I last visited the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB) in the summer of 2014. It’s interesting to compare the photos I took back then with the ones in this post. In places like this, the landscape can change dramatically between the seasons and, as beautiful as it was in the summer, I always thought it would be magical at this time of year.
After a 4 hour drive from home, I found myself in a proper little winter resort, with real snow, piled high above the sides of the road and clinging to the pine trees, weighing down their branches so that they almost touched the ground. Here are a few notes I took whilst there…
9th January, 2016. I am writing this on my phone from a restaurant whilst waiting for my meal and drinking a nice glass of wine. The waiters bear an uncanny resemblance to two well-known British comedy actors from my childhood years, but thankfully they serve up a delicious meal. I leave the restaurant and take a little stroll around the town. The resort is quite lively tonight and I’m concerned that the group of lads staying in the hotel rooms next to mine will keep me awake tonight. As I walk slowly back, it occurs to me that with its colourful wooden-fronted buildings, Christmas decorations, snow-covered rooftops and beautiful shop-window displays, it’s really rather nice here in Braunlage. I feel very lucky and excited about photographing the steam trains making their way to the top of the mountains in the morning.
10th January, 2016. I feel great after a good night’s sleep. Those lads in the rooms next door were well-behaved after all. I look out of the window and realise the temperature has risen, and the snow has turned to rain. My heart sinks, but the train will take me about 600 metres higher and so I am hopeful that it will be snowing up there. I eat a large breakfast, pay the bill, and leave for Schierke station. As the train climbs, the depth of snow increases and any fears of a thaw are soon forgotten. I get off the train at the top and find myself literally in the clouds with a ferocious wind blasting ice particles into my face. I can hardly see a thing. Despite several attempts, I decide this is not the weather for wandering around on my own, trying to take photographs. I find refuge in a wooden hut near the station where they serve warm refreshments and allow people to dry off and prepare for their onward journeys. It’s quite clear that several people in here did not use the train to climb the mountain. Inspired by their courage and enthusiasm, I decide to stay up here longer and make another attempt to find a good track-side location to take the photos I want. I walk for 15 minutes and feel like a polar explorer, but the conditions are impossible, so I return to the station and make do with the pictures that I already have.
I wait on the platform for the next train back down from the summit. One of the engine crew is on the track below, with a spanner in his hand, no gloves, and making small adjustments to some of the nuts or valves on the engine. I’m impressed, but what is more impressive is that this old-fashioned type of transport runs a regular, and from what I can tell, reliable service to the top of a mountain in conditions that would bring many modern-day cities to a standstill.
Here are some of those pictures that I took, I hope you like them.
All pictures and text. © Chris Robinson 2016. All rights reserved.