Germany, Czech Republic and Poland 3.4.99-11.4.99 <  >

A very solid track bash including my first proper branch bash in the Czech Republic and an abortive sortie to Poland which resulted in my first (and to date only) deportation!

Saturday 3.4.99

The Easter Bash started (or was planned to start) with 0622 Wolves to Birmingham Irrational, the Virgin from Hell (see 4.2.99) being deemed too risky for an 0740 checkin. In the event 0619 Euston was still open for business and it deposited me at International at 0655 leaving plenty of time for the short bus ride. Eurohub was inundated with excitable charter persons but fortunately they had their own check-in. [Lest this sounds offensive, it’s worth saying that Eurohub, now T2, was at that time almost exclusively British Airways. BA at that time didn’t really do cheap fares, so consequently at 0700 the terminal would be full of suits travelling on business with minimal luggage and quick to check in. Therefore, usually, you didn’t have to queue for long. The only exceptions were a small number of riffraff like me, travelling on Air Miles tax-only fares! Holiday travellers on the other hand tend to be less familiar with the system, and to have far more luggage, and therefore to cause queues to move more slowly].

The Eurotraveller queue was quite short and the BA person most obligingly gave me 5F, in front of the wing, and allowed me to take the rucksack as cabin baggage. All previous thoughts about pax who get away with such things were immediately rescinded! Breakfast having been taken at home it was topped up with a bacon and egg bap and tea for “only” (!) £4.20. BA then obliged with a very good (really) third breakfast, a flight right over my place of work and a 20 minute early arrival at Frankfurt. After the marathon trek (worst yet) by bus, the l-o-o-o-o-n-g walk, the stairs, escalators and peoplemover to T1 I made the 1233 to Frankfurt Hbf with ease.

Cash machine was dealt with at F-Hbf and the number of the InterCity Hotel at Magdeburg procured so that they could be advised of late arrival. The 1215 ICE to Braunschweig was a minute or two late but reached Braunschweig a minute early at 1456, leaving time to phone M/burg before getting the 1513 double deck local, wedged as usual, to Eilsleben.

At Eilsleben both the (reopened) branches, to Haldensleben and Blumenberg, were business as usual. I and one other gricer were the only takers for the Ferkeltaxi on the 1611 Blumenberg which proceeded slowly but punctually on an uninspiring (by German standards) single track branch. There are quite a number of closed factories at Klein Wanzleben but a brand new rail connected one between there and Wanzleben, and a similarly new gas storage depot nearer Blumenberg, will keep part of the line open.

771 054 catches the sun at Blumenberg after arriving from Eilsleben. 3-4-99

The congregation of three Ferkeltaxien and two 219s on push-pull Magdeburg-Thale services, both at the sunny end, made me sorry I was catching 1700 to Halberstadt and couldn’t get a photo.

Halberstadt (metre gauge trams outside the station) was shut on a Belgian scale; even the pub in the corner of the station building was shut 2nd-4th April. There was at least a Coke machine (no Coke, but 7-Up!) and a Mars bar machine, and quite a few trains to watch. 1829 to Berlin was a 232 with 4 well-filled ‘narrow shouldered’ double deckers. Arrived late due to the delayed 1743 Wernigerode-Halle (which if I remember correctly I caught a few months back en route from Königshütte) but left on time. There appears to be a south to east Halberstadt avoider off the Blankenburg line. Grr…

The Güsten-Calbe and Calbe-Barby stretches were duly done, though after a small fright when the train didn’t stop at Güsten. The philosophical view prevailed – no stop at Gütergluck = new track to Belzig. In the event it did stop at Gütergluck. This was dead to a degree that made Halberstadt look lively. Spying a light in the far distance I strolled along to it, hoping it might be a pub. It was. A shut pub. With another shut pub two doors down. I gave up at this point and returned to spend the rest of my 40 minutes on the decrepit station. To my surprise 219s arrived from both directions on the Barby-Belzig line, shut down and waited the 10 minutes or so until the Dessau-Magdeburg train arrived at 2022. On the ‘better the devil’ principle I caught the 112-powered 2022 as it was too dark for the Barby curve anyway and would have delayed arrival at Magdeburg.

The InterCity Hotel denied all knowledge of my reservation but nevertheless provided a room after a constructive interchange of views regarding the price (I think it was still more than quoted but it was DM14 less than their opening bid!). A brief stroll to the Altermarkt was rewarded with an Erdinger Weissbier in a reasonable pub. Most places were closed and of the open ones, this was the only one with other customers. At 2130 on a Saturday.

Sunday 4.4.99

The IC Hotel was perfectly OK but not worth the money. To be avoided in future [7 years later – it has been]. Still, it made for a short walk to the station, where the booking office was open. 0626 to Salzwedel was waiting – double deckers presumably with some sort of electric. The line to Stendal is unremarkable, except for the huge potash mine/tips at Zielitz. The NBS crosses just south of Stendal. Stendal station is quite imposing but you can’t get any idea of the town from the railway [hardly surprising, it’s some distance away – but I didn’t know that then]. Hohenwulsch is, naturally, some distance beyond the junction for the Kalbe branch, but nothing to be done about that since there are no booked workings to/from Stendal.

Not much trade for 772 358 as it waits to leave Kalbe (Milde) on 4-4-99

The frustrating sight of track you can't do! The way from Kalbe to Salzwedel is blocked on 4-4-99.

The Kalbe branch ‘platform’ is some distance away [presumably as a consequence of its having belonged at one time to the narrow gauge Stendaler Kleinbahn system] but I eventually found 772368 with an all female crew and no other passengers. The branch is mostly straight, with one or two slight curves, and level. There were one or two trees, two hares and some grass. Still, you have to do these things, don’t you. I was expecting 101 minutes at Kalbe (where, like Bismark - sic – there is an ex shed) to be 99 minutes too long, but it proved to be only 60 minutes too long as I had quite a pleasant stroll around the town. It’s attractive, with some very nice old timber framed buildings, three hotels/B&Bs and a cash machine! No chance of a coffee though as its shutness was well up to Halberstadt/Gütergluck standards. Back to Magdeburg by the same route, unfortunately. At M/burg the travel centre couldn’t provide me with a timetable for the Zwickau area – directed me to the seriously unhelpful ‘service’ desk who couldn’t/wouldn’t either. And the baguette was full of mayonnaise. Memo: Avoid Cro-Bag!

1204 to Halle with connection (1315/18) to Leipzig was suitably dull. Leipzig travel centre made a lot more effort but was also unable to provide a timetable and suggested that the end of May would be a good time! I just managed to get 1403 to Reichenbach, seemingly my only option, and was treated to very noisy children all the way. Still managed to fall asleep somehow, now and again… Track is still in situ on the Neumark-Greitz branch (looked rusty from afar) and there is still a long TSR (PSR?) on the way into Werdau.

Stuck for an hour in Reichenbach I wandered into the town and eventually found the one open pub. Very pleasant, and Erdinger into the bargain. The heavens opened as I left and I got soaked.

The 1700 to Falkenstein had little option but to go N-S at Herlasgrun as S(or E)-W was under engineering possession. We stopped at a brand new platform on the curve – another is being provided on the E-W curve so the news item which brought me here is a bit baffling. I baled out at Falkenstein to return to Zwickau – the physical connection is north of the station so all OK there.

Excellent hotel garni (Merkur, not to be confused with Mercure) found 200 metres from the station in Bahnhofstrasse (keep left as you leave the station). 85DM and very well appointed. After a wash and brush up, down to town to Zur Pflamme in the Hauptmarkt for a tolerable local pils and an excellent steak. Zwickau’s city centre looks as if it’s rapidly becoming very smart and was quite a revelation as I’d thought on a previous visit that it looked a desperate place. The generally circular plan suggests a walled city at some stage though in the dark I couldn’t see any supporting evidence. All in all an excellent end to the day – and into bed by 2130 for an 0730 breakfast!

(Easter) Monday 5.4.99

Which was very good (breakfast that is) and taken in solitary state. Off to the station for 0819 to Glauchau or Chemnitz – still no timetables but the help desk lived up to its name and printed me a complete Glauchau-Rochlitz and Chemnitz-Rochlitz set for the day.Nothing had changed as it turned out so I went for Chemnitz-Oberfrohna-Wittgensdorf Mitte – Rochlitz-Glauchau. Checking times at Chemnitz the brain had either gone for a very early lunch or reverted to BST and I thought I couldn’t get back from Oberfrohna. Fortunately normal service resumed at about 0927.45 and after a short sprint I made the 0928 with easily 4 seconds to spare. This was a 2 car DMU – I noticed a 202 manoeuvring one coach in the next platform.

628 590 waits in the gloom at Oberfrohna, 5-4-99. I'm sure the sun shines sometimes...

The Oberfrohna branch was fairly grim. Fortunately the zero metres cloud base hid most of it but what there was, was mostly industry and the previous administration’s bijou apartment blockettes. Not one of Saxony’s finest. A large oil depot is probably responsible for decent track on the first part, but at and after Limbach it’s very slow going. As I was the only passenger, both ways, I’ll be surprised if it’s not on next year’s closure list.

At Wittgensdord Ober Bf the physical connection is south of the station (naturally) though it’s a parallel alignment, so I opted for W-Mitte, getting a mite anxious as we were 4½ minutes late on an 8 minute connection. 4 minutes to spare in the end, and the Rochlitz train proved to be the 202 and its one coach. Steam (over)heated naturally.

At Narsdorf the junction is north of the station, hooray! The wondrous two tiered viaduct over the Zwickau river near Wechselburg is terrifying to ride over and has a very severe speed limit. If this needs heavy maintenance then possibly Leipzig-Chemnitz trains will need to go via Gößnitz and Glauchau? Certainly a Leipzig-Narsdorf and return, via the two routes to Geithain, seems a good idea sooner rather than later.

Once a familiar sight in Sachsen, a 202 with one coach at Rochlitz on 5-4-99. This one is 202 562.

At Rochlitz the train arrived in platform 3 and the Glauchau train left from P1. As P2 and P3 have access to Wechselburg (whence I arrived last time) and Pp 1,2, 3 have access to Großbothen (whither I departed last time), I refuse to worry about this!

The run to Glauchau follows the river all the way and must be exceptional on a fine day. Today being very murky it wasn’t so exceptional (apart from the truly wonderful train announcement ‘Nächster halt Amerika’ which is absolutely genuine).

Enquiries at Glauchau elicited that there was time to go to Gößnitz en route to Glauchau so I did that, via Chemnitz-Düsseldorf IR, then RE, as I couldn’t remember having done the Glauchau- Gößnitz of the (very large) triangle.

On arrival at Zwickau there was a train to Johanngeorgenstadt in 5 minutes so I went for that in the hope of finding a bureau de change or equivalent at J-stadt. [I was intending a visit to Poland to do the Bogatynia branch and had very few zlotys]. Some hope. It takes for ever to get there through top grade Sachsen scenery, uphill and sharply curved almost all the way from Aue.

A busy scene at the border market at Potucky, Czech Republic, on Easter Monday, 5-4-99

The station is in the middle of nowhere about a mile from the border so I decided to walk up there on the off chance. Good choice – as I approached the border there was a sort of Sunday market on the German side and obvious goings-on on the other side. I decided to add to my small collection of walked-over borders and was rewarded with an unique collection of complete tat. The Czech side has dozens of stalls a la Tijuana [on the US/Mexico border, another I’ve walked across], a large proportion of which deal in drink and cigarettes, but all sorts of other dodgy goods as well. Swarming with police as one might expect, and thoroughly entertaining. No change of course – the ‘Wechsel’ was shut. Plenty of stand-up bars but the pubs seemed rather restaurant-y so I paused at Herrmann’s Border Bar back on the German side for a half litre of Westenburger Hefeweiss Dunkel which was very drinkable.

CD's 714 204 with an assortment of railcar trailers waiting to leave Johanngeorgenstadt for Karlovy Vary. 5-4-99

Back at the station the CD train had arrived – loco and three railcar trailers. While awaiting departure we were ‘entertained’ by possibly the drunkest man I’ve ever seen – rubber legs, wet trousers, the works. He fell on to a seat, would have liked to lie on it but couldn’t organise his legs. Eventually he passed out on the bench, to my relief as I’d been worried he wanted the CD train. [Though more likely he had the drink taken on the much cheaper Czech side and was on his way home to Germany, I suppose]. I’d had Wayne and Waynetta Slob all the way from Zwickau as it was [For young or non-UK readers, these were two comedy characters from a 1990s sketch series on BBC TV. My travelling ‘companions’ had drunk a lot of beer and made a lot of noise en route from Zwickau.].

Off to Czech on time after being relieved of a whole CZK57 (just over a pound) for the 35 miles or so. It’s a marvellous line. Some in forest, but some in open scenery which would almost qualify as mountain (1000 metres/3250 feet anyway). Speed is not a feature and many of the stops are just little shelters in the middle of nowhere [typical of Czech minor lines, but I didn’t know then]. Reasonable numbers of passengers eventually, though only one from J-stadt and two from Potúčky. [I didn’t note it at the time but as I recall a lot got on at Potúčky zastávka].

Karlovy Vary station is, er, very big with two (and a half) platforms and an over(nearly)all roof. It’s also on a hillside and some way from the town – the other station is more convenient. Nonetheless I was able to find a hotel within 20 minutes, for about £17. A steak and two half litres of beer (unknown but very drinkable) ran to about a fiver. The phone system defeated me, so (after working out that the Czechs use 900Mhz) the mobile proved invaluable.

Tuesday 6.4.99

The hotel room, newly modernised, contained a spectacular collection of poor materials and worse workmanship – they were done! No breakfast unfortunately, owing to an 0645 departure to the station. By the direct route, it was less than ten minutes.

For some reason I was sent off to the international booking office to get my single to Rumburk (just over £2). The 0723 to Chomutov was a railcar with trailer – absolutely packed with students as far as Ostrov and heavily delayed by engineering work. Over 15 late at one stage, I started to fear for my 14 minute connection but even after (yet) more single line working it managed to get to Chomutov at 0859 with the 0900 standing adjacent. [Unlike the British, the Czechs understand perfectly well how railways work, and if I’d known that at the time I wouldn’t have worried!]. This too rapidly became 15 late but eventually recovered to be 2 down for the 3 minute connection at Rybniste.

En route Chomutov-Usti nad Labem there are a number of vast open cast workings with their own rail systems, cement works etc. Basic heavy industry and a lot of it. After the drunks yesterday I got a loud scruffy youth with a Mohican, camouflage trousers torn off at the knees, two rings in its nose and to add insult to injury, a Union Jack on its hat. It stank memorably. Not an ideal travelling companion, but luckily only for one station. [In case I've mislaid the information at a later date (as if), I've just checked the route of this train (R695) as it no longer runs. It went main line from Usti to Decin, then via Decin vychod, Benesov, Ceske Kamenice to Rybniste, where I changed trains.]

Passengers (and 810 275) await their connection at Mikulasovice on 6-4-99. The two lines in the background go to Pansky (right) and Rumburk (left).

There followed a mad dash Rybniste-Rumburk, Rumburk-Mikulasovice via Pansky, Mikulasovice-Rumburk via Sluknov, Rumburk-Pansky via Krasna Lipa, Pansky- Mikulasovice, Mikulasovice-Dolni Poustevna. Pausing for about 1¼ hours at DP I went for a wander (and bought a phone card, at last). It’s another border ‘outpost’ like Potúčky with all sorts of stalls selling tat, and numerouse ‘Wechselstübe’ all giving diabolical rates and none offering Polish currency, even at diabolical rates. Obviously they’re only interested in DM and CZK, even though it’s only 15 miles to Poland… One thing it had which I didn’t notice at Potúčky was a ‘sauna’ establishment inviting you to ‘relax until 0300’ with a large pink heart on its sign. I didn’t investigate further, gentle reader, but I do suspect I know what it was.

Not much doubt about the location. 810 219 at the terminus at Dolni Poustevna. The line here used to continue into Sachsen at Sedlitz. 6-4-99

Remaining on the rails in all senses, I took 1623 Dolni Poustevna to Rumburk and then a variety of gambles on 1736 to Jirikov, namely 1) it would be on time 2) I could get to Ebersbach for 1822 to Zittau 3) I could find somewhere to stay in Zittau. It all paid off. The wheelie bin arrived early, I got to Ebersbach for the 1759, and Zittau provided a really excellent hotel just under budget. Not to mention a fine evening meal with 2 x Kapuziner Weissbier. Good, all in all. No Polish dosh available so off back to Czech tomorrow after the banks have opened and I can get organised for Thursday (little did I know). A wander round Zittau looking for a suitable pub revealed that it’s not the dump it appears from the station and the main drag. In fact it’s a nice old town, rapidly being renovated and well worth the stroll round.


Wednesday 7.4.99

Awoke before the alarm for once. Breakfast well up to standard. Off to Deutsche Bank for 08:32 ‘you can only get Polish money in Poland’. End of story – I’ll just have to busk it tomorrow. On arrival at the station two of the n.g. locos were in the yard looking highly authentic, so phots were taken. While waiting in the booking office I heard the bells so nipped out to catch the 2-10-2Ts crossing the road. Didn’t have time for a clear phot unfortunately.

The Liberec train was at 0912 – at 0856 3 people (out of breath) asked for my place in the queue, which I agreed to. A bit annoying therefore to find them on the 0912 as there was plenty of time! The immigration man had time on his hands, and spent a lot of it on my passport, but I got a Hradek stamp for my trouble.

The 0912 was loco hauled (having come from Varnsdorf et al.), confusing a number of locals who had piled into the CD unit in the bay platform (recently arrived but actually forming the 11-something). The CD driver gave them a shouting at which was a bit pointless as they’d just got out in response to a station announcement.

Ticket buying/pronunciation problem at Liberec was easily solved by writing down Bílý Potok. It cost less than 40p. Another fruitless search for Zlotys. CD’s bureau de change sent me to the bank, the bank suggested the post office (which I didn’t have time to find), the travel agent suggested the bank. And so forth. At least the drinks machine on the station worked.

Just a hint of green to offset the generally misty and autumnal air! The end of the line at Bily Potok on 7-4-99.

The 1030 to Frydnant was a proper loco hauled train running authentically late (9 min). It was only 2 or 3 late at Raspenava and the 2 minute connection for Bílý Potok was held. BP is and was end of line (lots of timber traffic, the main ‘town’ being the penultimate stop, Hejnice. Accordingly after running out of film I went back to Hejnice in search of dosh. After buying some postcards I saw the ‘Wechsel’ sign at the post office. I arrived at 1138 - it closed 1130-1330. The postcard lady (cousin in London, worked once in Praha, a bit of English) had suggested the bank but after walking quite a way I couldn’t find it. Went to the pub (lesson 1 in CZ – those things appearing to be shut are probably open. Those things appearing to be open are probably shut) instead and had an excellent 125/142 of a pint of draught Svijany for 21p.

Found the bank on the way back at 1210 – it closed 1200-1330. Ah well.

Back to Raspenava on the wheelie bin only to find out (more or less by chance) that Frydlant was a bustitution. The plan was adhered to, in the hope of finding trains thereafter – while a pain, at least Raspenava-Frydlant is part of the ‘main’ service, unlikely to close and (by CZ standards) quick to do. Gives me a reason to come back… No apparent reason for the buses as the track was very shiny and a double headed freight was waiting at Frydlant.

The branch to Jindřichovice was functioning and the usual cart was waiting, crammed with schoolchildren. Another splendid branch with fearsome gradients, starting mid-Walesish and ending Beattockish with bits of Pennine on the way – one town complete with mill, or something, which would have sat comfortably in Shaw or Rawtenstall. Just time for a ticket to Černousy and a phot in the 5 minutes at Jindřichovice but not time to see if the line went beyond, as it appeared to. [To Mirsk in Poland, if I’m not mistaken].

Downhill almost all the way back to Frydlant, where yet another wheelie bin arrived to form the 1520 to Černousy. This was the shortest and least interesting of the three, other than that it continues into Poland and seems to carry significant cross border freight. Shame about the passenger services…

Back at Frydlant fears/hopes of a return visit were unfounded as a train was waiting. Once past Raspenava it was dead track all the way back to Zittau, enlivened by a railcar of great antiquity with two trailers on the Liberec-Zittau service. A repeat visit to the previous night’s pub finished the day very satisfactorily.

[Regrettably the photos for the rest of this trip are eluding me, as they do sometimes. If ever I catch the little beggars I'll put some here!]

Thursday 8.4.99

Up at 0500 for 0614 to Krzewina Zgorzelecka (Ostritz if you’re on the German side of the Niesse). The station man there did his very best with limited English; we established that my Zl. 10 would probably cover KZ-Bogatynia-Luban so all seemed well until he explained that tourists weren’t allowed in until 0800. The policeman who had been hovering (and helpful) then escorted me to the border and requested that I retire to Germany until the Customs arrived at 0800. He was bigger than me and had a gun, so I did. Thus deported, I missed the 0715 to Bogatynia which rather wrecked the plan. I accordingly returned to Zittau by bus to take some more bad shots of the 2-10-2Ts and get the 0912 to Dresden (232 hauled) with a view to getting to Lubmin via Berlin.

Dresden Neustadt is very slowly improving and the concourse is now very smart (with mayo-free rolls still available). Platform level is still the same, gloomy, semaphore signalled and neon signed. Without the few modern touches of signs, seats etc it would be quite a period piece with its 219s and 232s.

‘Karl Maria von Weber’ had lost the rhythm on the way from Praha and was 7 minutes late. With a convenient connection at Zoo and an inconvenient one at Ostbf, 9 and 37 minutes respectively, it looks like inconvenience at Ostbf.

In fact KMvW got it together and was back on time at Schönefeld though a bit behind at Ostbf. I opted for safety and after photting one of the splendid 50s S-Bahn units, wandered across to phot the 232 on the 1340 to Warsaw and await the 1348 to Greifswald. This was a ‘slim jim’ double decker and a very uncomfortable way to spend 2½ hours redoing track. I slept for some of the way so just as well it wasn’t new.

The Lubmin branch looked as if it was probably functioning but I was relieved to find a Ferkeltaxi and trailer in the bay at Greifswald. Outside the station there was a comprehensive hotel guide so I decided to try there rather than go to Stralsund (unless I had to). After some trouble convincing the gripper that I wanted to go to Lubmin Personenbahnhof, even though there was nothing there, even though there weren’t any other passengers, etc., etc., off we went. Not an interesting branch, no intermediate sidings, no station buildings until you get to the end, and a seriously large nuclear power station (if I understood him right). Probably being decommissioned in line with current German practice, though there were some signs of life. The branch ends at the end of the platform; there is a run round loop presumably used by the freights.

Back at Greifswald (one more passenger on the way back) the hotel system revealed 3 hotels together in Langestrasse (it is, too) so I tried Hotel am Wall (full) and ended up at Kronprinz (exemplary, if expensive at 130DM, and did breakfast at 0630). A murky occasionally wet day had turned into a beautiful evening and the usual evening constitutional was, as so often, a surprise. Greifswald is a Hanseatic town (vague memories of school history) and has more than a hint of Flemish about it, particularly in the main square, or Grote Markt as we Flemings call it. It’s currently getting The Treatment, big time, and still has some dreadfully decrepit old buildings amongst the renovation. It also has a very austere brick cathedral (cf. Rostock, Schwerin etc.) Reasonable nosh and nice glasses (shame about the Lübzer Pils) at Hotel Am Wall, and so to bed. [I really, really don’t like Lübzer Pils and all its near relations. Horrible thin stuff, and there’s far too much of it over that side of the country!]

Friday 9.4.99

It sure is noisy in Greifswald. Shouting and bangs (fireworks?) at 0230 followed by Authoritative Voices then silence. There had been intermittent riotous behaviour throughout. The traffic started about 0530 so an 0600 start was no great hardship. Very posh breakfast (smoked salmon, hot rolls, you name it) and away about 0700 to the station where the English-free but helpful travel center confirmed that there didn’t seem to be any trains Dessau Wörlitzer Bf – Wörlitz currently.

0733 to Züssow turned up on time – good thing too, it being cold and overcast. The timetable suggests that the 0456 Greifswald-Wolgast does the connection at Züssow and also the 1016 summer only Züssow-Wolgast. As it’s only a crossover I can’t get that excited. Would have been nice though… [Anybody who’s read this far will know I was lying! I’ll make every attempt to do such things and I’m only waiting for the extension of track at Ahlbeck before doing the line again. It has a regular 2 hourly service to Stralsund at the time of writing in May 2006.]

A pleasant enough trundle in one of three double deckers with a 143 to Wolgast Hafen which is now end of line. The line continues/d into some roadworks – presumably it once shared the bridge with the road.

A brand new road only (at present) bridge is now the only way over to Usedom – it was lifted as I walked from the Hafen station but closed just as I got to it. The Fahre station on the ‘island’ is just the other side, with a bus in the way to spoil your photo.

The line turned out to be worked by Usedomer Baderbahn Gmbh and the conductor declined my EuroDomino, insisting I paid DM8.50 to go to Ahlbeck. The offer of a DM15 day ticket would have been nice… The line has been modernised throughout with most of the track replaced, new platforms and extensively refurbished stations. Trains are ex DB 771/772/971/972 railcars and there are two 201s (380 and 792) at Zinnowitz, presumably for PW work. There is some preserved passenger stock at Seebad Ahlbeck but no locos visible. It looks as if a large amount of public money has gone UBB’s way and if that is the case, acceptance of EuroDominos would seem a reasonable quid pro quo. It’s not as if it would lose them much. That said, it is the very model of a modern rural rail-a-way [apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan], a good trip and very interesting. Ahlbeck Grenze is as its name suggests, right next to the Polish border. Usual tat on the German side but nothing visible on the Polish side. It looks as if the line ran through to Swinoujscie at one time. [It did, and may do again soon.]

On the return the unit ran into what apparently was a through platform at Seebad Heringsdorf having used one of two terminal platforms previously. Colourlight signals prevail here, and between Zinnowitz and Wolgast. The Peenemünde line is less attractive than the others, with some intriguing evidence of earlier times towards the end! At Peenemünde Dorf there are some derelict factories, presumably built by the East German administration, and some particularly attractive flats, ditto. A strange place altogether, on a very attractive island.

Back to Wolgast from Zinnowitz on the third Ferkeltaxi in the Wolgast-Ahlbeck circuit. At Wolgast, seen from the other direction and without the EuroDomino/gripper distraction, it all becomes clear. A new curve is being built from just short of the Fahre station (phew – would have needed the last bit of the branch!) up to the bridge. The apparent cycleway on the bridge is actually for the railway, and the ‘road works’ on the mainland side are actually rail works for the line to continue across another bridge and join the Züssow line end on. Wonderful stuff. History should note that the last vehicle on my train was just at the point where the station approach road ends, about 15m from the end of the timber framed warehouse. Will there be overlap??

A long pause at an intermediate station en route to Züssow caused me to check the timetable. Shock, horror: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays except public holidays and between certain dates it took an extra 18 minutes. Of course this was such a day, and there was a 10 minute connection… After a few more minutes another 143 passed us and we trundled off arriving 5 minutes before the connection. Nothing on the posted arrival sheet about it, so who knows.

Pasewalk is in the V of the Berlin and Szczecin lines so I was resigned to missing the physical connection. On inspection of the local sheets, however, they revealed that at least some of the Ueckermünde trains run through to Szczecin or Grambow, and better yet that one left in 5 minutes from which I could get my original planned Szczecin train at Jatznick. And even better still – there’s a pub on the station at Jatznick. However, arriving at 1450 I was informed it was shut (actually shuts 1500-1800 but the same rules apply everywhere – if they say it’s shut, it’s shut). This minor disappointment behind me, the track strategy worked well, and another inspiration took me to the booking office at Pasewalk who provided a single Grambow Grenze-Sczcecin-Tantow Grenze for a mere DM5.40 thus solving Polish currency and language problems. Mind you I’m not there yet…

Got there with no problems this time. A very cheery pair of Polish border persons at Grambow (plus a German one) who examined passports. After a while we trundled on to Szczecin Gumience where further extensive examination took place and a stamp was administered. Away then to Szczecin Glowny which is all very orderly – note for later, kantor is only open 8-8. Outside it’s pretty depressing (though the post office building is impressive) and the ‘public open space’ round the corner looks like waste ground/a tip. I didn’t have time to get to the city centre but I don’t think it’s far away and the omens aren’t good! There’s an interesting stuffed 2-8-2T on the shed, inevitably behind a pole (small ‘p’ intended) but just about phottable. Looks as if it might go if provoked.

The 1745 to Angermünde arrived at and left from P3 (not as advertised) so it’s as well I was looking out for a DB loco especially as it was PKP stock. Another 232 seemed over powered for 3 coaches. An exit stamp was applied to my passport at Gumience and an affable Bundesgrenzschutz bod looked me over at Tantow. Due to waiting to cross another DB train at Gumience we were 7 late at Angermünde despite valiant efforts from the 232.

Onwards to Berlin Zoo on a double decker, 143 powered and late, where a hasty McD’s was taken and a Wochenendticket procured for tomorrow. The Hotel Bogota had my reservation down for Saturday night – not sure whose fault – but found me a room anyway. Franziskaner Weissbier round the corner in a very London-like, though friendlier, pub at a London-like price (DM5.90/0.5l = £2.50/pint) before retiring.

Saturday 10.4.99

Despite paper thin walls, television in next room, traffic noise etc., a good night’s sleep! Breakfast was just about adequate – I suppose for £35/night in a Euro capital that’s what you expect. Away to Charlottenburg by S-Bahn from Savignyplatz, for the 0805 to Belzig via Potsdam Drewitz, Wilhelmshorst, Michendorf. At Belzig (railbus noted on the service from Brandeburg, all trains off 5 or 6, parallel but probably no connection), the 0919 to Dessau was announced 15-20 late. It arrived about 15 late, 4 double deckers from Stralsund, packed to the doors. I got a ‘seat’ on the stairs in the first class… After emergency replanning I realised we were only a few minutes late approaching Dessau and in fact the connections were held. A treat to behold the contents of the Stralsund train herded down into the subway with a DB carebear standing at the bottom yelling destinations and platform numbers at everybody (except me – nobody wanted to go to Aschersleben so I had to ask!).

The Aken branch comes in well before Köthen but the Aken and Dessau lines continue as two single lines. The physical connection is before the station but it looks as though it’s not doable. There’s a hotel near the station (north-east of it). At Aschersleben an odd formation of 972/772/772/972 turned up for Quedlinburg. Explanation was forthcoming when the lady gripper came round to say that this train ended at Gernrode and we’d have to go in the other one. This is how the set for the unbalanced 1318 Gernrode to Q-burg gets to Gernrode. Why it doesn’t go round as 1232 from Aschersleben like all the others, who knows.

It’s a pleasant enough ramble round the loop, quite bucolic around Gernrode (which looked a bit less forbidding on a sunny spring day than a cold night in 1993!). Nothing doing on the n.g. and no sign of any locos. The shed doors were closed, so there may have been one inside.

At Quedlinburg there’s a stuffed Krieg, 52 8147 from memory, which is very difficult to photograph! More important, the track layout is:

so the Gernrode trains going into 3 overlap the Halberstadt ones going into 2.[This doesn’t seem to make sense, unless I meant Thale to Halberstadt trains, which I may well have done as they are all currently booked from P2. To add further complication, the line to Gernrode is of course narrow gauge now, and the layout will have changed completely since I wrote these notes!] H enlivened things here by phoning me just as the Thale train arrived, necessitating getting my rucksack off, extracting phone from side pocket and answering phone, all while climbing on to the train and before Orange’s answer service cut in. No fault of hers, of course, and she did get an answer, miraculously.

Thale, adjacent to a very large and partly derelict factory, is and was end of line, there being a Harz mountain obstructing further progress. It has a turntable at the end of its three platform roads; although all trains use P1, P2 is clearly used by something so perhaps locos still run round on occasion. En route back to Halberstadt [via P2 at Quedlinburg presumably] I realised that the junction at Wegeleben, though flat, is on two separate alignments. D**n. One for later…

Faced with 1hr 46m at Halberstadt I decided to get supper early (1405!). A tram took me to the centre of town (Fischmarkt), identified by proximity to a large church. Halberstadt is one of the most extreme examples yet of total rebuilding. Three large churches and a handful, literally, of old buildings around them. Other than that everything is post war. [I couldn’t see why Halberstadt had been singled out, and pursued it when I got home. It seems that the Americans bombed the town for 8 months on and off, because it had an aircraft factory.]

Back at the station after the world’s toughest steak, half a litre of pils and a run for the tram, business was as usual with the bar shut and the 1551 Goslar diverted via Köthen and retimed 8 minutes later. The connection for Osterwieck West was held for its only passenger [guess who] and proceeded at funereal pace for the first half of its journey due to speed restrictions. Clearly it is a candidate for closure with all freight facilities disconnected, no passengers and poor track. The branch is quite attractive particularly towards the Osterwieck end as it winds its way through the town to O-West where there is a simple halt with a concrete ‘bus shelter’ (and a pension opposite).

The journey back from Osterwieck seemed to be faster – must be downhill. At Heudeber-Danstedt the retimed Goslar train was running late and further delayed by having to loop for the SsuO Wernigerode-Berlin. It got to Vienenburg with a couple of minutes to spare before the 1855 to Braunschweig, an exceptionally noisy unit which provided an otherwise boring trip through flat country for the last new track of the day (as far as Wolfenbüttel where the Jerxheim loop comes in). At Braunschweig the Hotel Furstenhof obliged with a room at extortionate cost (DM119 – same as the Mercure at weekends). I trundled off to the Altstadt then, for a couple of much enjoyed Erdingers.

Sunday 11.4.99

Another adequate but unspectacular breakfast. Nice fruit salad though! A small fright at Braunschweig with the unit saying ‘Holzminden’ on it, which I thought to be before Kreiensen (it isn’t) and the departure indicator saying Paderborn. No problem once my geography was corrected, though. A pleasant enough run to Kreiensen though with cloud at well under 1000 ft there wasn’t too much to see. At Kreiensen the train was flagged as Bielefeld. Close examination of the sheet revealed that it runs to Holzminden as RBxxxxx, then to Paderborn as RByyyyy, then on to Bielefeld as RBzzzzz. All designed to confuse, but a useful train to use from Kreiensen to Bielefeld to do the track.

Kreiensen station has a large neoclassical building – sloping brick buttresses, tiles, half pillars, mouldings and all. Amazing. Shame about the signal box. Layout is

I caught 0920 to Göttingen so that I could freeze for slightly less time in a greater variety of places. The IR to Gemünden turned up with IC stock, some of it in a 1+2 configuration with the bays of 2x2 brhind a glass screen. Comfortable enough, anyway, and more to the point the connection off the NBS at Burgsinn proved to be crossover, single line, crossover so doing it one way is perfectly acceptable! Gemünden looks a pleasant place with at least one nearby hotel advertised on the station. [At this time HRS wasn’t really established and I wasn’t in the habit of booking in advance; therefore, availability of hotels was always something to keep an eye on].

Gemünden to Aschaffenburg (on an RE which miraculously emptied at Gemünden after being packed to the gunwales) starts very picturesque and continues thus most of the way, only giving up to urban sprawl near the end. Aschaffenburg looks horrible but I only had a few minutes for a cross platform connection to Darmstadt so that may be a totally unfair assessment. The connection was another packed RE seemingly with students heading for Mainz and/or Heidelberg. It’s a dreary line through the suburbs. Darmstadt Hbf is grubby but quite interesting with a ‘transept’ covering the footbridge and staircases, giving an unusual view on to the platforms.

From Darmstadt I took 1438 Eberbach as far as Wiebelsbach-Heubach. There is a physical connection north of the station (both ways) and some Darmstadt trains leave from P2 whence my Hanau service left at 1540. I’m not going to worry about it. [Lying again]. On P1 there is a Gaststätte. I had a 25 minute connection. And unbelievably, the bar was open. Michelsbräu (from Babenhausen) was sampled and found very satisfactory. Nice pub too.

Return to Frankfurt was via Babenhausen to Hanau where the platforms were lined with persons in ‘Country & Western’ attire, apparently returning from some form of festival. An RE did the job to Frankfurt Hbf where a nauseazug [tilting DMU] was provided for onward travel to the airport. This boasted a television showing pictures of, among others, Robin Cook. You had to hire headphones to hear what he was saying – I managed to resist. After failing to do the last bit of the peoplemover line (outbound passengers from that terminal only) I repaired to McDs where fresh orange juice was half the price of the beer at the bar opposite and twice as nice, probably. BA returned me punctually to Birmingham airport where Herself obligingly provided a taxi service home.

After this I managed to stay at home for a few weeks, but PFT (a Belgian society) advertised a tour over the Vennbahn to Jünkerath in Germany. Having only done the Vennbahn as far as the German border, and with constant rumours about the state of the track, I decided to go and take advantage of an interesting route to Germany to get some more branches done!








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