Germany 26.3.04-29.3.04 <  >

2004’s gricing started with two more trips designed to clear up loose ends. Just after my two major bashes of Schleswig-Holstein, the Niebüll-Tønder cross border line had reopened. I had very mixed feelings about this – annoyance at missing it in the first place was replaced by relief that I had another chance and dread of having to drag all the way through the flatlands again! I had similar feelings about having trudged up to Bad Segeberg only to have it reopen to Neumünster! As well as that there were a number of oddments roughly north of a line Düsseldorf-Hannover-Frankfurt (Oder) including those lines round the Berlin area which Max the Mole had decreed I shouldn’t do. The first trip was aimed at all of that.

Friday 26.3.04

Hideously early start after exceptionally massive quiz defeat last night. This time it was Harp ‘A’ gaining revenge on uppity little Pheasant for knocking them out of the Cup! Very efficient check-in by BA, circumventing first the huge queue for the main check-in and then the one for the hand baggage only one, by using the self service machine which is childishly simple and a Good Thing! [I’m completely sold on this concept, and on the even better on-line check-in. Not so hot if you’re with BA and have baggage though, as the so-called Fast Bag Drop isn’t. Well, not at LGW anyway.] Mind you, you can get as far as the departure gate without your passport. Anyway I had mine, and last night’s on line check-in had secured me the furthest forward single seat (‘twas an Embraer) so all seemed fair set as we were called at 0650…

Air Traffic Control then struck, and the 0700 departure left the ground at 0736. As we trundled along the Hamburg taxiway at 1008 with the co-pilot telling us about the bus to the terminal, it became apparent that the last hope 110 bus at 1011 wasn’t going to be an option. Homework had been done however, and for an extra €2.30 the 1030 ‘Jasper’ got me to Hamburg Hbf at 1054 (advertised as average journey 25 minutes, so fair enough). I accidentally put the ticket machine into Turkish which wasn’t too helpful, but I eventually got my Schleswig-Holstein Ticket. Pausing only to grab a celebratory beer from Nimms (Holsten actually so perhaps the wrong word) and the number off the Rabbit (218456) I joined the 1105 Lübeck with 3 minutes to spare.

Unidentifed DMU on a Neumunster service at Bad Oldesloe 26-3-04

Slightly early arrival at Bad Oldesloe gave me time to nip over to P4 and phot the Rabbit as it was leaving. Onward then by the 1142 to Neumünster né Bad Segeberg, on a 2-car articulated low floor atrocity belonging to the Nordbahn.

The track on the new (reopened) section north of Bad Segeberg is in good condition and this midday service was quite busy (and carried a gripper) so all seems well with it so far. At Neumünster Süd there is a trailing connection off the AKN line south of the station; the two converge north of the station.

An exceptionally poor picture of the Rendsburg Hochbrücke taken from the south through the train window, 26-3-04

Only 6 minutes to wait at Neumünster, for 112109 on an RB heading for Flensburg. No new track, but wonderful views of the Rendsburg Hochbrücke. I decamped at Schleswig where a 30 minute connection was a good 28 minutes too long (it went from the same platform). The town is a couple of miles away and there are no facilities at the station beyond a travel centre, permanently closed bookshop and an out of order snack machine. I went for a walk to occupy the time and as usual found the pub just as it was time to come back. I hope Niebüll’s better, though I fear it isn’t. Another ALFA (Articulated Low Floor Atrocity) on to Husum, this time belonging to the Nord-Ost Bahn. Vincent Raven, where are you now?

A repeat trundle across the 26km of nothing between Jübek and Husum was less than interesting, but the kart was on time and the early arrival of 1432 RE to Westerland gave me time to walk down to the back and phot the loco (218329) which was propelling. The 1432 Hamburg was also propelled, by 218184. Our Rabbit made a leisurely start but was opened up as it came next to the platform canopy. This provided suitable sound effects! The little harbour at Husum was looking quite picture-skew in the sun – shame there wasn’t time for a schnitzel at Tante Jenny’s caff. Not to mention the home brew pub…

215 905 and 901 waiting at Niebüll with the AutoZug for Westerland

At Niebüll there was a station buff, but I wandered off to the town for no particularly good reason, in between photting various Rabbits. The pair which arrived with the 1601 IC for Westerland made (hopefully) a nice picture. 215s 905 and 901 departed with the Westerland ‘Syltshuttle’ carrying some 120 cars. Foolishly I failed to phot the NVAG train to Dagebüll, through sheer stupidity.

218 117 leading a northbound (Westerland) IC at Niebüll 26-3-04

I joined the NOB kart (NE81 or similar) when the IC arrived – the cheery driver came round to grip everyone who didn’t buy a ticket from him, and professed himself satisfied with my Schleswig-Holstein ticket for the whole distance. Suits me! 218216 left southwards at 1604 with serious sound effects.

Tĝnder station looking north 26-3-04. NVAG (DE) to the left, Arriva (DK) to the right

No dramatic change in the scenery north of Niebüll – flat is followed by equally flat. Speeds are quite modest, with frequent ungated crossings and some rather alarming bumps from under the kart (which could of course have been a defect with the kart rather than the track). At the only intermediate station, Süderlügum, there is some farming related freight activity. Patronage is low, with 5 and 2 children outwards, all going to Tønder, and 4 adults back plus one joining at Süderlügum. For a Friday afternoon at 1603 with a connection off an IC this didn’t seem too hopeful. Onward transport to Esbjerg, for those requiring it, was a DMU operated by dear old Arriva.

218180 was Rabbit Of The Moment from Niebüll back to Elmshorn. Some fairly electrifying starts with a 10 coach train were only explained when the train left Elmshorn in equally fine style, with 218176 working hard at the back. An electrically shoved RE from Kiel was just a couple of minutes late (quite long enough, it was very cold) for the last stage back to Hamburg Hbf to end a very satisfactory day’s gricing.

Of the hotel (Mercedes, for the purpose of future avoidance) and particularly its surroundings, the less said the better. However Baumann’s Bierhaus opposite the station provided turkey, chips, Franziskaner and a cheerful waitress and I got back unscathed, unpropositioned and in possession of a SWT for tomorrow. Reasonable result really.

Saturday 27.3.04

Despite forecasts to the contrary, a cloudless morning (and despite fears to the contrary, a good night’s sleep). Most of the riff-raff en route to the station had dispersed at 0605, leaving only a few more genuine unfortunates… Too early for breakfast at the hotel but ‘Kaffee Mit’, bless them, came up with a cup of coffee and some mayo free rolls. Left Hamburg with no wish ever to return but feeling rather sorry for the flotsam with nothing better to do than doss around Hamburg Hbf.

Before leaving Hamburg I noticed one of NOB’s (a.k.a. Connex’s) ‘Flensburg Express’ services with a horrible collection of superannuated compartment stock. Part of it appeared to be the torture chambers once favoured for DB main line services, and the rest refurbished ex DR stock. That sort of thing anyway – very pleasing not to have to go to Flensburg again! Left Hamburg on 0649 Metronome to Uelzen, this being very smartly liveried and furnished ‘round shouldered’ double deckers, sadly no more comfortable than usual. It left via lower level lines to the north of the flyover lines, and took the central pair of the three pairs across the river.

The station at Uelzen, rebuilt in 2000 under the guidance of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Looking north on 27-3-04

At Uelzen it became apparent that supporters of VFR Neumünster (possibly all of them) were aboard. Fortunately the length of the RB to Hannover was sufficiently great, and the number of VFRN supporters sufficiently few, that peace reigned at the rear of the train. High spirited youngsters or irritating yobs? Depends on your point of view! The loco on the Metronome looked new or newish, number was ME146-3.

The southbound RB proved a surprisingly good investment, as the lines into the southbound platform at Unterlüss take a quite separate alignment into the north end of the station, basically the freight line shown in Schweers & Wall, or something very close to it. I didn’t see a separate freight line, and the freight branch shown in S&W appears to trail in R at the south end of the station.

At Eschede there’s a memorial and a garden planted with a number of trees, presumably one for each victim of the ICE crash. There was one person visiting, even at 0835. Both garden and memorial are on the west side of the line. I wonder if there’s one at Great Heck, or Hatfield, or Southall, or Potter’s Bar.

Onwards from Celle on an S3 – these are worked by the hideously uncomfortable 424s. The triangle at Lehrte is a ‘proper’ one with no flyovers or other malarkey, so no problems there. On arrival at Hannover Hbf the next platform was occupied by a westbound Herta FC footex – is this the ‘elevator team’? Noisy but harmless as far as could be seen, though a large contingent of police was present on the platform. When 1009 RE to Bielefeld (111 + double deckers) appeared this too was football plagued, this time a red and yellow team, identity unknown (may have mistaken this, there were certainly a blue and yellow contingent around from Eintracht Braunschweig). Another body of police was on hand to supervise.

146 030 arriving at Herford with an RE for Düsseldorf 27-3-04

Blue Tiger 250 001 was stabled at Minden, a most impressive looking beast. On changing at Herford to do the line to Lage (Lippe) inexplicably left out thus far (due to stupidity if I’m honest), imagine my delight when Eintracht Braunschweig came to join us. Joy unconfined! The chants covered a variety of British and American favourites, including ‘My Darling Clementine’, ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ and ‘Hey Jude’.

I discovered at Lage that my intended train to Rahden went to Bielefeld before Herford, so caught an earlier RB straight back to Herford where there was time to avail myself of the immaculate gents’ for which €0.50 was a bargain under the circs! Furthermore Herford was more or less alive, unlike previous visit, and I was able to obtain a restorative Paulaner, it being 1245 by now. A couple of phots were taken including 146030, presumably the same type as the Metronome locos, on a Minden - Düsseldorf RE.

The preservation site at Rahden, looking north 27-3-04

The Eurobahn kart (a Talent ALFA) turned up on time and took a leisurely trundle to Rahden. After leaving the main line at Bünde (Westf.) there are in fact one or two small hills though these are hard to recognise after a day in Schleswig-Holstein. At Rahden there is a preservation operation, seemingly well organised with buildings securely fenced and in good repair and with all visible rolling stock also in good repair. The 2004 timetable was on display in a neat wooden shelter and the whole thing looked efficient. It appears to be sponsored by a local brewery which may help. Alas, its products were nowhere to be found. A little doze sufficed to pass the time on the return to the main line. Hiddenhausen-Schweicheln is a new halt between Kirchlengen and Herford.

A quick change at Herford, then on to a füssball-free RE6 to Minden. Mobile torture after that, with a 425 all the way to Hannover. I doubt that temper or posterior will be any better for the experience.

Temper was fine on arrival at Hannover – can’t say much about the rest! Onward transport was the 1644 RE to Wolfsburg which has proper seats. 52.8015 is stuffed outside Lehrte; cosmetically immaculate though whether it would go is another matter.

A pleasant surprise at Wolfsburg with Rabbit propulsion on offer to Stendal, 218432 being the loco concerned. The ‘classique’ line to Stendal parallels the NBS (or vice versa, strictly) but has several stretches of quite separate alignment and is well worth doing. There don’t seem to be any connections other than the one serving Stendal, which is much nearer to Vinzelberg than S&W suggests. Arrival at Stendal was on time at 1849 completing another very satisfactory gap-filling day.

‘Am Bahnhof’ denied all knowledge of HRS’ reservation but they had plenty of rooms and it all ended in smiles. After purchasing tomorrow’s SWT from the machine I wandered up into town for nosh. Er… not at 2000 on a Saturday. To be fair there were two Greek and one Italian, but German seemed to be off. The Ratskeller which H and I patronised on another occasion had turned into a Kartoffel-U-Like and the last hope was an American pub. The only American thing was that nobody spoke English. Unfortunately they didn’t speak American eether. Very nice steak though, and a litre of Schöfferhofer Weizen which was very acceptable. [One day, goodness knows when, I will learn that if you’re staying in a perfectly good hotel you may as well have a meal there. The price differential which exists in the UK between pub meal and hotel meal rarely applies!]

Sunday 28.3.04

Withdrawn Ferkeltaxis at Stendal depot 28-3-04

218 451 with a Wolfsburg train at Stendal 28-3-04

A grey but dryish morning for the first day of summer, with my second time change in three days (GMT-German winter time-German summer time). An enjoyable standard breakfast at Am Bahnhof, and full marks to them for fresh rolls on a Sunday.

The day’s travel started with another horrible 425 on the 0912 to Salzwedel. 103113 was still on the depot but I didn’t manage a proper shot. The trundle to Salzwedel was notable only for there being just three passengers, with none at the intermediate stops. The connection to the Kalbe/Calbe branch at Hohenwulsch was very rusty and as far as I could see the branch has been lifted.

The entrance to the old narrow gauge (Salzwedeler Kleinbahn, later converted to standard gauge) platform opposite Salzwedel DB station,28-3-04

With 50 minutes to wait at Salzwedel, it was a fair bet the buffet and booking office would be shut. They were. The surroundings are dreary but the town itself looked as if it might be worth the mile or so walk. It was, being a nice old town with most of its many half timbered buildings well restored, a large brick church and what appeared to be (I’ll look it up in the RG) brick fortifications. A number of phots were taken for posterity! [Amazingly my fourth edition RG makes no mention at all of Salzwedel. The tourist website however reveals that there is an old and a new (founded 1247) town which were united in 1713 by royal command – not all that new, then. The whole place is absolutely historic and yes, the brick ‘fortifications’ are just that (and some are part of a castle into the bargain).]

Back at the station I looked closely at the yellow sheet and discovered that I had (accidentally) been very clever! The Wittenberge service runs SSuO and today (28/3) is the last day, at least until December. Whether this is closure or long term engineering, is not clear at the time of writing. [Closure. Phew!] The schedule of 1hr 8 minutes for 43km tells its own tale I suppose. It’s one of those lines where you know it’s going to take ages so you might as well sit back and enjoy it… Nothing of great interest, most intermediate stops are request and only one was needed. Around 6 passengers travelled throughout and the ride was poor enough to suggest that track renewal is definitely needed. There’s a big steel bridge over the Biese just before Geestgottberg, though it looked in fair condition to the untrained eye. The formation of the line to Stendal via Klein Rossau is still visible leaving Arendsee though much overgrown. Arendsee, where the trains crossed, is the only intermediate station in good condition.

Wittenberge is still undergoing major surgery. The original station building is still in use, with new platforms on the Berlin line accessed by a subway. The Magdeburg line has been diverted to the east of the old loco depot to join the Berlin line – my DMU from Salzwedel terminated in what is now P1, the only original platform still in use. The RE to Berlin and Cottbus left 2 minutes late; with a 5 minute connection in Berlin, time will tell… Very smart

SULFA (Single Unit Low Floor Atrocity) of PEG on the Pritzwalk service at Neustadt – but I kind of miss the Little Puce Coup(e)s.

Smart operating throughout got us to, and out of, Spandau in time only to be delayed before Charlottenburg, seemingly by the ECS of a Warsaw-Berlin train. All was well though, and we were on time at Zoo and Friedrichstrasse, comfortably in front of the Angermünde train. I swapped over at Alexanderplatz, the ‘sloping shoulder’ double deckers being a small price to pay for the impeccable running. Nothing new out to Eberswalde; but it proved quite a civilised place to be stuck, with a Nimm’s selling Schöfferhofen Weizen with sufficient time to drink it and get the deposit back – and a cardboard cup into the bargain! There was also an open station buff had one wanted it, and a nice warm DMU to sit in after photting the ICs.

One of the better lines to Templin, with a few trees and a lake or two – even some slightly rolling ground. There’s a concrete factory at Götschendorf – well, a DR branch wouldn’t be a DR branch without one, would it? There’s also timber traffic at Milmersdorf. On the approach to Templin Stadt the line from Pasewalk was very rusty – unsurprisingly as there is a stop board. It seems that Eberswalde and B-Lichtenberg services are worked as two independent single lines, with the only connection between the two being west of Templin. All Eberswalde services run to and from P2, the southernmost at both stations, and Lichtenberg services form P1. For some obscure reason Lichtenberg services run empty over the level crossing east of Templin Stadt to reverse, thus requiring two apparently unnecessary barrier closures.

628 566 reversing on the stub of the Prenzlau/Pasewalk line at Templin Stadt 28-3-04. The right hand line is the one used by Templin-Eberswalde trains

The prospect of an hour at Templin wasn’t too encouraging. I decided on the fly to go through to Templin ‘Hbf’ in the hope of getting the physical connection, which didn’t happen (see above). Having checked out the timetable and worked out what happened I decided to walk back to Templin Stadt to await the Lichtenberg train. I discovered Templin to be an ancient fortified town surrounded by a stone wall with towers at intervals. By the time I’d photted suitably and walked round part of the wall (you can only do it at ground level) I was too late to seek out a pub, although there’s a convenient map at T-Stadt telling you where they all are. There appears to be a draisine facility from Templin ‘Hbf’ to Fürstenberg. [There is. See]

Long trundle back to Lichtenberg, made worse by a 5 minute booked stop at Zehlendorf and a 14 minute one at Oranienburg. Time was kept however, and there was just enough time to get to Spindlersfeld for 1944 as the light failed! Route for this was S5 B-L’berg - Ostkreuz, S8 Ostkreuz - Schöneweide, then S47. To my surprise Spindlersfeld has only one platform (and a former goods shed) so there’s no opportunity for S47s to regain time by dropping back 20 minutes. Barely light coming back to Schöneweide so I really made the best of the day. One final mad dash at Schöneweide got me on to my originally planned S8 and in to the Berolina Airport Hotel (at €39, can’t complain) by about 2015. Investigation of the local pub revealed it was empty of all but a couple of drinkers (no food in evidence) so decided to go into town. Then from the station platform I spotted the Golden Arches. I was tired and hungry – no contest! Back in the hotel by 2100, ‘fed’ and watered and armed with a bottle of Louny from the garage next to McD’s. With the half hour saved by going to Spindlersfeld I don’t need to leave until 0645 tomorrow – hooray!

Monday 29.3.04

A good night’s kip though even with the extra ‘Spindlersfeld’ half hour it wan’t long enough! Off to Adlershof at 0630 for an exchange of views with the ticket machine, which made things easier by displaying English! €5.60 was sufficient to take me to Gesundbrunnen via the required curve Planterswald - Hermannstrasse and the required ‘straight bit’ Papestrasse – Halensee – Westkreuz – Westend – Gesundbrunnen. Vast amounts of DB engineering work in evidence and it looks as if I haven’t seen the last of Berlin, d.v. [27 months later I’m typing these notes up prior to going back to Berlin.] The €5.60 continued on an S1 from G/brunnen right through to Wannsee (boring, though more attractive to look at approaching Wannsee than it is approaching Gesundbrunnen).

Back from Wannsee to Westkreuz on an S7 and the final bit of Berlin track for the day was an S75 to Spandau. Olympiastadion station is impressive, with two through platforms and six terminal ones. These have wide staircases at their ends leading up to metal gates which are presumably the stadium entrance when it’s in use. All very smart and modern, maybe done as part of the unsuccessful 2000 Olympics bid? [As I type these notes at 1632 (1732 Berlin time) on Sunday 9.7.06, I assume those gates are open for people attending the World Cup Final!] Meanwhile, back at Spandau I’d arrived in time for the 0909 to Rathenow (1009 planned) but fortunately checked the timetable, to find no onward connection to Stendal. I therefore had a wander round Spandau’s shopping and market area, noting the very impressive Rathaus from the grand old days of Kaiser Bill (1910-1913 it says on the front). The Ratskeller appeared to sell the local home brew [well, it might do, but it’s not the brewery tap. To be investigated 15.7.06 all being well!] but 0915 was too early even for me. Caught the heaving (and 15 late) 0915 RE to Zoo and just had time for coffee and a roll at Thoben’s Backwaren before scrambling for the 1000 RE for Rathenow.

Between Wüstermark and Rathenow there’s a single non-electrified line to the south of the electrified double line shared by REs, ICEs etc. I wonder if there are diesel RBs on this stretch.

112 143 at Rathenow with an RE from Berlin 29-3-04

Onwards from Rathenow with Rabbit 431 propelling. The alignment is sufficiently separate in places to be well worthwhile, particularly at Hämerten where it’s over 100m away. At Schönhausen the formation of the line from Sandau is still extant and has rusty track in place, but it has been severed by the NBS and has no bridge. The connection to the Jerichow/Genthin line is still in place but very rusty and it looks as if there is no freight traffic.

Forgot to note that at Rathenow there are no Neustadt trains and the Brandenburg service is all SEV at least for now. Two up to me. On arrival at Stendal, a mini-bonus as we used the ‘up’ bay platform, 1a. Having grabbed a can from Nimms I was on my way to phot the Rabbit when the IC arrived, several minutes early. I gave up the Rabbit to get a seat on the shady side for ‘Another chance To See’ the 103 on the depot. Alas, it had gone.

Two 151s approaching Burgdorf with a southbound coal train 29-3-04

Between Stendal and Wolfsburg a similar situation prevails with the ‘classique’ line on a separate alignment particularly east of Oebisfelde where it eventually passes beneath the NBS (from north of it at Stendal to south at Oebisfelde).

A southbound ICE pauses at Göttingen 29-3-04

IC2544 was a fraction late at Hannover Hbf but the leap to an RE to Celle (to complete the Lehrte triangle) was accomplished without drama, as was the Lehrte triangle. I stayed on to Burgdorf on the principle that it looked a bit more interesting than Aligse. I missed one freight at Burgdorf but managed to phot the second, double headed by 151162/105. Back on the S3 to Hannover where the possibility of an earlier departure arose. 1400 IC to Karlsruhe was going soon but was using the classic route via Kreiensen and would only get me there a few minutes earlier. After a stroll in Hannover’s bleak shopping precinct (concrete, wide open spaces, looked OK in today’s warm sunshine, but…) another recap revealed ICE539, Bremen – München, joining a Hamburg-München at Hannover. This gave a bit (16 minutes) more safety factor so I went for that. It left slightly late due to late arrival of the ex-Hamburg portion but hurtled appropriately (250 kph noted on the display) and arrived on time at 1501. Not a can to be found at Göttingen, so there were just a couple of phots before an on time ICE72, 1542 to Hamburg. I’d booked a seat on this – good thing too! A mystery new loco was dragged through in a freight northbound while I was waiting. Only a distant shot was grabbed but it was a single ended electric, dark blue and numbered 10RE118 or some such.

Evening rush hour at Hamburg Hbf 29-3-04

Refurbished exterior of Hannover Hbf 29-3-04

Totally uneventful journey back to Hamburg, with just a minor signal delay outside Hannover Hbf. The ICE was one of the original sets which are starting to show their age a bit – could do with a refurb albeit they’re fine mechanically. The southbound ICE, which was one of the more recent ones, did seem more comfortable. On time at Hamburg though, and nothing for it but to cash in the beer can from Stendal (this €0.25 has become a point of principle!) and head for the airport, this time by S1 and the 110 bus from Ohlsdorf. This turned out to be an interesting suburban ramble, but got there eventually. Electronic check-in was wonderful, again, and the Embraer with its 7 passengers was early into BHX. I reached H and the car at Birmingham International at around the scheduled flight arrival time; you can’t say fairer than that.








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