7th May 2016 - The Longest Day
Saturday 7th May 2016
Two German steam locomotives that we particularly wanted to ride behind were "Pacifics" 18.201 and 03.1010 so when a special from Leipzig to Hamburg for the harbour festival was advertised it was a good opportunity to cane both in despite the very long day (due out at 6am and not back until gone 2am the following morning!) As is normal with German special train organisers there was an on-line form to fill out which would probably lead to payment being made by bank transfer (expensive) but after a bit of digging around on the internet, we found that the Traditionsgemeinschaft Bw Halle had a Facebook page and contacted them via that method, making a booking by filling the form out but arranging to pay on the train.
Nothing more was heard until a couple of weeks before the trip when we received an e-mail with our seat numbers and the final timings; a 20 minute later start but an eye-watering one and a half hours later arrival back at 03:36 - we normally need to be paid to be awake at that sort of time not paying for it! Still, we couldn't let the Traditionsgemeinschaft Bw Halle down now; we had said we were going so we would have to put up and shut up unless we spent a fairly large sum on a return from Hamburg on a service train. One final issue reared its head when we checked the groups Facebook page for any last minute alterations the previous evening and found that 03.1010 had failed and could not be repaired so the train would now be worked by 18.201 with 243.005 (AKA 143.005, in other words an electric loco) though there was no indication as to what it might do.
It was a beautiful morning and 18.201 glistened in the sun at the front of the 13 coach train whilst 243.005 was attached to the rear. One of the reasons we wanted to sample 18.201 is that it is the fastest steam loco in Europe with a maximum speed of 160 kph (99.5 mph) but it would not be able to demonstrate it on this occasion as the class 143 and some of the 2nd class coaches on the rear of the train were limited to 120 kph (74.5 mph). The big oil-fired 4-6-2 quickly got into its stride after negotiating the maze of track outside Leipzig Hbf though we did think that the electric might have been discreetly assisting on the rear. It didn't appear to be the loudest of machines either, unlike 03.1010 which we had heard is a bit of "thrash monster", but it was certainly impressive in the way that it rapidly gobbled up mile after mile without any fuss or apparent effort.
More passengers were picked up at Bitterfeld and Lutherstadt-Wittenberg then the train headed for Berlin and a spin round part of the " Außenring" (outer ring) in order to access Lichtenberg where there was a break for the loco to take water (and some of the passengers to get tea). Lichtenberg was a shadow of the station we remembered from the turn of the century when it had a good selection of loco-hauled trains though one familiar item was the class 109 electric parked in what looked like the same siding we had seen it in eleven years previously. It had been used on the privately run overnight train that runs between Berlin and Malmö (Sweden) though it did look a little unloved and we did not know whether it was still used on this train.
We had hoped that we would be able to claim the electric loco for haulage back out to the Außenring and carry on round there but the train continued with 18.201 on the front and took some unusual track avoiding Gesundbrunnen and past Blankenburg before re-joining the Außenring until branching off to join the mainline to Hamburg shortly before Nauen. We soon got up to the maximum speed and reeled off the kilometres at a steady 120kph until Wittenberge where 18.201 was detached and sent to the local shed which is now a museum. The museum was actually open but was unfortunately just far enough away to dissuade us from paying a visit, we might have been there for only ten to fifteen minutes which was not worth the effort especially as it was now rather sunny and hot.
Perhaps we were missing something in the translation but it was hard to tell from the tour leaflet if the train was terminating at Hamburg-Altona or Hbf so we asked the organisers who clarifed that the train was terminating at Altona but leaving from the Hauptbahnhof. This made sense as doing this meant that the whole train would be turned which would get round the issue of only turning the steam loco and messing around swapping it and the electric over for the return journey; much easier to turn the entire train and a bonus for us as it meant that we would be at the front for the whole of this lengthy tour.
Whilst most people probably went to the Harbour festival we, of course, took the opportunity for a bit of a "bash" and the first thing that we saw was a new class 245 diesel on the service to Westerland. There was no time to get a ticket so we hopped on anyway with the intention of getting one from the guard but we didn't see anybody before we got off at Elmshorn where we went straight to the ticket machine and decided that a three zone Hamburg area day ticket was the best option and it would also cover us for the journey to Elmshorn that we had inadvertently "effed".
We had hoped to see at least one of the two Kiel based class 112 locos that we still needed for haulage but there was no sign of either so we retreated to the Hauptbahnhof to have the meal that we originally intended to eat on our arrival, in the Blockhouse of course.
There were still two hours to departure time when we finished eating so it was time to do a bit of "fishing" but with no sign of the two class 112s and no new class 143s in evidence there was not a lot of new locos to be had without going back to Altona for the class 245s and there wasn't really time for that. Required 246.006 came to the rescue on a Cuxhaven service but things were starting to fray around the edges by now as the train departed late then got stopped en route to Harburg whilst a freight was run across in front. We arrived at Harburg with only enough time to get the first "Metronom" service back to Hamburg so we went to the relevant platform and were pleased to see the signal off for a passing freight. Cameras at the ready, the platform indicator suddenly changed to show a late running IC train at the platform we were standing on and this promptly ran into the platform at the precise moment the freight went past with a hard-working "Blue Tiger" type loco on the front causing some rude words to be muttered.
The "Metronom" was dud of course and we arrived back at the hauptbahnhof to a scene of chaos with huge crowds coming into the city, probably for the fireworks display later and we actually had to queue to get off the platform. There also looked to be a football match on as well judging by the number of people wearing FC Hamburg shirts and scarves; we have seen some busy scenes at Hamburg but not this crowded.
We also discovered that there were two other specials for the Harbour Festival, one from Berlin which was an ODEG double deck EMU and another from Menden (Sauerland) which was steam-hauled. We had caught a glimpse of another "kettle" in Eidelstedt earlier and shouldn't have been surprised by this as we had seen a trip advertised a few months ago using UEF's 01.1066 but had promptly dismissed it from our thoughts as we have done two or three trips with this loco in the past. It would have been a nice trip as it had 12 coaches and no form of modern assistance but the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing and your certainly can't legislate for any last minute failures.
Our train departed a few minutes late as the stock arrived very close to departure time and it took some time for everyone to get on board in the general hubbub. We set off with some nice three-cylinder noises coming from the front but soon stopped in the suburbs af Hamburg near Tiefstack where we stood for around half an hour, watching S Bahns going past before the staff came round telling each compartment that there were "people taking photographs on the track". Eventually an ICE train went past running "wrong road" then after a suitable interval waiting for it to clear, we set off again with more steady running at maximum speed until we arrived at Wittenberge about two minutes after we should have departed.
18.201 went off to the shed / museum again but it was a bit easier this time as train was in the right side of the station for the loco to go straight to the shed and it was on the correct end this time. The loco was serviced quite quickly and we left 39 minutes late, it was getting dark by now and our eyelids were getting heavy so we missed the exact route taken round Berlin but it must have different to this morning's as we arrived at Lichtenberg facing the same way as earlier.
Refreshed by the doze, we proceeded to make a careful note of the route taken from here towards Gesundbrunnen again, but this time we went through the station and followed a fairly tortuous route through Wansee and Potsdam, past the freight yards at Seddin and round an almost complete circle at Genshagener Heide to regain our outwards route to Leipzig.
Now back on the mainline, 18.201 got back into its stride and was soon effortlessly gliding along at 120kph whilst all five of us in the compartment succumbed to the late hour and long day, only waking up as the train ran into Leipzig arriving 22 hours and one minute after we left, 45 minutes late at 4:21am with dawn just beginning to break.
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