The December 2017 timetable change sees the commencement of a modest new operation involving top-and-tail class 218 “rabbit” diesel-hydraulics.
The route in question is the 23 mile (37 km) route from Aschaffenburg to Miltenberg – east of Frankfurt am Main – part of the “Westfrankenbahn” – and five days a week, top and tail 218s sandwiching 3 double deck carriages will make six round trips.
The nominated locos are ozeanblau-beige livered “celebrity” 218 460 – nicknamed “Conny” – and one loaned from the Südostbayernbahn at Mühldorf. This is currently 218 430, although it may of course be subject to a swap during the course of the operation. 460 has a 4000-series MTU power unit, whereas 430 has a TB11.
Edit Dec 17: TB11-engined machines 218 443 and 218 496 (of Ulm and Kempten depots respectively) were moved to Aschaffenburg at various points in the month, ostensibly as cover while 218 460 returned to Bremen works for attention. 460 returned on Boxing Day, and although all four are now at Aschaffenburg, 430 and 460 will remain the “intended” pair.
Heritage-liveried 218 460 “Conny” at Kiel Hbf, 18/06/17 (JW)
430 and 460 are no strangers to operating together, however. Both were built in 1978, both entered traffic at Lübeck depot and both remained allocated there until 2007, at which point they were transferred together to Kempten – although they went their separate ways soon afterwards. 430 then led something of a nomadic existence for several years (including being allocated to Chemnitz for DMU replacement work and snowplough duties on the Erzgebirgsbahn), before settling back into regular use at Mühldorf.
Most notably, however, both were in the pool of 12 Lübeck 218s that were renumbered into the 210.4 series in the mid-1990s and replated from 140km/h (87mph) to 160km/h (99mph) to work in pairs on Hamburg to Berlin expresses prior to the electrification of this former cross-border route.
218 430 was something of a celebrity itself when this photo was taken, as it was the final remaining Pielstick-engined 218, which she lost in favour of a TB11 just two months later. Here she is seen at Ahrensburg on a Bad Oldesloe to Hamburg local, 01/09/07 (JW)
There is currently no end date specified for this operation, but it is expected to last for at least a few months, and may well run until the December 2018 timetable at least. The reason is that the Kurhessenbahn are borrowing 5 class 642 DMUs that are normally used on this route to cover for a rolling stock shortage, hence the 218s and double deck carriages are being drafted into the Westfrankenbahn to fill the gap.
For now, the diagram will be weekdays only from Monday 11th December 2017 until further notice*, and consists of:-
RB23303 05:41 Aschaffenburg – Miltenberg
Additionally, Sunday 10th December 2017 sees a one-off “taster” diagram showing off the double deck stock in the new environment, powered by both 218s, and travel on these will be free!