Dresden & Zittau- Saxon Stars in Winter

5 January 2011

Final Report on Zittau Narrow Gauge added - report complete. Details of DVD added. Comments and questions, please, to:

You can read about the trip I made to shoot this video below. If you would like to order a copy of this DVD for £18 + postage, click here to send me an email order enquiry.

Zittau 10 December 2011

Lufthansa and BMI fly from Heathrow to Dresden. Given the distance and Eurostar prices, it would be hard to justify doing this all by rail.

For my time in Dresden, I bought a VVO Wochenkarte (Verbundraum) (the local transport co-operative's one-week full-system pass) for €54 which covers the whole Dresden area including the narrow gauge steam railway, the trams, the buses and the S-bahn. There is a slightly cheaper version that doesn't cover all of the Freital line but most important is that the Wochenkarte is the cheapest VVO ticket that does cover the narrow-gauge steam railways. Without this, you would need to buy a day pass for each ng railway or buy single tickets. These lines are not included on VVO one-day cards.

I'm staying in Radebeul at a small guest house (Pension Elchlepp) booked through booking.com which is good-value-for-money but a 10-minute walk from the tram stop and 5 stops from the Lössnitzgrundbahn at Radebeul Ost (3 from Weißes Roß). The closest S-bahn station to the guest house is Radebeul West and the closest tram stop is Borstrasse.

My first full day of steam was spoilt by persistent and often heavy rain between 10 and 2 and my clothes are still drying out. I took a break around 2 and then went back out to see the second of the Traditionszug runs with the Saxon Meyer around 15:30.

In decent weather (which I hope for tomorrow) much of the line is walkable and I bought a hiking map for Moritzburg and Radebeul (at the station in Moritzburg) which covers most of the line (with a short section of the line to Radeburg on another map). With 5 chimney-first uphill trains to Moritzburg and only 2 continuing to Radeburg at this time of year, I'm going to concentrate on the busy section especially as it includes the steepest climb up a forested river valley from Weißes Roß to Freiwald Bad (formerly Dippelsdorf).

Here are the first pictures:

Out-of-use loco posed on a freight train - Radebeul Ost

Diesel shunter and train loco preparing for the day

S-bahn, ICE and ng steam at Radebeul Ost

We will have to live with the seasonal headboard!

With heavy rain falling, the traditional train and the service train cross at Moritzburg at 12 o'clock.

The rain had stopped but light was fading for the second run of the traditional train. The street running section from Radebeul Ost to Weißes Roß is seen here.

A shot of the No. 4 trams that are moving me around. This one is promoting the tramway museum.

5 December 2011

Rain in the night and still raining when I set off around 8 am. It was a day of two halves with rain until lunchtime and then even a bit of sun in the afternoon. It also seemed like it was 'box basher day' on the railway as the first two trains were diesel hauled.

I've seen locos similar to this on the Polish narrow gauge, on the Jindrichuv Hradec ng line in the Czech Republic and on the Viseu de Sus logging railway in Rumania. I imagine they are all the same or similar classes.

However, it turned out to only be 'box basher morning' as the steam loco came out to play on the third train which coincided with the decent weather.

Just about to leave on the 12:56 departure with a loading of only 3 coaches

High-speed train on the slow lines while a new two-track high speed line is built on the left

The 14:26 train to Radeburg is about to enter the forested Lößnitz valley

Returning from Radeburg and Moritzburg, the train halts at Friedewald Bad (formerly Dippelsdorf) station at 16:03

During the day, I walked from Moritzburg via Cunnertswalde to Bärnsdorf and from Radebeul Ost to Friedewald Bad via Weißes Roß and Friedewald Hp. I returned back to my guest house tired and ready for a quiet night.

6 December 2011

The weather is definitely getting better but whether I am making the best of it is another matter. Perhaps I should have been at Freital Hainsberg yesterday for a special train for the RTC with a Saxon Meyer as well as 03.1010 on their mainline special. Today, you could argue that I should have stayed at Radebeul Ost as the Meyer there was in steam there for some 'AdventFahrts' for groups of children to an unadvertised timetable. However, I headed over to Freital Hainsberg for regular steam on the Weißeritztalbahn.

From Radebeul, assuming a 7 am breakfast, the 09:42 departure (the second train) is the best that can be achieved. The first coach was booked for a coach party to Dippoldiswalde which is the current end of the line. My memory of the line was a bit conflated. I remembered Rabenau (with the railway station on a ledge) and Malter (where the road crosses a dam) as the same place skipping 2 stops in between. However, once I'd sorted that out, I conclude the section from Freital Coßmannsdorf to Spechtritz is the section in the gorge of major interest. The line continues to Dippoldiswalde and the section to Kurort Kipsdorf is still being rebuilt after the 2002 floods. The plan is still to rebuild the rest and I note that in 2012, there will be one special train over part of this section but re-opening is not planned for 2012. Given that it's 15 km to Dippoldiswalde and another 10 to Kipsdorf and the exciting bits are over by km 9 from Freital Hainsburg, it's surprising that it will happen but it seems that the will and the money is there.

Here are my best shots of the day:

The 08:26 train from Radebeul Ost departs with steam as I wait for my S-bahn to Dresden.

The cylinder plate on 2-10-2 99 1734-5 at Freital Hainsberg. Hartmann built many of the locos for the Indonesian State Railways and some of my favourite locomotives

Below Spechtritz is a wooden bridge across the stream. This is the view looking up stream. Below is the view looking down stream. Getting an uphill train here in this light would be nice! See further below for my effort later in the day.

I probably walked too far down the gorge for my first uphill shot. However, there are at least 3 bridges here to go for.

The (brown) dipper is an interesting bird that spends a lot of time under water. It frequents clean streams and although it can be found from the UK to Nepal it is not a familiar bird to many people.

With relatively few trains per day, you can't ignore the down trains.

The two houses on the right have balconies overlooking the stream and the railway. It makes me think of Hansel and Gretel and ginger-bread houses...

The best I could do later in the day from the wooden bridge below Spechtritz.

7 December 2011

The plan today was to ride over to Freital Hainsberg to film the view from the train going up the gorge. The weather started off wet but it had stopped raining by the time I reached Freital. The precipitation in this area seems more inclined to snow so I was able to get some decent footage through the gorge.

Shortly after leaving Rabenau Station

Closer to Spechtritz

Dippoldiswalde had a decent covering of snow. Some of this was there yesterday as well but I forgot to include a picture then. The loco takes water before running round.

Following a return ride on the line, I headed for the Dresden Park Railway. The website shows special trains planned for 6-7 December but there was no sign that anything was in action and the main station was deserted. I did catch a glimpse of the VW freight tram and I may need to return to the area to cover this. I headed by tram (13 and 4) to the Seventies Restaurant at the DDR museum in Radebeul for lunch. Although designed to be a throw-back to DDR days, there was nothing I saw or felt that reminded me of my one visit to the DDR - it all looked much too like the decadent west of that time. It decided to rain again but I trudged up to see the afternoon full-line working to Radeburg above Lößnitz halt. The rain stopped and 99 1761 slogged uphill with plenty of steam. After that, I called it a day.

8 December 2011

The weather is getting predictable - rain until about 10 am, blue skies with sunshine until about 1 and then further rain with overcast skies for the rest of the day. I've had 3 days of this!

Today, I did my last day on the Lößnitzgrundbahn starting with the 08:26 departure from Radebeul Ost.

In the rain, 99 1761-8 departs Radebeul Ost with major steam effects

Passing the Dresden commuter train

With the rain stopped, this is the mid-morning working to Radeburg approaching Friedewald Halt

At Radeburg, reflected in the coach window, the loco takes water in the sunshine

9 December 2011

Nothing much to report from today. I went over to Freital Hainsberg West by S-Bahn and walked to Freital Coßmannsdorf which is much closer from there than from Freital Hainsberg. It was raining again so I got my shot and gave up. I'm a bit under the weather and didn't want to get cold and wet again. I came back and started to prepare for my trip to Zittau. I'm not sure if I will have internet access for my final 3 days. If not, I'll have the report ready to upload on my return to the UK on 13 December.

Arriving at Freital Coßmannsdorf in the rain

10 December 2011

The sun was shining as I left my guesthouse to travel over to Zittau. It didn't last but neither did it rain today. The sun reappeared for the afternoon working to Bertsdorf, Kurort Oybin and Kurort Jonsdorf.

The Zittau narrow gauge has to cross the front of the station to get from the depot to the station. These days a flagwoman (changing the points on the left) is required to proceed the loco over the station access roads.

The ng station is within its own compound and has a similar sheltered crossing from the booking office to the platform as at Bertsdorf.

Here we see the Bertsdorf version.

The loco running round at Jonsdorf. The steep approach grade is clear.

The loco takes water at Bertsdorf before its second afternoon run to Oybin

The last train of the day from Bertsdorf to Oybin

It's been a long time since I last visited Zittau (sometime in the 1990s with Dave Thornhill). That time, shortly after unification, we were car-based and stayed somewhere near Jonsdorf. As a result, I'd never ridden or seen the line from Zittau to Zittau Vorstadt. In those days, double departures from Bertsdorf were daily but today this is a high-season event - it's even advertised as part of the timetable. There will always be debate about whether the East German narrow gauge can be considered a 'real' steam railway or a 'tourist' steam railway today. The 5 am 'school train' from Radebeul Ost suggests real (although I wasn't up at 5 to find out if it was steam or diesel). Another way of assessing this is to come in winter for the basic 'nebensaison' service. Then, the railways serve the local people, some local tourists and the occasional gricer. For me, this is undoubtedly real steam (although undoubtedly funded by a benevolent local authority). Our train today has a carriage specially adapted to raise and lower wheel chairs. Today, a local man was able to access the train in his electric wheelchair at Zittau Süd and get off at Bertsdorf. A real railway, providing a real service! If I were to get on my high horse, I'd suggest that the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways should be aiming to run a similar service 365 days a year for locals and visitors (as should the English standard gauge lines such as the SVR, NYMR, WSR, KWVR, etc. that actually go from somewhere to somewhere or have a mainline connection) and the local and national governments should be funding them to do this.

It seems like Germany often does things better than we do in Britain...

(I should add that these lifts are on both sides of the carriage. He got on the train on the right and exited on the left.)

On the other hand, they get things wrong as well. My hotel in Zittau has decided to offer wi-fi through T-mobile net. For the guest, it costs either €4.95 for up to one hour from initial log in or €19.95 for 600 minutes after initial log in. The first is much too expensive and the second is just too absurdly long for any hotel guest (25 days' worth!). There is absolutely no other choice between 1 hour or 600 hours! As a result, I refuse to buy either option. This report will be uploaded from Dresden or the UK. My free BT Openzone minutes (and BT is a T-mobile partner) aren't valid, of course! Wi-fi is cheap to install and can easily be offered free by businesses as a loss-leader. However, if businesses want to monetarise it, they have to be sensible. I might pay €2 an hour for wi-fi, I would prefer €2-4 for 24 hours. In the UK, I use pay-as-you-go mobile broadband when I need it with a USB dongle at 1 GB for £10 for 30 days from date of purchase. This gives better coverage and better value than any national wi-fi package as the country is better covered by mobile phone cells than by wi-fi access points. Therefore, wi-fi should either be provided as a free service to customers or dirt cheap! Sometimes, as in the case of wi-fi it seems, greedy companies hold back the development of what is potentially useful technology. I suppose in this case, the hotel might get free broadband from T-mobile but the hotel customers are certainly not the winners and I can't see how T-mobile net are either. End of rant.

11 December 2011

Today was the best weather of the trip so far with sunshine from 9 until the sun went behind the hills around 3 pm. I walked from my hotel via Zittau Süd and Zittau Vorstadt. Vorstadt is not the easiest station to find but I was there well ahead of the train. On the way, I photographed this old church entrance with its Saxon Christmas star. These stars are everywhere and I'd like one but not sure how I would get it home on the plane unless it comes as a kit to assemble. I'll have a look in Dresden as I imagine most in Zittau are bought ready made and carried home in a car.

Zittau is very close to the borders of both Poland and Czech Republic. In fact, there is a place very close called Dreilandesecke where you can probably stand in all 3 countries at the same time. Travelling on the train and walking along the roads to the east and south of town, you see signs saying, 'Poland 1km'.

The first train of the day from Bertsdorf to Jonsdorf

Unlike the UK, they limit the hours you can wake people up by throwing your recycled glass bottles in the bins to 07:00 to 19:00 weekdays. What a civilized bunch!

There are some wonderful rock outcrops near Oybin. The railway is in front of the trees.

The second train of the day arrives in Oybin. This Saturday-Sunday was a special Advent Market at the station and both the station buffet and nearby hotel were open for lunch.

With dramatic lighting and plenty of steam, the train waits to depart Oybin

Walking from Oybin back to Bertsdorf, this huge power station is visible in the distance. I assume it's in Poland and also that it still burns brown coal. Google maps shows an extensive open cast coal mine on the Polish side while the German mines have closed on environmental grounds. Do they have rails down into the pit?

For the second train from Zittau, I walked downhill from Bertsdorf to the semaphore signal for the Bertsdorf approach.

After that, the light was going for the additional shots. However, a clear sky tonight and I'm hoping for another good morning before I head back to Dresden.

12 December 2011

Yesterday was a one off. Today we were back to cloud with some strong winds off the mountains. What sun there was disappeared by about 9 am.

Map of Zittau showing to the right the River Niesse and PL (Poland) and CZ (Czech Republic) on the other side. I think the three-way border corner is probably in the middle of the river.

First train of the day appraoches Zittau Süd just before the sun disappeared.

First return working from Oybin to Bertsdorf

Morning working to Jonsdorf

Johnsdorf working arrives back at Bertsdorf

With its train shrouded in steam, 99 749 slogs up the ramp from Bertsdorf to Oybin Niederdorf

Close up of the seasonal decoration on front of 99 749. I prefer this to the Christmas trees on the smoke boxes of the Dresden narrow gauge locos.

Art nouveau design on the emergency cord. A similar design appears on the drinking water fountain at Bertsdorf

My final view of the Zittau Narrow Gauge for 2011 - the morning return to Zittau departs Zittau Süd

John Raby
December 2011