The 750mm Ochsenhausen-Warthausen railway is a few kilometres from where I lived for about four years before coming to our current home. Typically, I didn’t go there when I lived close by.

The line was built in 1899 from Warthausen on the standard gauge main line between Ulm and Memmingen, to Ochsenhausen and then extended alongside the main line for a few kilometers to Biberach an der Riß. It crossed the main line on the level, like the Welsh Highland in Porthmadog, but that was removed after the war and the line now stops in Warthausen again, making it about 19km or 11.8 miles.

The line survived the war despite some bombing in Ochsenhausen and a severe accident on the crossing with the main line when a train travelling to Ulm ran through a signal set at danger and ploughed through the narrow gauge train at speed killing 12 and injuring a lot more.

The newly formed Deutsche Bahn took over in 1945 and did what they usually did with narrow gauge railways: ran down services while running busses in competition. To be fair this must have seemed a sensible option as the railway makes a large ‘U’ and the road was straight, but still. A preservation group took over in 1985, and had to close the line in 1991. A consortium of shareholders, mainly local governments and a bank, ran services again from 1996 until the line was closed by the transport ministry in 2000 because the track was such a mess. The local governments stepped in again, kicked the bankers out, and reopened in 2001, which shows the financial clout of local governments in Germany. In the UK it would be a cycleway by now.

The video shows 2-10-2 Class 99 tank locomotive number 99 788 bought in 2001 from Deutsche Bahn, who presumably were keeping it on the off-chance they might need it. Part two is here.

Information from Wikipedia Germany.

The Höllentalbahn (Lit: “Hell’s Valley Railway”, cheerful people they must have locally) was built in 1882 from Freiburg im Breisgau to Neustadt, and later to Donaueschingen. This was considerably later than the State of Baden built their railway line to Freiburg because it was one thing to make a railway down the broad, flat Rhine valley, but quite another to push through the much lumpier Black Forest, especially when the other side of the hills was Württemberg, which was foreign territory, so who wanted to go there? Then some bright spark came up with the idea that this could become part of a trans-European route from Paris to Vienna. At the time Vienna was the centre of a the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Paris was going through a series of bloody conflicts so connecting the two would presumably cheer everyone up a bit.

The pan-European route never really worked as planned (although the same idea has since been invoked for a massive rebuilding of Stuttgart main station) but it was at least part of the reason the line through the Höllental was finally completed. The line climbs from 278 m (912 ft) in Freiburg to 607 m (1,991 ft) at the summit. The maximum gradient is 5.5% or 1 in 18, (compared to a mere 1 in 37 or 2.65% for the Lickey Incline, the steepest main line railway in the UK network).

At first the line was a rack railway using pretty diminutive IX Class locomotives and just to be on the safe side, dual air and vacum braked trains. The locomotives were replaced by bigger versions, the IXB class on the rack sections in 1910, with normal locomotives on the adhesion only sections. Finally in 1933 the massive 2-10-2 Br 85 tank engines and better brakes did away with all this complicated messing about and simply ran up the whole route on adhesion only.

The Br 85 locomotives were themselves replaced almost immediately as the line was electrified at 20kv, 50hz as far as Titisee-Neustadt and operated by B-B Br E44 locomotives although the remainder of the line to Donaueschingen remained non-electrified. This continued until the end of World War two, when the German army and Militia blew up several bridges and tunnels. This caused some cancellations to local services but it did slow down the invading French army.

After the war and rebuilding Deutsche Bahn decided to reelectrify the line at the new standard of 15kv, to Titisee-Neustadt. This was less to improve the Höllentalbahn than to give the occupying French a convenient test track for the system where they could just blame the Germans if it went wrong. The French used the system in France afterwards, so they were clearly impressed.

The line was modernised in the 90′s and currently operates with Br 143 locomotives and double-deck coaches operating push-pull trains between Titisee-Neustadt and Freiburg im Breisgau, and diesel powered multiple units to Donaueschingen. I may do a blog entry on that another time.

The videos are a general introduction to the line (above) which is actually a trailer for a longer DVD you can buy. You don’t need to listen to the German commentary to appresiate the pictures. I also dug up a film made on a train running towards Neustadt through the most dramatic bit of the route.

The second one is for me as much as anything: I’ve travelled the line twice and both times it was chucking it down with rain and I hardly saw a thing.





The Hohenzollernische Landesbahn (HzL) dates from the period when Germany was a lot of little states that were theoretically independent of each other, and ruled by various ‘noble’ families who shared an affinity for pointy castles and a fairly small gene pool. The Province of Hohenzollern was splattered across a very lumpy part of south Germany, between the larger states of Württemberg and Baden (map here) and by the time railways were a part of the picture it was a tiny isolated part of the Kingdom of Prussia, with two main towns of Hechingen and Sigmaringen. These were connected to the Württemberg State railway network already, so the HzL concentrated on links to other places in the state and managed to build the current network in two years, finishing in 1901. The whole 107.5 km (66 mile) network still exists and they have eight locomotives and fifty-six railcars, although some of the railcars are used on franchise operations outside of their own network. I’ll look at the passenger operations another time.

The video above is of a couple of freight trains running in the general direction of Ulm. The longer train runs from the salt mines in Stetten to Ulm on the DB network. The salt mines in Stetten are one of the main traffic sources for the company and the video shows some of the route they follow, and the gradients they need to climb. There are also a couple of shots of the railcars that make up the HzL’s passenger services.

The video is a little old now, and unfortunately the long salt trains are no longer as regular; usually three wagons trundle to the hub in Gammertingen and are tacked onto some of the regular freights to the north. They have also aquired a couple of new diesels which I think were bought on economic rather than aesthetic grounds. You can see one below hauling a bulk cement train.

Radio silence

The lack of posts over the last weeks have not just been due to yet more exams rolling in, and the tax office deciding that I’d taken on an extra and lucrative freelance job and needed to tell them how much I was earning. This was news to me: I don’t have the time for an lucrative freelance job with a forty hour week plus studying and family.

Apart from this, if I did have a lucrative freelance job I probably wouldn’t be spending those forty hours a week feeding chipboard into machines for pocket money.

No, the lack of posting is because I’ve managed to lose the cable for the camera and therefore can’t delight you with pictures of my adventures in south Germany. It turns out that absent mindedly putting the cable on the nearest available surface when I’ve finished with it, isn’t a good long term strategy (see also: gloves, hats, cellphones, forks, etc) The only reason this doesn’t happen with the bikes is because they’re too big to put something on top of them by accident. I’ve got a couple of things to write about but without pictures they’d be a bit boring.

Normal service will be resumed soon. When as I find the cable…

The metre gauge Kirnitzschtalbahn is a tramway running from Bad Schandau to the Lichtenhainer Wasserfall (Lichtenhain Waterfall) Originally planned to go from the town centre to a village now beyond the Czech border, it stopped at the waterfalls and wasn’t even allowed into the town because of protests from local shopkeepers and guesthouse owners who hadn’t twigged that having a way to transport people to their business would be a handy thing.

The remaining line is about 8 kilometres long and has the interesting feature for a bidirectional single track line of running along the roadway, so drivers approaching the waterfall can be confronted with a tram coming from the opposite direction. The trams run as pairs with a driving motorised unit pulling a trailer, which they have to run round at each terminus. This opens the intriguing possibility that they could just as easily haul freight wagons, although I’m not sure what they would carry, so maybe scratch that idea.

The first train ran on the 27th of May 1898 and was late because it kept falling off the track,  The service trains had a similar tendency to nosedive into the road causing damage to the traction motors and the stereotype of perfect German engineering.

The tramway survived derailments, dodgy current collectors and a fire in 1927 that wrote off all six of the original trams, which arguably solved the other problems in one fell swoop. They struggled on with borrowed stock but would have been closed down if it wasn’t for the Second World War. As it was the Bad Schandau end was cut short by another 450 metres in the fifties, as it was getting in the way of the glorious motorised socialist future.

After a head-on collision 1972 some bright spark came up with the idea of dividing the line into sections with a baton giving drivers authority to cover a section of the line, which still works today. The transport authority tried to close the line in 1986 but after much protesting they were persuaded to renovate the railway instead, and after the reunification the state government invested in the infrastructure and modernisation of the now rather elderly trams. There has been a trial run with a more modern low floor tram but the whole route would need aligning for it to fit, so that idea was forgotten.

Then in 2010 much of the rainwater from the western Czech Republic came down the Elbe at once, as well as the road, tramway and depot alongside. Thankfully attitudes have changed from the past and not only will the system be repaired, but there are plans to extend the line beyond the waterfall into the national park, and through Bad Schandau to meet the ferry across the river to connect with the Dresden S-Bahn system, still with the original four-wheeled trams, and I am delighted to report, still down the ‘wrong’ side of the road.


A while back I mentioned having a rather fun day playing with someone else’s trains at our local church. The people concerned used the FREEMO system of putting modules together which I’ve explained in a previous entry here.


The idea has stuck in my head a bit since, possibly because I realised this as the nearest I’ve been to playing on my own model railway since Westerooge became too unreliable, and partly because I’ve reached a point in my carpentry apprenticeship where I’d be able to make a baseboard complete with a box to keep it in like the FREEMO ones below.


We have no spare space in our 96m² (1000 sq ft) apartment for a railway, so the box would have to be just the right size to go in the loft or nice enough to be used as a normal piece of furniture as well as a model railway box. The second idea seems better as I’m not keen on dragging things in and out of the loft all the time. I’m not sure what sort of furniture can hide a model railway though.

I’ve got a design for ‘Spitzenwald’ that could just about fit in a box like those, if I split it in two, but Eldest Son does very much want a model we can build together as well, so I think that would be first on any list.

On the other hand, one of the things about being a carpenter is that people come with ‘suggestions’ for things to make. I’ve just finished a pine bed for Youngest Son, and Beautiful Wife has pointed out that several pieces of ‘Furniture’ are still cardboard boxes with sheets over them, so it may yet be a while before the model railway box makes it to the top of the jobs list.


Perhaps I could solve both at once: “It’s a new coffee table for the living room. What? the bit that opens into a conveniently model-railway-sized flat board? You know, I never thought of it like that, but as you mention it, I do remember some designs that may fit…”

Does anyone else have problems of needing to ‘hide’ your model railway when it isn’t in use? How do you deal with it?

Pigs tail railway

The Sausachwänzlebahn (pigs tail railway, officially the Wutachtalbahn or Wutach valley railway but I prefer the nickname, who says Germans have no sense of humour?), cost a great deal of money and took a great deal of time and effort to link two places in the middle of nowhere, purely to avoid Switzerland for the sake of fighting the French.

The towns in the Wutach valley would probably have liked a link with the outside world a lot sooner than the 20th of May 1890, when the line opened, but it wasn’t ‘economicaly viable’ to build a railway until the military decided it needed a new way to carry guns in the south of Germany. In the war with France in 1870-1871, railways had been useful in bringing weapons to the front, and the military decided they could do with a railway in the south on the ‘just in case’ principle. There was a main line across the bottom of Germany following the Rhine, but that went through Switzerland, and it was considered bad form to carry armies over neutral territory.

And so the Wutachtalbahn was suddenly worth building. It was forced through the hills forming the Rhine/Donau watershed between 1887 and 1890 and massively over engineered to carry the longest trains possible with six tunnels, five viaducts, three horseshoe curves and the only spiral tunnel in Germany in order to keep gradients to a minimum: tanks are heavy, after all. The line was even built ready to take double track in case things really got busy.

Ironically the railway was hardly used, except as a diversion route in 1923 when the French occupied Offenburg, and for hospital trains in the retreat of 1944. Despite this NATO decided it was worth a complete rebuild of the line after the war, and the defence ministry paid fifty thousand marks a year to keep the unused railway in top condition until 1974, after which the line was closed.

After 1976 the line was taken over by a preservation company and the local government, and now hosts a regular steam service between Blumberg-Zollhaus and Weizen. A passenger service runs from Blumberg-Zollhaus run by the Hollenzollerische Landesbahn, while Deutsche Bahn eventually started running services on weekends to connect with the steam trains in Weizen.

The video above doesn’t show the full extent of the horseshoe curves. Bonus video of one of the horseshoe curves with viaducts below:

Official Website (German) http://www.sauschwaenzlebahn.de/


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