8th January 2018 saw a limited to return to passenger operation of the popular “Ludmilla” diesels in the land that they were built for – the former German Democratic Republic.
They had not had any solid booked passenger work here (apart from some diversions of expresses via unelectrified routes) since the cessation of through running to Szczecin by EC178/EC179 “Alois Negrelli” in Summer 2012.
232 583 at Szczecin Główny, 17/05/12 (JW)
However, Erfurter Bahnservice (EBS) have stepped into the fray to provide a public service on the Pfefferminzbahn route, which lost a sizeable proportion of its (already limited) passenger services at the end of 2017 amidst great controversy, when the contract was re-let from DB Regio to the similarly-named Erfurter Bahn. The decision to cut the number of services along the line was ostensibly based on low passenger utilisation, but a fightback from the locals – including a petition signed by over 4,000 people – has given it something of a private enterprise revitalisation, under what seems to be a semi-official title of “Lückenfüller” (literally, “gap filler”).
Times and Dates
From 8th January 2018, initially to 2nd March 2018 (although with scope to continue beyond this if it is successful), EBS are operating a Monday to Friday loco-hauled commuter service on the 22.5 km (14 mile) stretch between Buttstädt and Sömmerda as follows:-
DPE6600 07:43 Buttstädt – Sömmerda 08:16
DPE6601 16:45 Sömmerda – Buttstädt 17:19
Traction and Rolling Stock
This is being worked by one of their class 232 locomotives plus an ex-DR carriage (originally predicted to be three; but current loadings certainly do not require this).
The operation kicked off with all trains in the capable hands of 232 690, which entered traffic with the Deutsche Reichsbahn in December 1981. Purchased in early 2017 by EBS from MEG (the Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH), this loco has been no stranger to passenger work in recent years. Most recently, it was used on diversions in Bayern in October 2014, however my own personal last run with it was in October 2013 on a Warszawa to Berlin express diverted along the “Ostbahn” from Kostrzyn.
The above is a link to one of Philip Wormald‘s many excellent YouTube videos, showing 232 690 arriving at München Hbf on a diverted EuroNight service in October 2014 – possibly the last occasions that this particular machine worked passenger trains. Check out the rest of his YouTube channel, I highly recommend it.
However, as of the afternoon working on Thursday 25th January 2018, 132 334 (i.e. DB 232 334 carrying its Deutsche Reichsbahn identity) took over, giving ‘690 a well-earned rest. ‘334 was itself replaced by smaller motive power on Tuesday 13th February 2018 when black diesel-hydraulic 202 738 made a rare passenger appearance, although the length of its tenure is open to conjecture and it is thought that “Ludmilla” power will return in due course.
EBS’s operational “Ludmilla” fleet consists of: 232 239, 232 293, 132 334, 232 690 and 241 353, so perhaps one to keep an eye on if you require any of the others for haulage.
The only tickets valid on these trains are EBS ones purchased on the train, but for €4.80 each way, value is very good. Passengers travelling in the first week appear to be entitled to a free hot drink, too!
Sömmerda is a noted junction and these trains connect into and out of trains towards both Erfurt and Sangerhausen.
Buttstädt is, of course, served by Erfurter Bahn too, with a roughly two-hourly DMU shuttle. Their 06:29 departure from Sömmerda gets to Buttstädt at 06:55, giving you a +48 onto the loco-hauled service – alternatively there is a no.226 bus which departs from Weimar Hbf at 07:00 and arrives at Buttstädt station at 07:32 (although this doesn’t run in the week commencing 5th February).
Similarly, a no.226 connects out of the arrival of the evening loco-hauled train, departing at 17:33 and arriving at Weimar Hbf at 18:07. Alternatively, your next DMU back to Sömmerda is not until 19:00. You could, of course, only do the “Ludmilla” part way down the branch, to return on the 17:00 DMU back into Sömmerda.
It is to be hoped that this service is a sufficient success to continue beyond 2nd March – but, as with anything of this nature, best to get your trip in as early as you can.