In Foreign Parts
These recordings were made during my first visit to the Harz in June 2012...

HSBFor years people have been telling me that I should visit the Harz mountains in northern Germany, not for the scenery but to see the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen.
The HSB is a largely steam powered meter gauge railway system covering 3 routes in the Harz region bounded by Wernigerode, Quedlinburg and Nordhausen not forgetting the most popular route being that from Wernigerode to the 3700 foot summit of the Brocken mountain.
I arrived in Werningerode in the afternoon of Sunday 17th June 2012 and was in time to do the last round trip up the mountain. The loco hauling this train was 99 7232 and these big 2-10-0s which are the mainstay of the railway have to be worked hard on gradients as steep as 1 in 30.
Early in the journey 99 7232 is heard making a very fine sound accelerating rapidly away from Steinerne Renne.
Was I impressed with the ride? I'll say!

99 7232 departing from Steinerne Renne. 17th June 2012
Click to play



On the following day, after another noisy run to the Brocken I decided to try for a few lineside recordings near Schierke.
Having gotten off a Wernigerode bound train which crossed the uphill train that I wanted to record I didn't get far from the station for this recording of 99 236 departing for the Brocken. This recording is shorter than it might have been.
I couldn't believe my eyes when, as the train got the right away, what did I spy coming over the crossing at the other end of the station but a tractor and some kind of large tree felling machine which then headed down the track that parallels the railway coming straight towards my recording position. Talk about good timing!

99 236 departing from Schierke. 18th June 2012

With forestry work going on in the vicinity I had to pick my recordings spots carefully so, after a meal in the station restaurant, I set off down the path that eventually leads to Eckerloch. I didn't go quite that far but this next recording of 99 7235 was made not far from the station.
Sound wasn't carrying as well as I might have wished but the loco sounds fine with 8 coaches behind the bunker.
And no interruptions this time either.

99 7235 departing from Schierke.

For the next train I walked a little further along the path and set up not far from a foot crossing perhaps half a mile from Schierke towards Eckerloch.
The loco was 99 7235 and sounds fine heading through the trees.

99 7235 between Schierke and Eckerloch.

HSBOn the following day I decided to have a ride on the Selketalbahn which runs from Quedlinburg to Eisfelder Talmühle with branches to Harzgerode and Hasselfelde. On this day there was only one steam hauled train on the line which I joined at Quedlingburg.
The line from Quedlinburg to Gernrode was originally standard gauge but was taken over by the HSB and converted to meter gauge as recently as 2006.
Beyond Gernrode the line climbs to a summit at Sternhaus Ramberg before descending to Mägdesprung and Alexisbad where the loco ran round to return bunker first to Gernrode.
The steepest gradient on the line is that from Mägdesprung to Sternhaus Ramberg, 1 in 25 at its steepest so this section, with the loco working bunker first was an obvious choice for an on-train recording.
The loco was 99 6001 a 2-6-2 built in 1939 and intended to be the first of a standard class for narrow gauge railways but, due to the unfortunate events which began in that same year no others were built so 99 6001 is one of a kind.
The recording begins not far from the summit of the climb and ends after a stop and restart at the request stop of Sternhaus Ramberg.

99 6001 arriving and departing from Sternhaus Ramberg. 19th June 2012

The next day, 20th June 2012 was wet. Indeed, it didn't stop raining all day so, after an early trip to the mist covered Brocken, just for the noise, not the view you understand, and as making more lineside recordings at Schierke wasn't something I wanted to do I continued down to Drei Annen Hohne where, after a coffee in the station restaurant I joined a train to cover part of the third HSB route, the Harzquerbahn which runs to Nordhausen.
HSBMy train, hauled by 99 7245 was only running as far as Eisfelder Talmühle and as there is a long climb on the return I decided to have a go.
The recording begins well into the climb beyond the request stop at Teifenbachmühle. A little further on is another request stop at Sophienhof which, even on this rainy day was required by three young ladies accompanied by a small group of quite small children. I hope their walk in the countryside wasn't spoiled too much by the weather and they all appeared to be waving happily as we left. In any case, it gave me the bonus of a stop and restart on the steep gradient!

99 7245 arriving and departing from Sophienhof. 20th June 2012

HSBThe next day, the last day of my visit was, after a little light rain in the morning, much drier although still quite misty so, once again there I was on the 08:55 from Wernigerode heading for the Brocken and this time I recorded the complete climb from Schierke to the Brocken behind 99 7234.
The recording here is just the initial part of the climb beginning with the start from Schierke.
Despite the light rain that had been falling there was very little difficulty with adhesion and, by the time we reached the summit, although there was plenty of mist about, it was dry and the sun was shining!

99 7234 departing from Schierke. 21st June 2012

HSBTrains descending from the Brocken usually pass another uphill train before reaching Schierke and rather than have a passing loop on the steep gradient, there is a level refuge siding which the downhill train enters to wait for the uphill train to pass and I had already worked out that this gave an excellent opportunity for a from the train, lineside recording!
So, my plan was to return on the same train and try for a recording at the siding.
We had been late coming up from Wernigerode due to having to deal with some sticking brakes and, as we were also late returning from the Brocken, the uphill train arrived at the siding before we did.
99 7239 makes a fine sound restarting its train on the steep gradient and is soon away allowing 99 7234 to reverse out onto the main line.

99 7239 passing the Brocken Siding.

Arriving at Schierke I made a quick change to an uphill train having decided to have another ride to the summit and have another go at recording at the siding on the way back.
My train was hauled by 99 236 and approaching the siding we were stopped to await the arrival of the downhill train which was a little late. This was too good an opportunity to miss so it was out with the recorder for a recording of the restart.
If you only listen to one recording on this page, make it this one; it's loud!
I'm certainly glad I didn't miss recording this!

99 236 restarting at the Brocken Siding.



Once again I returned on the same train from the Brocken and I tried another recording at the siding.
This time 99 7234 on the uphill train wasn't stopped on the climb and sounds to be going well as it passes before 99 236 can reverse out on the main line to continue downhill.

99 7234 passing the Brocken Siding.

HSBAs the weather was now dry, if still a little foggy, I decided I should try some more lineside recordings and after an abortive visit to Drei Annen Hohne where I had expected to get a meal; despite having seen a sign in the restaurant the previous day indicating that 'Freitag ist ruhetag' it appeared that Donnerstag was a closing day too!
So, disappointed and hungry I returned to Schierke where, thankfully the restaurant was open and, after a quick meal, I set off along the path towards Eckerloch but didn't go far before getting this recording of 99 7237 heading past up the gradient.

99 7237 not far from Schierke.

As this was my last day and I wanted a final ride up the hill I had only time to make one more recording at Schierke. This time I headed down the track towards Drei Annen Hohne to get a recording of the train I was going to ride on to the Brocken; I had plenty of time as it would stand in Schierke station for 20 minutes waiting to cross another train before proceeding up the mountain.
The train was hauled by 99 2743 which can be heard climbing towards Schierke before shutting off ready to stop in the station.

99 7243 approaching Schierke

HSBAfter the last recording I joined the train hauled by 99 7243 and had a final ride to the Brocken. Arriving there, although the summit was wreathed in cloud, it was dry and quite calm so I decided to stay and try for a recording of the next train climbing up to the Brocken station.
As the line spirals round the top of the mountain, in the original recording which lasts much longer there is a gap of about two or three minutes while the loco is inaudible but I've edited most of that out in this recording.
Visibility was virtually nil so it was an interesting experience to sit there, at an altitude of 1100 meters, in the clouds listening to the train climbing towards me and all I got was a brief glimpse of the train passing just below me only just visible through the fog. I was only able to identify the loco, 99 7239, when I returned to the station to ride back down to Wernigerode.

To say that I enjoyed my visit to the HSB would be something of an understatement and I'd encourage anyone who hasn't been to make the effort to visit. Those of us who were around before the end of BR steam will find on this railway something of the atmosphere that will remind us of those days. There's even the atmosphere of a real steam shed to enjoy at Wernigerode. Something definitely not to be missed.
Will I go again? I most certainly hope so!

99 7239 arriving at the Brocken.
HSBIf you would like to hear more recordings of steam on the HSB (and elsewhere in Germany) I can do no better than recommend a visit to Jörg Dreckmann's damfpsound web site. It was Jörg's recordings that originally sparked my interest in the HSB and eventually lead to my visiting the railway. The HSB itself also has a web site which is worth a look if you are planning a visit. It is mainly in German but there is some content in English.