A day out on the Döllnitzbahn

IMG_4488An enforced overnight stay in Berlin, as a result of easyjet cancelling most of its flights to and from London, gave me the chance on my return to the German capital by train from the Zittauer Schmalspurbahn to pay a visit to another of the narrow gauge lines in Saxony, the rather delightful Döllnitzbahn.

After the crowds travelling on the Zittau system it made a remarkable contrast to find myself as the only passenger on one of the services I took, which are essentially run for the benefit of local school children travelling into the town of Oschatz – midway between Dresden and Leipzig – from Mügeln and surrounding settlements. Continue reading “A day out on the Döllnitzbahn”

A trip in Europe’s smallest dining car

IMG_4457After a January visit to see narrow gauge steam on the German/Czech border between Cranzahl and Kurort Oberwiesenthal, my first post-lockdown rail excursion to Europe takes me to another remote corner of SE Germany and the splendid 750mm narrow gauge system based in the charming city of Zittau.

Besides paying a return visit to a line I had visited in very different times shortly after German reunification 30 years ago, I was particularly eager to photograph the famous double departure of services from its junction at Bertsdorf and also to sample the railway’s unique dining service.    Continue reading “A trip in Europe’s smallest dining car”

Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007

G David 320HOLIDAY plans for many of us have been thrown into disarray by the pandemic, so this seems like a timely moment to look back at two memorable July holidays from years gone by, when I was able to sample and photograph one of Europe’s most remarkable railway networks.

32 years ago this month I paid my first visit to the fabulous metre-gauge system on Corsica, and over the course of a two–week touring holiday with my future wife contrived to travel in stages over the entire 232km (144-mile) Y-shaped rail network, connecting the northern towns of Bastia and Calvi with Ajaccio on the west coast.

Having recently re-discovered photographs and slides of that memorable July 1988 trip, and a return family visit in July 2007, this is a look back to a time before modernisation, when there was still regular freight on the principal Bastia-Ajaccio axis, when trains still ran to the port at Ajaccio, and when marvellous 1949-vintage Renault ABH railcars were the mainstay of passenger services. Continue reading “Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007”

Europe’s forgotten railway network

Albania_03

NINE years ago this month (in May 2011) I paid a visit to Europe’s most isolated country, Albania, and spent the next five days travelling the whole of its decrepit railway network, before the most scenic section of route was suddenly closed a year later.

As desperately needed investment seems set to revive at least part of this remarkable and ramshackle system, this is an expanded and illustrated version of my original 2011 account, with an update at the end on developments since that visit. Continue reading “Europe’s forgotten railway network”

Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley

IMG_3540EXACTLY 25 years ago today, on Wednesday, 10 May 1995, I went on one of my most memorable ever continental railway journeys, when I broke off from a family holiday near Lisbon to spend an unforgettable 36 hours travelling to the Douro Valley and then sampling two of the remarkable metre-gauge lines leading up tributary river valleys north of the Douro.

Those trips up the Tua Line to Mirandela and later up the Corgo Line from Régua to Vila Real convinced me that these were some of the most scenic rail journeys in Europe, so it came as a real shock to learn years later that the Portuguese Government had allowed these lines, along with the Tâmega Line from Livração to Amarante, to close (in 2008/9). Continue reading “Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley”

Germany’s steam-hauled ski train

IMG_1084After autumn visits to two of Germany’s wonderful narrow gauge railways on the Baltic Coast, my first overseas trip of the New Year took me to the opposite end of eastern Germany and by 750mm gauge steam to the country’s highest town.

This is the ski resort of Oberwiesenthal, which stands close to the border with the Czech Republic in the Erzgebirge mountain range and is reached by rail on the charming Fichtelbergbahn, a 17.4 km (10.9 mile) line that connects with the standard gauge DB network at Cranzahl.

The railway takes its name from the Fichtel Mountain, which is close to the ski resort, and opened to traffic in 1897; although its current identity was only adopted on its privatisation just over a decade ago. Continue reading “Germany’s steam-hauled ski train”

Steaming to Sroda

IMG_9948On my first ever visit to Poland 30 years ago (October 1989) I paid a visit to the country’s last steam-worked narrow gauge railway, a charmingly rural line that ran 14 kms westwards from a town called Sroda to the south of Poznan.

In those far off days there were six round trips a day, conveying a mixture of workers, shoppers and schoolchildren in a pair of ancient wooden coaches each heated by a coal-fired boiler mounted beneath the coach floor. A single fare to the terminus at Zaniemysl (pictured above) cost the princely sum of 170 [old] Zloties (less than 2p). Continue reading “Steaming to Sroda”

A new direction for Wolsztyn steam

IMG_0225Daily steam working will now continue from Wolsztyn in western Poland into 2020, at least until the famous May Day Parade event, and there is even the prospect of extended weekday operations from the world-famous depot.

Plans to refurbish a water column on platform one, as part of the station re-building, would allow steam services to run from Leszno and through Wolsztyn all the way to Zbaszynek on the Berlin-Warsaw main line. Continue reading “A new direction for Wolsztyn steam”

Baltic beauties

IMG_8804Last month’s return to the wonderful Harz metre-gauge network prompted me to pay a long-overdue first time visit to two more of the steam-worked narrow gauge railways in eastern Germany, both on the country’s attractive Baltic coast.

This charming duo is the 24km (14.5-mile) 750mm gauge Rügensche Bäderbahn (RBB) or Rasender Roland (“Raging Roland”), running along the south side of Rügen Island from Putbusto Göhren, and the 15.4km (9.6-mile) 900mm gauge Mecklenburgische Bäderbahn or Molllibahn (Molli), linking the town of Bad Doberan with the Baltic coast at Kühlungsborn West. Continue reading “Baltic beauties”

Harz delights

IMG_7834Imagine an attractive and rural corner of Central Europe where you can travel on your own steam-hauled narrow gauge train just as the sun is rising, and then spend all day riding a vast narrow gauge network for around £13 a day.

What may sound like a dream is actually a reality on the delightful Harz metre-gauge system in eastern Germany, where for two consecutive days last week I was the only passenger aboard the 07.34 Gernrode to Alexisbad service.  Continue reading “Harz delights”