Saturday, 13 August 2016

Steam, coal smoke, and nostalgia in lovely East Cheshire parkland

It's mid August, the traditional time for the Chelford Steam Rally, and today the weather was perfect; sunny periods, not too hot, and no rain. Malc and I fired up the little bikes and headed the few miles from home to the showground at Astle Park, Chelford.

This is my 'local' Traction Engine Rally, and I think the best in the area. I have been coming here since the mid 1960s, as have many of the engines.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

Mine and Malc's little bikes nestled under a tree close to the action at the show, in among the participant's vehicles. The public have to park way back , later arrivals further back still. Not only can these little machines be ridden right up to the edge of the show area, we also whiz past the lengthy queues of show-bound traffic on the Chelford road. It's far and away the best way to travel to a show like this.  

Just in front of where we parked are the stationary engines, wheezing and popping and sometimes jumping up and down as they 'fire'. There's typically a beautifully presented engine tended by the husband, a patient wife reading or knitting, and the residential caravan. I presume these couples spend many weekends each summer visiting the shows just like this. 

When life was lived at a slower pace - a motorised wood saw very gradually cuts a slice off a massive log. It takes perhaps half an hour to do what a modern sawmill does in a couple of seconds. 

 The steam gallopers. This is a regular Chelford attendee, the traditional roundabout powered by its own steam engine at the centre, with the gaily-painted horses rising and descending as the ride rotates.

I took this at the 2011 Chelford rally, but it's just as relevant to today

A Showmans' engine. It would haul the rides from town to town, and the large electrical generator above the smoke box door was used to power the rides once they were assembled. 

Here we can see the central funnel serving the Gallopers' internal steam engine, and exiting centrally through the ride's roof


Here's a video of one of the many steam organs attending today: Steam organ

There are many other attractions in the show arena besides the steam engines; here, Chelford church spire overlooks a gathering of vintage motorcycles  

Here's an old friend from the early days at Chelford'; 'Little Mac', from Congleton, always a 'special' engine for me. As I said back in the August 2011 blog post: 

"Driving home from Barton Airfield to Congleton (where we then lived) one Friday evening in August 1978 I had just completed my first solo flight during my pilot training. I was still metaphorically 'up in the air' with the euphoria of flying an aeroplane on my own for the first time. On the straight part of the A34 south of the 'Davenport Arms' I met 'Little Mac' coming the other way. Exuberantly I flashed my headlights and blew my horn, and the little traction engine's crew responded with enthusiastic waving and whistle-blowing! 'Little Mac' has always been a bit special for me since then." 

The 'footplate' of a Sentinel steam lorry, its vertical boiler prominent. The double-acting two cylinder steam engine is mounted under the lorry.  

 An earlier (and I think more aesthetically pleasing) steam lorry, with a horizontal boiler and 'traction engine' front end


Malc, in the yellow shirt, admires a stationary steam engine. These were the precursors of traction engines, being horse-drawn around the farm and then set up to perform particular tasks, such as driving a threshing machine.  

A beautifully preserved steam driven fire pump of Chester Fire Brigade 

'Maude Foster', an engine I last met at Ashley Hall Rally earlier this season (see Ashley Hall Rally ), and brought to Chelford by James, the previous owner of my 3.5" gauge 'Alfred' steam locomotive, which I run most Sundays at Abbotsfield park, Urmston (lots about that in this blog!)

A showmans' engine in the ring 

Despite that pregnant-looking  cumulus cloud above the marquee, the weather stayed fine all day. A steam bus with 'traction engine' front end in the ring.

 
Over fifty steam engines, including the 'miniatures' attended the rally today

Here's a video of the engines performing a 'communal whistle' in the arena: Whistling engines

Here's James on 'Maude Foster' 

....And then he said "come on Vince, we'll go for a trundle". Here's me in the steersman's position waving from the footplate before we set off. 

James drives while I steer 

He explains the finer points of engine steering, but I soon get the hang of it. There is no central 'null' straight ahead point - one is constantly steering left or right to keep the engine in a straight line, and the steering response is delayed, so one has to anticipate.

We head off across the site. The engine accelerate in a series of 'jerks' so one has to hang on to the wheel to remain aboard rather than being thrown off backwards, while steering at the same time.

Wow! This is the first time I've done this. It's fabulous, and the view from up there is pretty good, too. 

James on the regulator, me on the wheel 

Another vehicle type experienced. I always wondered what it would be like on one of these! 

We steam off into the distance 

....Then turn 180 degrees and return over the grass 

Where's James? 

 Did I solo this beast? 

He's back as we steam slowly past the parked engines 

 
Fantastic fun! We finished with a second gear open-regulator run up the hill; she has a lovely bark on her! 

Back to more mundane transport in the arena. An old Vauxhall Velox leads a Ford Consul and a Mk1 Cortina.  

The Consul and Cortina lead an Austin A35 and a car that still looks good today - the Triumph Stag 

Back in the late 1960s I had a holiday job driving one of these big 3.5L Rover V8s for a friend of my father. He had heart problems and his medication meant he was advised not to drive, which handed me the best holiday job a young lad could dream of. The one I drove was exactly like this, even the same colour.  

Austin 7. And a Mini (back when they really were 'mini') coming into the picture. 

American muscle. Great in a straight line, but don't expect it to go round corners with any grace!

Another super day out; lovely weather, steam, beautiful Cheshire parkland, and I got to drive a traction engine!




.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Narrow gauge steam in Eastern Germany

Having recently enjoyed a Ffestiniog Travel holiday around Ireland which is described earlier in this blog (Irish Circular) I decided to venture a little further afield with them, and signed-up for their 'Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany' tour. Chris decided this might be a bit too 'nerdy' for her taste so I was on my own for this one.

We started our narrow gauge extravaganza in Saxony, moved north to the Baltic coast, then across to the Harz Mountain system, followed by an interesting finish in Wuppertal.

Pictures are my copyright, except where annotated otherwise.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The holiday began on Saturday 9th July from St Pancras station, London. I decided to travel down the day before and stayed a night in London to be sure I would be at St Pancras in time. The 12:11 Pendolino from Wilmslow was relatively empty, as I enjoyed a glass or two of wine with my packed lunch on the quick journey to the capital. 

We met our Tour Leader, John, on Saturday morning and boarded the Eurostar to Bruxelles Midi. A Thalys high speed train took us on to Cologne via Liege. Our hotel was in the station buildings right next to Cologne Cathedral, above.

Inside the Cathedral

My first taste of German beer on this holiday was not a disappointment when I 'ate out' that night in a local Brauhaus

Early Sunday morning; the Cathedral from my hotel room window

Keith, one of the other 31 members of our tour, watches a car train pass through Cologne station as we wait for our train to Dresden

Crossing the Rhine as we leave Cologne on our train. We are not taking a direct route to Dresden, but will pass Wuppertal, Dortmund, Hannover, Magdeburg, and Leipzig, a considerable loop through northern Germany. Despite some fast running, this took about eight hours; a more direct routing would involve changing trains more than once, whereas this was one train all the way.

It was a hot day and our coach had opening windows rather that air conditioning. The rest of the train was air conditioned, and some of our party moved into those coaches, but others (including me) preferred the blast of fresh air from the open windows as we sped along at up to 150mph (we estimated). It's not often you can stick your head out of an inter city train window these days.

Above, Dave 'tram' enjoys some air from an open window, while Angela, Hamish, and Reg relax in their seats.

North German scenery is pretty flat, but occasionally scenes such as this relieved the monotony of the North German plain

An unexpected sight was this train of the Minden Museum Railway on an adjacent platform during one of our station stops

Frank relaxes; my seat is the one with my rucksack on it, centre of the picture

A typical German regional train. Articulated, and more like a big tram than a train with full width corridor connections. They are mostly 2-car units and electric, as most of the German network is electrified.

Dresden station. Our hotel, the Inter City, was just across the road

Next day, Monday 11th, we travelled by local train a few miles to Freital-Hainsberg, the terminus of the Weisseritztalbahn line, above.

Me, looking forward to our first narrow gauge trip of the holiday

The lovely weather continued, as we set off in open coaches on the first of many narrow gauge railways we will experience on this tour first here in Saxony, then in the Baltic area, and finally in the Harz mountains

Tour leader John (with the glasses) in the lower picture.

These little lines meander around, often following river valleys, allowing photographs of the locomotive to be taken from the train

At the far terminus, Dippoldiswalde, the loco runs around the train for the return journey. Two cylinder 2-10-2 tank locomotives dominate as motive power on these railways

The footplate of our locomotive on this train

Returning to Freital-Hainsberg, from where we took the main line train back to Dresden, then another regional train to Radebeul to ride the Lobnitzgrundbahn narrow gauge to Radeburg

On arrival at Radebeul we saught lunch, but there didn't seem to be much open in the way of cafes. In a side road off the main street Tony and I found this amazing place, full of hill billy memorabilia and run by an aging hippy. But the beer and the Bratwurst were good!

Our loco at Radebeul station, ready for the trip to Radeburg

Open coaches again as we sample the Lobnitzgrundbahn to Radeburg.


Our loco at Rabeburg

As the loco came off the train at Radeburg for servicing, our train remained in the station

Dresden skyline seen from our train from Radebeul back to Dresden as we crossed the bridge over the Elbe 

The following day, Tuesday 12th, a one and a half hour ride along a single track line from Dresden  took us to Zittau for a ride on another 750mm gauge line (as were yesterday's two railways) to Jonsdorf and Oybin. We made two trips on this railway; the first from Zittau to Oybin and back to Zittau, the second from Zittau to Jonsdorf and back to Zittau. As the map shows, the line divides at Bertsdorf to serve the two termini.



Yet another 2-10-2 tank locomotive, this one on the Zittau line

On the way up to Bertsdorf

At Bertsdorf parallel departures to the two termini can be experienced. Here, our train continues to Oybin while the Jonsdorf train departs from the adjacent platform. 

On the way to Oybin

The loco runs round at Oybin.....

.....Before we return to Bertsdorf and on to Zittau.

On our second trip, back at Bertsdorf we again experience the parallel departure of both trains; ours to Jonsdorf and the other to Oybin. 

It's a steep climb almost all the way from Bertsdorf to Jonsdorf and the loco is working extremely hard

Video of the climb

Looking back towards Bertsdorf as we climb to Jonsdorf

Returning downhill to Bertsdorf, our loco having an easy time on the down grade

You wouldn't get this in UK; not only is the driver's cab visible from the passenger accommodation, but the driver deliberately latched his door open to give us a clear view of the line ahead as we return along the standard gauge railway from Zittau to Dresden in a diesel railcar.

Our railcar arrives at Dresden to form the next service back to Zittau. Next to it is an aging electric locomotive; many inter city and regional trains in Germany are loco-hauled in push-pull formations, sometimes of double-deck coaches, with a DVT (Driver Vehicle Trailer, with a driving cab) on the opposite end of the train to the loco.

One wonders why, when Pendolinos were introduced on the West Coast Main Line in UK, the push-pull sets they replaced were not redeployed on cross country routes instead of purchasing those truly awful Voyager trains which, with their limited luggage capacity for the seating, limited seating capacity itself, and noisy underfloor engines are not at all suitable for those routes. Or for anything much, actually.

That evening I took a tram ride to Dresden old town, here crossing the Elbe with its moored paddle steamers

I found a cafe in a square and sat at a table in view of this imposing building

My meal was schnitzel (I was to get a little tired of these!) and this rather good beer 

My tram back to our Dresden hotel

Our hotel bar, with the embryo 'Beer O'Clock Club' starting to gather

Next morning we took a train from Dresden towards Chemitz, changing at Floha for a train to Cranzahl where we, according to our itinerary, would find 'our steam train simmering on an adjacent platform' for a ride on the Fichtelbergbahn narrow gauge line. The line climbs for 17km gaining over 200m to Kurort Oberwiesenthal. We experienced just about the only rain of the holiday at the start of this trip, but the weather soon cleared up as we climbed up out of Cranzahl.

Windows closed because of early rain; our group leaving Cranzahl

The rain soon cleared up as we climbed through the pine forests

Our loco has its smoke box cleared out at Kurort Oberwiesenthal after the hard climb from Cranzahl

A notice indicating our reserved coach

Our loco comes off shed having been serviced....

.....and advances onto our train for the run back down to Cranzahl

Front end detail. The vertical finned cylinder is the steam operated air pump for the train's air brakes.

At Cranzahl station, awaiting our train back to Dresden via Floha

Most of these small regional lines in rural Germany are single track with passing loops at stations. Here we cross the opposite direction service at a station which celebrates Red Riding Hood.

The interior of our train to Dresden. The much bigger continental loading gauge allows large, roomy interiors, and whoever designed the Pendolino could learn something about window size from the designers of these trains. I reckon you could glaze an entire 11 coach Pendolino set with the glass area visible in this picture.

a schloss at another intermediate station

Thursday 14th, and time to leave Dresden. Here we changed trains at Berlin Hbf (Hauptbahnhof, or 'Central' in English). The train from here will take us to Stralsund, on the Baltic near the Isle of Rugen in North East Germany.

Lunch included some good (as usual) German beer

The featureless North German plain whizzes past the windows 

Our train to Stralsund; Frank, Margaret and Angela in the foreground

Here, our train arrives at Stralsund. It was an Inter City train with an aforementioned DVT at this end, and an electric locomotive pushing from the rear. Our hotel at Stralsund was another in the acceptable  Inter City chain.

Friday 15th we traveled to Rostock by regional train, where we changed to another regional to Bad Doberan. Here we rode the Mecklenburgische Baderbahn narrow gauge line, better known as the 'Molli'. Previous narrow gauge lines we sampled in Saxony were 750mm gauge, but the Molli is 900mm.

A feature of the Molli is street running through Bad Doberan town main street

Tony and Hamish in the foreground as we ride the Molli

Not a 2-10-2 this time, but a 2-8-2, on the Molli

Walchearts valve gear on the 2-8-2

We had a snack lunch at Kuhlungsborn, the upper terminus of the Molli. Three members of the 'Beer O'Clock Club'; Tony, Hamish, and me (taking the picture, so not in it!).

Our locomotive is watered for the return journey. Here the blow down valve is operated for several seconds, probably to clear scale out of the boiler.

On the way back down to Bad Doberan

We left the train in Bad Doberan main street for a beer at a line-side cafe

The view from our cafe table of an approaching train

Stephen (a Ffestiniog Railway volunteer guard) and Hamish at our Bad Doberan cafe table

The cafe on the left was where we enjoyed our beers; here, the next train up to Kuhlungsborn passes only inches from it.

Another street running train at Bad Doberan. This the one we caught back to Bad Doberan station for our main line trains back to Stralsund.

Breakfast in our Stralsund hotel, where the restaurant overlooks a lake

Early morning sun seen from my breakfast table

Saturday 16th, the Baltic seen from the train from Stralsund to Bergan auf Rugen from where a single coach raibus took us to Putbus on the isle of Rugen

This is a table top on the regional train that runs along the Baltic coast. The map shows the routes of yesterday's and today's main line trains. (As with any picture on the blog, please click on it for a larger image) 

On the one-coach railbus that took us from Bergen auf Rugen to Putbus

Like many branch railways in Germany, this one is single track

The railbus at Putbus

German equivalent of our class 14 'Teddy Bear'? This was at Putbus.

On the narrow gauge, en route to the Baltic resort of Gohren, just over 24kn on the 750mm gauge Rugensche Baderbahn railway

Guess what? Another 2-10-2 tank loco!

Gohren beach, on the Baltic

On the return journey

Binz station

wild flowers by the line side

Looking back from the rear balcony. All the coaches on these German narrow gauge lines have balconies at each end.

Out of service 0-8-0 in Putbus yard

I travelled the other way from Putbus to the terminus at the other end of the line, at Lauterbach Mole

There is no run-round loop at Lauterbach Mole so a diesel loco couples onto the rear at Putbus to pull the train and steam loco back up the gradient from Lauterbach Mole to Putbus. This picture shows the central buffer and double screw coupling arrangement common to German narrow gauge trains. Normally they are screwed up until the buffers are in contact.

Our loco 'with the bag in' at Putbus yard. We returned to Stralsund the same way we travelled out, and packed our bags for our next move of hotel.

Sunday 17th, on the ICE service to from Stralsund to Frankfurt which we left at Halle for a regional service to Wernigerode for the highlight of the holiday - the Harz Mountains. With an hour and a half at Halle between trains, a meeting of the 'Beer O'clock Club' was convened in the station bar.

The Harz seen from our regional train. Look carefully and you can see the aerials on top of the Broken, the highest peak in the Harz and tomorrow's destination.

On arrival at Wernigerode we boarded another 'train' to take us to our hotel - a 'road train'

With over 30 of us, with cases, space was at a premium in the road train

Our home for the next four nights - the excellent Weisser Hirsch hotel in Wernigerode town centre.

Just across the square from the hotel was the 'Rathaus', or Town Hall

The 'Beer O'Clock club' convene for a beer in Wernigerode square; Hamish with a suitable T shirt

Four more folk from our tour arrived at an adjoining table, including (furthermost from camera) Carol and Mike, fellow volunteers on the Churnet Valley Railway. 

The view next morning from my hotel bedroom window. The Brocken is in this picture....

...as this enlargement shows more clearly.

This is how all Monday mornings should be.... steam, coal smoke, and an interesting train ride in prospect. Wernegerode shed, adjacent to the main station.

The Hartz metre gauge railway system

We had a 3-day pass valid on all the Hartz rail lines and we started with the best, the weather being perfect for it; we caught the first steam train of the day, the 08:55 from Wernegerode to the summit of the Brocken

Climbing through the pine forests on the lower slopes, with the heady scents of pine and coal smoke in the nostrils.... fabulous!


Having turned right at the junction station of Drei Annan and passed Schierke station the summit aerials came into view

The view widened out as we neared the summit

Our loco (yes, another 2-10-2 tank!) ran around the train for the return journey

2-10-2 footplate photographed at the summit

The Brocken is the highest summit in the Harz, and used to be in East Germany but overlooked West Germany so was a 'listening post' for the East in Iron Curtain days

The obligatory summit 'selfie' photograph....

.....and another!

Set into the ground around the summit cairn are metal plaques showing the direction to and distance from prominent places

This is the one for London, 747km distant  

Quite a view! We were blessed with glorious weather for this trip up the mountain; often the Brocken is shrouded in cloud.

Wernigerode nestles in its valley. It's odd how looking down on the town the mountain seems much higher than when one looks up to it from the town. 

We stayed an hour at the summit and caught the next train down, intending to exercise the rights of the 'Beer O'clock Club' at Drei Annan on the way down.

The Harz lines are all single track with passing loops mostly on level ground in stations. The ruling gradient is 1 in 30, the trains heavy, and starting a train on the gradient would probably not be possible (as it is, the big 2-10-2 tank locos often 'lose their feet' on the steep gradient and careful enginemanship is required to get them gripping again and keep the train moving steadily upwards. The drivers were very good at this). 

However, on the section between Schierke station and the summit there is no intermediate station or level track where a passing loop could be put in. But the intensive timetable calls for a passing facility and this is provided by a 'refuge' siding, built on the level, which descending trains can enter to keep them clear of the main line and allow the ascending train an uninterrupted climb to the summit. Once the ascending train has passed, the descending train reverses out of the level refuge siding back onto the main line, to continue its journey down the mountain.

Our descending train was run into this siding to await the passing of the ascending train. Because the refuge siding is level, when one in on it one is looking down on the 1 in 30 main line which allows a good view of the ascending train coming up, as this video shows:




Our loco 'with the bag in' at Drei Annan. Unfortunately the bratwurst stall and the cafe were closed on a Monday, so Drei Annan was immediately nicknamed 'Dry Annan'. 

Opposite the station was a hotel where we could 'put the bag in' ourselves, but it didn't do snacks, only substantial meals, which we didn't want. Furthermore there was only 'one waiter in steam' (that seems common in Germany) so service was slow; we decided to go back one station up the mountain to Schierke (which we nicknamed 'Shrek') for a bratwurst and another beer (after Tony had photographed his drink, of course!). 

Looking back down the grade as we head up to Shrek. Pine and coal smoke again!

The line from 'Dry' Annen as it enters Shrek station

Shrek station cafe building. The bratwurst stall is out of the picture to the left.

After a sojourn at Shrek we caught a rather full train returning from the Brocken to Wernigerode. We soon found these descending afternoon trains were always pretty full and often one could not get a seat. 

Back in Wernigerode we tried a hotel where we'd been told the beer arrives at one's table by train. And so it does! A 'G' scale Mallet locomotive delivers four 0.5l glasses of excellent German beer to Tony, Hamish, Keith, and me at our table. The 'Beer O'clock Club' (BOCC) was back in session!

Next morning we took a standard gauge main line train direct to Quedlinberg where we boarded the narrow gauge train, hauled by this prairie (that means 2-6-2) locomotive, to Alexisbad (Alexi Sayle? Well, that's what I called it). The prairie is distinctly stumpy-looking after seeing the 2-10-2 tanks, though I must say if someone mentions 'prairie tank' I don't (or didn't until now) picture this loco. Instead I picture something green from Swindon with a copper-capped chimney!

At Alexisbad the prairie and its train returned to Quedlinburg (with tour guide John on board, who I think was in love with the loco as he intended to stay with it all day) and we had our only non-steam Harz trip, onwards to Eisfelder Talmuhle by railcar

The railcar was noisy, slow, and airless and we were glad to get off it at Eisfelder Talmuhle to transfer to a steam train which would take us round to Drei Annan, which, it being Tuesday and not Monday, we hoped would be 'Wet Annan'!

Yet another 2-10-2 tank at Eisfelder Talmuhle on our train to Drei Annan

The crew were wearing T shirts with their loco's number on them - nice touch!

Between Eisfelder Talmuhle and Drei Annan. Unexpectedly, Tony joined us at Elend so we had a quorum of the BOCC. We were therefore delighted that Drei Annan was indeed 'Wet Annan', the Bratwursts were on the sizzle, and we could relax in the sunshine watching steam trains.

Tony on a coach balcony of the usual crowded train we caught down from Drei Annan to Wernegerode after our sojourn at the former, with bratwurst and beer

Walking back to the hotel from Westerntor station in Wernegerode I took this picture; it really is an attractive town.

A view from a table outside our hotel looking back towards the direction of Westerntor station 

The next day, Wednesday 20th, was our last day at the Harz. I did consider going to Nordhausen to 'bash' the last 'tail' of the Harz system, but it would have entailed travelling by diesel railcar (very little steam on the Nordhausen branch) which I really didn't fancy on this lovely day. The news that a 'special' was running today from Wernigerode up the Brocken, hauled by an 0-4-4-0 Mallet, confirmed that another trip up the mountain was called for. Our Harz pass didn't cover the Special, but the intention was not to travel on it, but to see it en route.

So at 08:20 or so we walked from the hotel to Westerntor station for the first steam train up the Brocken, 2-10-2 hauled as usual and  considerably more crowded than the same train we'd taken on Monday.

High pressure having dominated all week, the visibility from the summit was not quite as clear as it had been on Monday, with a marked temperature inversion visible in this picture as the light-coloured band between mountains and sky, and resultant haze. This inversion would inhibit any convective activity in the atmosphere below it, and the resulting build up of dust and other atmospheric detritus between the inversion and the ground was causing the haze.

I have sometimes flown in conditions like this (but more developed) after a prolonged high pressure system has been in place, and the visibility beneath the inversion is like looking through dirty glass. Punch up through the inversion layer, however, and the air is crystal clear with distant hills, every detail on then clearly visible and looking near enough to touch, rising out of the inversion like islands in a sea. 

Our train emptied at Brocken summit. This picture gives some idea of the enormous number of people these crowded trains take up the Brocken, though this being the first steam train of the day it was not as crowded as later ones will be. The Central Line of LUL has nothing on some Brocken trains

We stayed on the train at the Brocken and came back down on it, now almost empty, so far more pleasant to travel on. Again we made use of the refuge siding to allow the ascending train an unimpeded climb past us to the summit, as seen above

As that train continues its climb to the Brocken summit one can see how crowded it is; no room inside, and even the coach balconies are full to capacity

We left the train at Shrek (Schierke) and were enjoying a beer and bratwurst in the sun, when a shrill whistle heralded the approach of the Mallet on its 'special', which I captured above, taking water at Shrek 

From this side, one can see that the special comprised the Harz 'vinatge' coach set as well as this unusual locomotive


We travelled down on the 13:55 from Shrek to Wernegerode, which was pretty full as far as Drei Annan where quite a few people got off to join a train to Elend, allowing us to find seats for the rest of our journey. Our early arrival back in Wernergerode allowed me to explore more of the town and do a bit of shopping before the BOCC gathered in the afternoon sunshine at a table in the square outside our hotel.

It was only later that we discovered how close we'd been to being marooned for hours up the Brocken line. Many very late returnees to the hotel told us the sorry tale. 

The train that crossed ours at Drei Annan, on its way up to the Brocken, was between Drei Annan and Shrek when the locomotive suffered a sheared connecting rod (all that slipping with heavy trains takes its toll), immobilising it. A locomotive from Norhausen was summoned to take the coaches back to Drei Annan, and later a diesel locomotive with engineering crew went from Wernegerode to the failed locomotive where they removed all its motion rods and towed it back to Wernegerode shed.

All of this resulted in delays of 3 hours or more all along the line, up and down (the joys of single track ops). One can only imagine what it would be like to be trapped in one of those crowded trains, no airflow breeze to cool the passengers, with perhaps nothing to drink, for that length of time.

And we were oblivious to all this, enjoying our beers and a meal on a balmy Wernegerode evening.

Next morning, Thursday 21st, we left the Wernegerode hotel for the last time and boarded the little road train with our luggage to the main line station for a train to Goslar, only to find it a victim of 'bustitution'. Well, not only did the replacement bus not show, if it had all 32 of us plus our luggage would never have fitted in. Instead we caught the next train to Goslar an hour later, which still connected with the planned train to Hannover, which in turn connected with an ICE high speed train to Wuppertal.

German train timekeeping these days seems inferior to that of UK railways and this state of the art ICE train was no exception, getting progressively later as the journey progressed. At one point the train (made up of two ICE sets) divided to go to separate destinations and 'our' set failed for about 20 minutes. When it eventually got going again, it was without working air conditioning; not a welcome state of affairs on this hot afternoon!

On arrival at Wuppertal we checked into our hotel, another in the Inter City chain (Inter City hotels used to be owned by German Railways [DB], so are on or adjacent to railway stations, but are now in private ownership). A perk dating back to DB ownership days is the inclusion with one's room keycard of a free local travel pass for rail, bus, and tram. And in Wuppertal, the Schwebebahn.

Our last day of sightseeing was principally taken up with travelling on the unique Schwebebahn, or 'danglebahn' or even 'danglewagen'. The Schwebebahn track is suspended mostly above the river Wupper, but also has 'above town' sections. Each 'train' comprises two cars and a short intermediate car, the two main cars being suspended from the track by two electrically powered bogies, the DC power being picked up from a power rail beneath the track. The cars are free to swing from side to side, and so on bends swing outwards to balance any centrifugal forces. This makes for very comfortable travel, with no sideways cornering forces subjecting the passengers to discomfort (especially those standing - 'trains' are frequent but usually crowded despite that).

Schwebebahn map

A 'danglewagen' approaches a station above the river Wupper

Video of interior of a typically full danglewagen

Detail of one of the bogies from which the cars are suspended. The double-flanged wheels ride on the round-section track, with the car suspended beneath. The traction motor can be seen on the side of the bogie. The brakes act on the wheels, while the current pick up is from the contact rail beneath the running track. 

Schwebebahn above-street section as it leaves the Vohwinkel terminus

Our treat this morning was a guided tour in this, the historic Kaiserwagen 

At the termini at each end of the line the 'trains' turn through 180 degrees. This is the turn-around bend at the Vohwinkel terminus. The track leading straight ahead leads into the depot, and is from where our Kaiserwagen will emerge.

The traverser has moved across to allow access from the depot to the main line (compare with the picture above)

The Kaiserwagen emerges from the depot

Study of the Kaiserwagen bogie. This is subtly different from the modern equivalent, with spoked wheels and a different form of motor drive. 

Our group inside the luxurious Kaiserwagen

Lots of polished wood! The driver is within the passenger compartment and drives standing up.



Following the river. The Kaiserwagen is slower than the modern 'trains', and the motors make a tram-like whining noise.

Driving control details. The wooden wheel controls the contactor, the equivalent of the controller handle in a tram. Behind it is the brake lever 

The Kaiserwagen back at the Vohwinkel terminal after our tour

Travelling in the Schwebebahn, especially the over-street sections, is a bit like low flying. Our guide described it as 'floating', but I think 'flying' is nearer the mark. Especially as one swoops effortlessly above traffic jams and red lights, with no intervening 'structure' in the way. Then swings out twenty degrees or so as is sweeps around bends, cornering like an aeroplane or a motor bike. 

A delightful way to travel, even when two danglewagens stop next to each other in a station, each swinging out of phase with the other. The other danglewagen appears to be bobbing up and down like a boat at sea.

For the last night of our holiday Tony had found a Brauhaus a few danglewagen stops away from the hotel. Here we enjoyed litre steins of the best beer of the holiday, and pretty good food as well, al fresco on this balmy evening. Unfortunately the BOCC was lacking a member for this - Hamish had gone 'off piste' for the day having experienced the danglewagen on a previous trip, but had got seriously delayed by problems with the German rail system and was very late back to the hotel.

Here are some pictures of our last evening, copyright Mike Beeley.

Carol with 3/4 of the Beer O'clock Club (Keith, me, Tony - Hamish is missing). The litre steins are of beer brewed here at the Brauhaus, and it was the best of the holiday.

Me being silly 

 BOCC (less Hamish) in session

Mike, me, Carol, Keith, Tony, Reg 

 Happy folk after a really great holiday

Inside the Brauhaus was this model of the Schwebebahn, with a modern danglewagen and a Kaiserwagen running back and forth

Saturday 23rd was the last day of the holiday, and travelling home day. Our first train was the 09:58 regional service from Wuppertal to Aachen, followed by a double deck Inter City train to Bruxelles Midi, to catch a Eurostar to St Pancras. We were hoping to experience one of the new Eurostar sets but it seems Eurostar are only using these on Paris services at present so we had the (now rather tired-looking) original sets London to Bruxelles and return.

The last convening of the BOCC. Keith, Tony, Hamish, and me (taking the picture) in the Eurostar bar at Bruxelles Midi. I think the camera must have had a slurp or two as well as it seems unable to focus.

Whizzing along at 180mph in our Eurostar between Bruxelles and Lille. By 16:05 we were back in London St Pancras, from where I made the short walk to Euston to comfortably catch the 16:40 Pendolino to Wilmslow.

Final wine of the holiday; England flashes past the Pendolino window at 125mph and in no time we were at our first stop, Crewe. One hour 47minutes after leaving London, the Pendolino eased into Wilmslow station spot on time... and I was home.

Another superb holiday, with great company (especially the BOCC). I wonder if we'll meet up again on another of these adventures?






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