A weekend in May 2018 sees a rare opportunity to experience classic East German diesel traction on the very steeply-graded “Rübelandbahn” in the Harz mountains.
The Rübelandbahn is a very steep adhesion-worked branch line from Blankenberg into the Harz mountains. Notable for being electrified in the 1960s at 25kV ac 50Hz (and not the 15kV ac 16.7 Hz as used elsewhere in Germany), this route lost its remaining passenger service in 2005, but retains freight traffic operated by HVLE.
However, since May 2010, 2-10-2T class 95 steam loco no.95 027 has been homed at Blankenburg to work relatively frequent tourist specials on the route in the warmer months. This loco now requires its eight-yearly overhaul, therefore alternative traction has been sought for the tourist excursion work in its absence – there is not really another steam type that would be appropriate for this particular route, so the answer has been a diesel.
Consequently, class 228 twin-engined diesel-hydraulic 228 721 will work a round trip (13:50 Blankenburg to Rübeland and 16:15 return) on both Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May 2018.
The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user knarfemheob showing 228 721 in action on the main line in 2013.
This is unlikely to be repeated – at least not for another eight years – as the 95 is likely to be back in traffic before any more excursions are due to run.
Of interest is that 22nd May 2018 will see the 20th anniversary of the final passenger working of the class in DB service, when long-scrapped sister loco 228 751 took charge of RB7580 between Erfurt and Mühlhausen, so this will be a nice, if unintentional, way of marking that.
How to get there
Blankenburg is served by passenger trains on a branch from Halberstadt (which are all DMUs, as is everything else in the area now). The 13:04 from Halberstadt (12:08 from Magdeburg) reaches Blankenburg at 13:30.
The nearest airports are Hannover and Leipzig-Halle, both of which are rail-served and from which Blankenburg can be reached within three hours by train.
Fares for a one-way journey are €10 and €20 for the return. They are available from info(AT)arbeitsgemeinschaft-rübelandbahn.de (replace spam trap with @) or from on the platform at Blankenburg or also on board the train.
What to combine it with
The most obvious other railway attraction in the vicinity is the Harz metre-gauge railway network based in Wernigerode (15 minutes west of Halberstadt by train) which sees copious amounts of steam working and stunning scenery, and is highly recommended for a visit. Aside from that, sadly, the Rübelandbahn sits within a loco-hauled desert.