Nürnberg route S2


143 870 stands at Nürnberg Hbf, 18/11/17 (JW)

The German city of Nürnberg (Nuremberg) contains a loco-hauled operation that is garnering increasing amounts of interest among enthusiasts – particularly as the alternatives are rapidly disappearing.

The S2 route of the Nürnberg S-Bahn runs from Altdorf, 15 miles east of the city at the end of a branch line, through Nürnberg Hbf in the middle, out to Roth a further 15 miles to the south.

All of the trains on the route are booked for haulage by class 143 “Trabant” electric locos hauling rakes of push-pull x-Wagen.  Some of the latter are still in their original interior condition, complete with brown vinyl seats!  There are nine diagrams – which can be found on the gen group “European Rail Gen” (to which I encourage you to join and contribute) – although one of these tends to be worked by a class 442 “Hamster” plastic EMU on most days.  Stations are close together, with 23 of them in total, so the character of the running is very much of a “full power or full service” nature!


143 119 at Reichelsdorfer Keller, with the x-Wagen carriage behind the loco (50 80 20 33 234-4) showing off its “orange” interior, now quite a rare sight on DB.  17/11/17 (JW)

The city of Nürnberg is perhaps not one that lies on the tourist trail for those “doing Europe”, but is nonetheless worth a visit.  Unfortunately, it is probably only known to most Brits as the host city of certain rallies and trials over 70 years ago – but there is far more to it than that.  For a significantly-sized city, it probably comes closest to stereotypical quaint Germany with timber-framed buildings and a castle looming over it.

Its Christmas market is especially popular, and indeed a cursory glance at the haulage calendar on this very site will show that it draws charter trains from across Germany for this express purpose throughout each November and December.  In fact, you may say that for the enthusiast, a couple of spins on the S2 and then a few beers is an ideal way to spend the layover of such a tour!

The locos involved

At the time of writing, Nürnberg has a fleet of 15 class 143s: 143 045 / 119 / 215 / 247 / 259 / 298 / 336 / 358 / 628 / 632 / 855 / 870 / 905 / 914 / 970.  These locos were built behind the Iron Curtain, by LEW in Hennigsdorf – just outside East Berlin, in the then German Democratic Republic, as Deutsche Reichsbahn class 243.  This class are the final remaining locomotives in regular mainline passenger service in Germany that were built for the GDR.

The oldest of Nürnberg’s allocation, 143 045, entered traffic in May 1985, with the youngest – which perhaps not predictably, is 143 632 – following suit in August 1990, just 44 days before reunification.

143 970, in particular, has a notable history.  DR loco 243 051, which entered traffic at Halle (Saale) depot in August 1985, lasted just three years before it was seriously damaged in a collision and consequent derailment at Angermünde.  It required serious rebuilding work.  This was done to the same spec as the 243s which were by now rolling off the production line; to an evolved design featuring multiple working.  As a result, it was renumbered into the relevant number series for such machines (243 8xx/9xx) – claiming the next available number and re-entering traffic as “243 970” in December 1988.  In fact, so heavy duty was the rebuilding work required to its frame that it even gained a new works number upon leaving LEW for the second time.

The moves

As I said above, there are up to nine diagrams (seven at weekends), although not all of these work all day.  If you want to get as many in the book as possible, I would recommend being there (very) early or late in the day.  One of the diagrams in fact only comes out to play from about 20:00, although it replaces two others which retire to the shed.

As 25 of the 30 miles of the S2 route – the sections east of Fischbach and west of Nürnberg Hbf – runs on single-track alignments adjacent to the “big railway”, moves can be fairly straightforward, with the lack of passing loops protecting a number of tight “pluses” for the keen basher.


Nürnberg-Sandreuth station is fairly typical of S2 stations west/south of the city in being an unmanned single platform shack adjacent to a main line.  17/11/17.  (JW)

Trains pass in the station at Nürnberg Hbf, with the connection far more comfortable when making moves to the east of it (+10) than to the west (+3).  The trains run to a roughly 20 minute frequency for most of the day, although crafting moves is hampered at times by some services not running through the full length of the route – turning back short at Feucht or Schwabach, or terminating/starting at the Hbf.

My preferred (weekday) loco-scratching move in fact nets only 8 of the 9 machines (as it takes place early in the day), but allows for a combination of ease and leisurely connections, whilst not actually spending all that much time doing it.  Starting at the Hbf at 07:44, you can make five consecutive round trips to the first station to the east – Dürrenhof, 0.7 miles away, which benefits from an island platform – with nothing tighter than a +6 connection, and get back to the Hbf at 09:14 with eight different 143s (from ten moves) and the rest of the day ahead of you, and ample time to get to another part of the region now your Länder ticket is valid (see below).

Obviously I appreciate that an 07:44 kick-off will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and the same feat is possible at certain other times of the day.  If you are there in the evening, your moves will need to be far less uniform and will need to involve heading west of the city – Sandreuth and Steinbühl are two good stations to shuttle between on the S2 to make best use of the 20 minute frequency whilst involving no steps or dodgy connections!

Getting there

Nürnberg has an airport (NUE) which sees direct flights from Stansted and Manchester with Ryanair.  The airport is linked to a city by the very handy driverless U-Bahn underground route U2, whisking you to the Hbf (main station) in under 15 minutes.

Aside from that, it is accessible by rail from most cities in Germany within 5 hours.


I’m always hesitant at suggesting that you blow up a valuable day of a global Interrail (or equivalent) shuttling between two suburban stations within sight of one another – of course, you can do this, but there also local ticket options that are a bit more economical.

The DB “Bayern Ticket” is one of the series of Länder tickets available, essentially a regional rover for local trains and is currently €25 (or, if after 18:00, only €23).  Prices per person come down markedly if you purchase one of these covering several people, although you will need to stick together all day.  The one downside of using Länder is that they are not valid until 09:00 on weekdays – a bit like most day rovers in the UK, really.  Bayern is the largest Land in terms of area, so you will be covered for quite some distance (e.g. as far as Füssen or Lindau near to the Swiss/Austrian borders), so again 0.7-mile leaps may not be the best use of this!

At a very local level, there is the local transport authority day ticket.  At only €7.90, the “TagesTicket Solo” covers you for the S-Bahn (but not RE or RB services), the U-Bahn, the tram and local buses.  This is valid only between Katzwang and Fischbach, but for all purposes other than doing the track, this should be sufficient for you.  This carries none of the off-peak time restrictions of other tickets, which means that it can actually form a handy weekday morning bolt-on to a Länder ticket, and in fact if you buy your TagesTicket Solo on a Saturday you get Sunday travel for free too.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user BillyFlorian showing 143 905 arriving and departing Fischbach station on an S2 working.

What can you combine it with?

Nürnberg is home to the DB Museum (note: not open on Mondays), and indeed usually some historic locos can be glimpsed from an S2 window on the right-hand side of the train travelling between Nürnberg Hbf and Nürnberg-Steinbühl – currently, these are 110 002 and 103 224.  Entry to the museum is a very reasonable €6.  Tragically, some key parts of the museum’s collection were destroyed in a fire in 2005, which actually occurred not at this site, but at their roundhouse at Nürnberg-Gostenhof, which was being used as an “overspill” for the main museum.

Haulage-wise, sadly, the city is a shadow of its former self.  Until quite recently, the Hbf was somewhere I would gladly be overnight, as numerous diesel shunters (latterly class 203, then class 214) would be available for haulage remarshalling what seemed like a constant stream of lengthy overnight trains to destinations across the Continent, with activity aplenty.  Time moves on, however, and it’s no longer possible to put the number of a diesel loco in your haulage book in, out or around Nürnberg.  True overnights – as opposed to trains that simply happen to run overnight – are limited to two Nightjets in each direction, EN420/490 north and EN421/491 south – the small number of shunting movements being carried out by the train locos with no fanfare whatsoever.

Of note is that the December 2017 timetable change will see the introduction of a Nürnberg to Sonneberg RE service along the brand new high-speed line, hauled by a fleet of “Vectron” class 193 electrics – 193 801 to 806 are understood to be the locos earmarked for these duties.

This timetable change is also expected to see the introduction to passenger service of a brand new class to German railways.  The six locos of Škoda-built class 102, are expected to usurp the ubiquitous class 101s on “München-Nürnberg-Express duties”.  Running up to 200km/h and using the “new” high-speed line between Nürnberg and Ingolstadt, these are the fastest regional trains in Germany and at the time of writing are notable in giving opportunities to travel behind 101s on regional tickets.  The 101s also use on the similar “Allersberg-Express”, but 2018 will see EMUs replace them on this.

There is, of course, a limited amount of other loco haulage on offer in the area, and further articles about each facet of this will follow in due course.

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