My latest blog posts can be found here, but plenty of other articles are to be found elsewhere throughout the website – I suggest using the Country List as a starting point!
Sunday 9th September 2018 saw the third European Traction haulage event, and probably the most complex to date: a visit to the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR), not far from Colmar in north-east France.
62029 during the pre-event shunting at Volgelsheim, 09/09/18 (JW)
The idea was simple: to visit the CFTR to ride behind ex-SNCF A1AA1A 62000 class locomotive no.62029. This diesel-electric machine was built in 1946 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and has a six-cylinder, 660hp Baldwin 606NA power unit.
106 locomotives of model DRS-6-4-660 (Diesel Road Switcher, 6 axles, 4 powered, 660hp) were built by Baldwin between 1946 and 1948, all for the French Supply Council under Marshall Aid. 100 went to SNCF and the other six to Morocco, as class DB-400. Only seven of the French machines remain extant – in various states of repair – but 62029 according to my research at the beginning of this year, although two others have worked recently, is the only one that is currently operational. I am not sure whether any of the Moroccan machines survive, but check out a selection of Phil Wormald’s excellent photos here to see some shots of DB-405 in a deplorable state, long withdrawn at Taza.
Although the Baldwin was the draw, I also asked for ex-SNCF Decauville-built diesel “locotracteur” Y2402, recently re-engined with a Deutz power unit and fitted with train brakes, to power us for a short distance – although it was not operational at the time the event was conceived.
The actual event, however, was complicated by the fact that the CFTR is not rail connected, and public road transport is scarce (and, indeed, non-existent early on a Sunday morning) and not conducive to moving parties of our size in any case – so I arranged a connecting road coach to and from the main line railway stations at Colmar (France) and Breisach (Germany).
On the Day
43 people from four countries participated in the event. I am pleased to report that the arrangements went perfectly. I am very grateful indeed to the railway’s volunteers firstly for returning Y2402 to traffic in time to work for us, but also in working through the night to repair a serious defect on 62029 shortly before our event which could have precluded its use.
The now-traditional seminar photo…
I recorded the movements on the day as follows:-
Y2402 – 10:20 shunt from Volgelsheim station into siding
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 10:29 shunt from siding back to station
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 10:38 Volgelsheim to Volgelsheim Depot
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 11:11 Volgelsheim Depot to Embarcadere de Sans-Soucis
Y2402 – 11:43 shunt from station clear of points (propel)
62029 + (Y2402) DIT – 11:51 shunt back into platform
62029 + (Y2402) DIT – 11:54 Embarcadere de Sans-Soucis to Volgelsheim
A GPS measurement of the route between the two stations came out at 12.04 km (7.48 miles) and another of the shunt at Sans-Soucis recorded it as 165 m. A (potentially less reliable!) walked measurement of the shunt at Volgelsheim using an exercise app came out at 93 m, but if you recorded this by more solid means, please let me know!
We were treated to a visit to the depot, during which we saw all of their rolling stock. The highlight for most of us was 1944-built ex-USATC General Electric “dropcab” no.4036, currently undergoing restoration. Please have a look at my article here to read a bit more about this noteworthy locomotive and how you can help its restoration.
The hire fee for the train part of the event was €1,000, to which can be added the proceeds from the bar car that the railway had kindly provided for us. This means that my three European Traction events to date have resulted in a total just in excess of €5,000 reaching the hands of continental railway preservation organisations – so thank you very much for your support.
On that note, I would like to thank Sebastien, Mani, Carine, Nathalie and Claude for their hospitality and assistance in providing what was a fantastic morning at a lovely little railway. If you have not visited the CFTR, they are not empty words when I implore you to make the effort to go.
Having delivered two complicated haulage events within the space of a month (the other being at Saint-Ghislain in Belgium on 12th August), I’m now having a bit of a rest! However, I have a number of projects on the anvil for 2019 and I look forward to presenting you with the details soon.
Those of us who attended my haulage event at the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France on Sunday 9th September 2018 did so primarily to enjoy haulage from ex-SNCF loco A1AA1A 62029, built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania in 1946.
However, this was not the only American-built diesel on the site. During the visit, we were treated to a tour of their depot, in which we were shown and told about another very interesting locomotive from the USA. I would like to share its story with a wider audience here.
4036 under restoration at Volgelsheim, 09/09/18 (JW)
To give a bit of historical background, the Second World War was in full swing when the decision to undertake an invasion across the English Channel was taken by the Allies at the Trident Conference in Washington DC in May 1943. This invasion was to be the largest by sea that the world had ever seen, and would occur via the northern coast of France, in the region of Normandy. Of course, we are familiar today with the D-Day Landings of 6th June 1944.
The year between conception and realisation of the plans allowed an enormous deal of planning to occur. Railways were to form an integral part of the invasion, initially in terms of transportation of troops and equipment, and indeed since 1942 the USA had been shipping rolling stock to the UK for such an eventuality; this was stepped up a gear after the Trident Conference. However the focus was not so much on the invasion itself but what came after; in an attempt to disrupt the invasion, the Germans rendered much of the French railway network entirely unusable, both in terms of infrastructure and rolling stock. It was clear that whatever was provided to work in France after the invasion would need to be durable and able to operate in harsh conditions.
Among the American rolling stock was a fleet of 10 twin-engined diesel-electric “dropcab” switching locomotives manufactured by General Electric between March and May 1944, with works numbers 27528 to 27537, and given the running numbers 7228 to 7237 by the USATC. As built, the locos had two 6-cylinder Cummins power units; these were later replaced by 8-cylinder veeform Baudouin DP8s.
The locos passed in 1947 to the SE (Société générale des chemins de fer économiques) for use on their Gironde network as 4028 to 4037.
Preservation of 4036
4036 was retired by the Chemin de Fer de Blaise et Der (CFBD) in 2011, when the operation was ended the locomotive was redundant. It was saved by a member of the CFTR in 2014 who transported it to its new home shortly afterwards.
The future and how you can help
4036 is in the midst of a comprehensive restoration, and has already been started and moved under its own power. However, there is plenty of work left to do before it can once again haul trains and form a mobile memorial to the events of 1944.
As with any other restoration project, the speed of its progress is dictated by the volunteers and funds available. Although I am fairly sure that most reading this will be UK or USA-based and therefore unable to help with the former problem, we are able to help financially by making a donation into the project’s PayPal account at sebastien.kieffer(AT)evolutive.org.
If you do choose to do this, please select the “send to friends and family” option and ensure that “4036” is included as a note/reference so that he can identify the transfer. If you do not “do” PayPal, but would still like to help out, please get in touch with me and I can try to assist.
Additionally, as I know we have some supremely knowledgeable and well-connected people here – does anyone happen to know of any sources from where we might be able to obtain some (any) GE documentation about these machines for the team – particularly regarding, but not limited to, electrical wiring? The lack of this is another thing that is hampering the progress of the restoration. If so, please do let me know – I don’t mind following up even the most tenuous of leads myself.
When I was a Class 50-mad kid taken to Portugal to experience their Iberian cousins by my Dad, I took in as much detail from my Portuguese crossing-off book (Fearless Publications’ excellent tome from 1991 – who else has that on their shelves?) as possible. One of the things that stuck out was the reference to both 1439 and 1961 having been written off in a horrific accident involving the Sud-Express.
In later life I learnt that this accident occurred between Nelas and Mangualde exactly 33 years ago this evening, on 11th September 1985, with the big Bombardier loco on the “Sud-Express” colliding head-on at speed with the EE/Sorefame machine which was on a regional train. The result indeed truly was horrific, with many of those who survived the impact killed by burning or asphyxiation in the resulting inferno.
On this worldwide day of remembrance, I’m also taking a minute to remember the 56 (officially, but estimated to be up to 150) people who perished in this accident. There are some truly shocking photos online of the accident, but instead I’m choosing to share this rare image of 1439 in happier days to accompany this little note.
A curiosity amongst HŽ’s fleet is class 2062 locomotive 2062 045. This loco – the former JŽ 664 001 – has not truly been “seen” by anyone for nearly three decades, having been hidden beneath a veritable suit of armour since 1991.
The 1980s, following the death of Marshal Tito, were changing political times in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Considered by some to have always been an unnatural cluster of nations populated by very disparate people of different ethnicities only held together by the glue of Tito in the role of “benevolent dictator”, his death resulted in increasing unrest. This culminated in Yugoslavia’s constituent republics pulling in different directions, and June 1991 saw the first two – Croatia and Slovenia – declare their independence. The response from the Yugoslav government to this was to mobilise the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) in an attempt to keep the union together by force. This led to outright war – in Slovenia’s case, the Ten Day War; but in Croatia’s, largely because of the very different ethnic situation there, it was to last for over four years, result in over 20,000 deaths and cause huge repercussions on many levels that remain evident today.
The armoured train(s)
As 1991 progressed and tensions increased, the nascently-independent Croatia quickly set in motion plans to create three “oklopni vlakovi” (“armoured trains”) to be able to fight the JNA in a mobile manner – one based in Novska, one based in Osijek (using shunter 2132 049 which is now in the railway museum in Zagreb and retains its armour plating) and one in Split. It’s the latter which we will concern ourselves with in this brief article.
HŽ and the Brodosplit shipyard in Split devised plans to create a train comprised of a diesel locomotive and two four-axle “series G” wagons. Less than three months elapsed between conception and completion, with the work largely improvised; no formal drawings ever existed.
The wagons were completely rebuilt from the solebar up, whereas the locomotive was not fundamentally rebuilt but instead clad completely in bullet and grenade-proof armour. The loco type selected was a class 664 General Motors 2,200hp diesel-electric; a highly reliable and durable design that had, over the previous 18 years, proven itself a master of the mountainous railways in the region. Anecdotally, 664 001 was considered the “best” 664 in the area, and therefore it was the “weapon of choice” for such an important role. Given the fact that the method of operation of the armoured train was to roll into an area of combat, fire the guns and then – once it had attracted maximum attention to itself – make a full power high-speed getaway to safety, the insistence on a particularly reliable and strong example of the class is perhaps hardly surprising!
Under the renumbering scheme implemented after Croatian independence, 664 001 became 2062 045, however it is not clear whether it has actually ever carried this number on the bodyside. It certainly hasn’t on the armour, but it could do beneath it.
The completed armoured train was put before the Croatian top brass on 31st January 1992. However, it only ever made one test run from Split. The reasons given in various written sources for that seem vague and in some cases contradictory, but a common theme is that the weight of the armour and – more importantly – the armaments conveyed upon the train made the axle loading excessive. It has otherwise never moved under its own power – and, as such, “Split’s best 664” has not been used in anger for nearly 30 years – realistically it never will again.
The train (loco plus two wagons) is now in the collection of the Croatian Railway Museum, but remains at Split-Predgrade. At various points over the last five years or so, suggestions have been made that it will be put on formal display as a tourist attraction or historical exhibition in Split, but this does not appear to be materialising any time soon.
I recently wrote about the Rødby to Puttgarden train ferry, linking southern Denmark to the island of Fehmarn, in northern Germany. This route opened in May 1963 and slashed journey times for both rail and road transport between København and Hamburg.
At weekends through the Summer, it is possible to combine a trip on this train ferry – which is the preserve of through København to Hamburg “Eurocity” trains formed of Danish “rubber ring” DMUs – with a trip with a German class 218 “rabbit” diesel-hydraulic. These machines – synonymous with this region for over 40 years – retain a small number of dated turns that take them onto Fehmarn.
218 330 is seen at Puttgarden on the “Strandexpress”. I’ve picked a photo of this machine as it’s a noteworthy one – it’s been allocated to Lübeck – and the depot that superseded it, Kiel – since September 1977. There can’t be many locos that have been working away at the same duties for over 40 years. 14/05/16 (JW)
The main 218 turn in this part of the world is an RE (Regional Express) service known as the “Strandexpress”. This runs on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from Easter until mid-October, and is formed of a Kiel-based DB Regio 218 working in push-pull configuration with a rake of four air-conditioned double-deck carriages.
The diagram is as follows:-
RE21448 08:27 Hamburg Hbf – Puttgarden
RE21449 11:10 Puttgarden – Hamburg Hbf
RE21450 14:27 Hamburg Hbf – Puttgarden
RE21451 17:10 Puttgarden – Hamburg Hbf
These all run via the recently-reopened station of Fehmarn Burg, which is the principal station on the island, at which they reverse. With each journey being 96 miles in length, it is a good way of building up 218 mileage in its own right, as well as being a good way of getting between the two countries. The northbound morning train arrives at Puttgarden just ahead of a København-bound unit (which you can board at Puttgarden just before it inches forward onto the ferry) and indeed the 218 is preceded out of Puttgarden on its return leg at 11:10 by a DMU that has come from København. The afternoon round trip, unfortunately, does not share such good connectional possibilities.
On a Saturday morning, the loco and stock also work RE21403 05:08 Lübeck Hbf – Hamburg Hbf. This is effectively a positioning move between its weekday use on the Kiel to Lübeck route and the “Strandexpress”.
The IC “Fehmarn” / “Lübecker Bucht”
The other turn that brings a 218 to the island of Fehmarn is an Intercity service, which operates between roughly Easter and the start of November at weekends – although please check as the full diagram does not always operate each day.
ECS Hamburg to Fehmarn Burg
IC2413 09:08 Fehmarn Burg – Köln Hbf (218 works to Lübeck) (Sat+Sun)
IC2410 07:55 Köln Hbf – Fehmarn Burg (218 works from Lübeck) (Sat+Sun)
IC2415 15:10 Fehmarn Burg – Hamburg Hbf (Fri+Sat+Sun)
As they are operated by DB Fernverkehr, these services are booked to be worked by a Niebüll-based machine, from the small pool of 218 307 / 321 / 322, which can work push-pull with the Intercity stock. Very occasionally, a different Niebüll machine will work (but requires to propel back out of single-platform Fehmarn Burg to run round the stock), but more usual practice when the three nominated machines are unavailable is to hire in a Kiel-based Regio machine. Indeed, at the time of writing (August 2018), 218 470 has just had a couple of stints on the ICs.
Both turns would appear to have four years left. In 2022, the stretch of line between Neustadt and Puttgarden will close for construction work to be carried out on the new fixed link to Denmark. Puttgarden station will not reopen. Given the planning is in terms of rail replacement buses north of Lübeck (see here), it would seem reasonable to assume that these trains will then be curtailed there and therefore would not need diesels.
The Vogelfluglinie and the Cold War
– I originally wrote this as a standalone article for another website several years ago, but thought it would be relevant here as the most conspicuous feature of the entire line and something to look out for. I hope it’s of interest.
The two ferry terminals of Rødby and Puttgarden were built at the points of each country nearest each other, which both happened to be on islands in the Baltic. One of the consequences of this is that any journey from Denmark to Germany via this route not only necessitates a ride on a ferry – well, for the foreseeable future at least (construction of a fixed link will begin in 2019) – but leapfrogging a number of islands along the way.
Accordingly, the infrastructure that required constructing in 1963 was not confined to the ferry terminals and their associated roads and railways, but also two substantial bridges. On the Danish side, there was the Frederik IX Bridge linking the islands of Falster and Lolland; on the German side, there was the Fehmarnsundbrücke linking the island of Fehmarn, on which Puttgarden port stands, and the German mainland.
Above is a link to an excellent photo of the Fehmarnsundbrücke from Facebook.
The Fehmarnsundbrücke carries a two-lane road, a single-track railway, and a pedestrian walkway. It is 963.4m long and is high enough for ships to pass under, and was built as a replacement for the little ferry that used to shuttle from the mainland to Fehmarn. It was formally opened on 30th April 1963, although when severe weather had caused the suspension of the Fehmarn ferry three months previously, people had been permitted to use it at their own risk. Its engineers were G. Fischer, T. Jahnke and P. Stein from the firm Gutehoffnungshutte Sterkrade AG based in Oberhausen, with architectural design overseen by Gerd Lohmer.
Lohmer (1909-1981) was a renowned West German architect who specialised in bridges. In the wake of World War 2, he found gainful employment in bridge design – either on the reconstruction and redesign of bridges damaged in the conflict (e.g. the Nibelungenbrücke in Worms), or on brand new ones (e.g. the Konrad-Adenuer-Brücke in then-capital city Bonn). In recent years, it has been granted the status of a protected national monument, and is well-loved by locals, who have nicknamed it the “Kleiderbügel” (clothes hanger) due to its distinctive shape, and adopted it as a local symbol.
The story would probably end here, were it not for the complicated and heated political environment which existed at the time of the bridge’s construction.
In 1963, the Cuban Missile Crisis had only just passed and the Cold War was still at very real risk of turning “hot”. The threat of a Soviet invasion of West Germany was one which was taken very seriously. The area to the east of Fulda – termed the “Fulda Gap” – was generally considered to be the route the Soviets would most likely take if they invaded – as there was little by way of natural barriers to a massive tank attack. However it was not the only possibility.
Denmark’s stance in the Cold War is a complex but interesting topic. Breaking a tradition of neutrality, it was a founding member of NATO in 1949, which meant it courted hostility from the Soviet Union who now treated it as an enemy. Denmark could well have held strategic importance for the Soviets – not least could it have constituted something of a stepping stone to Greenland, from where its nuclear warheads could have reached the USA – but also a way into neutral Sweden – from where Norway, and thence the North Atlantic, would have been feasible targets. Sweden boasted strong coastal fortifications, intended to defend it from a Soviet attack, therefore an “entrance” via Denmark would have been a clever way for Warsaw Pact forces to circumnavigate them.
Occupation of Denmark would have put West Germany – and from it the rest of Western Europe – within easy reach. The existence of the newly-constructed train ferry would have made the movement of rail based forces, armaments, supplies, and so on much easier. Equally, it could have formed a route for Soviet forces that had already conquered West Germany, into Denmark. In either event, the Fehmarnsundbrücke may have taken on an immense strategic importance.
As a result, the design of the bridge featured six “Sprengschächte” – or “explosive vaults” – beneath the tarmac of the road’s surface. In the event of an invasion, explosives could be placed into the vaults by soldiers and then detonated remotely (from a military location approximately a mile away), thereby causing significant disruption and delay to the advance. Fortunately, this was never required. However, the remnants of the Sprengschächte can still be seen today – in the form of six patches of darker tarmac on the surface of the road, at the mainland end of the bridge. You can actually see them in very brief passing on my video below – although here is a far more useful photo!
Crossing the Fehmarnsundbrücke – in the capable hands of 218 330 (JW)
These were by no means the only Sprengschächte that were placed on German roads for this purpose. Indeed, whole hosts of them existed in the Fulda Gap and were officially maintained up until the early 1990s and the reunification of the two Germanies. However the fact that these existed within the design of such a famous structure makes them noteworthy indeed.
Today, trains from Hamburg and Lübeck to Puttgarden (most of which continue across to Denmark via the train ferry) as well as high volumes of road traffic, continue to thunder across the bridge, their passengers most likely unaware of what used to lie beneath.
My recent article on the Berlin U-Bahn Cabrio seemed very well received, so I thought I would take a brief look at another lesser-known opportunity to ride behind unusual locomotives in Germany.
Above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user WerreSurfer showing a trip into the mine, including the train.
This one is at the Weltkulturerbe Rammelsberg in Goslar, in Niedersachsen. Goslar is noteworthy in having two UNESCO World Heritage Sites to its name – firstly, the unspoilt town centre, and secondly, the former mines beneath the Rammelsberg mountain. The latter closed in June 1988 after 1,000 years of continuous use, having been founded by the Roman Emperor Otto the Great in the year 968 to extract silver ore deposits.
In 1992, the former mines were developed into a UNESCO heritage project to preserve the heritage of the location.
Being, as it is, a museum-type site regarding the heritage of the mine workings, it is only natural for part of the experience to be a trip underground. This is where a railway comes in – one of a number of different “tours” offered involves a trip into the mine itself.
Since mid-1993, the former 600mm mine railway has been used for this purpose This is loco-hauled, albeit not by locos that previously worked on the site. From photographic records, the usual traction are locos 14 and 15, which are LEW-built battery locos of type “EL9” of indeterminate heritage. 1,703 of these machines were built between 1952 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 for use all over the Eastern Bloc. Of course, Goslar was in the former West Germany, although it’s only about 10 miles west of the former Iron Curtain.
Visiting the museum
The museum is open every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, from 09:30 to 16:30. Trains depart into the mines every hour, although the train ride only forms a part of the experience, with a tour guide explaining the workings of the mine to you too. At weekends, there is the opportunity to do this in English, although of course normally it is in German. One of the mine train carriages has been modified to take wheelchairs.
They recommend bringing clothing commensurate with the cold temperatures within the mines.
Tickets for the site, including at least one trip (which can be the train ride) start from €16.
What you can combine it with
Since the replacement of class 218 “rabbit” diesel-hydraulics with shiny privately-owned sliding doors DMUs in December 2014, there have been no loco-hauled trains through Goslar, or indeed anywhere near. However, it is a frequent destination for railtours – particularly while the Christmas market is on in the town centre.
However, Goslar is only 35 minutes by direct train from Wernigerode – and therefore the Harz narrow gauge steam railway.
It’s approximately 1.5 miles due south of Goslar railway station. The number 803 bus links the two, with a journey time in the region of 10 minutes.
The latest in my series of brief articles highlighting locos “off the beaten track” is again a shunter, but this time in Spain.
Above is a link to a Google Maps image of 301 009 in situ as of July 2017.
RENFE’s class 301 diesel shunters, dating from 1961-63, are all now withdrawn – although 19 of this once 46-strong class survive in some way, shape or form.
One of them – 301 009 – is especially unlikely to work again, being – as it is – plinthed on public display. It is situated just outside the exit to Alonso de Mendoza, a station on line 12 of the Madrid Metro, in the Madrid “suburb” of Getafe. Line 12 does not, in fact, run into or though Madrid itself, being a circular route in the south-west outskirts of the conurbation.
The explanation for the loco being there is that, prior to 1998, the north-south road through the area was in fact a railway. At that point, the railway was closed, the Metro was built on the same alignment but underground (this opened in 2003) and the road was laid over the top. The 301 has been in place since this project was carried out, as just a small historical reminder.
It’s less than half an hour’s travel from Madrid Atocha to see 301 009 – 17 minutes to Getafe Centro on line C-4, from where it is a 2 minute journey on line 12 to Alonso de Mendoza, which is the next stop along.
There are only three remaining passenger train ferries in Europe: one between mainland Italy and the island of Sicily; one from Sassnitz in Germany to Trelleborg in Sweden; and one from Rødby in Denmark to Puttgarden in Germany.
The idea of putting a whole train on board a ferry to cross an expanse of water is one largely confined to the past, at least in Europe. This is predominantly due to the creation of numerous fixed links, such as the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France or the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, and also the proliferation of low-cost air travel making the rail routes themselves redundant in a number of cases.
Even the three survivors are under threat. That between Villa San Giovanni in Italy and Messina on the island of Sicily is mooted to be getting a bridge replacement (although this is a very much on/off affair, most recently being declared “off” for the time being); that between Sassnitz and Trelleborg is an overnight, summer-only operation which has been suggested for closure on a number of occasions; and that across the Fehmarnbelt between Rødby and Puttgarden is being replaced by a fixed link for which the construction contracts have already been signed.
The proposed fixed link across the Fehmarnbelt will take the form of an 18 kilometre long immersed tunnel encompassing a four lane motorway and a double track railway, and will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel upon completion. It will take 7 minutes to cross from one side of the Fehmarnbelt to the other by rail, and 10 minutes by road – whichever way you look at it, a significant saving on the current 45 minute crossing time by ferry for either mode of transport. In addition, it will be far less susceptible to weather-related disruption. The shortened travel time from Hamburg to København is expected to drastically increase traffic between the two cities.
It’s fairly clear that the pros of the fixed link far outweigh the cons, which are largely sentimental. However, the good news if you’ve yet to visit, is that the construction work has not yet started. It is expected to begin in 2019 and take 8½ years. However, the route between Neustadt and Puttgarden will close in 2022 until the tunnel is completed, so it is to be assumed that the train ferry will cease at that time too. Puttgarden station will not reopen.
Sadly, loco haulage on this train ferry has long since ceased. All trains are formed of Danish class MF “rubber ring” DMUs, and are Eurocity premium services between København and Hamburg.
Happily, however, it is possible to travel between København and Rødby – at least for the time being – with Danish class ME diesel locos, and from Puttgarden or Fehmarn Burg on the German side of the water to Hamburg at weekends in the summer with class 218 “rabbit” diesel-hydraulics.
I last took a journey on this train ferry in summer 2007, travelling from Denmark to Germany, and I found it very interesting indeed if, indeed, it felt like something of an anachronism even then.
As befitting the nature of Denmark, the journey from København to the port at Rødby is one of numerous islands linked by bridges. After travelling via Roskilde, Ringsted and Næstved to Vordingborg (all on Sjælland), the train crosses first to Masnedø, then to Falster, and finally to Lolland on whose coast Rødby is situated.
It must be said that the scenery en route is not necessarily fantastic – although I thought that the views of the water from the bridges – in particular the Storstrøm Bridge – were memorable. Lolland is also known by the nickname “Pancake Island” as a reflection of its flatness, and the railway is as good a way to appreciate this facet of its geography as any! It is therefore something of a surprise to finally reach Rødby Færge station, its pylons and floodlights reaching higher into the sky than even the turbines of the surrounding wind farms.
The ferry connection between Rødby and Puttgarden commenced operation on 14th May 1963 – completing a direct link between København and Hamburg. This was dubbed the “Vogelfluglinie”, or “bird flight line”, as it roughly follows a common migratory route used by birds.
The route briefly took on international significance in late 2015 during the EU-wide refugee crisis. Large numbers of illegal immigrants, predominantly from Iraq and Syria, were trying to reach Sweden which was displaying a more welcoming attitude to them than most EU countries. As a result, the Rødby to Puttgarden ferry and associated railways and motorways ended up being closed on police orders. Reports described “chaotic scenes” where well over a thousand refugees disembarked from ferries arriving at Rødby, some “disappearing” to evade capture by the police, others attempting to walk up the E47 motorway in the vague direction of Sweden.
Both ports painted a sad picture of emptiness and desolation, and had certainly not only seen better days but had been constructed with the intention of handling much higher volumes of rail traffic than now pass through; indeed international railfreight via this route has ceased. Rows and rows of overgrown and rusty sidings lay empty in and around the terminal as we edged our way towards the ferry. Saying that, however, it is clear that the dearth of rail traffic must be more than compensated by the proliferation of lorries and cars, as the intensive ferry shuttle service is clearly supported by something!
The ferries themselves are operated by Scandlines and can carry both cars and trains. Ferries depart each port at broadly 30-minute intervals, 24 hours a day – however only three in each direction convey trains. There are four train ferries in the fleet, all dating from 1997 – two under the Danish flag (Prins Richard and Prinsesse Benedikte), and two under the German flag (Schleswig-Holstein and Deutschland). It was the latter onto which my train rolled.
It’s slightly unnerving to be on a full size train just feet away from lorries and cars, not least for it to cross from land onto a vessel! The train slowly drew to a stand on the ship’s single railway track within the car deck, and passengers were instructed to disembark and make their way up to the passenger area, mingling with the motorists who had just parked their own vehicles.
The crossing itself was admittedly something of an anti-climax. The Deutschland has all the amenities you would expect from a modern short-distance passenger ferry – shops, restaurants, etc – and the 45 minute journey passed quickly and without incident. Before long, an announcement was made for train passengers to make their way back to the train, and after docking, the engines were restarted and the train slowly emerged from the darkness of the ferry’s car deck, back onto terra firma and into Puttgarden railway station.
Puttgarden was broadly similar to Rødby, in that it featured relatively nondescript 1963-vintage architecture simultaneously being heavily used and being slowly reclaimed by nature, depending on whether you looked at the road or rail parts of the terminal. With a harsh wind blowing straight off the Baltic, seagull droppings everywhere (I have never seen so much in one place!), rust and foliage everywhere, it was not a place to remain in for long.
Indeed, it’s kind of the point of Puttgarden that nobody every does stay there for long. The port complex (as distinct from the tiny village of Puttgarden, some distance to the west, from which it takes its name) exists solely to tranship people, goods and their vehicles from land to sea, and from sea to land, as efficiently as possible. When the Fehmarnbelt fixed link is finally commissioned, will likely disappear from the map, its purpose negated.
You can’t help but feel that although – again – it will undoubtedly be a step forward when the tape is cut on the Fehmarnbelt tunnel, that it will be sad to see the end of something which has been a thriving, now almost unique, operation which has quietly gone about its business for well over half a century.
If you haven’t yet experienced the train ferry from Denmark to Germany, I would recommend building it into your travel plans before that day arrives.
U-Bahnen – all units, aren’t they? Well, yes…but there is an exception in Germany.
Berlin’s underground rapid transit system – its Untergrundbahn (universally referred to be the abbreviation “U-Bahn”) – is a classic of its type. With services running up to every two minutes, it conveys over 1.5 million passengers each day. Much like its equivalent in London, its rolling stock is of both ‘large’ and ‘small’ profile and universally consists of EMUs, drawing their power from upward-facing third rails.
However, on Fridays between April and October, the Berlin U-Bahn also offers some interesting loco haulage beneath the city’s streets. This is offered by the “U-Bahn-Cabrio”, which is fairly self-explanatory – an open-top tour of the U-Bahn tracks!
The “U-Bahn-Cabrio” makes two round trips on the dates that it runs – departing Deutsche Oper station (on the U2 route in the west of the city) at 19:00 and then 22:30.
The tour takes about two hours and covers a distance of approximately 35 kilometres, and includes a number of non-passenger curves. A track plan of the U-Bahn system can be found here.
Above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user “Sunshine Radio Line / srl 2.1“, documenting a trip on the “U-Bahn Cabrio”.
The trains are operated in push-pull fashion powered by an Akkulok (battery loco), on a load of four what can best be described as flat wagons with seats on! From photographic evidence the traction can be either 1997 Schalke-built centre-cab “SA97” machines 4052 or 4053, or Siemens/CKG “SD96” locos 4077, 4078 or 4079 dating from 1995 (4077 is currently out of traffic). The push-pull element is provided by unpowered control car 4157.
The trip does not come cheap, at €50, but it does tend to sell out several months in advance.
I recently commented on the European Traction Facebook page along the lines of “I no longer have an interest in Irish mainline railways”, but that’s something I’ve pondered on ever since. Over the years, I’ve made over 200 trips across the Irish Sea specifically for railways, and 20-25 years ago I had comparatively little interest in mainline railways anywhere else. So what has changed, and was it a reasonable thing to say, even in haste?
Well, the main change, of course, is the widespread and almost total replacement of loco haulage with modern multiple units – doubtless a step forward in the eyes of a business-focused railway and its customers, but a sad development in the eyes of the enthusiast. Even into this century, even some main line inter-city services were steam heated and vacuum braked, running on jointed track under semaphore signals – to ‘English’ eyes it was a real window on the past. Combined with the legendary welcoming nature of the Irish people, and the fantastic scenery to be found on the Emerald Isle, and it was just a lovely environment to be in. These latter two things, of course, are permanent and well worth your visit regardless.
For this article, I thought I would take an objective view on what the locomotive enthusiast will find if they head to Ireland in 2018.
Main Line Passenger Loco Haulage
The only class of loco left with passenger diagrams in Ireland are the 201 Class GMs, which (worryingly for me, as they still seem new!) are approaching their quarter-century. Their use is now on just two routes – linking the three largest cities of the Emerald Isle – Dublin to Cork and Dublin to Belfast.
221 awaits departure from Dublin Connolly, 14/10/07 (JW)
Services between Dublin and Cork operate using 201s in push-pull configuration with Mark 4 carriages on some trains, and the service requires six machines a day to operate it. The most recent known diagrams are included in a post on this thread on the WNXX forum (subscription required). These locos are permed from a pool of 215-226, 229, 232 and 234 (with 216 being the dedicated loco for luxury train duties – see section below – although it can appear occasionally).
Similarly, all services on the “Enterprise” cross-border route between Dublin and Belfast are booked to be formed of 201s with push-pull De Dietrich sets. These are hauled by locos from a pool consisting of 206-209, 227, 228, 231 and 233 and three are in use each day.
Main Line Railtours
Thanks to the efforts of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and, less frequently, the Irish Railway Record Society and the Modern Railway Society of Ireland, it does remain possible to experience main line haulage by different traction, in the form of railtours.
Currently, the RPSI have a railtour to Cobh advertised for 13th October 2018 featuring haulage by both 071 and 201 Class diesels, but their bread-and-butter are steam trains, with the currently-operational fleet comprising of ex-LMS (NCC) 2-6-4T “Jeep” no.4, ex-GNR(I) 4-4-0 compound no.85 “Merlin”, ex-GNR 4-4-0 Q Class no.131 and GSR 2-6-0 K2 no.461. They run a frequent programme of these, and regularly run affordable shuttles over short routes (e.g. Dublin to Maynooth or Greystones, or Belfast to Whitehead), particularly around Easter and Christmas. The ‘brief’ nature of these as compared to a full-day tour mean that they are usually doable whilst flying over and back in the same day, or can be done as part of a ‘normal’ holiday if the rest of your group don’t want to spend too long on the rails! Of interest is that the RPSI’s current diesel tours are in aid of restoring its loco 134 for it to operate future main line tours with 141.
Keep an eye on the Haulage Calendar on this site for future diesel loco-hauled railtours.
141 runs round its train at Limerick Junction, circa 1998 (JW)
I must also mention the Belmond Grand Hibernian – a luxury private charter along the same lines as the Northern Belle – comprised of a rake of converted Mark 3 carriages and with dedicated loco no.216 – but with tickets for the forthcoming multi-day excursions starting at €3,484, it’s not a cheap way to get your 201 fix!
Preserved Railway – Loco Haulage
There are a number of preserved railways which give frequent opportunities to travel behind quite a variety of locomotives. The biggest and the most famous is the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, a ‘standard gauge’ (as in, the Irish standard of 5’3) line approximately 20 miles south-east of Belfast. It is not rail-connected, but it is easy enough to get there by Translink no.515 bus from Belfast, which takes about an hour. Given the short flying time and the frequent nature of some air routes to Belfast, it is possible to do this as a day trip from some parts of England and Scotland too.
The railway predominantly operates steam where possible and its currently serviceable steam loco is Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0T no.1, formerly of the Irish Sugar Company at Thurles. Its sister loco (no.3) is soon to return to service too. However it has a varied collection of diesel traction as well. Possibly of the most interest to the enthusiast are its three big diesels – all owned by the Irish Traction Group – A39, 146 and C231. There is also an operational shunter (G617) along with E421 and E432, G611 and G613 currently out of traffic. Northern Ireland’s English Electric “thumper” DEMUs are represented by two recently-arrived two-car 80 Class sets and a 450 Class set now used as a buffet train; one of the hauled carriages, 728, was also formerly a 70 Class intermediate trailer. Of interest is also Leyland railbus RB3 (former BR 977020), also out of traffic.
The West Clare Railway, at Moyasta Junction in County Clare, operates a 3′ gauge demonstration line. The ITG also have some of their preserved fleet on static display here – A3, 124, 152 and 190. A second Metro-Vick is there, as the railway have 015 themselves. Also of interest are ex-CIÉ Mark 2 carriages 4108, 4110 and 4402 – all former BR vehicles exported in the early 1990s – and Mark 3s 6402 and 7146 (the former being ex-HST trailer 40513) along with push-pull control car 6105.
Unlikely to run again, but fortunately a survivor, 015 – now at the West Clare Railway at Moyasta Junction – is seen at the Inchicore open day in June 1996 (JW)
The other operational heritage railways in Ireland are of narrow gauge and do not operate anything ex-CIÉ or NIR as a result. However, they are still worth a visit. In Northern Ireland, you have the 3′ gauge Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway, about 25 minutes’ bus ride east of Portrush. Éire has its fair share of 3′ gauge railways too, including the Fintown Railway in County Donegal, the Cavan & Leitrim Railway adjacent to Dromod station on the Dublin to Sligo railway in County Leitrim (at which the cab of scrapped ex-CIÉ loco no.133 is also an exhibit), and the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway at Kilmeadan in County Waterford; some ‘standard gauge’ interest also exists at the latter, as Mark 2 carriage no.4106 (ex-BR FO no.3157) is used as a static buffet.
There is also the interesting Lartigue Monorail and Museum at Listowel, County Kerry, which allows visitors the unique opportunity of travelling on a reimagined version of the fascinating Listowel & Ballybunion Railway – the loco is a steam outline diesel (but what an outline!) and the gauge is… well, it’s a monorail!
Freight on the main line has been largely decimated but some does remain, largely 071-hauled and consists mainly of zinc ore from Tara Mines, west of Drogheda, to Dublin’s North Wall and a few other flows concentrated on the same routes: timber from Ballina and Westport to Waterford, along with liner trains from Ballina to Dublin to Waterford. Aside from that, most non-passenger work is now restricted to occasional works and engineers trains.
There are, however, a number of museums to occupy your time. Probably number one on the list is the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, adjacent to Cultra station on the Belfast to Bangor line. The star exhibit of its numerous items of rolling stock for me personally is Hunslet diesel no.102 – I wonder if I will ever get the chance to add to the 1.6 miles I enjoyed behind it on its last passenger run in 1996? However, six-cylinder Sulzer B113 is well worth your time too, and the massive GSR 4-6-0 steam loco no.800 Maedbh is a site to behold.
102 in the museum at Cultra (photo: Nicola Elsden (my fiancee!))
The Foyle Valley Railway Museum in Derry, which was formerly the starting point for a short preserved railway along the bank of the River Foyle, appears to have recently been taken over and reopened by a local disability charity called Destined. Its star exhibits are two County Donegal Railways Joint Committee 3′ gauge 2-6-4Ts, no.4 “Meenglas” (outside) and no.6 “Columbkille”. This museum is a ten-minute walk over the Craigavon Bridge from Derry’s (last remaining) railway station.
There are a small number of locomotives which are located at private, non-operational sites, too. The ITG’s B103, 226, G601 and G616 are at a private site in Carrick-on-Suir. E428 – one of the Maybach-engined E421 Class – is now at the closed Dunsandle station on the former Attymon Junction to Loughrea branch line, along with “Laminate” coach no.2159. Metro-Vick A55 has had the Hell’s Kitchen pub/Castlerea Railway Museum built around it – about a 15-minute walk from Castlerea station – and 227 (ex-NIR 106) is at a private site at Kilmacow, County Kilkenny. This latter loco was cosmetically restored for static display at Cahirciveen as “C202” – that being the last loco to work to Valentia Harbour – but tragically it was vandalised by the locals and had to be removed – initially to Bilberry in County Waterford – however as can be seen in this view from 2009 on Google Maps, it was far from secure and vandalised further. It’s to be hoped that its more recent move will ensure that this does not get worse.
There are also some carriages in unusual places. A non-exhaustive list would cover no.6203 (ex-BR “International” demonstrator no.99524) now in use as a cafe at Caragh Nurseries in Naas, County Kildare. At Clonakilty, about 30 miles south-west of Cork, lies the West Cork Model Railway Village. Two ex-CIÉ “Park Royal” carriages, 1400 and 1424, exist as grounded bodies here. I remember being in the car with my family driving towards Skibbereen in the early 1990s and stumbling across them entirely by accident! the Kiltimagh Railway Museum in the former station in the County Mayo town has been built around carriages 1460 and 2148.
Additionally, the Glenlo Abbey Hotel in County Galway has three ex-BR carriages (Mark 1 no.4474, GUV no.93558 and Pullman parlour car “Leona”) in its grounds, and the Quirky Glamping Village in Enniscrone, County Sligo has 3-CIG no.1498…along with ten double-decker buses and a Boeing 767!
So, what do you reckon? Worth a visit?