Picture above left is of a vintage locomotive hauled special at Wernigerode
Nostalgia roused. I first "met" these remarkable narrow-gauge railways whilst
walking in May 1987 in the Braunlage area, near the then inner German border. The sounds and hoots of steam engines came from the east and roused nostalgia for the steam trains of my childhood. I discovered that these trains were on the Harzquerbahn of the DR- the East German State Railway. I later read that it was the longest and most scenic narrow-gauge railway line in Germany.

We first really met these wonderful steam trains in June 1990 as we
walked on forest paths in the newly accessible East Harz, and at Elend
Station. The sight of the black, gleaming tank engines pounding along,
towing their small red and cream coaches, has been a regular part of our
Harz experience on our walks or at Drei Annen Hohne station. Here there
can be up to 3 trains at a time meeting at the station ready for their
destinations of Brocken, Nordhausen and Wernigerode.
Here is an HSB train
coming towards us in the forest.

The Harz Narrow Gauge Railway.  (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen – HSB)
system actually has 3 different lines. The 131km-81 miles long

Harzquerbahn(Cross Harz Railway) runs between the railway headquarters
                               at Wernigerode and Nordhausen in Thüringen.
                               The Selketalbahn (Selke Valley Railway)
                               operates from Gernrode to Eisfelder Talmühle,
                               where it connects with the Harzquerbahn.
                                       Here a train departs from Sorge Bahnhof -
                                       station - on the afternoon return journey 
                                       between Eisfelder Talmühle and Wernigerode.

The Brockenbahn or Brocken Railway is really a branch of the main line,from Drei Annen Hohne to Brocken summit. Much of the railway operates in severe terrain, with sharp curves and gradients of up to 1in 30. The track is 1 metre gauge. It is mainly steam operated by elderly, but well maintained 1950's steam locomotives. These are supplemented by ugly red diesel locomotives known as Red Camels, and with diesel railcars for some local passenger routes.

Short history. The railway's first train ran from Wernigerode to Schierke on 20 th June 1898. HSB was an essential part of the local transport network, carrying freight and local passengers between the small towns, villages and remote parts of the east Harz. It was also an important part of the planned economy of the DDR (East Germany). Following the post 1990 changes this subsidized railway was not to become part of the German national railway system. It is now a communal company with the support of the states of Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen. As industries collapsed much of the freight traffic was lost. Very little was regained. There are now few through passenger trains on the 2 main lines. The main thrust must now be on the nostalgic tourist attraction of steam operated regular service and special trains, especially on the economically vital Brockenbahn branch. Frequent, heavily loaded trains run at peak times all the year round to the summit.

Further HSB photos.  Left. A southbound Wernigerode to Eisfelder Talmühle train approaching Sorge. Right. Approaching Drei Annen Hohne on the way down from Brocken via Schierke.



Alan Newble's Harz Mountain Railway page with a link to his magnificent Harz locomotive photographs.









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