Gronau service) I walked into town, to find a pleasant large market town with the market in a square lined with pubs (a number of which sold Belgian beer). Through shortage of time I dragged myself away and even passed up the opportunity of collecting a beer from a very splendid ‘off licence’. Interesting to find when the Münster kart arrived that it was carrying a BRG cleaner, presumably Gronau based. You can just see a British company doing that - well, to be fair, perhaps VT.
624 671 stands at the 'German' platform at Enschede (NL) on 30-11-02. I'm looking south towards Germany - NS trains from Hengelo terminate on the track to the right.
My reward for the Puritan outbreak in Enschede was the arrival of a lady peddling refreshments. As she had a Krombacher apron I thought a beer might be an option, and so it was, at a modest €2.20 for 0.5l of Krombacher served at my seat and with a cardboard cup to boot! £1.50/pint seemed very reasonable under the circs.
There is a physical connection between the two lines at the geographical junction south of Gronau, but going to Enschede saved any grief as the two services seem on the whole to stick to their own side of the island platform. [Not to mention the fact that I needed the track, having only done the NS line from Hengelo into Enschede]. The kart was 2x3 car articulated low floor sets, class 643, Münster based. The line from Gronau to Münster Zentrum Nord is easily as boring as the Dortmund route but mercifully shorter, and on-time arrival in the bay at Münster allowed adequate time to grab some lunch, or the rest of breakfast, depending how you look at it.
The fast run to Hagen on an RE made a welcome change after 8 hours plus on S-Bahn and RBs. The Vollmetalbahn’s Alsthom articulated kart arrived with more passengers than you’d have thought possible but luckily Hagen was destination of the day and it left comfortably half-full.
Light conditions were even worse as I struggled for a picture of this Alsthom unit at Lüdenscheid, terminus of KBS434 south of Hagen. But at 15:55 on 30th November in the rain...
Lüdenscheid is basically two valley lines (reverses at Brugge), both heavily built up and quite South Walian in nature. Plenty of traffic all the way, unsurprisingly. Despite going to have a look through the cab window it was so murky (mist and rain) at Brugge that I couldn’t see if the line continued. Certainly there were some wagons there. After leaving Brugge it’s a steep climb to Lüdenscheid where all sidings have been removed. There’s just plain line into the platform with buffers beyond. The station gaststätte was alive but closed - in any case 10 minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient. The area round the station looks run down, though at 1555 on a wet November 30 th it was never going to look good! On the return to Brugge the murk had cleared enough to see three tracks disappearing into the distance and a set of semaphore signals (also S&W shows at least two freight branches!).
Back to Hagen, by which time it was dark or as near as, and then on to Köln on two REs, changing at Wuppertal Hbf for a bit of variety. Being a bit late at Köln I decided to get the 1912 RE to Koblenz and eat there – I’m so tired now I suspect it might be McDonalds and early to bed. The Köln-Koblenz REs have now gone over to 425s, Adtranz low floor things with miserably uncomfortable seats. Eventually reached Koblenz only about 3 or 4 late, very good for the Rhein valley. Not waiting ages for late running ICs to overtake at Remagen probably helped. Hotel (Höhmann) is across the road and as total exhaustion had set in by now it was indeed McD’s, and a can of Kuppers Kölsch from the kiosk.Sunday 1.12.02
I wonder how it’s possible to go through, change trains at, and stay in Koblenz so many times without noticing that a) the station building is on the east side of the station and b) that the castle overlooks the station. Some might call it unobservant. I prefer focussed. Anyway Höhmann provided a good night’s kip, a hot (eventually) shower and a sound breakfast, with bonus points for marmalade, and it isn’t raining yet (0757) so that was OK. Friendly staff and breakfast at 0630 even on Sunday. What a fine establishment.
Modern double deckers for 0758 Mannheim, same instruments of torture, no, seats as the 425. I’m gazing enviously at the 628 in P6. Nonetheless quite a good potter up the Rhein valley to Bingen (Rhein) Hbf where we were put into P201 to wait. This was highly satisfactory as 201 is on the Saarbrücken/Kaiserslautern line and required doing the connection off the Rhein valley line, hitherto needed I suspect., and also a definitely required single track connection back on to the Rhein Valley line at the south-east end. Excellent.
No such excitement at Mainz Hbf where we sat for another 20 minutes, nor at Worms Hbf (12). The tunnel between Mainz Hbf and Mainz Süd is still some way from completion although the concrete track bed is partly laid at the Hbf end with the blocks to carry the rails stacked at the side of the tunnel. Thoroughly dull all the way from Mainz to Mannheim but at least it removed any residual doubt as to whether it’s been done between Mainz and Worms. It’s been done.
Discovered on arrival at Mannheim some 6 or so late, all spent standing at Ludwigshafen Hbf for no discernible reason, that there was a 1133 RE to Neckarelz as well as the 1139 RB. I decided on that to avoid RB-ing it all day; dashed to the shop for a can of Eichbaum Export Premium whatever whatever (which, later, was excellent) and made it to the 1133 with comparative ease. Deadly dull to Heidelberg (though again it left Mannheim under the NBS flyover - I think S&W may be slightly at fault here) but a really nice run up the Neckar valley from Heidelberg to Neckarelz. You couldn’t really ask for better - much nicer for my money than the Rhein Bingen - Köln.
Not much to see at Neckarelz but the RB arrived 4 minutes late for its 4 minute connection which would have had me very fretful!
The weekend's sunshine allowance went on 143 031, seen on 1-12-02 heading west at Osterburken, junction of the lines from Lauda to Heidelberg and Heilbronn.
Osterburken was very pleasing in that although almost all Neckarelz trains go off P1 (and nothing else) and it appears to be accessible from Neckarelz without touching the main line, my train crossed to the main line and then back to get to P1 - so job done! After a glimpse of Seckach en route I suspect that might not be quite as good, but there are through Osterburken - Miltenbergs via Seckach, so we’ll see. On the way back we ran straight out of P1 so maybe the two crossovers were sheer luck of the type you get, oh, easily every Preston Guild or two.
Stuck at Walldürn for half an hour; railway wise it’s at the end of a 15km+ climb from Seckach and it was noticeably colder. Had the usual walk into town with the usual result - nice town, totally shut at 1500 on Sunday. Lots of very red sandstone but that was about it. Should have noted before that all was quiet at Seckach too.Took a short walk there, and found Sellit but alas with no Codsall station! [Sellit is a second hand shop in Codsall, about 150 metres from Codsall Station which has a very fine pub in the old station buildings.] I did pause to wonder why there is a lift to and fro PP2/3 (it’s 3 flights of stairs) but you either have to climb 3 flights or walk uphill on the road to get to it from P1. Hardly fair on the disabled.
Nice trundle down the hill to Miltenberg in another 628. The Seckach and Aschaffenburg lines join well before the station so no junction problems for once. However diaster then struck with bustitution of the Aschaffenburg service as far as Obernburg Elsenfeld. Worse, the bus driver was reckless to a dangerous degree, disregarding speed limits, travelling at excessive speed through narrow streets, overtaking approaching bends and finally taking (or making) a call on his mobile phone approaching the station. Never have I been so relieved to see a train as on arriving at Obernburg Elsenfeld. For the record, it was a Rabbit.
Pondering what to do on arrival at Aschaffenburg I imagined what the reaction of a) a British TOC b) a British policeman would be to a formal complaint from a non-English speaking German. Having thus imagined, I went for a beer instead. It was ‘Weihenstephan’ from the Bavarian State Brewery.
Back to Frankfurt on what passes nowadays for an RE - all stations except one to Hanau and all stations therefrom via Maintal. At least we didn’t go via Niederrad. Queued for RMV ticket for tomorrow and got sent away because you have to get them on the day. Traipsed off to the Hotel Atrium which is quite salubrious, thank goodness. Pondered what to do for a meal, what with Germany being shut on Sundays and not fancying McDonalds again, nor the station restaurant. Decided upon the Altstadt on the principle that in a city of a million people there might be enough to keep one pub open on a Sunday evening. U-Bahn’d it to Römer (Kurzstrecke at €1.15, not too bad) and emerged above ground to find it heaving. Literally thousands of people, Christmas market in full swing, hard to move! It’s a very large Christmas market, a couple of squares and several streets, with spectacular amounts of tat. Really, really spectacular. Nothing wrong with the bratwurst and glühwein however, which seemed more in keeping than scuttling off to the pub (of which, for future reference, there are quite a few). Arrived back at the hotel at 2115 much more cheerful!Monday 2.12.02
Civilised breakfast at the Atrium (from 0630 if you believed last night’s concierge, 0645 if not) which I managed to get through before the smokers arrived. Off to the station on foot as it had stopped raining (heavy during the night) so that I could enquire before buying my RMV Tageskarte. Very wise decision as it turned out, as Brandoberndorf is in zone 6 not 7 as you might guess from the map, which saved €5.40 (around £3.50), a worthwhile amount. There also turned out to be an FKE kart to Königstein at 0742 instead of the planned 0816, which I dived into as there was enough daylight by now. This pleased me greatly by going out via the northern route to F-Höchst, which as it starts from the north side of F-Hbf must save all sorts of conflicting moves. The connection at F-Höchst also proved well worthwhile, being distinctly separate as indicated by S&W. In fact although it’s a parallel platform, the FKE karts seem to live in their own little world at Höchst.
A foggy 08:25 was even worse than a wet 15:55! This is the end of KBS646 at Königstein, north of Frankfurt, on 2-12-02.
Königstein also proved a bit of a surprise - very flat, if rural, after Höchst but then a good climb for several miles towards the end among woods, hills, fields and all the usual green bits. Nice on a so-so morning and would have been really good in sunshine. Königstein station is fully modernised in the chemical factory idiom and has an FKE depot, also modern, at the end of the platforms. Smart, all in all, even if loos on the karts might be a good thing, especially the late evening ones!
Though the original plan was to get a through Königstein - Bad Soden train there seemed (hope this turns out!) everything to be gained by getting the same train back to Höchst on the off chance that even if it went through to F-Hbf there’d be a connection.
There was, but not the cross platform I’d expected. There was a Königstein train in P13, due out 0859, mine to F-Hbf due out 0858, and supposedly a Bad Soden one due out 0900. From the platform I couldn’t see another FKE kart (or indeed any trains at all except the 0858 and 0859) but fortunately realised just in time that I could check the DB departure sheet and found it to be in P11! Before all this I noted that PP12 and 13 do indeed only have access to the Königstein line westwards. No problem with the physical connection as there’s only one connection to the Bad Soden line, which we’d joined coming in from F-Hbf.
Off to Bad Soden without further event, to receive the bad news from the DB ticket machine that I’d have to drop back to the original timings as the service to Brandoberndorf is only hourly. Occupied the extra time by S3-ing it to F-Hbf and S5-ing it back to Bad Homburg, thus getting one more S-Bahn curve (out of Hbf towards F-West).
Away from Bad Homburg for a second attempt at Brandoberndorf having previously only got as far as Wilhelmsdorf because of a cow-train encounter. Success this time with a nice ride up and over, or more accurately through, the hill. Nice rolling countryside as far as Hasselborn Tunnel, forest thereafter. At Brandoberndorf the station appears to be a few metres south of the original, continuing beyond the platform into two dead-end sidings opposite what I took to be the old station building. The sidings are offset to the left parallel to the old running line which might perhaps indicate some intention to extend. Patronage thinned all the way to Brandoberndorf with only 4 beyond Grävenwiesbach (and only one back on the 1201 service, I think).
By 11:40 daylight was doing its winter best at Brandoberndorf, where my second attempt to do the line was successful.
Thirst having set in by now I nipped round to Mini-Mal (really) for 50cl of Licher Premium Pils which set me back a whole €0.55 (less than 45p/pint), possibly the cheapest beer in the EU? I was able to drink this in comfort, the facilities so noticeably lacking in the trains having been thoughtfully provided next to each (I think) station. Free luckily, as the supermarket cashier had all my change.
Cross platform at Bad Homburg on the way back, arriving at F-Hbf on the S5 in sufficient time to catch 1331 to Limburg which obligingly went from P1A over the bridge to get me a bit more track, as far as the bit done earlier by the FKE kart. Back from Höchst on another Limburg RE; this one came in on the north side (‘FKE route’) into P22 by way of a change. Thence by U-Bahn to Römer for a refreshment stop and another attempt on small wooden Santas in the Christmas market, which was functioning but much quieter than last night. Unsuccessful again.
On by U4 again to Konstablerwache and S5 to Rödelheim in order to get 1602 FKE kart back to Hbf. This was successful in that it emerged on the more southerly of the two lines which join the line coming in from Höchst, but I’m still unsure whether this is actually a flying junction with the F-West to F-Rödelheim line or whether the northernmost line actually joins the freight line from Mainzer Landstrasse. More research required.
Insufficient time to get to the Apostles due to the S-Bahn running late, so in case it carried on doing so I opted for 1641 Konstablerwache-Flughafen, which in the event was on time. Thence to BHX on an Avro RJ thingy and home with ‘good old’ Central Trains.
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