Germany 30.9.11-4.10.11 <  >

Despite Germany being on the ‘done’ list, they keep re-opening bits of line.There are also occasional Sunday/public holiday workings over lines which are normally freight only. Several oddments in Baden-Württemberg came into one or other category, and in particular the Fuchstalbahn between Schongau and Landsberg (Lech) in Bayern was advertising a three-day jubilee extravaganza over the October reunification holiday.It added up to a worthwhile trip so I booked flights with the intention of doing the Fuchstalbahn on the Saturday.The best laid plans etc., and in the event all the Fuchstalbahn had to offer was a steam trip from Augsburg to Schongau and back on the Sunday with a fill in return trip to Landsberg and back in the middle of the day. This rather damaged my plan to go to Gerstetten and Welzheim on the Sunday, but another time perhaps.

Friday 30.9.11

A new notebook for the new era of ‘no more big trackbashes’. That’s the theory, but... Up at 04:00 for 04:30 departure to BHI [it’s truly amazing what my life’s companion will put up with. Not a murmur of complaint from her despite the fact that we’d been out until nearly midnight the previous night] where the day started well with a door failure on the Air-Rail funicular. [Why go to the station not the airport, I hear you ask. Well, because they charge you a pound for the privilege of dropping passengers off. Despite the small amount I think that’s a ridiculous imposition and I’m not paying it. So there.The whole BHX ‘experience’ which used to be quite pleasant by airport standards, has deteriorated beyond measure in recent years. It’s just utterly unpleasant now; funny how the change has coincided with the arrival of a certain Irish airline, although the drop-off charge is obviously the airport’s and nothing to do with any of the airlines.] Fortunately the two cars can work individually so we were soon away on the other one to BHX where the security areas for T1 and T2 seem to have been merged and separate reference to the two terminals eliminated. Very confusing for the long serving user. It also takes far, far longer to get to the old T2. With the door delay and the huge security queue it took 45 minutes to get into T2.

Flybe then added insult to injury by demanding that I move from my allocated seat 5D. I suppose I could have refused. I asked why – “operational reasons”. Further annoyed by this meaningless tripe I dug my heels in and insisted on an aisle seat. In the end I had 17A and B to myself although the noise was fairly horrendous (the reason I’d been pleased to be given 5D in the first place) and the view obscured by the engine/undercarriage housing (‘twas a Dash 8-400).

20 minutes late leaving due to assorted misadministration. We were head counted five times, then Biggles came on to apologise for the delay due to ‘paperwork discrepancy’. [I’ve quite enjoyed previous trips with Flybe, but the general air of not being quite on the ball and the attitude of one of the cabin staff suggested morale is at a pretty low ebb and I guess the current cutting of routes and issuing of profit warnings may be a factor. Today’s FT reports that their shares have lost 70% of their value since last December’s flotation.] More or less on time on time at STR however and I found myself opposite the door when the bus arrived at the terminal and second through immigration, thus making the 10:38 S-Bahn with ease. This process is helped by having a railway ticket machine in the baggage hall which people don’t seem to notice although it’s obvious enough.

Not the most classic of termini. 420 916 stands at Maichingen on 30-9-11.

Cross platform at Rohr and again at Böblingen, for an S60 over fairly unexciting new track from Sindelfingen to Maichingen. Factories and offices followed by a few fields, ending back in the ‘burbs. Track continues towards Renningen on the Weil der Stadt branch – maybe I’ll have to come back one day. Back at Böblingen a quick scamper through the major rebuilding work, and off to Stadtmitte on another clockwork kart.

A few minor navigational difficulties but Sophie’s Brauhaus was soon located and praise be, was open. Several previous attempts had failed because I couldn’t find it, hadn’t time or it wasn’t open. A large first floor establishment over shops, food led and not all that pubby, but nice enough nevertheless. I had the hefeweizen, very sound if a little pricey at €3.70/0.5l (£3.80/pint at our wretched exchange rate). Thence to S-Hbf for a very belated but mayo-free breakfast and a bottle of Hasseröder at a far more reasonable €1.29/0.5l.

Next move was 13:15 (RB39914) to Heilbronn with a 111 pushing. Incredibly rough riding, hence the dodgy writing [this is being typed with some difficulty from the said handwriting!] Failed to spot the brewpub at Ludwigsburg [reasonably enough, you can’t see it from the railway] but no doubt I’ll find it on Tuesday. [I did]. A nice comfortable trip on the shady side to Heilbronn, despite the rough riding, but hell from there to Mannheim on the sunny side of a full and standing 42x [all the 42x series look the same to me, as I dislike them and can’t be bothered working out the differences, if any]. Really most unpleasant and 10 minutes late into the bargain due (I guess) to platform occupation at Mannheim Hbf. At any rate two ICEs and another local ran in beside us when we eventually got moving. With half the subway out of action for molework too, it was all fun and games. [This was rush hour on the Friday before a public holiday Monday, so to be expected]. Couldn’t get a ticket from the B-W boundary to Lampertheim from the machines, so had to queue for 20 minutes at the Reisezentrum but at least I got a ticket in the end, endorsed ‘mit BWticket’ on the back, so I’m all legal.

MA-Hbf swarming with Polizei so presumably football ‘fans’ are on their way. I’m sure everything will be better once this Friday-of-bank-holiday-weekend phase has passed.

185 058 heads a RoLa train northwards through Lampertheim on 30-9-11.

No ‘fans’ to be seen. Physcon-1 at MA-Waldhof for the little bit of track beyond the station. [The point of the detour to Lampertheim was to cover the short stretch north of MA-Waldhof which is only done by trains coming from the MA-Käfertal direction. This converges with the normal passenger route from MA-Luzenberg just north of Waldhof station]. On to Lampertheim and back to MA-Hbf for a celebratory ice cream. On to Bruchsal then, on the first S-Bahn of the day with properly working air-con, thank goodness. 15 mins walk straight to Wallhall – a hotel but pubby nonetheless with very friendly and helpful staff. They drummed up a meal in no time flat after I’d explained I only had 40 minutes and I had time to finish it in comfort. I had the Festbier; probably ambrée is a near-ish description. Unfiltered and very welcome on a hot evening.

Back at the station I was surprised to see a TGV heading towards Karlsruhe – will have to look that one up. [I have – can’t see what working it was though!] Hotel time now, via S31 to Karlsruhe-Durlach and IRE4915 on to Pforzheim, the latter being top and tailed Dostos, making a comfortable end to the day.

Hotel Montana was soon located in Pforzheim – not the grandest of establishments but a very amiable lady whom I took to be the proprietrix bade me welcome and gave me the good news of 07:00 breakfast tomorrow, meaning no problem with the 08:26 train. I retired to Hopfenschlingel just across the river – sat outside as it’s still very warm, so I can’t comment on the pub. Pleasant staff, ditto the unfiltered pils but ridiculously priced at €2.70/0/33l (=£4.22/pint). Your reporter had an enjoyable third of a litre and left.

Saturday 1.10.11

A useful night’s sleep slightly fractured by sirens – Frau Prop. tells me they’re on the main route from the fire station to the eastern half of town. Standard breakfast, nicely presented and FP was very courteous again. A ‘would stay again’.

Off to Stuttgart on a wedged RE, had to stand all the way. Very similar to the journey from Schweinfurt to Erlangen earlier this year, except that dress for the young ladies was presumably Swabian not Bavarian. It looked slightly different anyway. Forward to Ulm on a less wedged and much quieter RB which made for quite an enjoyable journey.

Having found out from the Carebear desk where it went from, I pottered out to the bus station to await the SEV to Laupheim Stadt. The north curve is moleworked today; luckily it’s the new east to south one I need!

I hadn’t noticed on my previous visit in 2004 that the Laupheim Stadt branch goes through the middle of a roundabout as it approaches the station. Going towards the main line, the new curve diverges to the left just after the existing branch starts to curve towards the main line. It immediately crosses a road on the level, then before joining the main line it crosses another road which has been sunk into a new and costly-looking underpass. The main line is joined a few metres west of the existing overbridge.

Slightly tricky at Biberach finding the bus to Ummendorf. What I’d expected to be a proper bus no 253 (similar to the nearby 252) at stand 18 proved to be an unmarked minibus with a paper sticker on it, lurking at stand 19. It didn’t (quite) fool me though, and I was delivered safely to Ummendorf where Bräuhaus Ummendorf was easily located. Even if I hadn’t done my homework, it’s signposted! Superb Kellerbier, vaguely reminiscent of a UK golden ale, in a proper pot mug. I had to have two! The goulash soup was to die for, too. A very friendly and entirely admirable establishment.

Back to Biberach where I had a little wander taking in the church, where I was treated to impromptu (electronic) music. Very nice too. Away then on another bus to Ochsenhausen which was shut, really shut. Even if it had been open I’m not too sure ... however this gave me some recovery time and I was ready to phot the Öchslebahn arrival at 15:50-ish and dive into the buffet car for an Öchsle beer (just as nice as last time) on the 16:15 departure.

99 716 after arriving with the last train of the day at Warthausen on 1-10-11.

What a nice ride it was too. A beautiful afternoon, not too hot, a fine beer and an 0-10-0T chimney first [99 716, for the record]. What more could you want? Well, it was some kind of cider-sampling day, and in due course along came a free sample of Swabian cider! I’m pretty dedicated to not drinking cider, but I must admit I quite enjoyed it.

Back to Ulm via the new curve and the SEV again, round to the spanking new Etap to check in, and away to Zur Krone in Söflingen on one of Ulm’s nice new trams. Zur Krone’s an odd pub, tucked away behind the brewery – I arrived just as food was coming up for a big birthday party, so might have to wait a while for mine. However they have a 4x0.1 litre sampler (Helles, Urtrunk, Kellerbier and Natureisbock) which is a darned fine idea, taken advantage of. Well, it might be odd – but how could they make a bog standard schnitzel so nice. And be polite and attentive when they’re all working like one-armed paperhangers. Full marks. Oh, and the Natureisbock was the nicest but I had a Kellerbier in the interests of keeping the alcohol level down.

Mad but successful dash for the 20:34 tram in the end, precluding arty phots of the pub exterior. On arrival in Ulm city centre I walked round to Barfüßer, a far more congenial establishment than its equivalent in Nürnberg. I might even try the Neu-Ulm one on Monday if there’s time. [There was. I did.]

Sunday 2.10.11

Dreadful night – chose quiet in preference to air con. Should have settled for noise! Breakfast (mayo free) at Ulm Hbf then away on 07:26 München, a 440 which became more and more packed. Fashion accessories of the day were lederhosen and a 6-pack of Beck’s (well, not for the girls obviously). Changed at Augsburg for the 2 hour trog to Schongau in a BRB kart, with a 10 minute leg stretch break at Weilheim.

38 1301 at Schongau with the special from Augsburg on 2-10-11.

On arrival at Schongau I found a bod in a Fuchstalbahn T-shirt who said he’d sell me a ticket in a few minutes. And he did, so I had time for a quick visit to the Schongau Brauhaus which I found open and welcoming, with a very presentable Helles, taken in their new beergarden. Back to the station in good time, to find 38 1301 had just arrived with the kettlex from Augsburg. Phots were difficult but not impossible.

An excellent trip to Landsberg, over track I’d been after for ages. I baled out at Landsberg in favour of the 13:47 kart to Kaufering, enabling me to get a couple of (poor) shots of the 38 arriving at Kaufering and running round. There are a couple of quite good climbs on the southern part of the route and you could almost have mistaken the noise of the 38 for a BR Standard class 4 or a Manor. Not quite though.

Back on to the plan from Kaufering, with a DB kart working 14:17 Landsberg – Augsburg. This was delayed a couple of minutes but still allowed time to collect much needed liquid refreshment (König Ludwig weizen) from Yorma’s. It’s been a long hot stretch from Schongau! 15:25 RE was late anyway and wedged. Penultimate day of the Oktoberfest if I’m not mistaken, and this is a München-Ulm service. There seem to be quite a number of fairly relaxed people wearing Oktoberfest items... Unfortunately 9 late leaving which will curtail the planned brewery tap visit at Günzburg.

Curtailed, but not eliminated. A 15 minute trudge uphill (and it’s getting very warm again) to Brauerei Gaststätte zum Rad, the brewery tap in the market place. The whole place is seething with happy drinkers but this one’s mercifully quiet so I was able to get served without delay. ‘Quick-serve’ Günzburger Weizen was a good choice too, both for quality and speed of service! Leaving the Münz tap reluctantly for another time I made my way back to the station where the 17:21 to Ulm appeared alarmingly early. No worries though and all seemed well to Ulm.

Having obtained food (sensibly as it turned out) I settled down in the first of two tilting karts forming 18:15 IRE to Neustadt. After a while the engines stopped. They started again. They stopped again. And again. There was an announcement. Everyone piled into the second kart which was already full and standing. Eventually we set off over 30 minutes late. The air con certainly wasn’t working, which was great on a hot day, and the tilt appeared not to be. There was no conductor. We eventually arrived at Sigmaringen 40 late. There were no staff, either DB or HzL, and the HzL kart to Gammertingen was long gone. I found a friendly bus driver who did his best for me with the bus timetables but to no avail (hardly surprising at 20:15 on a Sunday). I had to settle for the 22:40 so phoned the hotel who said they’d let me in, bless ‘em (pudding yet to be proved). I retired to the station pub, noisier and smokier even than last time (25.8.04) but with two delightful barmaids, one of whom spoke good English.

The proof of the pudding wasn’t that simple. HzL got me to Gammertingen a couple of minutes late and the hotel was only another couple of minutes away so I was there about 23:20. Rang the night bell. Nothing. Rang it again. Nothing. Rang it for quite a long time. Nothing. Then a couple of people appeared from round the corner and got into a car. I had a look round the corner and saw the hotel had an annexe which was all lit up. In I went, to find myself at a wedding reception. All was well though and they found a room key for me.

Monday 3.10.11

A good night’s sleep, ignoring the nearby clocks (one on the church 100 metres or so away). One chimed all four quarters plus the hours, the other just the hour, immediately after the first. 28 chimes at midday and midnight therefore – your reporter slept through the latter. A very pleasant, smart hotel it is too – I was quite sorry to leave. €57 so slightly over the budget, but worth it.

HzL's MAN railbus at Gammertingen on 3-10-11, waiting departure for Eyach - or, as it turned out, Hechingen!

Showered and breakfasted, away to the station for a battle with the ticket machine which spoke nur Deutsch and accepted nur Euros (or prepaid cash cards, I think). It took me a while to figure this out, being used to the multilingual, credit-card-accepting DB boxes. No sign of life when I got there, but a wondrous old M.A.N wheelie bin plus trailer was just appearing as I got back from a stroll at 09:04. It struggled MANfully with the timings but couldn’t quite make it and was 7 late at Hechingen Landesbahn. Never mind, the ‘rare connection’ (actually the old HzL line, it’s the connection up to Hechingen ‘Hbf’ that’s new) got done without problems.

Thereupon the kart failed, cause unspecified. Luckily it was at Hechingen and still in the platform so rather than risk both lines [Hechingen Landesbahn to Eyach, and the Pfullendorf branch later], once it got to 25 late and my connection would be gone at Eyach, I decided to bale out and make for Aulendorf. Next train south is 11:19; 10:39 Stuttgart was in the platform but the driver wouldn’t let me on so nothing for it but to visit the station pub for a half of mediocre Fürstenberg. That’s two trains failed out of the last three. Hope Pfullendorf makes it...

The HzL kart was still there at 11:21. Clearly a wise decision to bale out! Bucking the trend, the IRE turned up almost on time, with empty seats and functioning air con and toilet. Will it make Aulendorf (or at least Altshausen)? Time will tell.

The 628 waits at Pfullendorf on 3-10-11 with the second trip back to Aulendorf.

Well, it certainly made Altshausen – a quite picturesque spot in the ‘V’ of the junction with the Pfullendorf branch. Cranks and others were soon gathering, removing concerns as to the working of the branch. A very pleasant amble up on the 628, arriving a few minutes early at Pfullendorf, a platform beside a park, with a roadside approach. The various crossings en route provided a bit of entertainment and the whole thing seemed to go very smoothly. Pity about Hechingen - Eyach but at least there’s one result for the day. 1½ really as the ‘difficult’ bit at Hechingen is well worth getting done, and if the service remains the same there are several train pairs to choose from over the rest, which can be accessed from easier-to-get-to places than Gammertingen.

Pfullendorf trains run to/from Aulendorf (Ulm in one case) so no problem with the connection at Altshausen as I was heading for Ulm so stayed on until Aulendorf. An alarmingly large crowd was awaiting the Lindau-Stuttgart IRE there but this was Rabbit-propelled Dostos so I got a seat upstairs and travelled to Ulm in reasonable comfort. A quick check-in at the Etap then back to the station for a München-bound 440 as far as Neu-Ulm.

I managed to remember where the Neu-Ulm Barfüßer was, having left all my pub notes at home – straight there in 15 minutes. Nice pub, huge beergarden, surly service – hardly my fault if the old bat didn’t want to work on a bank holiday. The weizen was good standard fare. A long walk then to Schlössle, an extraordinary place surrounded by much more recent housing. I got within 100m then turned the wrong way but was soon rescued by a passing local who saw me looking bewildered. Some pidgin German had me there in a couple of minutes. Beer garden service was from large hatches where you order and pay then they bring your food, British style. Luckily my years of Wetherspoon’s training came to the fore and I realised I’d need a table number! Very friendly and helpful, everyone spoke English [you know, just like everyone in British pubs is friendly and helpful and speaks other languages than English], and another nice weizen. By far the tallest chestnut trees I’ve seen too, adding to the rather gothic air of the place.

I’d resigned myself to missing the hourly bus back by a few minutes, this being Germany and me being late, but saw two people waiting at the bus stop. I waited myself and was rewarded with a late running 84 which took me back to Ulm Hbf.

Tuesday 4.10.11

Late start today due to B-W ticket restriction (09:00) so breakfast obtained at Hbf before 09:13 Aalen, a pair of ADtranz SULFAs. Of the four ticket machines available I had to pick the one whose user was a fully paid up dimwit, but I’d left myself plenty of time, fortunately.

On time at Aalen for a cross platform leap to 10:35 Schorndorf, an RE hauled by 146 212. Nice civilised way to travel, and on time again at Schorndorf for a quick transfer to WEG’s pair of bubble car equivalents (VT422 according to my photo) to Oberndorf. A very pleasant trundle in the sunshine to Rudersberg Nord which I remembered as a dreadful bleak place but looked OK in the sunshine with a thousand (well, OK, 100) schoolies waiting. It’s acquired shelters etc. too – I don’t think it had those before.

The schoolies threw me completely by all staying on at Oberndorf. I dived off to phot (we were 7 late against an 8 minute turnround) then back on in case it was an unadvertised schoolies’ working towards Welzheim, since the driver didn’t seem to be changing ends. It wasn’t though, he did change ends and the schoolies had just got on for somewhere comfortable to sit! They all decamped at various stations back to Schorndorf.

That was it for the day’s track, all 1 km of it. After dithering all morning I decided that trying to do the brewpub at Esslingen was in the category headed ‘Stupid’ so got the RE into Stuttgart Hbf where I was able to locate an Internet café (thanks to DB carebear desk again) and check in for tonight’s flight. Row 12, not great.

Thence to Feuerbach and Wichtel which turns out to be one of a chain of three. Fortunately I paid a visit to the basement first, as it enabled me to phot the brewery which lurks beneath the pub. Let’s hope there’s no recycling. The pils, it must be said, was excellent and not outrageous at £3.20/pint even with the money-changers’ rip-off.

Away to Ludwigsburg on an S5 for the oddly-named Brauhaus am Solitudeplatz [in fairness, Solitudeplatz is the square where it is. Writing this up afterwards I find that I managed to avoid both the brewpubs in the GBGtG and find a third, unlisted one. Full marks for beerhunting but none for navigation]. The beer took an age to arrive and was nice enough in an ordinary sort of way, ditto the pub which is in the ‘bland and modern’ version of traditional. If you see what I mean – and if you’ve been to any such, you will! I wouldn’t bother again with two more to go at.

And then to Marbach on an S4 followed by a bus for one stop because I couldn’t be bothered walking in the heat! Just the street where Salzscheuer is located is worth the visit, and it goes on from there. Suffice it to say that my visit (you can only visit by appointment, which I’d prearranged) was most interesting and enjoyable and it’s well worth making time if you’re able to. You can get an idea of Salzscheuer from their web site but the reality doesn’t disappoint! Dieter Baader, the owner, speaks English and has an absolute fund of knowledge which he’s happy to share. An unique experience, which unfortunately had to be followed by the far from unique experience of the S4 and S3 back to Stuttgart Flughafen, an uneventful and quite sparsely populated flight back to BHX, a 15 minute queue to be let back into my own country, and a Bendyleano to Wolverhampton. Here I just had time to restore morale with a very swift Holden’s Special at the Great Western, followed by an LM stopper to Shifnal where a lift home awaited me.

A good trip in general – apart from a little early morning mist I saw nothing but blue sky all five days and it was correspondingly warm with temperatures heading towards the upper twenties. I was underwhelmed with DB’s failure to provide any customer support when the IRE broke, but looking back on it I think they were running with much reduced on-train staff over the public holiday weekend, as there was hardly a gripper to be seen. They were everywhere on the Tuesday.The Hechingen-Eyach line (or lack of it) was a bit of a disappointment but on the other hand, it’s another reason to go back and perhaps I’ll get Gerstetten next time. I think I feel an Easter visit coming on.The consistently high standard of pubs and beer was impressive as always – even if you don’t like them all, the pubs are always spotless and usually very friendly, and the beers are always in good form.The next venture’s to Belgium but the railway element will be limited to Eurotunnel so it won’t merit any ramblings here. After that – who knows. Maybe next Easter, as suggested...

 

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