Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 15 March 2024

Steam trains - up a mountain and along a valley

 My trainspotting days are long gone, but they were in the age of steam, and something remains of the appeal of the steam engine which quiet, efficient electric trains just don't seem to have.  Our group had a strong contingent of serious anoraks, who knew a great deal about all that sort of thing and enthusiastically took up the option to explore as much as possible of the Harz network, with the rest of us tagging along for a couple of rides with the better views. (It wasn't just the engines that were old - the carriages were, I suspect, old third-class stock from East German railways - wooden seats and not much in the way of suspension, while the toilet facilities were the old-style trap that simply opened on to the track beneath).

The high point (literally) of the trip was to go up the Brocken mountain. Old legend has it that on Walpurgisnacht, witches would gather on the mountain for a "witches' sabbath" (sort of a springtime Halloween, but no doubt used in its time for the periodic persecution of supposed witches, as elsewhere). More recently, being such a handy high point so close to the border between East and West Germany, it became a listening post for surveillance and spying on Western transmissions, but also housed (as it still does)  a TV transmission tower. 

The train winds its way up through forests (sadly depleted since a blight struck much of it a few years ago,  as did some wildfires) to the - frankly rather bleak - plateau on top. Perhaps not surprisingly, the views from the top were almost entirely of enclosing clouds, so nobody wanted to linger.

Another day, we had more sunshine and a gentle ride through a river valley, to a quiet spa town and back. 

And it looked and felt like this:



  1. There is something rather special about a journey that involves a steam train, isn't there? Jx

    1. I'll say. It conjures up memories of no end of old movies. 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Titfield Thunderbolt.... Chuff chuff!

  2. I am really sorry to see the woods in such a bad state !

    Das "Stahltier" is always fascinating.

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  4. Hey! I haven't been by lately but I am please as Punch to see you posting. I promise to be more regular.