Germany 3.7.10-7.7.10 <  >

Having had enough of flying in general and a certain “low cost” “airline” in particular I’d decided to experiment with all-land ventures. Accordingly (and foolishly as it turned out) I planned a 10 day global Interrail in two parts. The first was aimed at north east Germany where a couple of lines had been extended since I’d last been in the area and there were two narrow gauge lines which I wanted to revisit.

Saturday 3.7.10

A three month layoff while my passport was renewed is now over so it’s a 10 day global Interrail to celebrate, in two parts. Off to Germany again for the first part, starting with the usual non-functioning air con on Arriva’s 158 to Wolvo. At the time of writing VT’s Bendyleano (390 013) isn’t doing much better but maybe it’ll improve when we’re underway at 08:45. [It did]

Punctual (in fact 4 early due to the usual compensation-resistant timetable padding) into EUS. I was sitting in the last coach and by the time we reached Watford I was ready to part with my breakfast. Defective tilt? Something about the rear coach? Or just me? Who knows. Anyway, a walk down to the Metropolitan, a pint of Silver Adder (Mauldon – excellent) and a ride back to St Pancras on a no. 205 free taxi restored health and temper.

Two Eurostar sets awaiting departure from St Pancras on 3.7.10

Took a while to find the M&S at the ‘domestic’ end which had the requisite plain sarnies but success in the end. Thence back to the Betjeman Bar (dreadful) for a half of Sharp’s Betjeman Ale (nice). Finally to check-in which is momentary with the bar coded ticket, airline-style hoo-hah with the rucksack, and finally French immigration.

Loaded up OK and ready to go at 12:55 (sched 12:57) with the usual clueless muppets scampering up and down trying to find their coach. Will they succeed? Seemingly yes, as we’re away no more than 10 seconds late. Same route as last week [I’d been out to Gravesend on a Javelin for the connection on to the North Kent lines], noting the curve round to the North London line heading west. Through Stratford at a brisk pace on the second track from the north. Stopped at Ebbsfleet on the north-easternmost platform line (second track from the north-east), away again at 13:14. Tunnel in was 13:36, tunnel out 14:56, after a slowing at Cheriton. Into Lille Europe (where it’s raining) at 15:24. Away 3 late at 15:31 with a minor seat riot going on around me. I don’t know why they’re finding it so difficult.

An unidentified Thalys TGV set makes its way out of Brussel Zuid/Bruxelles Midi heading for Amsterdam on 3.7.10

3 late at Brussel Zuid so plenty of time for a Carrefour visit (St Feuillien Blonde) and to see Argentina equalise [disallowed, I discovered later] against Germany before joining an air con IC set on the sneakily replatformed 16:57 to Eupen. It’s pretty full, so time for some Old F*rt With Beer Can tactics.

It worked. P12 at B-Zuid and Schaarbeek. Fast lines, diveunder, flyover into P3 at Leuven. Nice rebuild at Leuven but it’s lost its character and quite possibly the excellent stand-up bar on P1 (couldn’t see from where I was on the train). Liège Guillemins Nouveau is a shock – every bit as glamorous as the old one wasn’t. I’m almost sorry I haven’t time to stop and have a look.

A good 5 minutes early into Verviers Central (18:19 vs 18:24) for no good reason that was apparent. Nothing untoward about the running though – brisk not risk – so it must be a timing quirk. It just meant sitting at Verviers for 10 minutes.

Despite the new high speed line there’s a new tunnel being built which will bypass Dolhain-Gileppe. Another reason to come back, as if I needed one. Welkenraedt’s had a pretty dramatic rebuild too, in the usual DB idiom.

1351 stands at the rear of IC515 after arrival at Eupen on the evening of 3.7.10

I was surprised (why? no rubber doughnuts, it was obviously a driving trailer at the front) to find at Eupen that I was on a 10 coach loco propelled set powered by 1351!

A quick scrabble round at Eupen because I’d forgotten where the bus stop is [in my own defence, I haven’t been there for several years and I think they’ve moved it] but reason prevailed and I was there in good time for the no. 14 at 19:06 which took me to Aachen for €4.45, saving me from having to use a day of my Interrail or pay an exorbitant single fare.

Ibis Normaluhr is next to a bus stop and 5 minutes walk from the station, so that suits pretty well. The town’s going fairly mad (Argentina ‘equaliser’ offside, result Germany 4 Argentina 0) but the Ron Pattison recommended Zum Alten Zollhaus is quiet and does food and Sion Kölsch so all is sehr gut. Finished up with a Schöffenhofer Weizen just to get the beer styles truly mixed.

Sunday 4.7.10

A fairly fractured night despite the air con. Up at 04:30 for 05:13 Aachen Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf, dostos hauled by 111011. Breakfast just a distant hope...

Not all that distant really. Timekeeping slipped a couple of minutes before Herzogenrath but was recovered before Mönchengladbach where we waited time (also at Neuss). Arrival at Düsseldorf was spot on and the 19 minute connection was more than enough to get water, and mayo-crammed breakfast. ICE543 arrived early and with plenty of spare seats so I’m comfortably settled away from the sunny side just in case (it’s cloudy this morning!). [The frequent mentions of weather, air con and such like matters in the notes are because I hate hot weather and the forecast temperature for the Sunday was 37°C which is a bit warm even if you enjoy it...]

The advertised (in Max Maulwurf Weekly) diversions were taking place – we went via Wanne-Eickel, arriving in Dortmund an earth shattering two minutes late. A quick stop and we were barely a minute late leaving. Compare and contrast with a VT diversion via Northampton.

A diversion of a different sort was put on at Hamm (where we arrived early). A cavalcade came through headed by green liveried E40 128 followed by 0-8-0T 082 008 bunker first, a wagon carrying shunter 323 525 sans wheels, assorted retired coaches and ending up with an immaculate maroon V200 116. Reason unknown but quite entertaining. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the camera in time.

There was a live kettle at Wunsdorf – only glimpsed, but I’d guess at a Kriegslok. Another minor excitement between Dedensen and Seelze where we diverted via the freight line to the south side of the wagon works.

Uneventful thrash to Spandau then, arriving 5 minutes early. How much better to have sensible intermediate timings instead of ones they can’t keep with 10 minutes bunged in at the end to make the punctuality figures look good. Held up at Charlottenburg resulting ina 2 minutes late arrival at Berlin Hbf.

IC2353 on to Pasewalk is a bit of a nightmare. Wedged, late (9 min late leaving Gesunbrunnen and it’s supposed to have stood at Hbf for 16 min) and no air con. The best available stock is an ex-IR semi-open. Thank goodness I was (eventually) able to find reasonably priced Hasseröder (Kaiser supermarket on the lower ‘shopping’ floor, 89c.).

Lateness was starting to reduce but Max the Mole struck with a long single line stretch from Wilmersdorf to Prenzlau. About 4¼ late from Prenzlau though, so currently Ueckermünde Stadthafen is looking like a runner.

About 4 down at Pasewalk, so it was, easily. I even had time to ask the kindly booking office lady if my Interrail was valid to Ueckermünde and she said it was. I therefore presented the IR to the nice conductor lady on the train and she accepted it. Since I thought it wasn’t valid, very pleasing!

OLA's 2-car unit 0007 stands at Ueckermünde Stadthafen on the very hot afternoon of 4.7.10

The extension at Ueckermünde is minuscule – hardly worth the two stations you’d think. As the name suggests, Stadthafen is by the harbour. The kart was 0007, a two car ALFA with air con working, thank goodness. It’s seriously hot outside. The extension curves eastwards from the current Ueckermünde – there’s no sign of the old station. No – I’m lying. It’s south of the new one so the extension’s a bit longer than I thought.

Train was full of kids returning from a weekend away on the outward journey – return was virtually empty [I was wrong. It filled up pretty well at the intermediate stations.] We waited at the junction for a northbound RB or RE which was pretty annoying as it might have saved me an hour. Jatznick has a new station immediately south of the old, which is now boarded up with the ‘buffet’ defunct. Serves it right (see 9.4.99).

Back on the main line, 0007 stands at Pasewalk on 4.7.10

After a restorative cold Hasseröder from the shop at Pasewalk I managed to find a seat in the open air con 2nd on IC2355 which is also about 5 late, hopefully not enough to worry about. Max has struck only seconds after I wrote that, putting us wrong line at Jatznick. The place seems to haunt me. The air con second already had failed toilets and the air con’s now failed as well so it’s a good job I’m off in a couple of minutes. Seems DB are learning from Arriva rather than vice versa – the conductor’s just opened a window!

Only a minute or so late at Züssow. All manner of muppetry going on at the ticket machine so I gave up and when the UBB train arrived, collared the gripper to buy my tageskarte. Züssow has also been rebuilt just south of the original, as an island platform. The bay has gone so all trains run on to/off the main line with a bonus crossover for south bound trains. There are two goods loops and also a turnback siding for the UBB trains between the two passenger tracks at the site of the old station (whose main building remains).

The UBB train is two 2-car sets of the centre ‘engine room’ variety. The air con’s working well but my word it’s hot in the engine compartment as you walk through! Zinnowitz still has an assortment of Ferkeltaxis and trailers plus a couple of 201s which look as if they’re used for civil engineers’ work.

Driver's eye view (almost) from the UBB terminus at Swinoujscie, looking towards Ahlbeck and the German border.

Minor hiatus at Seebad Heringsdorf where we were turfed off the kart (which seemed to have been having problems). There was another one waiting however, and we reached Świnoujście Centrum on time. A quick dash across the road to a supermarket yielded a can of Lesajsk – 5.5% and about 50p. As for the railway – dead straight, wooded, boring! But short, and not likely to get longer in view of the buildings opposite the neat new two platform terminus. The service is fairly frequent, with the last train to Stralsund at 20:18, and seems popular. No antics at Seebad Heringsdorf on the way back; the same kart worked through.

The kart filled steadily to Zinnowitz – from there on was mayhem until they (almost) all piled out at Züssow to get the Berlin RE. At the time of writing it’s pretty quiet again.

And it remained so to Stralsund, arriving (unlucky) at P5, one of the curved ones, at 20:29. That ended a marathon day 2 minutes behind time, which was pretty good! Not so Stralsund, which was shut for Sunday evening – even the hotel restaurant was shut at 21:10. I’d forgotten how bad Germany is in this respect.

Monday 5.7.10

Quite a good night considering the room temperature was 27°... Off to the station at 05:25 by which time even a T-shirt felt overdressed. The station coffee/bakery shop was in action so I filled in the time with a coffee before the 06:00 RE to Rostock, an evil and quite well filled 429.

99 2321 pauses at Bad Doberan Stadtmitte with 08:35 Bad Doberan-Ostseebad Kühlungsborn West on 5.7.10

On to Bad Doberan on a diesel kart at 07:06, half an hour earlier than planned to give more phot spot time at BD. Inevitably it’s clouding over. But no, back to blue skies at BD. Set breakfast taken at the caff opposite BD Stadtmitte pavement, or ‘station’ as we experts call it, after checking Goethestrasse for photo spots.

99 2323 at Bad Doberan waiting departure with 09:36 Bad Doberan-Ostseebad Kühlungsborn West on 5.7.10

Phots weren’t too successful, just incompetence I suppose. Bad luck too – got back to the station for a nicely lit phot of the loco for the 09:35 departure running round (everything seems to work bunker first to Kuhlungsborn). It ran round – but it brought five extra coaches with it from the depot, so it was another interesting shot. Not. Last hope is the 10:18 arrival which should be chimney first.

It was. Couldn’t get the runround though, as the kart for Rostock turned up right on time while the kettle was still on the shed. Just not my day, but it was fun in a way. BD has a curious layout with one long platform for through trains (1 and 2) and a bay. The eastern half (2) is a loop so Rostock-bound trains block the line while they stop in P1, then pass the oncoming Wismar service which waits in P2.

On time at Rostock where I managed to grab a Hasseröder from the fridge before the 11:01 RE to Sassnitz, wedged with a large party of schoolies and their large party of luggage presumably going somewhere on Rügen. Why we’re also carrying two DB security bods, I have no idea. Natürlich the air con either isn’t keeping up or isn’t working at all (it’s a hideous 429 again – this endless tide of plastic is even getting me down a bit).

Mercifully not Rügen. The (very well behaved) kiddies got off at Velgast making conditions much easier. Some more (less of them but younger and noisier) joined at Stralsund. The new high level (presumably for shipping purposes) Strelasundbrücke has, also presumably, greatly assisted the Rügendamm traffic problem (see 17.8.92). It’s certainly impressive.

Pressnitztalbahn railcar 650 032 waiting departure from Bergen auf Rügen on 5.7.10 as PRE80105, 12:40 to Lauterbach Mole

The second wave of kiddies piled out at Bergen auf Rügen, which still has a station gaststätte (see 17.9.93) and now has a Bahnshop too. Lauterbach is now a Pressnitztalbahn service so I decided to pre-empt Interrail problems by asking the gripper when I joined the train. She say ‘yes’, rightly or wrongly. I think I’d better pay on the dampfzug from Putbus though. The kart is a SULFA of the diagonal window variety but unlike the main line, the air con works.

At Putbus €3.60 got me a nice Edmondson ticket to Lauterbach Mole and back, and a ride over that pesky new connection. Job done, as they say. Back at Putbus I’d intended to bunk the shed but there was only one loco and anyway it was too hot to bother. I settled for an Erdinger at the pub by the station. The operation for the narrow gauge trains is much as I suspected: a diesel is put on the rear at Putbus, the kettle hauls the ensemble to Lauterbach Mole and the diesel hauls it back again. Both then retire to the shed before the kettle returns to work to Göhren.

0-8-0T 99 4011 about to rejoin its train (P107 13:22 Lauterbach Mole-Göhren) at Putbus on 5.7.10

A warning whistle from the kettle prompted me to finish the Erdinger in time for a final phot as the loco came back on to the train. Not quite the shot I’d have liked as I didn’t want to wreck it for all the tourists on the platform ramp but at least I’ve got that virtuous glow.

Back at Bergen there wasn’t time for the (not as good as it used to be anyway) bar and the shop was in the Bitburger/Warsteiner arena, so I retired to wait a minute or 3 for the RE to Stralsund. Wonder of wonders, a DB train with working air con. I may regret that jibe with 4½ hours to go to Hannover.

Shop situation retrieved at Stralsund where the (Spar not DB) shop has a better variety. The stock for IC2379 was in when my RE arrived but the loco’s at the back and I really can’t be bothered in this sticky heat. It’s clouded up now so maybe it’ll be better in Hannover (or not). Air con open stock with coolish air coming through so that’s hopeful.

Yes, helped by cloud cover it does seem to be working. Delayed a couple of minutes at Velgast by an eastbound RE and 7 minutes at Ribnitz-Damgarten West by 101 047 on IC2376. Prospects for a quick change to the ICE at Hamburg don’t look good but there’s only 19 minutes in it so it’s no big deal to stay on the IC.

Presumably the 6 minute stop at Rostock allows for any delays on the single line. Only 2 minutes late away in the end. How nice it would be if the Reiseplan showed the reverse at Tostock, which I’d forgotten. No bones broken though, there’s still plenty of room. Air con failed before Bützow but was coaxed back to life at Warnow. Will it last?

OK still at Schwerin where we arrived a couple of minutes early. 35 minutes scheduled for 57 km so only about 60 mph although with some delay around Bad Kleinen. Superb bash from Schwerin to Hamburg on a really immaculate railway, DB at its best. Arroved early so time to decamp on to ICE673 for, hopefully, a 20 minutes earlier arrival in Hannover.

I’m sure someone will tell me what a DSB Nohab is doing in a yard just north of Celle (east side of the line) but for the moment I’m bewildered. Meanwhile, a fairly deceptive thrash to Hannover as we didn’t seem to be going quickly, particularly as far as Lüneburg. Quick or not, we were just a minute late. A pretty good day all in all, as the phots look less worse than I’d feared.

View from a Hannover hotel room on 5.7.10! The loco is a 140, possibly 606.

The Étap is just the job – cheap and cheerful with at least pseudo air con, and right at the back of the station. My room overlaps the west end of the platforms.

Plenty of noshortunities obviously, this not being Stralsund and not being Monday, but I settled for McDs for speed. Wished I hadn’t when I got to the Ernst August Brauhaus, but that’s life. And if we’re realistic, their beer prices are a bit intimidating at around €3.40 for 0.4l (just over £4/pint). I tried the Bio-Weizen (sounds like washing powder) and the standard pilsener – didn’t find either to be exceptional. In fact the B-W was seriously bland to my taste. I won’t be rushing back, despite the excellent service. The waitress, already working like a one-armed paperhanger, really had to rush when the heavens opened and the customers all fled for shelter. I stood in the doorway out of the rain and paid when she’d rounded everyone else up, then walked back in a real downpour. Luckily for me I was one of the very, very few pessimists with an umbrella!

Tuesday 6.7.10

Quite a lie-in this morning – 05:55! Leaving at 06:25 I saw the stock for IC242 come in so having checked there weren’t large crowds there was time to grab a coffee to reboot the brain.

Remarkably uneventful for the first hour and three quarters with only a brief signal check near Rheine resulting in a horrifying one minute late arrival (recovered in the 2 minutes stop). The offending signal was just before a level crossing so that might have been involved.

101 145 was removed at Bad Bentheim in favour of Dutch haulage – hope it does better than last time I came this way (see 4.6.01). Well I'll be ... round comes the Dutch gripper just before Hengelo, and on its 17th journey my dutifully filled in Interrail travel log actually gets looked at! [for the first and last time, as it turned out]. Comprehensive trilingual train announcements too.

NS 1761 at Deventer with IC242 Hannover-Schipol on 6.7.10 .

No problems with the NS haulage, a graffiti’d 1761, which got us to Deventer a minute or so early. And its great to be back in the land of mayo-free breakfast. On to Rotterdam after said breakfast, in some sort of electric kart with nasty orange vinyl seats.

Just a minute late at Rotterdam Centraal where the main building has vanished, replaced by the world’s largest Portakabin. The southern road approach and the first couple of platforms are a huge building site. At the far end is the Doelencafé which I managed to find very nearly almost unaided – I was virtually opposite when I asked at a shop. Several Pelgrim beers on offer (I had the summer wheat beer, not quite like German or Belgian equivalents, but nice) and a reasonable range of Belgian bottles.

Back at the station 186 111 (Hertz RentaLoco) was noted on a northbound ‘Fyra’ service (horrible livery) and 186 121 was also wandering through light engine. 186 224 (aka NMBS 2832) was the haulage for my 12:55 to Antwerpen Centraal.

The new line diverges on the west side over a new higher level Moerdijk bridge then runs parallel past Lage Zwoluwe then crossing above the heritage route to head off towards Breda, Roll on the end of 2011, the latest date suggested for opening. For the time being, the 186s are going via Roosendaal. 186 230 was passed leaving Roosendaal towards Amsterdam at 13:31.

Terrible crawl through Essen and Wildert – really how they can bill the non-Thalys services (or any of them until after Brussels) as High Speed is difficult to understand. Close study of the Belgian system map suggests I may need to delay my arrival in Brugge slightly as there seem to be three routes to Berchem from the low level at Antwerpen Centraal.

The two rather gloomy underground levels of the new look Antwerpen Centraal on 6.7.10

Map is thoroughly confusing. In fact there are two levels below ground. P21-24 right at the bottom are the through ones; 12 etc at the middle level are south facing terminal ones. So another visit is needed to sort it at some point.

Meanwhile it took me almost half an hour to sort out tram tickets, from the machine in low level tram ‘station’, little thanks to Mr Helpful in the De Lijn info who either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English or French. The rest of the half hour was spent getting to Melkmarkt on the tram then a few minutes circling round Elfde Gebod. Everything the GBG says about service there is right so I left Mr Can’t Be Bothered to his ludicrous prices.

Thence to Paters Vaetje just round the corner. What a contrast – lightning beer service from a delightful bar lady, and draught Karmeliet Tripel to die for, at €2.50. The pub cat is also an absolute star. A fine bar, to be supported! Back for the 15:35 to Mechelen from the bottom level, plastic seated unit 325. Nasty.

While waiting at Mechelen 186 125 arrived with my planned 16:10 from Antwerpen (IC 9244). Inevitably, as I’d gone early to make sure of the connection. The IR I’m on (IR4137) has 2134 for haulage.

A real trudge into Gent had us in 5 late at 17:12, not too good for an 8 minute connection but I was there by 17:14 and IC1838 with 2737 on double deckers was a few minutes late anyway. Into Brugge to find the Étap which looks as if it’s going to be in a half built car park but is just the job, overlooking the station. Once they gave me the right room that is (first one hadn’t been prepared).

Off into town, Bear closed for two weeks from yesterday as feared so straight to Garre where there was too much noise to hear the [classical] music. The beer is superb, as ever. Good job I went in there early as everything else was disastrous. Two GBG entries disappeared, one shut. Remembered Erasmus but it’s an upmarket restaurant. 16 draught beers and ‘Feng Shui interior’? What are they thinking of. I went in for an enjoyable McChouffe but felt ridiculously out of place. Two further visits to Garre at various times, interspersed with a steak and overpriced Brugse Tarwebier – the bores were still in full voice and I’d have had to sit upstairs so I retired to the Étap to bed. Even if I’d cadged a place at someone’s table I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

Wednesday 7.7.10

Finished sulking, showered and breakfasted (possibly a small premium for no-salad no-mayo from Subway but worth it) ready for the nearly empty 08:58 Brugge-Brussel Zuid, loco propelled by 1343. The Étap was officially declared a Good Choice despite the beer disappointments.

2154 heads an unidentified IR at Brussel Zuid/Bruxelles Midi on 7.7.10

Completely uneventful trip to Brussel-Zuid where a couple of phots were taken, beer obtained and an ice cream enjoyed! The immigration does now seem to be sorted with France (rep. Schengen) at St Pancras and UK at Brussels. Good effort, since you have to turn up early so you may as well spend time doing passports when you can’t go anywhere rather than have a complete trainload arrive at once at the other end and have to queue when they want to get off to wherever they’re going to.

Totally uneventful again to St Pancras. Due 1233 and on time-ish – in my seat on the 13:03 Bendyleano to Brum at 12:49. Thence via the Great Western for Golden Glow, a hot pork bap and an LM170 to Cosford where H collected me after her afternoon’s filming.

Although I’d done a few odd bits of track on both outward and return journeys I was beginning to doubt the cost/benefit ratio of spending over half of the five days getting there and back. It’s certainly quite a pleasure to travel in comfort in decent air con stock after all those years of rattling about in German ferkeltaxis and Czech wheelie bins, but it plays hell with your holiday days. But the die was cast, so off I went to Austria the following week...

 

 

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