Archive for the ‘Stuttgart’ Category

I’ve been out and about a bit this week and therefore away from my modelling bench but still managed to work a bit on some of my more ambitious ideas.

One is that the model of the Körschtalbahn will be at least partly electrified, because the one thing I need in my model making life is another layer of complication.

This week, finding myself at the local tram stop with time, & a camera, if not decent weather, I decided to take a couple of pictures of the wires there for ‘research’…

The trams in Stuttgart work using a a 750v DC system, which seems to have been pretty normal for German urban and rural tramways back in the day when AC electrification was newfangled technology requiring components as big as a house. As the KÖB would probably be classified as an ‘overland tram’ this is a likely system. So far so good.

On the other hand, every now and again something like this happens:

That’s some serious knitting right there. Those lumpy black cables are power supply to the overhead. Clever types who understand electricity have tried to explain why this and I got as far as understanding that DC systems have pretty rapid voltage drop unless you make the cables the size of drain pipes, so you need to keep boosting the power. According to my entirely unscientific survey,in this case this happens every twelve masts or so.

Which is all well and good but it’ll be a bit awkward to make models of.

At this point sensible people point out that really, no-one will notice if I don’t have the extra details,in fact a lot of model makers take the pragmatic approach of leaving overhead wires off their models altogether and just having uprights, pointing out that wires are obvious to us because we see them silhouetted against the sky, and from above they’re pretty invisible. Either way, I could ignore the need for the power supply.

Well, possibly.

As the Körschtalbahn currently consists of a railcar, still in primer, a van and an as yet unfinished diesel, this is not going to be a decision I need to take for a while anyway.

Probably should spend more time building models and less running about taking pictures…


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Old Friends

I was off in civilisation last week and went for a quick lurk in Stuttgart station (before the powers that be mess it up completely). While I was there these came in on a train from Ulm:

These are from the class 218, Deutsche Bahn’s standard diesel mixed traffic and passenger locomotive since the sixties, when they replaced steam. A bit like the UK’s class 47 and once a very common sight all over west Germany.

There are still quite large areas of rural Germany where these are common, because DB still runs a lot of locomotive-hauled trains and shows no sign of changing to multiple units. They even gained some contracts on the basis of having diesel locomotives and push pull trains with a driving trailer at the back, which has given rise to all kinds of speculation about what may one day displace the 218 locomotives. The possibilities for ‘off-the-peg’ locomotives are varied, here they are in order of personal preference, subjectively based on what I think looks nice and a complete lack of understanding about the working bits inside:

Siemens Vectron: C-C. compact, simple lines and clean design. Would look nice in bright red. (More pictures)

Bombadier TRAXX: Another C-C locomotive. the diesel versions are a proven design, being used by a number of private operaters on passenger services in Germany. They are also simple and attractive but the bodyshell is like the electric class 146 which is the standard local passenger locomotive around here and you can get too much of a good thing.

Vossloh Euro 4000: Nice enough, although the area around the cab looks a bit odd. (More pictures)

Vossloh Eurolight: Apparently a lightweight version of the 4000, designed as a ‘go anywhere‘ locomotive for broad, standard and narrow gauge use (but unlikely to appear on the Körschtalbahn any time soon) Direct Rail Services in the UK have ordered a set of these as the Class 68, but I expect they’ll have to redesign them to fit the loading gauge. (As with the Siemens Desiro classic and the UK versions)

Vossloh G2000 BB: I’m sure these are a freight locomotive. Let’s keep it that way please. I mean, they’re fine on the front of a load of intermodal wagons but on a passenger train they’d look very odd, and they have the aerodynamics of a brick.

Voith Maxima: I don’t know what Voith were thinking of when they came up with this. After much searching I think I’ve found one possible prototype. Definitely of the dark side are these.

Speaking of the dark side and the evil empire, more news on Stuttgart 21 coming soon.

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Christmas 2011

Happy Christmas, and many thanks for reading and commenting this year.

That is all.

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And so back to the fun and games of Stuttgart 21 (Give the people what they want, etc). The background to the story is here, and some more recent developments are here. It’s German Railways (AKA Deutsche Bahn or DB) and the (then) centre-right state government’s plan to rebuild Stuttgart’s man station and quite coincidentally make some of the most valuable building land in Germany available for sale. Nobody in Stuttgart wanted this except the project partners, who said it couldn’t be stopped because:

1: There would need to be a referendum in Stuttgart. That’s democracy: a small group can’t control everything their way. (except us obviously: see point 4)
2: Oh, wait: there can’t be a referendum in Stuttgart because some of the money is coming from the state, not the city. (and we may lose)
3: The contracts have been signed and it would cost too much to cancel them.
4: Shut up. Politicians make decisions, not people.
5: The dog ate our homework.
6: Go away or we spray you with water cannon.

After the authorities learned the hard way that water-cannoning peaceful crowds of protesters including women and children was A Very Bad Idea, there was a mediation process, and the Stuttgart 21 partners agreed to a ‘Stress Test’: a computer based simulation to show that the new station really could take 30% more trains than the old one.

The agreement was that if the ‘stress test’ showed the planned eight platform station was too constricted, then they would have to figure out how to make a ten platform one instead. (the current station has seventeen platforms).

This would cost more of course, but that was fine because the centre-right CDU-dominated government kept signing the cheques, but now the Green Party are in power, prompting hissy fits and tantrums from Deutsche Bahn. DB won’t let anyone in on the ‘stress test’ claiming they can do it themselves. (this is the company that ‘forgot’ several kilometres of track and a tunnel in their original cost estimates) so the Greens commissioned an independent ‘Stress test’ which reported back last week that an eight platform station can’t work.

In the ‘good old days’ of the CDU that wouldn’t have been a problem: Project management would have just got more of the limitless fund financed by the taxpayer, but the Green Party also announced that the project will now have a maximum 4.5 billion Euro and if the project costs more DB will have to pay for it themselves. I imagine this will cause much consternation in the boardrooms of central Stuttgart because costs are spiraling and some estimates suggest they will end up on the other side of 20 billion…

Stuttgart 21’s supporters are strangely quiet at the moment.

Now we wait for the ‘other’ stress test.*

*But I bet I know what it’ll say…

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Thanks to the horrendously complex German electoral system the Green Party have managed, via an coalition with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), to get themselves into the driving seat in our state of Baden-Württemberg. It’s not a great surprise: the natives have been getting thoroughly restless of late, mostly over a project called ‘Stuttgart 21’ to rebuild Stuttgart main railway station. The project briefly flashed into international news on September the 30th last year when police sprayed a peaceful demonstration with water cannon. This didn’t exactly get the population behind the project.

Stuttgart central station is a Terminus, so trains have to come in and reverse out. German Railways (Deutsche Bahn or DB) thinks this is so very last century. The track to the station also takes up a very large area of Stuttgart city centre, which just happens to be very wealthy, very popular with businesses, and very short on prime building land. DB’s idea was to build a groovy new underground through station so trains could arrive under the city, stop briefly to drop off passengers, and whiz off to exciting other European places with none of that annoying reversing business. By pure coincidence this would free up a very large area of prime development land right in the centre of Stuttgart.(I wrote an even more detailed post about this here)

Building a whole new station and several kilometres of tunnel would be a tad expensive, of course, but Deutsche Bahn (German railways) and the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came up with a nifty equation: the current terminus station has 17 platforms, so when that becomes a through station it will only need eight platforms because trains won’t reverse. And that’s obviously far cheaper. Sort of. If you say it quickly is sounds almost feasable.

Now the CDU is out, the Greens are in, German Railways (Deutsche Bahn or DB)paused in their attempts to turn the station into a hole in the ground, and everyone is expecting the Greens to stop them permanently. The question is how they’ll manage this when their coalition partners are cheer leading for the project, but there are a couple of possibilities. One is a referendum, if they can get enough signatures to make it legal. The other is the sleight of hand DB tried to pull a couple of years ago, which at the time I referred to as a POSAD: A Politically Over Simplified Accountants Dream.

After the water cannon episode last year news got out that where old people and children were injured and things were getting out of hand, so a mediator was called in before people started turning cars over. He told Deutsche Bahn to go and find check their shiny new station really could work with eight platforms at peak times. This looks very unlikely, so they’ll be told to go and redesign the station with ten platforms, at which point the whole business case falls to pieces. The report is expected in May.

I can keep you posted if you aren’t bored already.

Normal ramblings to continue next week.

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Daily grind

We were travelling on the Ü-Bahn/Metro this week with the boys, when the driver suddenly announced trains wouldn’t be stopping at the ‘Russiche Kirche’ stop because “The track is very slippery” Readers from the UK will recognise this as the annual festival of ‘Leaves on the line’, which cause mass chaos on trains. In the UK, “leaves on the line” means “All trains in hiding: start walking home now”. Naturally the ‘Russiche Kirche’ was our stop, so we got off one station before and made a mental note to allow extra time for coming home.

When we came around the corner we saw this.

This is the rail grinding train, although I expect it’s used for other stuff as well As we were a bit early for the activity the boys were going to, we stopped to watch. The grinding bit is on the second wagon from the locomotive: there are a lot of water sprayers and blocks causing sparks. It’s a bit like a very dramatic model railway track cleaner.

The train was running backwards and forwards for about an hour. Of course this meant it was running against the traffic half the time, but that was solved by a big bloke in a dayglo vest standing in front and stopping all the cars for a few minutes. Simple really.

The back end of the train waiting for the lights on the pedestrian crossing.  When the Stuttgart system was  metre gauge it had had reversing loops at end stations, but the standard-gauge system has two-ended units, so the maintenance unit needs to be double ended too.

Grinder stops to turn around again. Notice road/rail Unimog in support.

By the time we got out of the activity, they’d scraped away whatever gunge was messing up the system, and trams were running normally again.

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Station approach in Stuttgart

Station approach in Stuttgart, taken from the station tower.

[Note: This is an update of this post I wrote some time ago about the Stuttgart 21 project, with a few updates. Now the demolition building has started the centre of Stuttgart is beginning to become one permanent protest march. I’ll post more on that anon, but I thought it would be best to bring people back up to speed on the idea.]


Deutsche Bahn and the city of Stuttgart are getting into some trouble with their latest pet project, ‘Stuttgart 21’. Their plan is to rebuild the station in the centre of Stuttgart from the current terminus-like station with all trains coming from the north and reversing, to a shiny new underground through station on an east-west axis. The brains behind this scheme have decided that this will bring all kinds of advantages and is essential to make Stuttgart a major connection in the growing pan-European high speed network. And incidentally free up a huge amount of real estate in a very congested city centre. Not that this has anything to do with it.

At some point in the process someone working late one night in a parallel universe where trains are never delayed, came up with the equation that because Stuttgart has a 16 platform terminus at the moment, if you make it a through station, then it only needs eight platforms. This sounds like a POSAD: A Politically over-simplified Accountants Dream. Such an equation works wonders when trying to get a figure past a private sector budget sheet, “It can be so much smaller and cheaper for the same effect” but in the real world where points have a habit of failing and even German-built trains have been known to break down, we could well rue the day that we decided not to allow for a bit of slack in the system. British readers will think of Birmingham New Street at this point. And that’s assuming everything stays the same. Which is a very unusual business case: invest €X billion (I’ll come to the cost in a bit) to maintain the current traffic levels. Isn’t it just possible that after pouring billions into the railways of Europe to make a high speed network, there may be a couple more people travelling by train, especially with jet fuel prices going into the stratosphere? It’s going to be very entertaining to see how exactly an underground station gets the equivalent of a second runway.

And then there’s the cost. The federal rail authority has estimated this will all cost about €2,9 billion. A fair bit. Then in mid 2008 Martin Vieregg, a transport consultant from Munich, threw a spanner in the works by claiming the costs would be between €6,9 – 8,7 billion when we take into account rising energy and material costs. Which is a fair bit more, and that that was before oil prices went up and the economy dropped. Vieregg recently torpedoed the Munich Airport maglev project by showing how high the costs could run on that pet project, so he’s no small fry. DB’s response was along the lines of “er… no it won’t”, but they would say that wouldn’t they? Now the State Government quietly increased estimates to €5,08bn, and added a risk fund of €1,45bn, just in case. €5,08 + €1,45= €6,53bn. (Figures from “Stuttgart 21 wird teurer.” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 19./20. Juli 2008, page 6) And the State already has interest payments on debts of 80 million a year. Not including a few hundred million for little things like a junction near the airport that was seemingly forgotten first time around. Oops.

Okay, but once it’s built, it’s built, and on a good (failure free) day everything will run like a Swiss watch. Except that another metaphorical tool of your choice has already been launched at the delicate clockwork by one Dr. V. Jung in 2005 who noticed that the whole concept is based on the idea that trains will only stop for two minutes. Anyone who has watched, or even been near to a 15 coach train when several hundred people are trying to get off, and several hundred more are getting on, can probably see the problem with this. We’re back in parallel universe territory then, or there will be a ban on wheelchairs and luggage.

The alternative- leaving the existing station as it is, would allow for more flexibility, absorb more growth in rail services, and probably cost about a third of the total, even including the high-speed link between here and Ulm. It’s been thrown out -so far- because it doesn’t serve the airport as directly from the centre. Assuming the airport doesn’t have grass growing between the slabs by then, this would seem sensible. At least it would if the Stuttgart 21 plan allowed for more than one fast train in three serving it, or if the airport station was actually planned to be in the airport, like the S-bahn station is.

There are plenty more things I could talk about, like the likely curtailment of rural services to places well away from Stuttgart to channel funds into this project, or concerns about groundwater in the city, or the partial demolition of the station building and total demolition of the station approaches, both of which are (were, as the demolition teams moved into the station recently) theoretically protected historical structures, or the way a lot of the discussions have been held behind closed doors, which is hardly surprising given the circumstances.

I’ll keep you posted. I had hoped this would gradually be exposed for the wasteful scheme it is, and would be quietly forgotten in the coming economic shake-up. However, although the sheer lunacy has been exposed, the politicians (who increasingly seem to be inhabiting the aforementioned parallel universe) are continuing to insist that the scheme should continue, and the building companies are already marking our cleared land ready to be sold off in small parcels at a huge profit.

Not that this has anything to do with it, of course.

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