Wernigerode – Brocken – Wernigerode
OK that’s a real mouthful. HSB is better known to English speakers as the Harz railway, a network of narrow gauge railways, of which the line to the summit of the Brocken is the most dramatic.
With a trip across Germany in early March, there is no way I was going to bypass this iconic line, especially when there was a decent chance of fresh snow. I’d seen so many snowy photos of this line over the years.
Wernigerode is a little off the beaten track, which meant arriving the night before, but I was staying in a hotel literally across the road from the main yard, so could watch them coaling up as I ate my breakfast.
I headed over to the station, managed to acquire a ticket (English not spoken) and joined the surprisingly empty 09:40 service. I immediately bagged a spot right at the back of the train.
Compared to the UK, they Germans have a very relaxed attitude to safety, or maybe they are just not as inclined as the British to sue anyone who lets us do anything stupid. Whatever the reason, this was pretty much the perfect spot, giving views of the line looking back and of the entire train ahead of me.
This was the first steam service of the day so the only things we met on the way were a snowplough and blower on their way back down the mountain, at one of the intermediate stations. Despite pretty steady snowfall overnight, everything ran on time and there was no hint of problems, all the way to the summit.
As we headed higher, the mists closed in and well before the summit it became difficult to see from one end of the train to the other. It was all very dramatic, but by the time we reached the summit visibility had all but gone. The sign on the visitor centre was just about readable.
I’d decided not to stick around. The next option down the mountain was a couple of hours away, and there was no chance of capturing the famous long-distance views from this high point. Instead, I jumped straight back onto the same service and headed down. With the engine on “my” end I had the opportunity to get closer than I think I’ve ever been to a moving locomotive. There was very little smoke – we were mostly coasting back down the mountain – so a few interesting angles were captured. The one moment where we did climb briefly, as we left Schierke, made for a fun bit of video.
At the midway point we met two more services going the other way. One to the summit and the other onto another section of this extensive network. You really do need a few days to see it all, but I think that is more of a summer visit than a winter one.
A little under four hours after leaving Wernigerode, we arrived back. A really super run and highly recommended.