Our little train anorak group was scheduled to visit the Bayrisches Eisenbahn Museum in Nördlingen twice during our week long Bavarian adventure. This little town is about one and one half hours outside of our home base of Augsburg by bus.
The town of about 24000 souls is well worth a visit, even for those who are not at all interested in railroads. It is incredibly picturesque, being one of only three German towns with their medieval walls still totally intact. Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbühl being the other two. Of course Rothenburg is the most famous of the three and it is also famously overrun by tourists. Not so Nördlingen. There are no hordes of rushed Chinese, no giggling Japanese. Seems like there are only natives!
Well, on occasion you do get a group of weird folks from the UK (with an occassional American thrown in) wanting to feast their eyes on retired steam locomotives, rusting electrics and diesel engines which haven't run for decades. All this can be done at the Nördlingen Bayrisches Eisenbahn Museum! The museum does have some aces in the whole: about a handful of steam locomotives which are in running condition and also are main line certified. That was the reason for our little group to make the trek to the museum: main line steam running!
Die Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) abandoned this locomotive servicing facility, which had been built in 1849 for the Ludwigs Bahn, in 1982. Steam had been on its way out for some years and Deutsche Bahn just did not need the expense of another huge roundhouse and servicing facility for their dwindling number of steam locomotives. Thus the railroad abondoned the whole thing.
In 1985 a group of German railroad enthusiasts formed the "Bayrisches Eisenbahn Museum" and took over the badly deteriorated physical plant from Deutsche Bahn. The idea was to recreate a working steam locomotive servicing facility, not a sterile, static museum. Mechanical shops, coaling bunkers, water towers and cinder pits were going to be rebuilt. Visitors are allowed to roam the grounds freely and are actively encouraged to get close up and personal with one of the steam behemoths. All this is done by volunteers and I must admit they have succeeded.
Our little group of 24 was to take the museum's Class 41 1150 steam engine on an excursion down the electrified mainline towards Rastatt and then reverse at Dombühl to take a secondary line not used for passenger traffic, back to Nördlingen via Dinkelsbühl. The Deutsche Bahn AG had given our train a specific, timed path, but it looked like we were already behind schedule starting out. No matter: after all our little charter train had two (!) fully stocked dining cars and two coaches for the 24 of us.
The Class 41 steam locomotive is a 2-8-2 (Mikado) tender locomotive. In the early 1930's the Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft (DRG) needed a replacement for their rapidly ageing freight locomotives. DRG was looking for a two cylinder, fast freight locomotive with an axle load not to exceed 18 tonnes and a wheel configuration of 2-8-0 and a top speed of 90 kilometers per hour.
DRG accepted several manufacturers proposals and the first engine of the class was built by Berliner Maschinenbau in 1937. All in all about 390 of the locomotive class were manufactured.
As I mentioned, at Dombühl the engine ran around the train and we proceeded to switch over to and continue on the secondary line. This meant running tender first all the way back to Nördlingen. Apparently Deutsche Bahn AG is not very keen on having steam engines running on the main line amongst their service trains, even much less having a steam engine running tender first.
In due course we arrived back in Nördlingen. Originally the tour company had scheduled about four hours in Nördlingen for a tour of the city and perhaps dinner, then be picked up by our bus for the ride back to Augsburg. My travel companion and I were not really all that enamored with spending all that time in this town. By now it was dark (remember this is January in Germany), pictures of the admittedly very photogenic town were pretty well impossible now. And I really did not relish a rushed dinner just to get back to Augsburg by bus.
So it was that my friend and I informed our tour guide that we would take the service train back to Augsburg and take a pass on Nördlingen. Apparently others of our group had had the same thought: we found them huddled around the ticket machine at Nördlingen station trying to buy tickets back to Augsburg!
We all managed to get our tickets and got on the 17:06 train back to Augsburg. This one was a brand new Bombardier Class 440 electric multiple unit train.
About an hour later we were back in Augsburg. It had been quite a day.
Here are a few photos from the Bayrisches Eisenbahn Museum:
A short video of the 41 1150 run by at Dombühl: