The general ‘north to south’ plan which I’d had for German track was doing quite well, with Schleswig-Holstein and the Baltic coast cleared; next on the agenda was the Berlin area which I’d put off for a while despite having been there several times, mainly because I’d still got the scars from bashing the London suburban network a quarter of a century ago! Time to grasp the nettle, though, and with nice cheap winter air fares and a nice cheap hotel booked through HRS as usual, this was as good a time as any.Thursday 23.1.03
Start of another year, leaving Jez to take my place in the quiz team tonight and so hopefully avoid the usual ‘massive quiz defeat’! Having fretted for a week since buying my discounted CT ticket to Stansted, the journey was impeccable. 170 on the 0615 Telford - BNS, a couple of minutes late at most, and another one on 0727 BNS - Stansted Airport which waited time at every intermediate stop and was 3 minutes early at Stansted after minor delay on the triangle waiting for a Stansted Express unit and another slight delay outside the station.
Huge queues at Sleazyjet, no queues at all for Buzz and I was allocated 1F. Something to be said for hanging around for 2½ hours perhaps.
1F was comfortable enough though the coughing and sneezing from behind was a bit off putting after the experience with Victor Meldrew on last year’s Amsterdam trip. Departure from STN was on time and arrival at SXF sufficiently early to get me out of Customs 5 minutes before the scheduled arrival time. Having effectively neutralised the 1 hour time difference by flying east, daylight was fading so I decided to go to the hotel first - wisely as it turned out since the booking had gone horribly wrong. HRS were contacted and confirmed it (and the rate, hopefully, as their €38.00 + 7.50 for breakfast compares rather well with the rack rate of €145.00 including breakfast).
Nothing left for it but to go into town for a beer so back to the station, local Kursbuch and Tageskarte purchased, and off we go on 1738 S9 to Spandau. The bright idea of doing some underground S-Bahn bits during darkness wasn’t that bright as there’s only one such bit and I’ll have to do it again anyway! First port of call therefore was the Marcus Bräu pub (Müntzhof) in Müntzstrasse. Advertised as the smallest brewery in Berlin, it looks as if it’s expanded into the shop (or even two) next door. A most excellent unfiltered pils was had, €2 for 0.4l which is around £1.97/pint, very reasonable for an artisan beer in a capital city. It reminded me of Batham’s or Elgood’s in the ‘good old days’, i.e. a bit yeasty.
Onwards to Leopold’s Brauhaus, a fairly ghastly modern establishment in a shopping centre. Basically a factory pub of the sort only too familiar in the UK. Beer OK however, only marginally more expensive than Marcus. A nice unfiltered ‘Zwickel’ at €2.60 the half litre. Still ‘only’ two quid a pint. A wonderful high cholesterol German menu, including ‘Leopold’s brotzeit’ which I had. German idea of a ploughman’s, but if you’re hungry enough… I was. Off-put by the presence of some seriously inebriated persons I departed thence, to find 2021 Frankfurt an der Oder delaying everything by being horribly late. Having watched 2024 S9 go I eventually got 2048 S9 and was tucked up in bed before 2200.Friday 24.1.03
News of a quiz victory by JW & Co last night started the day well! [Clearly I’m more use to them in Berlin.] Off to the station for 0706 to Adlershof; in fact ended up on 0656 to Schöneweide whereat I waited for some semblance of daylight, returning on 0728 S9 to Schönefeld. The daylight was highly technical (particularly with the bright lights placed right over the windows in the new S-Bahn sets) but enough to see there was nothing to see, The dreariest of stretches, outer suburbia/light industry and hideously flat.
Onwards at 0758 on the RB to Potsdam via Michendorf (northernmost lines therefrom), Seddin, Potsdam Pirschheide to Potsdam Hbf. P-Hbf has been extensively rebuilt and provided a baguette and coffee for less than half the price of the hotel breakfast. The station contained the ECS of a Krakow - Potsdam overnight, all PKP vehicles. The 0917 to Oranienburg was already in so I was able to breakfast in comfort before doing the next bit of the Aussenring to Hennigsdorf via Golm. More very dull stuff with the only remotely interesting bit so far being the ‘lakes and rivers’ stretch approaching Potsdam from Seddin.
Continued from Hennigsdorf on S75 to Bornholmer Strasse via Tegel and thence on S26 to Birkenwerder via Pankow. This last was a minor change of plan having originally intended to go out to Oranienburg on S1 and back on S26. A brief pause at Oranienburg where the S-Bahn has a separate island/bay platform, then back to Hennigsdorf on 1134 RB to do the third side of the triangle at Abzw’s Hennigsdorf. Returning from Hennigsdorf there was time to be gained by changing at Birkenwerder and catching an earlier S1 to Gesundbrunnen, which I did. This enabled an earlier arrival at Ostkreuz, reached by an S3 from Gesundbrunnen, and a quick replan revealed that by reversing my plan and doing the Strausberger Eisenbahn first, before Strausberg Nord, I could run 20 minutes earlier throughout. An S5 took me to Strauberg, where the tramway proved very interesting. For its first half it’s more like a branch line, running parallel to unsurfaced residential roads and with barrier protected crossings for the surfaced roads. There are some unused freight sidings. At Hegermühle there is a passing loop then the line runs beside a main road for a while in Vicinal style, eventually terminating at Lustgarten after a short street running section. The trams are modern articulated ones, and were full and standing in both directions. The Lustgarten terminus is quite close to Strausberg Stadt station.
Back on the tram to Strausberg, where the Kosztryn services has gone over to units (624?). The S5 was a minute or so late arriving but still left me time for a phot at Strausberg Nord, a desolate looking place whose attractions might take a bit of finding!
Back to Ostbahnhof on the S5 to Strausberg Nord for a final curve bash before the light went. First off was an S9 to Treptower Park which did the ‘not stopping at Ostkreuz’ line. This was a misunderstanding of Schweers & Wall by me - they appear to show two routes but one is in fact a flyover on the low level lines. What appears to be a separate W-S curve is actually a double track with a platform only on the S to W line, hence only northwest bound trains stop.
Cross platform change at Treptower Park (the stuff of Cold War spy novels, this!) on to a Ring train (S41) to do the curve round to Neukölln (junction is east of Neukölln which has only one island platform). Then back from Neukölln to Treptower Park, and Treptower Park to Warschauer Strasse (just to check that I’d clocked Ostkreuz properly - I had) and finally to Ostkreuz for another Ring train which just about made it to Treptower Park in daylight, finishing the north-south route through Ostkreuz. Altogether a good day’s bash in the limited time available. Unfortunately there seems to be an engineering problem with Sunday’s plan, but forewarned is forearmed, and all that.
Retired to Brauhaus in Rixdorf in Glasowerstrasse, 10 minutes walk or so from Hermannstrasse S-Bahn. Another excellent unfiltered pils though really a bit expensive at €2.40 for 0.4l. Still, I had no lunch. Staff were stunning, food less so unfortunately. However, the food helped morale no end and I was away in time for 1911 back from Hermannstrasse to Schönefeld. With the prospect of an 0525 train tomorrow an early night was highly desirable.Saturday 25.1.03
Not a particularly good night, notable mainly for the amount of freight going through Schönefeld between 0300 and 0400. Up at 0440 and away in good time for 0525 RE to Berlin-Ostbf (double deckers, hard seats). Pausing to reread the parish notices it seems that tomorrow’s engineering is not as bad as I thought - may make it to Karow on time although the afternoon’s S-Bahn bits are pretty much written off. On arrival at Ostbahnhof (much rebuilt but plagued with low life) I was able to elicit that the SWT is OK on S- and U-Bahn for tomorrow. 0706 to Schwedt (Oder) was more double deckers. Despite the discomfort I’d lost enough sleep to the overnight freights to be able to kip happily as far as Angermünde where there was a certain amount of bumping as 232216 was attached. Light was appearing well before we reached Schwedt at 0742.
Perhaps Schwedt (pronounced Sh’vate) has a vibrant centre. In the course of 20 minutes walk I saw no traces. Bleak, windswept, totally unreconstructed since 1990. First crossroads down Bahnhofstrasse is Karl Marx Strasse. I did eventually find a baker and a supermarket, both 10 minutes walk from the station and opening at 0800. As I was catching the 0812 this seemed risky, so no breakfast as yet. The pub by the station was closed, naturally. The line continues, according to the map, 1 or 2 km to a large paper mill beside the Oder.
Once away from Schwedt it’s a pleasant enough line through open country which rolls very gently - no heights given on the map but 30m would be a surprise. It looks as if the Schwedt line uses different platforms at Angermünde (which didn’t matter as I was going through to Eberswalde) but I didn’t look closely due to a distraction. The gripper had descended on a person behind me who had, she said, forgotten her BahnCard. She played the whole script, tears and all, like a good ‘un. The gripper, who had ‘Seen it, heard it, got the T-shirt’ written all over him, chinged her anyway and they ended up the best of friends. Always a pleasure to watch two real pros at the top of their game…
I detrained at Eberswalde without having given any thought either to the location of the junction or to the chances of a non-defektiv toilet on the kart to Frankfurt. Breakfast was obtained at Nimm’s Mit; the 642 arrived on time, with toilet door locked! It being 4½ hours since I left the hotel and 2 hours to Frankfurt, it was very pleasing when the occupant emerged. Almost equally pleasing was the fact that the kart joined the main line for 200 metres or so to get over the canal bridge before turning off again towards Frankfurt.
Very dull stuff, and very slow too with 82 minutes allowed for 55 km to Werbig. There are a few hills before Wiezen, then it’s seriously flat. The Thöringswerder Zuckerfabrik branch, between Wiezen and Neutrebbin, has been lifted. At Werbig the north to east curve connecting the Eberswalde - Frankfurt and Berlin - Kostrzyn lines is still intact and shows signs of occasional use. The freight line from Kostrzyn to Boossen and the one diverging left after Boossen (low level route into F-a-d-O Rbf) are both out of use.
Arrived at Frankfurt an der Oder to find it in the throes of major rebuilding. Nothing much of interest other than a stuffed kettle so having photted that I wandered outside. The stadtplan suggested around 20 minutes walk to the Polish border and I still had 50, so … another ‘on foot’ border crossing notched up! Having a major road crossing makes this one fairly industrialised, not as select as Bärenstein, Ebersbach, or Krzewina Zgorzelecka! BRD were very interested in my passport, Poles not. I supposed that the computer flagged me up. Anyway, got back with c. 6 minutes to spare, grabbed a celebratory beer from Ihr Platz which is still insanely cheap (85c/half litre = under 70p/pint and that’s with 25c deposit on the can), then couldn’t find the train. You go under the subway, up to P4, down another subway… still 2 minutes to go though, so no problem. Checked the on board facilities before the celebratory beer, mindful of this morning’s fright.
Absolutely nothing to report as far as Königs Wusterhausen. Track done, is all you can say. There are trains (other than the Frankfurt karts) booked out of P3 though it might be worth doing the connection one day. 1434 RE to Wismar turned up right on time but made a lethargic run to Ostbf via Rummelsburg and Ostkreuz. Only a couple of minutes late in the end though, and anyway it was cross platform for 1504 RE to Magdeburg and that was late too, so no problem barring possible loss of daylight at Belzig.
In the event the RE was back on time byZoo and a fraction early at Brandenburg for the 3 minute connection to Belzig. Both Belzig and Rathenow lines are now worked by the odious 646 karts (articulated, with ‘engine room’ amidships). It’s another very slow trudge, fields or pine woods all the way, to Belzig. 54 minutes allowed, for 35km with 7 intermediate stops, only one of which is mandatory. It’s a fairly rough ride, suggesting with the timings that the track isn’t wonderful. Only a handful of passengers going south at 1601 (I think 5 arrived at Belzig) and only one going north at 1701. Can’t help wondering, gratefully as I missed it before, why it reopened. Another fine day’s bashing none the less, with an impressive ‘red sky’ yielding just enough light for a phot at Belzig.
Only a bright sunset made even this phot possible! A 646 stands at the Brandeburg line platforms at Belzig, 25-1-03
The trundle back to Brandenburg was enlivened by the kart failing after about a third of the distance. Luckily the driver was able to restart it, and after he had peered knowledgeably into a couple of panels in the engine room, off we went sufficiently quickly to arrive at Brandenburg Hbf on time at 1758. A sharp exit was made for the advertised connection at 1801 to Berlin (RE1 to Cottbus). Into Alexanderplatz on that (the ‘elevator team’ Hertha had won today and everyone was in high good humour) for a bit of research. It revealed that half an hour should be allowed for tomorrow’s Alexanderplatz/Pankow transfer. It had occurred during the day that money could be saved by buying variegated tickets for tomorrow instead of an SWT; this was indeed the case and the kindly Reisezentrum lady saved me yet more, reducing the total to €15.50 which compared very favourably with 28 for an SWT.
Cheered by this I made the long (and scary) march to the Brauhaus Georgbräu. Their unfiltered pils was vinegary and outrageously expensive at €3.05 for 0.4l. Good pub, rubbish beer, expensive food, best avoided. Pity - as a pub it’s my sort!
There followed an abortive sortie to Jannowitzbrücke and down more dodgy streets to Zur Letzten Instanz where there weren’t any tables to spare. Only cooking beer visible so I didn’t bother and returned to Marcusbräu, the best of the bunch. Excellent supper there and a litre of the equally excellent pils, all at a reasonable price. Finally back to Schönefeld on S9 with some extremely unpleasant young persons, whom I can only hope I misheard.Sunday 26.1.03
Another hideous early start, for 0615 S9 to Ostkreuz (eventually remembering to leap off at one of the intermediate stations to composte my ticket), thence S75 to Lichtenberg for the 0710 to Tiefensee. This too has gone over to the wretched 646 karts. Loco haulage is becoming a rare event.
Light dawned after a fashion on the way to Tiefensee, where there wasn’t sufficient time to see how far the line went. It’s a dreary and rather run down station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere though again there wasn’t time to investigate. There was a light covering of snow which at least helped the phot on a grey morning. The only car to be seen was a Trabbi - it’s that sort of place.
Back to Lichtenberg on the kart. What a dull line – flat woods followed by flat fields followed by flat dreary suburbs. Very uninspiring altogether. Onwards to Alexanderplatz on an S75, thence by U2 (part tunnel, two stations elevated) to Pankow to avoid the Gesundbrunnen engineering closure. S2 from Pankow to Karow, arriving in sufficiently good time to get 0945 to Schmachtenhagen instead of 1015 to Gross Schönebeck. By some little miracle I checked the timetable before Basdorf and found out just what a bad idea this was! The service to Gross Schönebeck is 2 hourly and I would have had to wait for the 1215… Accordingly I dived out at Basdorf and waited half an hour for the 1030 to Gross Schönebeck. The good news was that there was a station gastätte, proudly announcing that it opened 1000-1400 on Sundays. However looking at the menu board to see whether breakfast might be forthcoming, I found the notice saying they were on holiday from 20th to 27th and thanking me for my understanding. It being of course 26th, understanding was not in copious supply.
The line is operated by, or at least for, NEB (Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn AG). Stations are modernised and wear smart royal blue paint - trains and staff are DB, however. HQ is at Basdorf where there were two rakes of hopper wagons, branded NEB and Rail Cargo Berlin GmbH, presumably used for an open access freight service. At Gross Schönebeck the line ends at buffer stops and doesn’t appear to have gone further. There is a water crane and an unused rounding loop. With 45 minutes to wait, 1058-1143, I set off once again in search of breakfast. At the end of Bahnhofstrasse was a large café/pub - it opened at 1300 on Sunday. I walked the length of the village to the other pub, ‘The President’, which was firmly shut. Round the corner was a snack bar which said it opened Monday to Friday, but to allow for me extending my stay it had a hand written notice saying it was closed on Monday. Back to the nice warm kart to wait.
Not wanting to spend any more time at Basdorf I stuck to the plan (this time) and went back to Karow where the train was a minute or two late. Karow is dingy, run down and devoid of facilities but wonder of wonders, I was able to get a coffee and biscuits in a very pleasant caff just down the road. Morale substantially improved! Karow has lost its main line platforms 1 and 2 so the karts use the eastbound S-Bahn platform 3 and duck into a siding to let the 10 minute interval S-Bahn service past. The timings are such that the same kart went to Schmachtenhagen as had taken me to Gross Schönebeck.
Later the same morning another of the ubiquitous 646s is seen at Schmachtenhagen, working one of the weekend only market trains.
The reason for the weekend extension of services to Schmachtenhagen is apparent when you get there - a large market called the Oberhavel Bayernmarket. In the 6 minutes available I worked out that Oberhavel was the surrounding area but couldn’t make time to find out what a Bavarian market is. It was quite popular anyway, with a large car park. The station is just a single platform on plain line, with a buffer stop and stop board between it and the adjacent level crossing. The line to Oranienburg continues beyond, with track still in situ. The train is flagged across the main road at Wensickendorf.
Back at Karow it was straight across the platform to an S2 which had chased us in, and then at Bornholmer Strasse on to the dreaded Schienenersatzverkehr to Nordbahnhof. This proved highly interesting to one who’d just read Anthony Beevor’s book about the fall of Berlin in 1945. Just after Gesundbrunnen the bus passed a very large concrete structure with two round turrets, seemingly now used as a viewpoint. I could only assume it was one of the WWII flak towers, which I’d thought had all been destroyed. [Checking up on this while transcribing my notes 3 years later, I was substantially correct. It was the Humboldthain tower, partially destroyed after the war but with enough remaining to be used as a viewpoint, for ‘rock’ climbing and as a relic of the time.]
On from Nordbahnhof on an S2 to Potsdamer Platz (definitely developed in the New Brutalist style. It’s high-tech and soulless) then an S25 to Lichterfelde Süd and back. Final S-Bahn grice was to Lichtenrade on an S2. All deadly dull, if I’m honest.
Of course the last S2 was supposed to be one to Blankenfelde! Luckily a northbound one was just leaving from the southbound platform so I dived on to that, got both crossovers and was able to get back to Schichauweg in time for the Blankenfelde train. Lichtenrade has a level crossing - how many of those on the S-Bahn, I wonder.
Arrived at Blankenfelde in comfortable time for the 1623 to Schönefelde which used the direct curve. With no more usable daylight I stopped off at Schönefeld to walk back to the hotel and pay my bill while HRS’s office was still open, in case of queries with the rate. In the event there was no problem and I’m now assured of a timely departure tomorrow. Back to the station then, and away on S9 at 1718 in search of food and beer at last. This was taken at Deponie No 3, supposedly at 1-3 Georgenstrasse, off Friedrichstrasse. Strange numbering, as it’s very close to 190. It’s in a railway arch. Decent enough pub, beer unexceptional but the Berliner Burgerbräu was OK (€2.50/0.5l) and the meatballs excellent once sent back and reheated! I also made a final visit to Marcus-Bräu, as it’s not all that far and much the best value for money. Early night then beckoned, so I left it at that and got a very wedged (young military lads with unnecessarily large bags) RE at 2010 back to the airport. No problem, other than the difficulty of climbing over the u.l.b’s having left it a bit late.Monday 27.1.03
Off to Schönefeld for an early check-in on the off chance of being able to do Spindlersfeld before the flight but I decided it was all a bit risky so I settled for an on-time flight with Buzz (146 this time) and a horrendously tedious ride back with CT having been refused access to the 1120 ex STN. [There was plenty of room, but my cheapo APEX ticket was for the next train and the guard clearly regarded officiousness as next to Godliness as he couldn’t even be bothered being polite.] 12 minutes late at Wolvo (1616) but as luck would have it 1614 Salop was right behind so I was away in a couple of minutes. Signal delays at Cosford and Madeley Jn (many orange S&T jackets at the latter) but otherwise OK in a 170. From STN the train had been a filthy and decrepit 158; really CT ought to lose their franchise for operating rubbish like that. [They have, now.]
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