The Marschbahn

Due to some initial criticism that I was felt to be focusing on my favourite locos (which – if you weren’t aware – are Germany’s class 218 “rabbit” diesel-hydraulics), they haven’t received much coverage on this website to date.  However, I think it’s time that that was addressed.

218 344.jpg

My all-time favourite loco, 1974-built Krauss-Maffei diesel-hydraulic 218 344, will hopefully see its 50th birthday in service on the Marschbahn, on which it has operated since 2009.  It is seen here at Niebüll with 218 389 on 20/04/14 (JW)

One of Germany’s most famous railways is that from Hamburg, via Itzehoe, Husum and Niebüll to the terminus of Westerland, on the North Frisian island of Sylt – the northernmost 107 miles of which, north of Itzehoe, are not electrified.  This is known as the “Marschbahn”.  That an unelectrified destination has retained a long-distance (Intercity) service to cities such as Stuttgart and Dresden is noteworthy, but is explained by the fact that Sylt is not only a tourist destination but one favoured particularly by the rich, famous and above all influential – indeed, the village of Kampen, on Sylt, is home to Germany’s most expensive residential street.  In this way, Sylt is frequently compared to Montauk, which may be familiar to those of you who have enjoyed the diesel locos on the Long Island Railroad in the USA.

As I mentioned, Sylt is an island, and it is connected to mainland Germany only by a man-made causeway – the Hindenburgdamm.  This causeway was completed in 1927 and only carries a railway, which was doubled in 1972 to accommodate the ever-increasing volume of traffic to and from the island.  The island does have an airport (GWT), which is served by mostly seasonal flights from German cities, and also an eight-sailings-a-day ferry connection to Havneby in Denmark.  Aside from that, the railway is the only method of access.

Intercity services

Intercity services run to Westerland year-round, but some of them are seasonal – which does not mean Summer-only, but holiday periods throughout the year.  These have been handled by diesel-hydraulics of the V160 family for nearly half a century.  In the last few years, attempts have been made to replace them on this work with modern TRAXX class 245s, but these have been wholly unsuccessful.  In short (and trying not to let my prejudices show too much!), breaking from a tradition that has served Germany well, the fleet was ordered without first trialling a prototype, and its new four-engine technology and computer control has not proven itself apt for this particular route – although 245 021 to 245 027 were delivered up there in 2015/16 with the plan drawn up in an office in a Berlin high-rise across Germany was that 1×245 can do the work of 2×218.  Consequently, they have been banned from the IC services on the route except for in emergencies, and pairs of 218s will continue for the foreseeable – currently predicted up to 2024/25.

The problem with this is that immediately after the arrival of the 245s – which coincidentally occurred roughly seven years after the incumbent 30-strong fleet of 218s had been overhauled and assembled at Niebüll, and therefore when the seven-year term of their overhauls expired – numerous perfectly good 218s were sent for cannibalisation and in some cases even scrap, rather than Bremen works.  This has meant that Niebüll has, for the last few years, had a severe traction shortage entirely of DB’s own making.  Worse than that, it has had – and continues to have – to make this up by hiring in a rolling cast of 218s from elsewhere in Germany to bolster its own fleet.  Some of these are from elsewhere on DB (e.g. class 218.8 “Abschlepploks” – a dedicated fleet of ICE rescue locos, as well as passenger-sector 218s from other depots), and some are hired in at top dollar from DB’s competitors.

The current native Niebüll 218 fleet is as follows: 218 307218 315218 321218 322218 341218 344218 345218 366218 369218 379 (although it’s been months since that one last ran, to my knowledge), 218 380218 385218 389 and 218 397.

Their Intercity diagrams are as follows:-

IC2311 09:26 Westerland – Itzehoe 11:43
IC2310 14:15 Itzehoe – Westerland 16:34

IC2314 10:14 Itzehoe – Westerland 12:34
IC2315 13:26 Westerland – Itzehoe 15:43

IC2072 12:14 Itzehoe – Westerland 14:34
IC2073 15:26 Westerland – Itzehoe 17:42

IC2375 10:56 Westerland – Itzehoe 13:10
IC2374 16:42 Itzehoe – Westerland 19:04

IC2375/IC2374 are largely seasonal trains.  In the current timetable (May-December 2019) they run on an occasional basis as push-pull sets with a single 218, usually drawn from 218 307218 321 and 218 322 or occasional hire-ins) to and from Hamburg Altona.  The 218 works throughout in both directions.  At the time of writing, there are only three days left of operation that way (12th-14th December 2019).  From the December 2019 timetable change, when they run, they should run as above.

Of interest, at least one of the above turns is worked by a Hannover crew, who have signed the route specifically to keep 218s on their traction cards in order to drive the 218.8 that is stabled in that city as a rescue loco if required.

A Niebüll 218 (again drawn from 218 307218 321 and 218 322 or hire-ins) works the push-pull set on the IC trains to and from Fehmarn Burg, too.

Car trains

As mentioned above, there is no road access to Sylt.  However, the island does have a fairly extensive road network!  The ferry service is relatively sparse and links Sylt only to Denmark, and therefore the solution to road travel to and from mainland Germany is a frequent car-carrying train shuttle (“Sylt Shuttle”) from Niebüll to Westerland.  The car train terminal at Niebüll is directly linked to Bundesstraße 5, and is not far from Bundesautobahn 7, the 1000km-long motorway that links the German/Danish border to the German/Austrian one – so it is effectively part of the road network as much as it is a rail service.  The high season timetable sees car trains up to every half an hour in each direction, and they are often full.  These carry not only private cars but also coach trips, lorries, etc – they are a real lifeline to the island.

Historically, they have not conveyed accommodation for the casual “foot passenger”.  Occupants remain in their vehicles for the journey (you can see a video of a journey with hydraulic power on YouTube here).  In the past, haulage enthusiasts have had to resort to thumbing a lift with strangers or clubbing together to hire a car.  However, this changed in 2015 with the advent of the “Sylt Shuttle Plus”.  In effect, this was a path raid when DB’s monopoly was challenged (see below) and ever since its creation, has caused the utmost controversy, which rages on even now (see news article from late 2019 here).  It consists of class 628 two-car DMUs being added to car trains across the Hindenburgdamm – trains with ‘D’ classification in the DB journey planner – which generally then run on from Niebüll down to Bredstedt, change ends, and return to Niebüll to be added to another car train back to Westerland.  Not every car train conveys a DMU, and it has been known that the DMUs can simply fail to turn up.  They generally carry around fresh air, as thanks to the shunting required at both Niebüll and Westerland, they do not really provide an attractive alternative to the “normal” passenger to the standard service.  In an attempt to remedy this much-maligned waste of diesel in these Greta Thunberg-inspired times, a special fare has been introduced for use solely on Sylt Shuttle Plus services, but that has not fully precluded mass cancellations of the DMUs – even if they are shown as running on the departure boards.  Consider yourself forewarned, but if you can manage to pin one down, it allows you to see a very interesting operation from a closer vantage point.

The car trains can be powered by single 245s or pairs of 218s; although swaps onto ICs can occur occasionally at Westerland in order to take those “outstabled” at Itzehoe back to depot for maintenance, the locos on car trains generally do not work on ICs on the same day.

As I mentioned, DB’s monopoly on the car trains was challenged in 2015 – with the arrival of the American firm RDC (Railroad Development Corporation).  These now run a competing service using the same terminals, using Siemens “Vectron” class 247 diesels – 247 908 “Debbie” and 247 909 “Anne” – under the “AUTOZUG Sylt” brand.  This generally requires both to be available for service on a given day as two sets are used simultaneously at certain times.  As a result, class 251s (ex-NSB Di6s) – variously 251 002 and 251 003 – are kept on hand in order to cover for unavailability.  However, these trains do not convey walk-on accommodation, so you are back to the old fashioned method of thumbing lifts or hiring vehicles if you’d like to get these in the book…

Regional Expresses

Between 2005 and 2016, RE services on the line were operated by the Nord-Ostsee-Bahn (NOB) – and, despite the fact that this displaced my beloved 218s, I have to say that they were a very good operator, using a mixture of class 251 and 223 power with Bombardier “Married Pair” stock.  2014, however, marked the beginning of a deterioration.  The organisation that co-ordinates public transport in Schleswig-Holstein – now known as “NAH.SH” – decreed that a fleet of 15 brand-new Bombardier TRAXX class 245.2 locomotives (245 201245 215) would be procured by the investment company Paribus for use specifically on the Marschbahn regional trains, regardless of operator.  These entered traffic from late 2015.  At about the same time, it was announced that the franchise would be returning to DB Regio as of the December 2016 timetable change, using the 245.2s and the existing stock.

Problems with the 245.2s were legion from day one.  Initially, they suffered from frequent overheating issues and required fire brigade attendance worryingly often.  Software problems were frequent and oil and coolant issues have been frequently reported as the cause of failures too.  In October 2017, it was announced that they must again go through a rolling programme of works visits for software updates, which took many months to complete.

The 245.2s are back in service, but reliability does seem to continue to be an issue.  They continue to be supplemented by “red” 245s – which at least spares some of DB’s blushes by finding some gainful employment for 245 021 to 245 027 – which also have a very leisurely turn on Intercity work between Gotha and Gera, in the former East Germany.


The Marschbahn is one of my favourite railways, and one I feel very comfortable on – and not only because one of the major towns along it, Husum, is twinned with my home town of Kidderminster! – although nowadays it is a very challenging one to bash, and whether you are after lots of different numbers in the book or lots of miles behind particular locos, the moves never seem to be ideal.

In recent years, it has gained the nickname among some less charitable enthusiasts of the “Farcebahn”, which is driven by the poor punctuality displayed by many trains along it.  Although I clearly have my partisan loyalties, being realistic this is almost entirely nothing to do with the long in the tooth but reliable 218s, and everything to do with a needlessly over-ambitious timetable (to accommodate the largely unused SSP services), delays to long-distance services that in some cases have travelled 500 miles by the time they reach Itzehoe on a DB that is no longer a byword for punctuality, and indeed issues with the problem children 245s.  Everything has a knock-on effect, though, and it is not uncommon for your plan to disappear out of the window due to missed connections.

Despite those negatives, I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit.  It will be the last bastion of class 218 haulage, and although the stock is all air-conditioned with few (if any) opening windows, still allows you to enjoy them working hard at design speed.

10th-14th April 2019: V100 service trains on Rügen

Although it is many years since the former Deutsche Reichsbahn V100 type centre-cab diesel-hydraulics had any proper regular passenger workings, there is an annual event of interest on the island of Rügen in north-east Germany that provides a bit of a timewarp.

Each April, the single-car DMU shuttle used on the 7.75-mile branch from Bergen auf Rügen to Lauterbach Mole is replaced by top-and-tail Pressnitztalbahn V100s sandwiching two coaches, while it undergoes annual planned maintenance.

Both 2015 and 2016 saw 202 565 and 202 703 hauling the trains, whereas 2017 saw 202 565 and 204 425 in charge and 2018 saw 202 565 and 202 708 doing the honours.  It is expected that 202 565, with its steam-heat boiler in ticket, stands a strong chance of being one of 2019’s machines too.

2019’s shuttles

The dates for 2019’s hydraulic timewarp on the island have been announced as Wednesday 10th April 2019 through to Sunday 14th April 2019.  All services on the branch will be formed of the heritage train during this period.

Whilst on Rügen…

Although it’s not exactly a hotbed of loco-hauled activity, there are a number of other interesting things with which you combine a trip for the V100s to make it more worthwhile.  Aside from the occasional IC workings to Ostseebad Binz, the island is also home to the Rügenschen BäderBahn – better known as “Rasender Roland” – a 760mm gauge steam railway, which is well worth a visit.  In April, this will be operating a two-hourly shuttle between Putbus – at which the V100s stop – and Göhren, with two sets in use.

Not haulage related, but interesting nonetheless, is the Eisenbahn & Technik Museum Rügen a short distance away at Prora, which houses many items of rolling stock, including “Warship” V200 009, ex-ÖBB class 1018 E18 204 and E44 electric 244 139.

Further shuttles

The heritage set will be back on the island from 4th-7th July 2019 for shuttles a couple of times each day with 2-8-2T steam loco 86 1333 and one of the V100s top-and-tail.

Various dates in 2019: the Störtebeker-Express

Among the many haulage opportunities already announced for 2019 are a series of interesting charter trains in the former East Germany.

Four charters will operate over four consecutive Saturdays in July 2019 under the “Störtebeker-Express” title, all on the same theme: long-distance trips from towns in the region of Thüringen to the island of Rügen (a distance in the region of 350-400 miles each way), travelling via the outskirts of both Leipzig and Berlin along the way, departing on a Saturday morning and returning through the night.

The main reason for these trains, and their name, is that they visit the Störtebeker-Festspiele, an annual festival in the Rügen village of Ralswiek, started in the DDR days based on legends and stories surrounding Klaus Störtebeker, Germany’s most famous pirate, who lived in the 14th century.

Developing the DDR theme is the booked traction for the charters – former Deutsche Reichsbahn class 109 electric, 211 030.  Built in 1963 – as E11 030 – this is the loco that would have become “109 030” following German reunification if it had remained in traffic long enough; it was in fact withdrawn from DR use in 1988 and passed into private ownership, initially with VE Braunkohlenkombinat, and nowadays belongs to Eisenbahngesellschaft Potsdam (EGP).

In recent years, class 109 haulage has been available in just two places: on 211 030‘s railtour workings, and on the “Berlin Night Express” Summer-only dated overnight between Berlin and Malmö, where the section between Berlin and the train ferry at Sassnitz has been booked for 109 073 when available.  However, neither the dates of operation nor the use of the 109 have been confirmed for the “Berlin Night Express” for 2019 yet.


212 297, 213 334 and 211 030 at Arnstadt on 30th July 2016 (Stewart Wells)

Added traction interest exists on two of the four tours, as they actually start from Ilmenau, away from the wires.  On recent experience, this has resulted in pairs of ex-DB (West German) V100-type centre-cab diesel-hydraulics hauling the train on the relatively short unelectrified stretches – roughly 30 miles each way – with the 211 pan-down inside.

These are expected to come from the fleet of the Rennsteigbahn (the organiser of the tours); in 2017 they were 212 297 and 213 339, and in 2016 212 297 and 213 334 performed.  Haulage behind these classes of loco is not exactly rare, although limited to heritage and charter operations nowadays, but the specific examples of the Rennsteigbahn are not frequently available for haulage.


212 297, 213 334 and 211 030 at Arnstadt on 30th July 2016 (Stewart Wells)

As mentioned above, these tours are operated by the Rennsteigbahn and details are on their website.  The precise details of the four trips are as follows:-

  • 6th July 2019 – from Ilmenau (diesel haulage expected to/from Erfurt)
  • 13th July 2019 – from Gerstungen
  • 20th July 2019 – from Saalfeld
  • 27th July 2019 – from Ilmenau (diesel haulage expected to/from Erfurt)

The return legs depart from Bergen auf Rügen in the late evening, after a fireworks display, so it runs back to Thüringen through the night, arriving back on the early morning of the Sunday.  Dining is included, however, and the train conveys a bar/saloon car which will be open on the return leg for the insomniacs/party animals…

Whilst on Rügen

If the cultural festival does not float your boat, there are a few other things that you could do with your time on Rügen.  By far and away the most interesting are on the occasion of the first trip, on 6th July 2019, which coincides with a Pressnitztalbahn V100 (of the East German variety) top-and-tailing with 2-8-2T steam loco 86 1333 on some shuttles along the branch from Bergen auf Rügen itself to Lauterbach Mole.  More details on that little operation will become available in the early part of next year.

Similarly, the 13th July 2019 trip coincides with the 86 and V100 combo being used on shuttles from Greifswald along the short freight-only line to Ladebow – just over an hour from Bergen auf Rügen with a change at Stralsund, although I wouldn’t like to be drawn on whether it will be possible to combine the two, as the timings for neither have been confirmed yet.

Aside from that, but perhaps most prosaically, are the occasional loco-hauled InterCity service trains to Ostseebad Binz.  However, the island is also home to the Rügenschen BäderBahn – better known as “Rasender Roland” – a 760mm gauge steam railway, which is well worth a visit.  Not haulage related, but interesting nonetheless, is the Eisenbahn & Technik Museum Rügen a short distance away at Prora, which houses many items of rolling stock, including “Warship” V200 009, ex-ÖBB class 1018 E18 204 and E44 electric 244 139.

The fare for the trip is €164 for the full return trip, with lower fares available if boarding later in the journey (€136 from Leipzig and €115 from Berlin), however do consider that as effectively an overnight some of this goes towards replacing the hotel you might’ve otherwise have forked out for.

218 power to the island of Fehmarn

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 Strandexpress

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 307321322, 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.

The future

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.

Weltkulturerbe Rammelsberg – 600mm loco haulage near Goslar

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.

The railway

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.

Getting there

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.

Denmark’s last passenger train ferry

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.

The journey

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.

Switzerland 07 252.jpg

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.

Loco haulage on the Berlin U-Bahn

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 selected 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!

“U-Bahn Cabrio”

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.

Köln Trip 11th July 2018

by Ian G Hunt

Decided to take Ryanair up on one of their cheapo flights to Köln in order to photo the National Express 110 and if a class 143 came my way then that’ll be a bonus. What I tend to do, which some people would probably consider a little mad, is travel after a late shift. So I’d get home at around 0100 from work (work being 1530-0030) then have a little something to eat, a shower then head out again (all without disturbing the wife, very impressive haha). At around 0245 to get the N3 from Beckenham to Horse Guard Parade then walk to remainder to Liverpool Street for the 0440 train to Stansted. On this occasion the Köln flight was booked off at 0750 but due to ground staff issues we didn’t leave until around 0830!

Once I arrived into Köln i managed to get through passport control in around 10 minutes then down to the DB ticket machine (which I usually struggle to know what ticket to buy) on this occasion I purchased a city area day ticket for under €9. So down the escalator where 146274 was heading to Minden fast to Köln HBf, I could have joined this train but it was Messe Deutz I actually wanted to go to. Messe Deutz station itself isn’t too bad for photos with anything from S Bahn, loco hauled and ICE units passing through but on a sunny day you’d only have about an hour before the sun turns head on so you’d probably want to move away from here. Before moving on around the 143263 almost caught me out working RE12515 Rommerskirchan – Koblenz HBf Departing around 1107. What is usually do is head to Köln Süd for freight but on this occasion, as mentioned, 110469 was on the cards so I chose Köln Mülheim however I did have to wait for it to go into HBf first as the loco is on the Wuppertal end. Whilst waiting 101070 passed through working IC2226 Regensburg HBf – Kiel HBf, plenty of 101s, 146, Nat-ex Hamsters, ICE units and S Bahn pass/stop here. To waste more time I went into the local supermarket next door to the station for breakfast (ah yeh fancy isn’t it haha) and some water. I found a shot for the 110469 working RB32446 Köln HBf – Wuppertal Oberbarmen dep 1301 round the back of the supermarket near the delivery area which provided me with a decent enough departure picture- job done.

After this I headed off to Köln Süd (journey time of around 30+ minutes) for a freight session. Seven freight trains seen in around 70 minutes). After 1530 then sun moves round enough for you to go the the proffered location of Köln West which is more open rather that Süd station which has ugly graffitied up sound barriers as a back drop. 23 photos were taken (22 freight + 1 of 110469 again) in the space of just over 3 hours which is not too bad but on this occasion the types of train was a little under par for my liking.

At Köln West there is a half decent kebab shop which will suffice also there is a supermarket in between so all good.

On this occasion I left earlier than previous as England were playing Croatia so I wanted to watch that haha.


Type of freight

Well you’d expect most things from Steel, Coal, Intermodal, Tanks, Cars, Cargowagons and Wagonloads.



Rhein Cargo provide a lot of the freight locos as they are based in Köln. Obviously DB are very busy here with passenger and freight as expected. NorthRail, MRCE, BLS, Railpool, Chemion and ELL were seen on this day.


Loco types

Class 101 110 151 155 146 186 189 182 192

Class 261 265 271 272 275


The same day return flight is 2150 off Köln which generally speak most of the time 1+ hour late. On the occasion I made the 2345 Stansted express back to London then onward home which is pretty good going given the flight was around 90 late leaving Köln Bonn.

On a final note Köln Bonn airport can be disastrous in terms of how easy it is to use!! You go through security which generally takes around 15min…all good. BUT after this you go through to duty free and all the rest of it (also a pub with a small screen TV) passport control 2-4 staff are used to cover 15 or so gates so when a few flights are called at the same time expect its to be very busy and extremely unorganised!!!! You have been warned.

Over all I’d say it’s worth a go (I have done it 3 times).


Pics are 

Köln Messe Deutz

143263 on RE12515 Rommerskirchan – Koblenz HBf Dep 1107


Köln Mülheim 

110469 RB32446 Köln HBf – Wuppertal Oberbarmen


Köln Süd

MRCE pair 182525 + 182527 on Coal Eastbound


Inline image

Inline image

Inline image


European Rail Site
DRS 37059’s albums | Flickr

Off the beaten track: Germany’s “EsS Bahn”

One enterprising business to have “repurposed” former railway rolling stock is “EsS Bahn”, which uses redundant former Berlin S-Bahn class 475 and class 477 vehicles – the name being a play on both S-Bahn and the German verb “essen”; to eat.  These are housed at airports and are used to sell sausages; in particular currywurst, sliced Bratwurst in a curry ketchup-based sauce.  Currywurst is said to have been invented in Berlin in the immediate post-war years, therefore both remaining Berlin airports have “EsS Bahn” booths.  The third that uses a former railway vehicle is at Stuttgart.

Here are some of my photos – of varying quality! – of the three vehicles concerned.  Just something for you to keep an eye out for next time you pass through any of these airports on your way in or out of Germany!

Berlin-Tegel Airport

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475 079 at Berlin Tegel Airport, 19/06/17 (JW)

Berlin-Schönefeld Airport


477 119 at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, 06/11/10 (JW)

Stuttgart Airport


475 608 at Stuttgart Airport, 08/06/18 (JW)


There are also “EsS Bahns” airside at two more airports – Köln/Bonn and Shanghai(!).  However, these use mock-ups and not genuine former S-Bahn vehicles.

Off the beaten track: 104 020 in Frankfurt am Main

This article is the latest in my occasional series about the plethora of European locomotives that can be found in (occasionally surprising) places away from railway property.

The locomotive in question is ex-DB class 104 electric 104 020, a 1-Co-1 machine built by AEG in 1934, initially as Deutsche Reichsbahn E04 20.  Withdrawn from use at the start of 1977, it passed to the collection of the DB Museum, and did indeed power railtours on the main line.

However, since 3rd November 2002, it has had a purely static existence.

The view of E04 20 in its current resting place, as per Google Maps!

It – along with Mitropa coach WR4ü 1189 – is on display on a short length of track outside the DB Headquarters on Idsteiner Strasse in Frankfurt am Main (see street view and link to map above).

How to get there

This must be one of the easiest such locomotives to visit – it cannot be seen from a train, but it is on permanent public display and just a 300 metre walk from the nearest station – in this case Galluswarte, on the S3, S4, S5 and S6 S-Bahn routes.  Galluswarte is just a matter of minutes’ ride from Hauptbahnhof and indeed – as long as you don’t hang around(!) – it’s actually possible to get out to see 104 020 and return in a 30-minute layover there.


Do you find this type of article useful or interesting?  I tend to try to focus on haulage-related subjects with this website, but I’d like to try to gauge interest in things that are a little outside of that remit.