Railway tour 2005 - The Crocodile-hunter tour 6.

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We're on the way to the Naumburg railway station, downhill, along the former tramway line.

Looking at today's condition of the track, these guys still have plenty of job to do until they finish reconstructing the entire ring line.

Here we are, a body-tilting ICE-T train is just about to leave, I guess toward Frankfurt am Main. This motor unit train carries the name of the town Dresden, the number of the end coach is 411 005-2.

I had just crossed the tracks to make this photo with a Trabi and its old-type double decker coaches standing in the morning sunlight...

...another ICE-T train arrived behind my back, at this time a coupled one with 14 coaches. The first of the two seven-coach units is one of the second serie vehicles, and has a few differences at first glimpse already: the windows have rounded corners, or where there is no window - for example at the toilets -, the black false windows failed instead of a pure white side wall.

There was a new tendency at the DB at that time which could also be seen on these new trains: the fall of the board-restaurants instead of bistros. Although the repertoire of this bistro was nearly the same as what the older restaurant cars had offered, there was no comfortable way to consume it, so they decided to modify - or from that point of view that they newly presented an older but forgotten service: remodify - the bistro cars to restaurant cars.

But the most piquant is the manufacturers' plate. You have to know that the cream of German industry, with countless companies have participated in the ICE construction for decades. However, meanwhile most of these smaller firms have been bought up by the three railway manufacturer giants: Bombardier, Siemens and Alstom. That's why the name of all three rivals appear on this plate.

Und tschüss... :-) Suddenly my own train arrived, too, hauled by another Trabi, I take it to Halle. This day is about one of my favourite railway lines, the Rübelandbahn.

This is Weißenfels station, with a modern railbus type LVT/S of the Burgerlandbahn, made in Bautzen (DWA, today Bombardier).

The next railway junction is Großkorbetha where the lines coming from Frankfurt and Nuremberg separate towards Halle and Leipzig. Although these engine-sheds have been abandoned for years...

...there is still heavy freight traffic in the region. Among these Ludmillas and other DB electric locomotives...

...you can always find private engines, too. Not accidentally.

Namely, there is nothing more to be seen for kilometres than plants of the Leuna (on the picture) and Buna chemical giants.

I stay in Halle only for a few minutes this time, to take another train to Halberstadt. I take this class 612 on the right, which is a diesel unit train with body-tilting and is heading to Hannover. (Apropos: does anyone know what that red dot under the windscreen is used for?)

I don't have more time in Halberstadt either, I take only one photo about this former class 106 of the East German Railways DR, which is a private engine today, for shunting duty in the region, I guess. But before showing any photos about my favourite mountain railway line of the former GDR, let me have a few words about it first.

The first section of the line between Halberstadt and Blankenburg was opened in 1875 to serve the local furnace, but there had been a demand for the freight trains from the timber, lime and ore producers of the Harz mountains. In 1885 the mountain section opened between Blankenburg and Rübeland, a year later the line reached Tanne. Because of the topographical conditions - 6 kilometres in distance as the crow flies, nearly 300 metres in altitude - it became a very steep line with up to 61 permill, the first in the World with adhesion and rack assisted sections varying. Instead of building a narrow gauge railway, however that would have been cheaper, they prefered the normal gauge, so a transship of the goods in Blankenburg was not necessary. From the 1920's high performance steam locomotives with an axle arrangement 1'E1' of the class 95. appeared on the line which made possible to leave the rack sections, the route has also been modified.

In 1950 the line was taken over by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR), they renamed it to Rübelandbahn (Rübeland railway) from Harzbahn. The capacity of the steamers proved not enough, so they decided to modernize and electrify the mountain section. This is when they ceased the branch line to Drei Annen Hohne as well as the main line between Königshütte and Tanne. The Halberstadt-Blankenburg section, which is the only link to the rest of the East-German railway network have remained unelectrified until today, so the mountain section which begins there is far off from the rest of the DR's electrified network. Building an own power plant for the isolated line would be so expensive that they decided to use the common industrial power supply, the voltage is 25 kilovolts, 50 cycles which is unique in Germany but well-used for example in Hungary or on the French TGV-lines. The "court-locomotive-builder" of the DR, called Lokomotivbau und Elektrotechnische Werke Hennigsdorf, appeared with two prototype locomotives in 1961 "at their own risk" with a good similarity to the class 211 and 242 which were built in large numbers at that time. The task of the six-axle locomotives was clear: they had to be able to haul freight trains with a load of 300 tons on an incline of 63 permill with a speed of 40 kph or on 25 permill with 60 kph in a coupled, remote controlled duty (one locomotive at front, one at the back). They put all of the 15 built locomotives, class E 251 (later class 171 of the DB) into operation in 1965. I was lucky enough to see these special vehicles at my first visit on the line, yet in 2002, unfortunately they have been withdrawn from service, they wait for a buyer somewhere, maybe in Zwickau.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the freight traffic has fallen, they rejected a few locomotives, their components were used as spare parts for the other engines. However, they scrapped them immaturely because the property status of the local cement works has settled into shape in a few years, the demand of the freight traffic increased again, but there wasn't enough capacity: they had to put diesel engines into operation for the one- or two-coach passenger trains, at first time class 228's (the class 118 of the Eastern DR originally). Class 171 became over-aged for the new Millennium, so seeking for a follower, modern multiple-voltage engines (class 185. of Bombardier and 189. of Siemens) of the DB have been tested here for months, raising a last hope for this unique traction system in Germany, but in spring 2005 the last electric locomotive has left the line... :-(

My train is a short, two-coach shuttle with a diesel engine class 218. at front, and a driving coach at the back. This has been the usual passenger train configuration since 2001, which run yet to Elbingerode. Since then, class 171 is not allowed to haul passenger trains due to a new regulation because they don't have TB0 door control (this prevents the train to depart with opened doors on the coaches), and it wouldn't pay the costs to fit them with it.

DB Cargo's diesel engines, nicknamed Ludmillas are not a novelty at the Blankenburg sheds, they have hauled the trains coming from the mountains towards Halberstadt, Salzgitter etc. for decades. What's new: the examples of the class 233. which are remotorized by Russian made, environment-friendly engines in Kolomna, or the fact that the diesel engines also go up the mountain section, smoking under overhead wires.

Changing the direction of travel: at the first uphill section the locomotive pushes the train, now we see the relaxing diesels from their other side. But if we look at the other side...

...we can see interesting workshops, it is for example a freight car depot for the line...

...where a real rarity is hiding along the fence, a wreck of an - I guess - Mercedes "one and a half decker" bus, in a relatively good shape.

We reach Michaelstein switchback station after a not too long, but quite steep incline, this means another change in direction is ahead.

This freight train is waiting for us so it can descend to Blankenburg. Well, this is not a DB locomotive either, this is one of the Blue Tigers (this is the marketing name of the heavy freight diesel locomotive type DE-AC33C of the ADtranz, today Bombardier) of the Osthavelländische Eisenbahn AG (OHE). From the spring of 2005, the Rübeland Cement Works ordered the bigger part of its freight transport at the cheaper OHE instead, as a reply DB carried its electric locomotives away and shut down the power supply of the overhead wires. The rest of the freight traffic is hauled by the DB Ludmillas.

This picture has a documentary value, too. Due to the open tracks aggreement two private companies appeared on the German railway lines with the OHE monogram at the same time (the other one is the Osthannoversche Eisenbahn), and in addition both firms had Blue Tigers, so this company, founded in 1892 (!) changed its name in 2006 to Havelländische Eisenbahn AG (HVLE) because of the chance to mix them up. The locomotives - like this tiger-pattern one, too - were repainted to a light grey-orange color.

After some up and downhill sections we reach Hüttenrode station. The lower tracks were laid at the time of the sixties' modernization for the gaining freight traffic. Downhill again.

We arrive at Rübeland shortly, just before that we can see a branch towards the original route (until the 1920's). We'll come back here later.

The locomotive ahead of our train was 218 103-0, which goes further to Elbingerode, today's terminus station while I stay here, in the town which gave its name for the railway line.

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Text and photos by András Báti, except where otherwise mentioned (C) 2005-2008

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