Whilst out with friends on Friday, I found myself talking about BBC Radio 4 shipping forecasts and trade deficit figures, and even though we managed to have a laugh about this, we all agreed that I needed to get out more! Now I’m not sure a weekend visiting German railways was quite what everyone had in mind, but that’s exactly what I decided to do.
I headed for the Ruhrgebiet which is the largest industrial area of Germany. I had been there before, but mainly on shopping trips to Oberhausen, so I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing a bit more of a region which I had imagined might be similar to where I am from in England. I was quite impressed with the countryside as I skirted around the edge of the conurbation and eventually arrived at the Railway Museum Bochum-Dahlhausen. It is overlooked by 3 very tall chimneys which are part of a factory that was originally established to manufacture fireclay bricks for coke oven plants. But the main industries from this region were coal and steel and my first ride was in a carriage used to transport coal minors down to the pits. I doubt there were any materials other than metal used in its construction and there were several jarring movements as it carried us slowly around the yard where everyone knew from the screeching sounds that we were coming!
Next I walked around the huge semicircular shaped engine shed where I found not only a large selection of steam engines, but also some rather more unique forms of transport.
After looking around the engine shed, I looked for an opportunity to go for a ride. The one engine was in steam which was great, but it was not going anywhere soon, so I opted for a Triebwagon (see pictures below). I asked one of the volunteers about where I could go, and there was a 3 hour return journey to Hagen that he described as a romantic journey through some beautiful countryside along a quiet line that is only used by the museum and freight trains. The other option was a 15 minute journey to Bochum-Dahlhausen, and so I opted for the latter.
After a lovely couple of hours at the museum, I decided to head to the Wuppertal Suspension Railway which is about 30 minutes away. Now this really is an impressive piece of engineering, with about 10km of the 13km line suspended high above the Wupper river – this amazing structure and the trains that run along it have been carrying passengers since 1901!
Finally, I went to the Müngstener Brücke. To call it awesome would certainly not be a misuse of that word. At 107 metres above the river, it really is awesome! The surrounding area has been developed to provide a wonderful setting where people can relax, cycle, sunbathe, walk, eat and even traverse the river aboard a Schwebefähre – no I had never heard of one either! 🙂 It is some sort of carriage suspended from a metal cable above the river and propelled using a pump-trolley type mechanism pushed up and down by enthusiastic passengers with all their might! I didn’t use it, but it looked like great fun and a good short cut to the nearby castle.
The next day, I decided to head off to one of my favourite regions of Germany, the Eiffel. I have written about this area before, for example here and here! But this was my first trip through the area on a steam train called the Vulkan Express. There was an open top freight wagon in which some bench seats and tables normally found in Biergartens had been securely placed. The staff warned us before we set off that we would get very dirty and they weren’t kidding, but it was quite exhilarating, with the steam and smoke engulfing the few who were crazy enough to brave this unusual form of transport! This completed a great weekend and I am glad I took my friends’ advice to get out more, even if it wasn’t exactly what they meant! 🙂