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Railways have been key to facilitating many of the major historical events of the last two centuries, but it is rare that the trains have been the subject of the world’s attention. This is the tale of two nights in 1989 when, for a series of trains, that was indeed the case.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, was a Communist state formed in 1949. Mainly due to the comparative lack of its own naturally-occurring industrial resources, it never managed to match the “economic miracle” that occurred in West Germany after the Second World War, and indeed the flow of people from East to West in search of a better life was stemmed only by the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Ten years later, the man who masterminded the project – Erich Honecker – became the country’s leader, and ruled with an iron fist. Many citizens dreamed of leaving the country, but the very existence of the Wall – as part of the Iron Curtain that bisected the continent – steadfastly prevented them from doing so. Their international travel was limited to a small number of fellow Warsaw Pact nations.
As the 1980s progressed, disquiet diffused throughout the Eastern Bloc. Under Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership, Moscow no longer got involved in the Warsaw Pact states’ internal affairs, and amid this atmosphere, the first crack in the Iron Curtain showed on 11th September 1989 when Hungary dismantled its border with Austria. Thousands of East Germans began travelling through Czechoslovakia to Hungary for “holidays”, then simply crossing to Austria and beginning a new life in the West. Unsurprisingly, this situation was not allowed to develop. As a bid to cut off the flow of people, Czechoslovakia closed its border with Hungary to GDR citizens.
This left thousands of East Germans stranded in Czechoslovakia. Rather than return home, many headed straight to Prague and congregated at the West German Embassy, 3,000 people cramming themselves in the baroque palace and its gardens, seeking asylum in the West. West Germany did not have grounds to protest – according to its own Basic Law, they were all German citizens. Eventually, almost double that number presented themselves.
This had the potential to cause extreme embarrassment to the GDR regime, who were gearing up for lavish celebrations in the first week of October to mark the 40th anniversary of their country’s formation. At a time when they were preparing to demonstrate that everything was rosy in the East, they really did not need a high-profile diplomatic incident in which significant numbers of their citizens would rather live in borderline unsanitary conditions in corridors and cupboards than make a life in their country.
The decision to let them leave for the West was therefore an obvious one that suited all parties. However, Honecker wanted the last word. He could have let them all simply leave on service trains directly to the West German border. However, in revenge for potentially tainting his highly-anticipated anniversary celebration, he wished to humiliate them. He also wanted to portray them to the world as traitors, as undesirables that were being expelled by the glorious GDR rather than fleeing it.
Honecker’s self-serving solution was to insist that all 5,490 refugees travel in sealed refugee trains – or Flüchtlingszüge – from Prague, transiting through the territory of the GDR, whereupon Stasi officials would confiscate their ID papers and effectively render them stateless, before depositing them just across the border at Hof.
The decision had been made late on Friday 29th September. Things got moving the following evening. Prioritising those with small children, the first tranche of passengers were marshalled onto buses outside the Embassy and driven to Praha-Libeň railway station. To say that the atmosphere was tense would be an understatement. There was suspicion that the East German authorities would not let the train proceed beyond their territory. Nobody knew how this would play out.
At 20:50, hauled by a class T478.3 “Goggle” diesel loco, the first train pulled out of Praha-Libeň. In total, another five trains followed at two-hour intervals. Ironically, the reason that the requisite coaching stock – six rakes of at least 10 vehicles apiece – had been able to be cobbled together with such a short lead time, was that scratch sets had already been assembled at various locations across the GDR in readiness for working reliefs in connection with the 40th anniversary celebrations later that week; it was these rakes that were sent to Prague. True to Honecker’s promise to himself that he would humiliate the passengers, however, they were unheated and in various states of disrepair.
The trains proceeded via Dĕčín to Bad Schandau, where they lost their Czechoslovakian motive power and gained both Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) locos and Stasi border officials, who confiscated the paperwork of the passengers. The trains then continued via Dresden and the “Sachsen Magistrale” route through Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) and Zwickau, then finally across the border to Hof, the first one arriving at 06:14.
The journey was not a smooth one. Most of the trains were booked a crew change at Dresden Hbf – the main station of the third-largest city in the GDR. Obviously, the GDR was not publicising the fact that the trains were running, but the West Germans were, and although it was illegal to do so, East Germans in some areas could pick up Western TV. Ironically, the area around Dresden was known as the “Valley of the Clueless”, the geography of the region blocking out TV signals from over the border. During the brief crew change on the second train however, at least three young people were able to jump aboard. Many arrests were made further along the route as others tried. A dramatisation was made for the 25th anniversary featuring 231 012 of WFL, some of which is on YouTube here.
The locos used to power these illustrious trains through the night in the GDR were as follows:-
|23360||250 192||Bad Schandau – Reichenbach|
|132 478||Reichenbach – Hof|
|23362||132 285||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23366||132 059||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23364||132 696||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23368||132 695||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23370||132 701||Bad Schandau – Hof|
The scenes of the trains’ arrival at Hof were shown on TV screens across the world. Millions saw the big Russian class 132 “Ludmilla” diesels (later DB class 232, after reunification) lumbering along the crowded platforms at Hof, illuminated by blinking flashguns as they came to a halt and their excited and relieved passengers alighted.
Of course, amongst those millions were large numbers of East Germans – who, their resolve strengthened by the feat of successful escape by their fellow countrymen, then immediately made their way to the West German Embassy in Prague in an attempt to emulate them! Almost as soon as it was emptied, the old building became full of East German refugees again.
Eventually, 7,607 people shoehorned themselves into the Embassy. There could only be one solution. However, Honecker persisted with his insistence that they be removed on trains that pass through the GDR.
The Second Operation
This time, eight trains were required to convey them. The first departed from Praha-Libeň at 18:34 on the night of Wednesday 4th October, the last seven hours later.
This time, the locals in Dresden were prepared. 5,000 people crammed themselves in the Hbf, with 10,000 outside, all with the hope of getting aboard one of the refugee trains that was due to pass through. What ensued was nothing short of an all-out riot; described afterwards as the greatest example of civil disobedience in the GDR since the 1953 uprising. Many were injured, including one man who lost both of his legs when he fell underneath one of the trains whilst trying to climb aboard. Severe damage was caused to the station. Police used water cannons in an attempt to quell the disturbance but thankfully, in contrast to 1953, no shots were fired.
After the first three trains had passed Dresden, and amidst escalating chaos, the remaining five trains were diverted away from the city. This was no mean feat, with them having to travel further through Czechoslovakia, entering the GDR by way of Bad Brambach. The use of this route necessitated a reversal at Plauen. During a run round here, a further seven people succeeded in sneaking aboard one of the trains, but ultimately, these diversions were a success.
The DR locomotives involved on the second night were as follows:-
|23358||132 478||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23362||132 655||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23360||132 596||Bad Schandau – Hof|
|23366||132 701||Bad Brambach – Hof|
|23356||132 285||Bad Brambach – Hof|
|23364||132 059||Bad Brambach – Hof|
|23368||132 696||Bad Brambach – Hof|
|23370||132 643||Bad Brambach – Hof|
Here is some footage on YouTube from Hof as these trains arrived. Again, after seeing the scenes from Hof, thousands more East Germans descended on the Embassy in Prague. This time, however, they were loaded onto a much lower-key special train on 3rd November and simply taken via Cheb directly into West Germany. The GDR regime had learnt from their mistake, but – as with many things in their short history – it was too late.
The Locos Today
The route to Hof is now electrified. The border has gone. There are no longer two Germanies or a border between them.
However, most of the locomotives that found themselves thrust into the world spotlight over those two nights in 1989 still exist. The fates of the nine class 132s that performed on the refugee trains over the two nights are as follows:-
|Loco No.||Final No.||Current Operator||Current Status|
|132 059||232 059||–||scrapped|
|132 285||233 285||DB Cargo||operational|
|132 478||233 478||DB Cargo||operational|
|132 596||233 596||DB Cargo||stored at Chemnitz|
|132 643||233 643||DB Cargo||stored at Chemnitz|
|132 655||232 655||–||scrapped|
|132 695||232 695||–||scrapped|
|132 696||233 696||DB Cargo||stored at Cottbus|
|132 701||232 701||Leipziger Eisenbahngesellschaft GmbH||stored at Delitzsch|
Even the class 250 that worked the very first train out of Bad Schandau – 250 192 – still survives, as DB Cargo loco 155 192, stored at Sassnitz-Mukran on the island of Rügen.
The part that these locomotives played has not been forgotten. PIKO produced a G-scale model of 132 478, the loco that brought the first train over the border, and Lok Magazin have made a couple of calls for the loco, now DB Cargo’s 233 478 and still in traffic, to be preserved as a memorial to the events.
Another of the locos, 132 701 – now 232 701, recently purchased by the private freight operator Leipziger Eisenbahngesellschaft GmBH (LEG) – has attracted attention. The Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper dubbed it “die Lok der Freiheit” (“the freedom loco”) and expressed the editorial opinion that given its status as “ein Stück Weltgeschichte” (“a piece of world history”) it should be brought back into action – it currently remains stored at Delitzsch. ‘701 did not haul the ground-breaking first train, however the interest in it might well be explained that its arrival at Hof was later in the morning, after daybreak, and therefore it appears in far more photographs from the day. (Edit 08/2018 – the loco has been put through works in Latvia and has now returned to Germany, hopefully to re-enter service with LEG shortly).
The Historical Impact
There is a credible interpretation of history that says that these fourteen trains over two nights in autumn 1989 irreversibly changed the world.
Routing the trains via the GDR was a gamble that did not pay off. Intended to act as a show of State strength, it only served to strengthen the resolve amongst many of those that remained in the GDR to emulate the passengers in their journey west. Public unrest spread like wildfire, and the numbers taking part in the peaceful demonstrations springing up across the GDR swelled. According to politician Günter Schabowski, Honecker’s decisions regarding these trains were the major catalyst that swayed the Politbüro to force his resignation on 17th October. It was amid this background of spiralling social and political chaos that the Berlin Wall was opened on 9th November.
From there, the domino effect was unstoppable. The general anti-Communist sentiment that had taken hold across the Eastern Bloc throughout 1989 gained renewed strength. Bulgaria’s leader Zhivkov was ousted the very next day; the government in Czechoslovakia had been overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution” by the end of the month; Christmas Day saw the violent deposal, fleeting trial and summary execution of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. These events effectively rendered the Warsaw Pact null and void, and it was dissolved in 1991; in this act, the Cold War was arguably ended on the spot.
Perhaps, then, if anyone would have been lucky enough to have been stood at the lineside on the “Sachsen Magistrale” on those two nights almost three decades ago, they would have not only witnessed a procession of powerful Russian diesels howling over the steep gradients with their heavy trains, but they would have been witnessing true history in the making.
The E10 family of electric locomotives were once one of the most numerous on the Deutsche Bundesbahn. However, of the 415 examples built (plus a further one converted from a class E40), only a paltry 42 remain extant.
|110 002||E10 002||DB Museum, Nürnberg|
|110 005||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 114||115 114||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 121||E10 121||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 152||Preserved by Baureihe E10 e.V., Köln|
|110 169||In service with Euro Express Sonderzüge GmbH|
|110 177||139 177||In service with Lokomotion Gesellschaft fur Schienentraktion|
|110 198||115 198||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 213||139 213||In service with Lokomotion Gesellschaft fur Schienentraktion|
|110 222||139 222||DB Cargo, stored at Mukran|
|110 223||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 226||E10 226||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 228||E10 228||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel (currently in Crailsheim)|
|110 239||E10 1239||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 260||139 260||In service with Lokomotion Gesellschaft fur Schienentraktion|
|110 261||115 261||In service with DB Fernverkehr|
|110 262||(139 262)||In service with Bayern Bahn Betriebsgesellschaft|
|110 267||113 267||Preserved, location currently unknown|
|110 268||113 268||In service with TRI Train Rental GmbH|
|110 278||In service with Centralbahn AG|
|110 281||SVG Eisenbahn-Erlebniswelt, Horb|
|110 283||139 283||In service with Lokomotion Gesellschaft fur Schienentraktion|
|110 285||139 285||In service with Eisenbahn Gesellschaft Potsdam (EGP)|
|110 287||139 287||In service with Bayern Bahn Betriebsgesellschaft|
|110 292||DB Museum, Nürnberg – in Crailsheim|
|110 293||115 293||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 300||Preserved by Baureihe E10 e.V., Köln|
|110 309||E10 1309||In service with TRI Train Rental GmbH|
|110 311||113 311||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 346||115 346||DB Cargo, stored in Hamm strategic reserve and for sale|
|110 348||E10 348||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|110 350||115 350||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 383||In service with Centralbahn AG|
|110 428||In service with TRI Train Rental GmbH|
|110 448||115 448||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 459||115 459||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 468||Preserved by Verein Die Bügelfalte 110 488|
|110 469||In service with TRI Train Rental GmbH|
|110 488||114 488||Preserved by Verein Die Bügelfalte 110 488|
|110 491||In service with BahnTouristikExpress GmbH|
|110 509||115 509||In service with DB Fernvekehr|
|110 511*||“110 043”||In service with Pressnitztalbahn|
* – ex-139 134
T478.2065 (749259) is seen at Praha hl n, 23/07/16 (JW)
Next weekend sees the start of the 2017 season of Saturdays-only round trips between Praha (Prague) and Rakovník, hauled by the popular class 749 “Grumpy” locos.
Every Saturday between 29th April and 16th September 2017 will see class 749 haulage on an 08:42 Praha hl n to Rakovník (R1581) and 15:32 return (R1580). Named the “Rakovnický rychlík” (“Rakovník Express”), this is essentially a regular heritage service on the main line operated by KŽC, along the same sort of lines as the “Jacobite” in Scotland.
This is absolutely something that you can combine with a predominantly non-railway city break in Praha. This sensibly-timed round trip gives a break of 5 hours in Rakovník, although arguably a better destination is the train’s penultimate stop of Křivoklát which is a particularly popular stop for tourists.
If you’re not interested in hitting the tourist trail, then one of your hours during the layover at Rakovník can be gainfully employed on a quick out-and-back run with Caterpillar-engined class 750.7 “Goggle” locos on the route via Kladno to Praha Masarykovo. The 13:22 from Rakovník and 13:02 from Praha Masarykovo are both frequently reported as 750.7 and a neat fill-in move presents itself from Rakovník to Nové Strašecí and back. Indeed, you could even use either of these trains to complete a circular round day trip, should you wish to do so.
Even if you cannot spare a full day to cover the round trip, you can do as my fiancée and I did on a Saturday afternoon in 2016, and pitch up at Praha-Smíchov station for 17:14 in order to have the 749 for the brief 4 kilometres round to the main station (hlavní nádraží), for the equivalent of 77p each. Although this is embarrassing “insect mileage” of the highest order, it did give the opportunity to savour a standing start from a signal check inside the tunnel!
Last year, haulage was shared by KŽC’s T478.1215 (749253) and T478.2065 (749259) – which are both now unsilenced – although 740692 did also make one appearance. Since then, one of the prototypes, 749006 has joined the KŽC stable and is also expected to work on some of these trains during 2017.
Chances to sample haulage by this class of loco are certainly not rare – indeed, there are still some in the employ of the national operator, and they also work a significant number of charters throughout the year – but this cheerful little operation gives an easy, cheap and usually reliable method of doing so.
As a very brief taster, check out this video of one of 2016’s trains, uploaded to Youtube by Tomáš Hošek:
Point to point fares are available on a distance-based tariff basis, but the return adult fare is 300 CZK, or £9.32 at current prices – not bad for 108 miles of loco haulage. Tickets can be purchased on the train.
Further info (in Czech) including full timetable at this link.
23.071 at Beekbergen, 30/05/14 (JW)
Two anniversaries are being celebrated at the Eisenbahnmuseum Bochum in western Germany on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th April 2017.
The museum itself is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Eisenbahngeschichte (German Railway History Society) its 50th. To celebrate, a large display of rolling stock will be amassed at the museum on the theme of “Ost trifft West”; “East meets West”.
In the second half of the 20th century, the railways of the two Germanies (the Deutsche Bundesbahn in West Germany and the Deutsche Reichsbahn in the East) developed along their own lines, and this exhibition takes the opportunity to place equivalent types from either side of the “Iron Curtain” next to each other for comparison.
As well as their large collection of resident machines, a considerable number of notable locos will visit from elsewhere to help tell this story, and can be seen at the link here. It will certainly be rewarding to take a good number of hours to have an explore!
Shuttles to and from Essen Hbf
In order to help provide easy access from the main line railway network for visitors, a shuttle will run from Essen Hbf station directly into the museum, at the following times both days:-
09:59 / 10:59 / 11:59 / 13:59 / 14:59 / 15:59 / 16:59 / 17:59 ex-Essen Hbf
09:25 / 10:30 / 11:30 / 13:30 / 14:30 / 15:30 / 16:30 / 17:30 ex-Museum
On one end of each train, which will be formed of DB “Umbauwagen”, will be DB Class 212, 212007, dating from 1962 (external link to photo here). On the other will be a rotating cast of up to seven of the steam exhibits.
The journey time for the 9.5-mile journey will be in the region of 20 minutes each way. Fares are €5.50 each way and entry to the museum is €16.
Shuttles from Bochum-Dahlhausen
A separate shuttle train service will operate from the local S-Bahn station, at Bochum-Dahlhausen, a distance of less than a mile. Times as follows:-
10:00 / 10:35 / 11:00 / 11:44 / 12:00 / 12:35 / 12:55 / 13:12 / 13:35 / 14:00 / 14:35 / 15:01 / 15:35 / 16:01 / 16:35 / 17:00 / 17:35 ex-Bochum-Dahlhausen
10:20 / 10:45 / 11:29 / 11:51 / 12:20 / 12:45 / 13:05 / 13:20 / 13:45 / 14:20 / 14:55 / 15:20 / 15:51 / 16:20 / 16:50 / 17:20 / 17:55 ex-Museum
The journey time is only 5 minutes and tickets cost €2.50 each way. This train is to be formed of a rake of older “Donnerbüchsen” carriages and will equally be hauled by a rolling cast of locomotives; however, due to the short distance involved, this can also include their Köf III shunting loco (possibly 332306), and also 2-6-2 tender engine 23.071, visiting from the VSM in the Netherlands and not fitted with PZB (German in-cab signalling) so cannot venture onto the mainline itself, neither of which will work on the Essen trains.
More info here.
Additionally, an extra day of the exhibition specifically for photographers has been arranged for Monday 1st May.
Many thanks to the Eisenbahnmuseum Bochum for their help in preparing this brief article.
231012 on railtour duty at Helmstedt, 12/05/12 (JW)
The Ostsächsische Eisenbahnfreunde e.V. have kindly provided me with information regarding the motive power expected to haul their railtours over the next few months.
Saturday 22nd April 2017
“Mit Ludmilla zum Deutschen Dampflokomotiv-Museum”, 06:10 Löbau to Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg and return, €75. Link. Traction is planned to be 231012 from Wedler & Franz – one of only 11 extant class 231s (ex-Deutsche Reichsbahn class 131) and still a working freight loco. This tour covers some true Ludmilla territory in the form of the Sachsen Magistrale and you can be sure that it will sound great!
231012 gives “a little helping hand” to 03.1010 at Berlin Spandau, 13/05/12 (JW)
Monday 5th June 2017
Please note that this trip is currently fully booked. “Mit dem Sonderzug zu Škoda Mladá Boleslav”, Löbau to Mladá Boleslav and return, €75. Link. Traction is planned to be 112331 (DB 202331) in Germany and “Goggle” 750308 in the Czech Republic.
Saturday 10th June 2017
“Mit OSEF zum R.SA-Festival 2017 in Schwarzenberg”, 11:30 Löbau to Schwarzenberg and overnight return, €60. Link. Traction is planned to be 112331 (DB 202331) and probably another loco of the same class.
Please note that this is only the current plan and everything is subject to change. Please check with the organiser before committing to travel and booking.
An interesting seasonal operation in Catalonia provides a perfect way of combining a family-orientated holiday with some diesel thrash!
Situated approximately an hour by train inland from Barcelona, the 89.35 km (55.5 mile) branch from Lleida to La Pobla de Segur climbs into the southern reaches of the Pyrenees, and is astonishingly scenic. On 26 dates throughout the summer months, it is possible to make the journey along it on the “Tren dels Llacs” behind a pair of classic Spanish diesel locomotives.
These are of Class 308, a single-cab four-axle diesel-electric loco type built by General Electric and Babcock & Wilcox in the late 1960s, each powered by a 710hp Caterpillar D398 lump. The machines in question will be permed from 10817 (308 017), 10820 (308 020) and 10838 (308 038) – from the ARMF (Associació per a la Reconstrucció de Material Ferroviari Históric) at Lleida. The operation kicked off for the year on 15th and 16th April 2017 with 10817 and 10838 with load 7.
To “British” ears, they probably sound most like Class 20s. The “Tren dels Llacs” gives an excellent opportunity to hear them hard at work; it’s certainly not a sedate trundle through the countryside. To get an impression of the locos and the scenery they run through, put off what you were planning to do for the next 20 minutes and check out this video by “Garratt462” on YouTube.
Dates and Prices
The “Tren dels Llacs” will operate on every Saturday from 20th April until 6th July 2019, and then on every Saturday from 17th August to 2nd November 2017. (The Saturdays in between the two see the train operated by a panoramic modern DMU). The return trip costs just €30 (€16.50 for children aged 4-13, under 4s go free). Tickets are to be reserved in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org but can be collected on the day.
It departs from Lleida (Pirineus) at 10:40, getting back at 19:00 (timetable and further info here). As well as some great scenery – the “Llacs” (lakes) that give their name to the operation – and of course the 110 miles of diesel power, there are a number of activities around the train – such as a welcome at Lleida from a local theatre group, and a brief stop on the return at Balaguer for some local food. You also have 4hr 25min to fill in La Pobla de Segur – check out the website of their tourist office for some ideas on what to do. It definitely isn’t “trains all day” and therefore is an entirely “family-friendly” activity!
Lleida has its own airport and there are a small number of flights from the UK directly to it. Other airports in the area include Barcelona, Girona, Reus and Zaragoza.
The “Tren dels Llacs” could be easily combined with a city break in Barcelona – a great destination, with all of the facets of a city-based holiday combined with good beaches. It’s easily doable as a day trip from there, departing Barcelona Sants by service train at 08:30 and arriving back before 21:00.
Many thanks to Stewart Wells for his help with this article.
Sunday 30th April 2017 sees two interesting events south-east of Frankfurt am Main, the “Tag der offenen Tür” (open day) at Miltenberg and the “Tag des offenen Eisenbahnmuseums” (railway museum open day) at Amorbach. The Westfrankenbahn are advertising additional passenger trains, with class 212 (V100) and class 218 (V160) diesel-hydraulic locomotives as the motive power, to link the two and also run along the scenic route hugging the Main river as far east as Wertheim.
Normal tickets (for example the Bayern-Ticket) will be valid for travel on these trains, alternatively single trip tickets will be available for €3.30 (regardless of length of travel on each train). Great value for an interesting day out.
The 218 in question will be MTU4000-engined 218460, recently repainted into “ozeanblau-beige” livery and named “Conny”, of the Westfrankenbahn (external link to photo here). The loco has been well-travelled recently – spending a week (between 30th January and 7th February) hauling peak-time commuter trains out of Frankfurt am Main to cover for a lack of class 642 DMUs; and then six weeks (1st March to 18th April) off Mühldorf, working everything from local passenger trains to Eurocity expresses, this time covering for a temporary shortage of 218s there.
The 212 will be 212372, belonging to the DB Museum (external link to photo here).
The two locos will sandwich three carriages – a Bm, an Abn and another Bm.
218460 has now been repainted into a heritage livery, but here it is in service days at Illertissen, 25/08/08. (JW)
In common with previous events at Miltenberg, cab rides in a Voith Gravita class 261 centre-cab 1,600hp diesel loco will be available from Gleis 9 at Miltenberg. Previous locos to have performed such duties have included 261039 in 2014 and 261031 in 2016.
The exhibition at Miltenberg will see three electric locos on display, all normally to be found at the DB Museum at Koblenz. These are of class 103 (103113 – retired from main line service only last month), class 110 (110152) and class 141 (E41001).
Of further interest is that the railway museum at Amorbach contains four carriages and the “Lindenberg-Lok”, 218212, on static display. Link to photo of 218212 in situ.
A link to the timetable in PDF form on the Westfrankenbahn website can be found here. The diagram for the diesel-hauled train covers 242 miles (389 km) through the day and is as follows:-
RE23471 09:15 Miltenberg – Wertheim 09:53
RE23470 10:02 Wertheim – Amorbach 10:51
RE23473 11:01 Amorbach – Wertheim 11:53
RE23472 12:02 Wertheim – Amorbach 12:51
RE23475 13:01 Amorbach – Wertheim 13:53
RE23474 14:02 Wertheim – Amorbach 14:51
RE23477 15:01 Amorbach – Wertheim 15:53
RE23476 16:02 Wertheim – Amorbach 16:51
RE23479 17:01 Amorbach – Wertheim 17:53
RE23478 18:02 Wertheim – Miltenberg 18:36
These are always great events, so I’d really recommend you pop along if you are in Germany that weekend!
Many thanks to the DB Regio AG for their assistance with info for this article.
67481 at Boulogne Ville, 19/10/14 (JW)
On a Sunday in October 2014 I made a flying visit to Northern France, to spend a little bit of time travelling around the Paris area behind a small variety of electric loco classes and then enjoy some time with the BB67400 diesel-electrics on the route between Amiens and Boulogne.
In hindsight it was probably a silly thing to do – I spent the Saturday travelling from home to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway in Northern Ireland for their diesel gala, before returning home for a few hours sleep, then out to Birmingham airport at the crack of dawn on Sunday to catch the 06:25 flight to Paris. The plan was then to spend the Sunday night in a hotel in Boulogne, before waking up on Monday in time to catch the 05:01 to Paris, a quick connection out to the airport for the plane back to Birmingham, home to get changed, then into work for a late shift.
Ticket-wise, I would be using the last bit of a FIP coupon that I had lying around, which in truth had more to do with my decision to make the train than the traction on offer. However, I was to have an enjoyable little adventure.
7613 at Chaville Rive Gauche, 19/10/14. (JW)
My plane landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle on time, but after a journey on the bus and the transit, a long queue at passport control and then a long walk through the airport complex, I wasn’t on the move on my RER until 09:37.
Another factor that didn’t help – which may be worth knowing if you’re considering using rail staff travel privileges over there – is that there is nothing on a FIP coupon that opens the unmanned ticket barriers on the RER. As I had a bit of time in hand, I sought out someone from the booking office to help me, but if you’re in a rush, you may not have that option. Something to bear in mind.
27303 departs Bellevue, 19/10/14. (JW)
Anyway, I was off, rattling towards the city centre. The RER, or “Réseau Express Régional”, is Paris’s overground rapid transit system – effectively, something that sits between its Metro and its bona fide suburban trains. It serves routes radiating from the capital, however, rather than terminating in any of the numerous termini that grace the city, it burrows underground, providing a viable alternative to the Metro for inner-city journeys as well as cross-city travel options. It is very much a product of the 1970s and 1980s, and very much has the look and feel of that era, and this extends to the trains on this route – Z8100 type EMUs from the early 1980s that show their age even after refurbishment.
Much like London, Paris has a large number of termini – seven, in fact; Nord, Est, Lyon, Bercy, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and St Lazare. Rather than make a beeline for one of these, I was to make a cross-city journey – changing from one RER line to another at St Michel-Notre Dame amongst all the tourists, then passing almost directly beneath the Eiffel Tower on a run out into the suburbs to the station of Viroflay Rive Gauche.
8588 and 27313, Paris Montparnasse, 19/10/14. (JW)
Here, the RER meets the route out of Montparnasse. The 10-mile section out of the terminus as far as Versailles Chantiers has nine stations and a frequent loco-hauled service of stopping trains, so quite a few “lines in the book” can be achieved in a fairly short time (admittedly, none of them for much mileage!).
Three of the stations on this section of line have the suffix “Rive Gauche”; this translates to “Left Bank”; the towns in question also have stations on another line which have the suffix “Rive Droite”… “Right Bank”, predictably! However, intriguingly, there is no river between them, and if viewed on a map, “Left” and “Right” are the wrong way round. The reason is that the “Rive Gauche” stations are on the route into Montparnasse terminus, which is on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris, whereas route with the “Rive Droite” stations runs into St Lazare, on the right bank of the Seine. Just a bit of trivia for you, in case you were wondering!
7613 snakes into Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14. (JW)
My targets were the stopping trains from Montparnasse to Mantes la Jolie, Rambouillet and Plaisir Grignon. These run at a 15-minute frequency in both directions and are of double-deck stock worked in push-pull mode and powered by electric locos of classes BB7600 and BB27300.
The 14-strong fleet of BB7600s actually replaced EMUs on these workings, entering traffic about four years ago. However, they are locos of some vintage – being built in the early 1980s as class BB7200 and converted – one of a number of classes to benefit from the truly classic design of Paul Arzens, being nicknamed “nez cassés” (“broken noses”) due to the cab shape. These are 1500 v d.c. machines, and therefore can only work the services to Rambouillet and Plaisir-Grignon – the route beyond the latter to Mantes le Jolie is wired at a different voltage.
The BB27300s are far more modern locos – 67 Alstom “Primas” built between 2005 and 2010. These are used on commuter traffic out of both Montparnasse and St Lazare stations. They are dual-voltage, being able to work on 1500 v d.c. and 25000 v a.c., and therefore these work all of the Mantes la Jolie services as well as some of the short workings to Plaisir-Grignon and some of those to Rambouillet.
Both classes are expected to disappear from this work in the next few years as new EMUs enter traffic – the BB7600s withdrawn and the BB27300s cascaded to freight work.
8588 departs Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14. (JW)
In 50 minutes or so, and without breaking a sweat, I succeeded in travelling behind 5 locos (2 x BB7600 and 3 x BB27300), but made sure that I was at Montparnasse in time to cover two trains of particular interest. These were both semi-fasts – the 12:09 to Chartres, which could be caught to its first stop of Versailles Chantiers and then, after a 15-minute wait, the 12:38 return (11:34 ex-Chartres). Both were booked for BB8500 power – elderly (1964-1974 vintage) d.c. electric locos – and both duly produced (8588 outwards for 8620 return). These have sadly now been superseded on these trains by modern multiple units, and I expect the charge back through the suburbs into Montparnasse with 8620 will transpire to my last ever run with one.
I should also point out that, although this trip obviously preceded the horrendous multiple terror attacks in Paris of 13th November 2015, the security situation was still tense. Despite this, I experienced absolutely no trouble whatsoever taking photographs and video of trains, and the only times that railway staff engaged me in conversation were to have a friendly chat about the trains.
8620 on arrival at Paris Montparnasse, 19/10/2014. (JW)
After that, it was a swift journey on Metro Line 4 up to Gare du Nord, at which point I was going to shut the book on short-distance “ned leaps” and settle in for a 157-mile journey to the seaside (and, indeed, within 30 miles of England). Diesel haulage opportunities in France lessen with every timetable change, but the unelectrified route between Amiens and the fishing town of Boulogne retains loco haulage on the through trains to and from Paris, with generally four locos of class BB67400 in use at any one time. These machines were built between 1969 and 1975 and have 16-cylinder Pielstick power units.
I devised a “move” that would easily provide haulage behind all four locos with relative ease. I boarded train 2013, the 14:04 from Paris, which was powered by a BB22200 electric – another type built to the “nez cassé” cab design – which whisked us north to Amiens in a very capable workmanlike fashion. Here it was swapped for the first diesel of the day, BB67604, which took us forward to journey’s end; Boulogne Ville.
BB22228 at Paris Nord, 19/10/14. (JW)
There was no time to look around, however, as BB67481 was sat on another rake of stock ready to depart back to Paris in less than 10 minutes. I took some quick photos and dived back on, this time for the 48-mile journey back as far as Abbeville.
67481 departs Abbeville, 19/10/14. (JW)
I had about 40 minutes to kill at Abbeville before another BB67400 would arrive heading back to Boulogne, so I took the opportunity for a wander around the pretty town before getting back to the station in time for BB67455’s arrival. This train was taken for three stops back towards the coast – to Rang du Fliers Verton Berck.
67455 departs Rang du Fliers Verton Berck, 19/10/14. (JW)
There was nothing of note to see or do here; just as well, therefore, that I didn’t have long to wait before my loco from earlier – BB67604 – arrived to take me back to Abbeville. I’d enjoyed my stop in the town earlier, however in the dark and with much less activity, my second visit was not so exciting. However, the peace was briefly shattered by a freight train heading through towards Amiens, which turned out to be hauled by ex-EWS Class 66 no.66228 – you can’t get away from them!
My last train of the day arrived with BB67606 at the sharp end, which took me back to Boulogne Ville with no hassle. After a few photos, I elected to make a quick exit to my hotel (the Ibis Budget, not too far from the station), as my alarm clock would be going off at 04:00. The hotel was a bizarre experience; Ibis Budgets do not have out-of-hours reception staff – check-in being done by the guest on machines in the lobby, and access to the room being by a key code – so I arrived at the hotel to see no one, saw no one during my stay, and departed on the Monday morning still having not seen a soul!
66228 passes Abbeville, 19/10/14. (JW)
As booked, BB67455 was sat at the head of my train, the 05:01 to Paris Gare du Nord, and as I said in the introduction, my plan was to do this to the blocks (swapping the diesel for another BB22200 at Amiens), for the RER out to Charles de Gaulle in time to catch my flight back to Birmingham at 09:50.
This was the third morning on the trot that my alarm had gone off before 04:00 (at odds with the shifts I was on at work) so it was no surprise that once in the warm of the front coach behind BB67455, I quickly nodded off. I stirred at Amiens, and was vaguely aware of the train filling up with commuters and also that the loco change seemed to be dragging its heels, but I was soon back asleep.
I then woke to find us crawling along in some woods at around 5mph… looking at my watch, we were already meant to be in Paris! This wasn’t good, as the distinctly rural view outside the window was a fairly clear indication that we weren’t close to arriving! The BB22200 quickly wound the train back up to line speed, though, and we drew to a halt at Gare du Nord at 08:14 – four minutes before the last RER that would reliably get me to the airport was due to depart from the low level platforms!
67606 arrives at Abbeville, 19/10/14 (JW)
After a run through the crush of morning rush hour commuters that Usain Bolt would have been proud of, I found myself back at the barriers to get into the RER and with no way of opening them (although, I stress, with a ticket valid for travel on the trains!). With time ticking away, I was forced to “double-up” behind another passenger, and made it onto the platform just as the airport train rushed out of the tunnel into the platform! There was more stress than I would have liked though!
I would certainly recommend a day on the BB67400s on the Amiens to Boulogne Ville route while the opportunity is still there. Whilst not the noisiest, the locos do have style and character, the trains are of considerable loads (generally load 10 in season) and it is a pleasant line on which to travel.
I would also recommend some time spent on the loco-hauled suburban trains out of Paris Montparnasse. Loco haulage on such routes (high-frequency services, stations close together) is not so easy to find these days, and whether your intention is to travel behind as many locos as possible, to photograph loco-hauled trains running to an intensive timetable, or purely to experience a railway operation that will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future, you could certainly do worse!
Only 17 of the 149 class 103s remain extant.
Of these, just two remain active on the main line: 103 222, a former test train loco now used predominantly for stock moves by Railadventure, and 103 245, based at München and occasionally used to haul main line service trains (although it is currently out of traffic). 103 113, which was retired from front line service on 30th March 2017, is now a museum loco based at the DB Museum at Koblenz and will perform on occasional main line railtours – the first occurred on 17th and 18th June 2017.
The other 15 can be found static across Germany, predominantly in museums. Those on display are at locations easily accessed by train, with the sole exception of one of the prototypes, 103 002, which is on display at the “Spatzenpark”, a family attraction at Herrnried, approximately 25 miles north-west of Regensburg. It occasionally comes up for sale on eBay, although nobody has stumped up the €200,000 asking price yet!
|103 001||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 002||Spatzenpark, Herrnried|
|103 004||Bahnbetriebswerk Lichtenfels|
|103 101||DB Museum, at Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein|
|103 113||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 132||DB Museum, stored at Dessau Works|
|103 136||Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Nördlingen|
|103 167||DB Museum, at Lokwelt Freilassing|
|103 184||DB Museum, at Bahnbetriebswerk Lichtenfels|
|103 197||Privately owned, stored at Altenbeken|
|103 220||Südwestfälisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Siegen for repaint, to return to DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel imminently|
|103 222||In service with Railadventure|
|103 224||DB Museum, Nürnberg|
|103 226||Südwestfälisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Siegen|
|103 233||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 235||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 245||In service with DB Fernverkehr, München (out of traffic since March 2018 with wheelset issues)|
103 113 at Stuttgart Hbf, 30/05/14 (JW)
Tomorrow, Thursday 30th March 2017, will see the retirement from front-line passenger service of the penultimate DB Class 103, the iconic class of 9,980hp 200km/h electric locomotives synonymous with the golden age of the Deutsche Bundesbahn.
103113 will take ECS at 11:45 from München-Pasing to Ulm Hbf. It will then enter service as IC2518, departing at 13:56 to Stuttgart Hbf, arriving in Platform 9 at 15:00.
Another loco will then back onto the train and take it forward to its destination at Münster (Westf), departing at 15:12. 103113 will then follow light engine, running via Mannheim and Mainz directly into the DB Museum at Koblenz-Lützel, its new home.
103113 is in fact returning home, having been a previous exhibit at the museum at Koblenz. It was returned to the main line effectively as working museum piece in early 2013 as a replacement for 103184, which was retired from traffic due to defective wheelsets. It’s one of a total of four 103s which have enjoyed an often-unpredictable “Indian summer” of front-line passenger work over the last 8 or 9 years, covering a variety of short-term self-contained diagrams, spread literally from the Danish border all the way to Austria. All of this despite initial withdrawal of the entire class as “life-expired” at the end of Summer 2003!
Since early 2015, just two have remained, and 103113’s retirement leaves just the youngest member of the class, 103245, to fly the flag for DB – based out of München but with no specific booked work. Additionally, 103222 can still be seen on the main line, privately owned by Railadventure, and can often be seen on ad-hoc stock moves across Germany.
It is one of 17 survivors of this class of 149 machines.