Germany, September 1993. <  >

The bug was almost out of control by now. The admirable Mr Ball was providing me with European atlases to mark ‘track done’. I kept bumping into heavy-duty Eurogricers with all sorts of interesting tales. I’d gone to Germany in 1992 promising myself that I was only there to see and photograph, and I wouldn’t be doing any track. Yeah, right. I’d already done most of the Harz, the Bad Doberan line, the Zittau system, half the Radeburg line, and so on. I’d seen the Kemmlitz line but not done it. Off I went again, based for the week in Berlin and with a ‘finish off the steam lines’ plan. No car this time, just an Interrail. It went like this.

Tuesday 14.9.93

Inauspicious start to another steam bash by missing 1829 B’ham International-Euston. Saw the tail lights though – very interesting. Eventually caught the 1929 after a Maglev trip to the airport and back for unsuccessful attempt to buy a Polish phrase book. On to Richmond to meet up with Peter. Stayed overnight, woken at 0415 by a Heathrow ‘inbound’.

Wednesday 15.9.93.

Arrived Heathrow about 0645, courtesy of the long-suffering Peter again, for the usual queue to check in. Late departure (35 min) due to ATC problems. Some ground visible east of the Lee Valley, and a few bits of Holland. Some clear bits over Germany allowed a look at Berlin as we circled it to the south. Passed over an interesting looking roundhouse to the east. 20 minutes late at Tegel but very quick unloading of baggage and I was soon on the 109 bus to Adenauerplatz and thence to the Hotel-Pension Wittelsbach. A Finn stopped me at the bus stop to ask the way to his hotel – which, astonishingly, I knew – and complimented me on my English. [As I’m from Wolverhampton I was quite proud about that]. Hotel was thoroughly satisfactory and I spent some time getting sorted, buying phone cards, getting reservations for Poznan (DM3.50 each way) etc. before venturing forth by S-Bahn from Berlin Zoo to B-Lichtenberg for 1621 to Riesa.

S-Bahn train was a 1950s (being generous) classic with wood panelling, hard seats etc. Some trains are more modern but seem to be in a minority. Eastern part of Berlin, seen from the S-Bahn is still the stuff of Cold War spy fiction – pot holes, bullet holes, bomb sites, dreary flats, etc. Uneventful journey to Riesa behind a 112 but found myself travelling on to Oschatz with the Vice Chancellor of an Australian university – an LGB fan! Delight at Oschatz to find the WTT for Sunday’s specials posted on the wall.

On return to Riesa, sampled a local (ish – Dresden) brew called Feldschlösschen. 4.9% and wildly malty. DM2 for 500 ml – exactly £1/pint so not bad value, albeit canned and bought from a shop.[Which makes £1=DM2.27, a lot worse from a UK tourist perspective than the DM3 of 2001]. Back to Lichtenberg in the dark thence by S-Bahn to Charlottenburg to rehearse tomorrow’s walk. [If I’d known how much of this week I was going to spend trundling back and forth to Lichtenberg I’d have stayed somewhere more sensible…]

Thursday 16.9.93.

346 574 heading east at Berlin-Lichtenberg 15-9-93

Up more or less with the lark, sustaining injuries in the attempt to stop the alarm clock waking the whole hotel. Stupendous breakfast at 0630 - all one could wish for – then a brisk walk up to Charlottenburg in the rain for 0713 to Berlin Hbf [now Ostbahnhof]. Berlin Hbf is a typical DR station notable only for the exorbitant price of mineralwasser (see yesterday’s note re buying things in shops, and remember). 0751 to Halberstadt very hot, and late but after a gentle ramble round the east of Berlin contrived to wait time at Schönefeld and leave on time at 0812. More time waiting at Potsdam Pirschheide (formerly Hbf) then erratic timekeeping due to engineering works but punctual at Magdeburg and Halberstadt. [Looking again at this in 2001 it looks as if this train went via what is now a freight only stretch of the Aussenring – an unappreciated bonus!].

Sachsen-# +eyer 0-4-4-0T no 11 at Wernigerode shed 16-9-93

Connection on to Wernigerode (class 232 Co-Co ex Halle) was 3 late – shock, horror. Disappointment at Wernigerode to find a diesel on the HSB train, slightly offset by the subsequent addition of a 2-10-2T as pilot. Then the English coach party arrived (plus three German ones at Wernigerode Westerntor). Two green Sachsen-Meyers in steam at Wernigerode (11 & 13). The diesel did all the work, pushing the kettle all the way to Drei Annen Höhne where coach parties and kettle were removed leaving the infernal combustion machine to go on to Benneckenstein.

199 879 with four standard gauge wagons on narrow gauge transporters at Benneckenstein 16-9-93

Freight (also diesel) was waiting at B’stein – 4 hopper wagons. 2-10-2T arrived from Nordhausen, praise be, and the diesel went back to Wernigerode. The freight went first for some reason, so 10 mins late departure amid copious clag from the 2-10-2T. Passed the freight again at Eisfelder Tahlmühle where all 3 passenger trains were steam. Ilfeld-Nordhausen very dull but enlivened by trams, shopping and a road accident (no casualties fortunately).

Because it's there! 99 7235 heads off round the Stiege loop. The line to the left in the distance is the Hasselfelde branch; next to it is the other end of the loop we're on. 16-9-93

1518 to Ilfeld was diesel but I got the same 2-10-2T on 1601 to Gernrode. This was 20 late leaving E-T awaiting a through carriage from Brocken (why bother) but had a spirited thrash up to Birkenmoor. At Stiege some coaches sans engine were in one loop; our loco was uncoupled to my great distress (as the reversing loop was required). However, the ex Nordhausen loco (99-7233) took the spare coaches to Hasselfelde and another loco (99-7235) came on to the front of the Gernrode train. More spirited running downhill got us to Alexisbad 4 early with 14 to wait for the up (the hill) Gernrode-Harzgerode which arrived with 99-7232 despite comments in ‘World Steam’ that the Harzgerode diagram was all diesel!

Back to Magdeburg on a trio of locals (one brand new double decker, very smart, two ancient, 202-hauled). Overnight to Poland abandoned, at least pro tem, so I opted for an ICE ride back to Berlin. Fast, noisy, uncomfortable, high tech, not particularly impressive but very early! Doesn’t deserve the DM11 supplement. [This was a very harsh judgment, in retrospect. I’ve done many hundreds of miles in ICEs since and found them to be the only German stock I can sleep in! Not, therefore, noisy or uncomfortable. Still, that was the note I made at the time. The NBS hadn’t been built then and the track on the Magdeburg-Berlin via Brandenburg route wasn’t too good.].

Friday 17.9.93.

RKB's 0-8-0T at Binz, 17-9-93

S-Bahn was in chaos seemingly so another plan was abandoned (a visit to the Brandenburg Gate). Straight to Lichtenberg therefore, for 0906 to Sassnitz, formed of the nice new semi-open stock [now the rather ancient IR stock, but still a favourite]. If a little warm in the corner seats, this is excellent stock and has proper toilets! Usual leisurely but punctual progress through some of the most boring scenery I’ve ever seen. When the ground rises 10ft after Greifswald it seems like the Alps. Noticed yet more traffic jams in various towns along the way but Stralsund looked OK this time (see Monday 17.8.92). Finding oneself stuck for 45 mins at Bergen, purchased postcards and spent an enjoyable half hour writing them in the station buffet assisted by a Dortmunder Union (much more hoppy. Why is German keg beer ten times less revolting than ours?).Off to Putbus on the Lauterbach branch train (202 + 2 coaches, as per). It’s a shame the timetable doesn’t allow you to finish the branch (a mile-ish). [Certainly is – I still haven’t done it in March 2001 – however it’s dual gauge and partly steam now]. Putbus is showing signs of commercialisation with silly names and colour schemes. Got a respectable black 2-10-2T though, passing the green 0-8-0T at Binz.

It was raining at Göhren – again – but a few phots were taken at the opposite end from last year. The occasion was celebrated with a bottle of Berliner Kindl Pils from Potsdam, purchased earlier at an understandably cheap price in a supermarket. En route from Göhren my note taking attracted the attention of an Anglo German Society member who gave me a quick rundown (as far as Binz where he left the train) on industrial lines in eastern Germany. Crossed the green thing again at Binz – it looked better in black. Apparently there’s a blue 2-10-2T at Putbus, but never mind. A freezing wait at Bergen, then back to Berlin in the same IR set, a few minutes late through signals on the outskirts.

Saturday 18.9.93.

52 8117 arrives at Berlin Zoo with the booked Sunday Nauen-Lubbenau steam working, 18-9-93

A volcanic departure from Königs Wusterhausen by 52 8117 18-9-93

A decent morning – at last – for the long march up Kurfürstendamm to Zoo where reservations were made – again – for Poland on Monday. The 0833 to Lübbenau was awaited by a merry throng and duly appeared behind 52 8117 in excellent order and only slightly late! Despite the crowd, window seats in the first passenger vehicle were to be had. A gentle trundle out to Königs Wusterhausen accompanied by three Yorkshire persons, but then a magnificently claggy departure, photographed somewhat illegally from the ballast. Hope the phots come out.

Back to Berlin by S-Bahn for the long wait for 1215 to Dresden, enlivened by a walk to Karl-Marx-Allee and Paris-Commune-Strasse. 1215 to Dresden (‘Porta Bohemica’) was late and not particularly impressive as ‘one’s first EC’. It was however very nearly on time at Dresden, so tried a mad dash for 1407 to Freital-Hainsberg (1 min connection) but failed possibly due to lack of local knowledge/sense of direction. The stone cleaning which was going on last year is finished now and the façade looks very fine. After some fiddling about realisation dawned, en route to the pub, that a 33 min connection at Freital was better than a 3 min one. Another mad dash therefore, for 1437 to F-H, this time successful by about 15 seconds.

At F-H I managed to bunk the shed properly this time, but was much afflicted back at the station by a bod in a purple shell suit who seemed to know everybody and to want to be in all my phots. Just before departure a wedding party turned up – life is never dull on the narrow gauge!

99 747 takes on water at Dippoldiswalde 18-9-93

Despite assurances from the guard on the way up it was a great relief to leave Schmiedeberg southwards (uphill towards Kipsdorf). After a tremendous thrash out of Buschmühle the train stopped suddenly beside the road - to my horror - however all was well and we made Kipsdorf after another spirited thrash up the last steep bit. Freight remains in evidence at Dippoldiswalde (coal) and Schmiedeberg (scrap, also coal). Return to F-H was punctual allowing connection to Dresden (where a 4-6-4T was noted in steam and moving at DD-Altstadt) for 1921 to Berlin. (The reason for particular concern re Kipsdorf was a notice at F-H suggesting buses Dippoldiswalde-Kipsdorf every weekday for the last three weeks!).

The Wien-Berlin train was late and absolutely jammed but due to careful study of the train plan I was able to get a seat – just – and travel back in reasonable comfort. The Czech loco came off at Dresden, resulting in an interesting ensemble of German loco, Austrian coaches and Czech buffet. Berlin Zoo station was weirder than ever at 2200 but I got back alive.

Sunday 19.9.93.

Breakfast at 7 and off to Berlin Hbf for the 0815 to Dresden (Wien train again, packed again, got a seat again). Same train set as last night. On arrival at Dresden checked the departure sheet for 1023 to Köln which – shock, horror, dismay etc – appeared not to stop at Riesa and Oschatz but to be first stop Leipzig. Assurances were hastily obtained from booking office and station staff that it did, and it did. Travelled to Oschatz mystified by 5 companions none of whom was English, but conversed in English. Turned out to be 2 French, 2 Turkish, 1 German whose common language was English [How common this is - and it just panders to the disgraceful English habit of refusing to learn other people's languages!].

99 1584 arrives at Oschatz with the band playing. 19-9-93

Endless walk down to town at Oschatz revealed that DT are still installing empty phone boxes (this year’s colour is pink) and that Oschatz seems to have no pubs, and that if it did they’d be shut. It’s a nice town apart from that and I did eventually find a card phone. Back to the station where the opportunity was taken to phot the ‘Sonderzug’ from Berlin (preserved, I think, ‘flying banana’ type DMU). Sachsen-Meyer arrived from Mügeln 15 late at 1252 with the local brass band in full cry in a wagon at the front of the train. What can you say? Very good they were too, and played ‘Soldiers of the Queen’ to my surprise. Presumably it’s something else in Germany. On top of all this an extra vehicle was added to the train so the brass band was solemnly shunted round Oschatz yard and played another quick tune just before they were reattached to the train. Train eventually left Oschatz nearly half an hour late and pursued a picturesque Welshpool type alignment through streets and past house backs, also beside a stream. Some very good photo locations missed last year.

99 1584 making a reasonably spirited effort for the second runpast 19-9-93

99 1574 standing outside Mugeln shed on 19-9-93

Photo stops with runpasts were provided, the first being just outside Oschatz. The second caused great amusement with the total refusal of a bod to get out of everybody’s way despite all sorts of remonstration (which was better natured than it would have been in England). A public spirited photter went over and tried to persuade him to move but still to no avail; presumably our hero didn’t get his phot either as the runpast started while he was there. While all this was going on the gripper was badgering me to get a ticket which I didn’t realise was supposed to be bought from the brake van before departure. It eventually dawned and I missed the third phot stop while spending DM30 in the brake van. A bit annoying as the notices said that you could get your ticket at Oschatz station which I had tried to do but been refused. No harm done though, and an excellent ride was had to Mügeln. Here all the usual Open Day bits were going on with rides on various ludicrous vehicles plus one of the Sachsen-Meyers, which I would have liked to do but didn’t dare risk my seat to Kemmlitz.

On to Kemmlitz where there were wagons at the kaolin works (Kemmlitzer Kaolinwerke, would you believe). Track disappeared beyond the run round loop but there wasn’t time to see where it went after photting the run round. Back at Mügeln things were quietening down (1630) towards the end of the day at 1700. The return to Oschatz was a few minutes late but ‘fast’ by local standards and arrived in plenty of time for another phot before watching the stuffed diesel depart for Berlin. All in all, very satisfactory.

Part of the facade of Leipzig Hauptbahnhof 19-9-93.

The local to Leipzig was 15 minutes late due to waiting for ‘Johann Sebastian Bach’ who had lost his tempo completely and was nearly an hour late. Good old reliable DR held the connection at Wurzen though so only 5 late into Leipzig – finished a film on the awesome station building.

The idea of going back via Leipzig was mostly to get a different route back to Berlin. Shame therefore, that we were diverted via Oschatz and Riesa! Celebrated this by trying Spitzbrau or some such, from the Oderland Brauerei gmbh of Frankfurt (Oder). They should be ashamed of themselves. Despite the diversion, on time at Lichtenberg (just had to run a bit less lethargically than usual) before the inevitable trudge ‘home’ by S-Bahn.

Monday 20.9.93.

Plinthed PKP 2-10-0 at Rzepin 20-9-93

Fastest frühstuck in the west before heading for Berlin Hbf and 0801 to Poznan. This was formed from the excruciatingly uncomfortable IC stock, and I got ‘back to the engine’ but fortunately my opposite number didn’t turn up. Irritation at four immigration checks was greatly reduced by getting a stamp in my passport. The first stretch in Poland was very flat and only distinguished by a stuffed steam loco at Rzepin and the large amount of neglected agricultural land (reason unknown). At Zbasynek there was a long line of dead locos in the '‘down'’ (from Warsaw) yard but nothing visible alive. Eventual arrival at Poznan was on time-ish, and exchange of money is now easy (and legal) with the advent of the Kantor. They seemed to give astonishingly fair deals (11750/12000 for buying/selling DM) and no commission. I must have got the maths wrong, but it worked out about Zl28k/£1. Horror and shock to discover no train to Wolsztyn in sufficient time to get steam either way so I settled for a wander round Poznan while waiting for the 1310 arrival.

Ol49-23 at Poznan with a train from Wolsztyn 20-9-93

'The diesel thing' was SU46 033 seen here at Grodzisk 20-9-93

Having taken a few phots for the records I returned to the station for utter delight when the Wolsztyn train arrived behind Ol49-23. Much photting as far as it was possible with the sun in the wrong place and given the usual very slick loco removal. Gambled on which side it would run round the train and, of course, lost. Next step was to trundle off to Grodzisk behind some diesel thing which seemed to go all right and got there on time. Many of the stations are quite picturesque if a bit run down, and most importantly all seemed to have some trade.

Grodzisk proved to have only trains Poznan/Wolsztyn & v.v. and to have quite a promising photo location. Given about an hour and a quarter exploration was obviously called for, the first port of call being a public convenience adequately, if not extravagantly, manned by three attendants. This sort of manning seems to be a standard; trains, shops etc have all been the same. A brief visit cost 1000 zlotys which seems a lot until you work it out at less than 4p. Grodzisk if it were in England or France would be a tourist attraction; a pretty market town which even in its down at heel state is nice to wander round. The shops are in 50s style, i.e. proper ones with counters, and shelves, and people between the two who seem quite eager to provide what you want. The main church was very large and very austere outside. Partly brick with flaking rendering, partly stone. Inside another story – ornate and beautiful in white and gold.

Ol49-32 at Grodzisk with a Wolsztyn-Poznan train 20-9-93

Back at the station the train arrived a minute or two early behind Ol49-32, chimney first. Excellent opportunity for phots and the crew were happy to allow me in the cab as well. 32 was a proper engine, dirty with a rusty tender and one pair of wheels different without the usual (it seems) white rims. Also something (injector?) not working properly requiring bashing with crowbar by the fireman. Away on time, though, and a very entertaining run back to Poznan. Despite only three coaches the Ol49 seemed to be worked hard and the very raspy exhaust sound which sounded wrong on JR’s video wasn’t. It does sound like that. Whatever may have been wrong didn’t cause any more problem and the train arrived on time at Poznan and posed very photogenically for a few minutes. Once gone there was little to do but wait for the train back – no more steam in the meantime unfortunately.

Another four immigration checks (Poland 3 Germany 1) before getting back to Frankfurt. Back to Berlin Hbf on time thank goodness, and another trudge back by S-Bahn and foot.

Tuesday 21.9.93

A rare pleasure having got to bed at 0045 to be up at 0500 for the 0615 from Berlin Hbf. And no breakfast either. Anyway, an even more excruciatingly uncomfortable EC set forming ‘Comenius’ (A Czech philosopher or something similar). I find it hard to believe that DB/R don’t do something about these seats since the rest of their stock seems OK even the old plastic seat stuff. The bash down to Dresden is getting to be old hat… On towards Praha and a Czech team of 8 piled on at Bad Schandau. Same story, almost, with 3 Czech checks and one German but unfortunately no stamp on the passport. (One of yesterday’s Polish officers checked me up in A Book but obviously decided I was David ---, exhausted traveller, and not David 007’ ¼" ---, master spy). [This little witticism was for my own benefit – it might help non UK readers to know that 7’ ¼" (7 feet and a quarter of an inch) was the gauge used by the Great Western Railway in the 19th century].

A paddle 'steamer' heads down the Elbe between Decin and Dresden 21-9-93

The scenery between Dresden and Decin is much more interesting than the bureaucracy – a fine wooded valley through which road, railway and Elbe run parallel. The network of secondary lines on the Czech republic side is dense, mostly worked by 4 wheel railbuses it seems. [Not in fact that dense, but remember this was a very first impression gained by someone to whom a proper branch line was a pretty rare animal]. Praha Holesovice is an unappealing bleak, modern station miles out of town and full of hustlers of one sort and another. I did however manage to get some cash and work out the tram system sufficiently to get very briefly into town and have a look at a couple of shopping streets which had well stocked food and drink shops but others with very high ‘tat’ content. [How things have changed now]. A couple of bottles of beer working out at about 30p/pint were obtained before getting the tram back to Holesovice.

Radebeul shed 21-9-93

Uneventful journey back to Dresden though 10 late leaving due to late arrival of Antonin Dvorak and further delayed by single line working with maximum lateness 23 minutes. Back to about 10 mins late at Dresden so no problem with connection (brand new double deck electrically pushed double deck set) to Radebeul Ost. At Radebeul the Sachsen-Meyer was in steam - ish – which seemed hopeful, but at 1618 (T –2) disaster. There were no trains, only buses all week due to engineering. Absolutely nothing to do but return tail down to Dresden. Having been demoralised by this the intended return via Cottbus was abandoned in favour of the local to Elsterwerda and an IR on to Lichtenberg. The local went out by a different route to a point between Radebeul and Coswig so all was not lost [west bank of the Elbe via Niederwartha]. Also noticed Nordhausen’s 2-6-2T on a wagon in one of the Dresden yards, presumably en route to or from Görlitz. Back at Lichtenberg around 1930 for another sample of my favourite trudge.

Wednesday 22.9.93.

The Reichstag, then domeless, on 21-9-93

Not really a railway day though he opportunity of a Berlin-Ticket was taken to allow full use of bus, U-Bahn, tram etc. First port of call was the Brandenburg Gate so S-Bahn to Unter den Linden. This last was closed during the ‘partition’ and has only just reopened with new platform signs but otherwise pretty much in pre-closure condition. Up at ground level the Gate was almost obscured by scaffolding, lights etc being put up for an ‘Olympic 2000’ binge the following day. Phots were possible but only from one side. Round to the Reichstag for a photograph or two, passing a number of hawkers of a particularly trashy collection of goods (purported Russian soldiers’ headgear, purported bits of Wall and model Trabants mostly).

Siemens prototype for the Central Trains class 153 replacement. Anhalter Bahnhof 21-9-93

Next venue was the science and transport museum at Anhalter Bahnhof. Excellent in every respect (as a non-linguist I would have liked multilingual descriptions on the exhibits but that is a very trivial criticism). Many beautiful models and a number of full size locos, also a mechanical (or maybe electromechanical) computer from the 30s which it would have been interesting to understand!

Onwards to Hackescher Markt (via, in error, Alexanderplatz) for an hour or so riding the trams, followed by a return to Zoo to do some last minute shopping, collect my non-valuable luggage from a locker and get the 109 bus to Tegel. Flight left on time for once, but the gremlins were alive and well, positioning a weather front, apparently, over Heathrow so that we could fly round and round London for a while. Eventually got on to the ground via a thunderstorm or two and waited 10 minutes for BA to produce a bus. Particularly impressive as I then missed 2140 ex Euston by 3 minutes, eventually reaching Wolverhampton at 0110. Not an auspicious end either (see 14.9.93!).

The Ball atlases were beginning to get some red lines on them now. I still wasn’t intending to ‘do’ Germany, and in fact it was another year before I set off again to Belgium.








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