Germany 17.12.99-19.12.99 <  >

This was a quick weekend trip for the threatened Niederwiesa-Hainichen branch (limit of passenger traffic on the line through to Rosswein). It proved to be the start of quite a saga, but that comes later.

Friday 17.12.99

First gricing trip for a while (though Padova - Venezia Santa Lucia had been satisfactorily done in November). Off in the Flying Tractor at 0445 to Stansted (arr 0715 but not checked in ubtil 0747) for the 0900 Virgin Express (‘Your Right to Queue for Longer’) to Berlin Schönefeld which left STN and arrived SXF just over 15 late. No baggage so I managed to make (at a brisk trot) 1210 Schönefeld to Jüterbog which was one of those nice air-con airport sets that would have been so welcome in July! It was 1°C outside but pleasant in the train. Unconstructive exchange of views with the cash machine at SXF but my debit card was accepted OK at the DB Reisezentrum so hopefully better luck at Chemnitz. 112023 propelled to Jüterbog; track from Ludwigsfelde to Jüterbog I think. Onwards to Falkenberg on a train heading for Güben via the two triangles. Very cold at Falkenberg but fortunately only 5 minutes before 143190 appeared with 2 coavhes for Riesa. Chemnitz train was waiting at Riesa (did the bay here - bonus) and was away on time.

{Sometimes, things go right. 1522 arrival at Chemnitz was only 2 late on P6. I dashed round to P8 to find 202690 and one coach on 1527 to Hainichen. This was the last through train (i.e. not a connection at Niederwiesa) in daylight and runs M-F. I had no ticket (60DM penalty fare) so consulted the train crew who indicated no problem. Hooray. At Niederwiesa, unbelievably, this tinpot branch has a burrowing junction just east of the station. Up side will have to be done in the dark, but who cares! Heavy civil engineering (two large viaducts in the first mile) and dodgy track approaching Braunsdorf. No hope, poor thing.

202743 crossed at Frankenberg (Sachs.) and 204723 was stabled there (numbers are correct!). And there’s more - just enough light at Hainichen for phots. Real serious brass monkey weather, over an hour to wait - and the pub’s open! Wonders will never cease, and a half litre of Rauh und Ploss is just the job. [A brewery from Selb. I’m not sure of its status as some of its brewing equipment had been sold to Americans but the company still seems to be alive and well. See].

On the way back, we used the same curve at Niederwiesa – looks like you have to do one of the terminating trains to get the other curve. Ah well. I might try tomorrow if I can speed up the morning’s proceedings by the use of a bus.

Hotel Gunnewig Europa obliged with a pleasant room for DM99 (good job I had checked on the Web I suspect). It’s now refurbished and cheaper than on previous visit. Repairing, in the snow, to the town centre I found the Christmas market in full swing with many stalls in very little wooden huts. [And, perhaps inevitably, Wolverhampton’s very own Slade were bellowing from a nearby record shop. So here it is, down in Chemnitz evry-bod-y’s hav-ing fun…] Schnitzelparadies und Bierakademie provided me with a pfefferschnitzel as nice as any meal I’ve had, yet, in Germany and two Kapuziners. All for 25.50. Into bed at 2030 (by which time the market was shut and the pubs about to be) for some serious Zs.

Saturday 18.12.99

Breakfast at 7 (for future reference, 6 on weekdays) was excellent, except the orange juice. A new CD timetable was obtained at the station, and further research revealed an hourly bus service back from Marienberg which might solve The Niederwiesa Problem (see yesterday).

The physical junction for the diveunder line at Niederwiesa is west of the station so yesterday’s outward strategy was a good one. Worth checking with the CD-ROM for P4 departures to Flöha or Dresden as there is a separate alignment from the diveunder line back up to the Dresden line.

The Neuhausen branch has a single line connection east of Flöha so no problem if it only gets done one way. It passes under the Dresden line a mile or two further on, after Falkenau. It’s a long haul up the valleys to Neuhausen with at least four dodgy bridges and some severe speed restrictions on plain line. Not very many passengers other than a school party, either. The Neuhausen and Marienberg departures use the same platform at Pockau-Lengefeld so that looks OK too.

Which of course, will teach me. On return to Pockau-Lengefeld I discovered that Marienberg was a (seemingly permanent) bustitution. There was some compensation in the form of a railtour worked by an immaculate preserved ex-DR streamlined diesel unit. A quick phot was obtained and I rejoined the Chemnitz train. Should be back at Chemnitz 1202 - is Stollberg a possibility?

Chemnitz 1208 - punches air - yesss! 1216 Chemnitz - Stollberg, 1345 Stollberg - St Egidien, 1436 St. E to Chemnitz which just happens to continue as 1501 to Dresden which was the original plan. Stollberg has been privatised and is now served by a KEGrail Triebwagen, nicely refurbished but just as uncomfortable. The driver assured me that my SWT was OK which saved me DM5.60. At Stollberg all seemed to be well - previous visit wasn’t wasted as it did the physical connection with the St Egidien line and today’s Ferkeltaxi didn’t.

Consumed by thirst I raced (slowly, icy footpath!) into town to discover Stollberg considerably more dead than alive (see previous visit, no change there, then). The four ale bar previously noted had turned into an Italian restaurant so I ended up at the Casa Rustica where a large Sternquell Pilsener (from Plauen) made the world, if not Stollberg, a better place. Hope there isn’t a flying junction at St Egidien…

There isn’t. Single lead across a couple of freight lines, joining part way along P3 which at least in theory could be used by main line trains. Only the Stollberg trains are booked to use it and there aren’t any through workings to Glauchau so honour is satisfied. 1431 to Dresden is about 6 late so I’ll have to hope for the best and maybe go via Zittau [to Görlitz].

All well in the end. Timings are exceptionally slow due to single line Flöha - Freiberg and the train was waiting time at Freiberg. Arrival at Dresden Hbf was on time, allowing time to boost Coca-Cola’s profits before getting almost the last seat on 1707 RB to Görlitz. This left packed almost beyond the doors and remained so until Löbau where the first empty seats appeared. Still on time at Görlitz though.

Room was secured at the Hotel Hansa (DM65 w/out breakfast) and I set off to see how far it was to the border crossing. It proved to be 20 minutes, on an icy footpath. Returning to the town centre which was dying on its feet (8 p.m. Saturday) I found Brasserie am Post which provided steak and Erdinger at modest cost considering its very smart appearance. Thence to bed with a view to 0430 departure for Bogatynia. Waking at 0100 I considered carefully the timings for the day and concluded that there was too great a risk of missing my flight. The Bogatynia branch was therefore abandoned to closure on the principle that one branch in a country unlikely ever to be seriously griced wasn’t worth the risk. I left the 0415 alarm on, with a view to an early start to Dresden for Altenberg, or Döbeln - Leisnig, or Eilenburg, or Beeskow - Königs Wusterhausen, or whatever.

Sunday 19.12.99

The gods must have approved to some extent. I arrived at the station at 0449 to find there was an 0453 to Dresden, and a DB man to tell me to get my ticket on the train! At Dresden Hbf the gods were still smiling, but only faintly. [And even that was only Their warped sense of humour. Read on.] There’s an 0706 to Altenberg, ensuring the physical connection at Heidenau, but the parish notices seem to suggest there may be a problem getting back from Heidenau (and the loco seems to have failed as well). It’s an ill wind - the later we go the better the daylight. 10 late in the end, the first coach rather than the loco having failed, and very convenient as daylight was just appearing at Heidenau where the physical connection is at the Altenberg end of the platform. I suspect we used the S-bahn platform and that the branch trains normally use the outermost, though this is accessible to the main line so no big deal. You wind away from Heidenau through factories and past dear old Wal-Mart but things become more rural after Dohna.

Lots of gunge along the route – presumably the previous administration allowed this sort of thing. The last few miles into Altenberg make it worthwhile, with a marvellous view from a very sharply curved line winding along high on the valley side. Not a huge amount of snow but sufficient for the modest ski slope at Altenberg (with tow-type ski lift). The Alps it ain’t. Total disaster at Altenberg with 0825 arrival -> 1034 departure. Extensive research revealed Herr Braun’s café doesn’t open until 1330 on a Sunday, but trudging back up the main road with a view to freezing in the train I discovered a bus at 0923. The next good news was a hotel where I was able to procure the most welcome cup of hot coffee of my life so far. [The whole situation was being made a lot worse than it seems because I was suffering the onset of ‘proper’ flu, which was to keep me off work for a whole week - unheard of for an hourly paid contractor!]. The bus driver looked at the Wochenendeticket ‘gone out’ so obviously this isn’t one of the intervalidity areas. Nevertheless the DM10.20 was well spent to get out of the cold and get back to Dresden an hour earlier (or more, if the connection at Heidenau wasn’t as booked). One possibility would have been to bale out at Kipsdorf but as we passed the n.g. train on its way up at Obercarsdorf this too would probably have been slower (in fact considerably so - 1106 ex Kipsdorf, 1231 at Freital).

Back at Dresden breakfast (1115, well short of the record) and a new Kursbuch were obtained. Döbeln - Leisnig turned out not to be an option and 1141 Leipzig was taken as far as Riesa with a view to 1340 to Lutherstadt-Wittenberg and on to Jüterbog and the airport. Riesa turned out not to have a bar which was disappointing with over an hour to wait. Much worrying over the 13 minute connection at Lutherstadt-Wittenberg was wasted as the 1340 ran right time +/-1 all the way and ended up 1 early. 1516 Jüterbog was waiting on P3, there being two halves to the station here; the Jüterbog-Leipzig side and the Falkenberg-Dessau side. Ne’er the twain shall meet unless there’s an odd working buried somewhere in the K-Buch. It was noticed that there is a very modestly priced hotel (from DM69, which probably means 90) signposted in the subway.

On to Jüterbog with another on time run. At Jüterbog the bar was open but with the gradual onset of something resembling flu [not surprisingly, since it was] and the need to drive from Stansted it seemed best left. The ‘RE160’ was in the platform, providing somewhere warm to wait. It too arrived right on time at Schönefeld, ending a thoroughly successful weekend (I don’t count Bogatynia since that was voluntary, nor Marienberg as it’s not in the latest K-Buch and I didn’t do my homework properly). The Niederwiesa Problem remains but that can be dealt with next time. Memo: check for through workings via P1 and remember the bus from/to Frankenberg.

Now, SXF. Back to the 80s. Obnoxious staff (not all of them), vile food (dried up baguettes tasting days old), vile beer [I did note which 'brewery' was to blame, but...]. And while one tries to rise above such things, a large contingent from flight SN114 (or maybe SU) of which the least said, soonest mended. For some reason I set off the security alarm despite phone, keys, money etc going through the X-ray. Might have been the belt buckle I suppose. At least the bloke with the metal detector was pleasant, and thorough which is also welcome. Still, my suffering here for 1½ hours plus was rewarded by a window in row 2. Oh, and the card phone (singular, in a [expletive deleted. I had the flu and wasn't a happy bunny - you wouldn't have guessed, would you] airport, can you believe it) didn’t work. ‘Not duty free’ was DM25 (£8.35) for a litre of Gordon’s.

Seat 2A proved to be (almost) the best in the house. Row 1 only has two seats so there is enormous leg room. Unfortunately the child in 3A didn’t have so much and used the small of my back in lieu. On time at Stansted and then 20 minutes sitting in the aircraft because Gatwick Handling couldn’t find an operator for the air bridge. Down the steps in the end and everyone milling about on the tarmac. It eventually took 40 minutes from plane stationary to M11, as usual. The rest of the journey to Coventry was OK; home tomorrow after work. [It was not to be. I’d already had to scrounge paracetamol off the cabin crew on the 737 and I was feeling thoroughly ill. Having kept everybody awake all night at the B&B in Coventry I crawled in to work the next day, thought better of it and went home to bed for the rest of the week!].

There followed, of course, the Millennium, and its non-existent bug. It was non-existent where I was working, anyway - though in all fairness quite a team of people had worked very hard to make it that way. We succeeded, without a single problem on the day, and once the shouting and tumult had died down I took a month off between contracts to get off to Germany and have a good go at the remaining parts of the former DR system.








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