Vol 22: Plandampf In The Werratal

Plandampf: regular service trains worked by steam. Three class 52 2-10-0 “Kriegsloks”, express pacific 03.1010 and mixed traffic 2-8-2 41.1144 are put to work on freight and passenger trains between Eisenach and Meiningen in the German state of Thüringen, including 2500 tonnes of gravel, which needs all three class 52s. Also, 41.1144 and 50.3051 work a special passenger train from Eisenach to Eisfeld to mark 150 years since the opening of the line through the valley of the River Werra.

(1 hour 30 minutes)


The idea is simple. A proportion of the timetabled trains in a district are hauled by steam instead of diesel or electric, complimented by a number of extra charter trains. It’s paid for by enthusiasts stumping up around €250 each. In return they receive full information about the trains, including any late changes, and a pass to ride on any charter passenger trains – though they have to pay the normal fare on normal service trains. To learn more, visit www.plandampf.co.uk

“Dampf Trift Keis”

“Steam Meets Gravel” is perhaps a strange name for a railway enthusiasts’ event. Gravel is one of the main exports from the River Werra valley, with several 2500+ tonne trains despatched all over the country every week. The centre-pieces of this event were three gravel trains of 10, 20 and 30 gravel hoppers (85t each, laden) worked by 1, 2 and 3 Kriegsloks respectively. It was thought that the event in October 2007 would be the last on theEisenach– Meiningen line, since it was due to be modernised and re-signalled. Happily this scheme was delayed, hence the 2008 event.

The Route

The line from Meiningen to Eisenach follows the river Werra northwards, falling gently to Bad Salzungen, where the route to Eisenach branches off and climbs towards a ridge of hills called the Rennsteig. The summit, just beyond Förtha, is followed by a tunnel under the main ridge of the Rennsteig, then the line falls more steeply to the city of Eisenach.

The line to Eisfeld, used for Sunday’s special train, climbs gently south and then eastwards from Meiningen, again following the River Werra. The hard climbing starts beyond Eisfeld, so that will have to wait for another day.

Meiningen is justly famous for its locomotive works, which survived though the communist era and is still busy overhauling preserved locos and building new components, including the welded steel boiler for British A1 pacific 60163 Tornado.

Eisenach is dominated by the Wartburg, a medieval castle perched on a cliff above the city. I was told I’d be able to see it from the lineside, at a spot known as the “Wartburgblick”. Sadly, the weather didn’t allow this while I was there!


Class 52.80: 2 cylinder 2-10-0 heavy freight locos. Although the term has been applied to several classes built during WW2, the class 52 is what most people think of as a “Kriegslok” (war loco). Based on the older class 50 but much simplified, the 52s were not designed for a long life. Over 6000 were built and many survived into the 1950s. DR, East German state railways, reconstructed many of the survivors into the class 52.80 in the late 1950s.

52.8075 (ex 52 1292) owned by IGEW, based at Bahnbetriebswerk Eisenach.

52 8079 (ex 52 5659) owned by Christian Goldschagg, based at BW Nossen.

52 8154 (ex 52 4896) privately owned, based at Leipzig-Plagwitz.

50.3501: 2 cylinder 2-10-0 heavy freight loco. First of a series of locos reconstructed from older class 50s  built during the war, following the success of the 52.80 class. 50.3501 belongs to the Meiningen locomotive works.

41.1144: 2 cylinder 2-8-2 mixed traffic loco, built in 1941. Owned by IGEW, based at Bahnbetriebswerk Eisenach.

03.1010: 3 cylinder “lightweight” express passenger 4-6-2 locomotive, originally built in 1939 as a streamliner, later rebuilt with a conventional appearance. Owned by Deutche Bahn and based at Halle. This plandampf was almost it’s last appearance. On Saturday 1st Nov it hauled its farewell rail-tour from Berlin to Sondershausen and back to Halle. At the time, it was not expected that DB would overhaul this loco in the foreseeable future. Happily, the situation changed and she was back in action by 2011. Nick-named “The Roaring Monster” by German fans.


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