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The 2010 Dampfspektakel

Over Easter 2010 I had the opportunity to be in the Eifel region of Germany for the 'Dampfspektakel', a four-day event that was touted to be one of the biggest train spectacles of the 2010 anniversary year of German railways.  What follows is a brief report on that trip, plus some photos courtesy of Heiner Neumann, a member of the organization in Gerolstein responsible for arranging the event, and Tim Chao, fellow 1-scaler and rail fanatic...

I’m delighted to report that, for once, the hype surrounding the event was justified. It was, in a word, spectacular. For those interested, I offer the following summary of my weekend…

                                photo by Tim Chao

Thursday, April 1: The flight from Detroit was uneventful, though full. We arrived on time in Frankfurt to a clear but chilly morning. After picking up my rental car, a surprisingly well-appointed Nissan Micra (the name was truly apropos, as it was the smallest four-door car I had ever seen that was not manufactured in the former East Germany), I picked up my father at his hotel near Frankfurt and headed to Piesport on the Mosel River. We took a couple of detours, first to Limburg Süd station on the high-speed line from Frankfurt to Cologne. Watching the ICE 3 trains barrel through at 300 km/h never ceases to amaze me. We also tried to stop at the DB Museum in Koblenz-Lützel to see whether any of the special trains there had arrived yet, but were immediately ushered off the grounds- the museum was closed in preparation for the events of the coming weekend.

I will spare everyone a detailed description of the Jaegerschnitzel dinner and the breakfast Friday morning, but those of you who have dined in Germany for dinner and breakfast already know why raving about both would be understandable.

Friday, April 2: I was out the door at 6:00 a.m. and headed to the train station of the town of Wittlich on the ‘Mosel Line’ between Koblenz and Trier. I arrived in time to see the first two regular trains (not steam trains) of the morning pass at the station. It was foggy and freezing cold, and the light show of sparks off the catenary as the two trains departed was amazing! I had seen it before in Frankfurt, but never like this. I drove back to Piesport for breakfast, and my father and I headed out around eight to the town of Bitburg, where we and a few dozen train fans awaited the arrival of the first steam train from Trier to Gerolstein, a six-pack of 2-axle ‘Umbauwagen’ pulled by a magnificent class 78.

Gerolstein was packed with enthusiasts when we arrived. We watched the departure of a double-ended consist headed to Daun / Ulmen of old Prussian coaches and a couple of freight cars plus a blue and cream 260 diesel bookended by the T11 (imagine a green BR74) and a class 58. Shortly thereafter the ‘special’ train from Dortmund arrived. We were hoping to see a V200 up front, but a V100 showed up instead. Because of low advanced reservations, that train only ran Friday and Saturday, which was also believed to be the reason that the owner of the V200 had pulled out of the event. Then a small 3-axle tank locomotive pulled our train from the Gerolstein depot the 1.5 km to the BW where the roundhouse and turntable were located. The approach to the BW is neat in that the 'Pendelzug', or shuttle train, crosses the turntable before coming to a stop. For the next three hours my father and I wandered the grounds and watched several trains and locomotives come and go. By late afternoon we were tired and chilled (luckily it had only sprinkled a couple of times throughout the day), and due to the delayed departure of our planned steam train back to Bitburg, we hopped on a DB RB ‘Talent’ instead. Dinner consisted of Nuremberger sausages and Bitburger (what else?) beer. Delicious.

Here are some pictures taken at the Gerolstein BW by Heiner Neumann:


Saturday, April 3: I was up and out the door by 6:15 with my next destination programmed into the car’s GPS. I had scouted out a railfanning location near Ehrang (suburb of Trier) thanks to Google Earth, and arrived to find a dozen railfans also camped out in that location. It wasn’t long before we got to enjoy a pair of steam trains coming out of Trier, a BR23 heading one to Gerolstein and a beefy 41 heading to Koblenz. I drove back to Piesport to pick up my father and have breakfast. Our next destination was Bullay and its famous double-deck bridge. Again, thanks to Google Earth, I had a great location and filmed three more trains, another BR41, an old East German railbus, and the TEE Rheingold, behind a BR103, as it came through Bullay station and over the bridge.

                                                                                                        photos by Tim Chao

We proceeded on to Koblenz, where the DB Museum was showcasing its collection of historic electric locomotives. At 14:30 we camped out along the approach tracks to the yard and enjoyed a parade of those locomotives, plus the ‘Adler’ and ‘Saxonia’. I was impressed with how many of these old electric locos are still operational! Once again, aside from a few sprinkles, the overcast skies remained precipitation-free…

After dropping off my father in Piesport I headed to Karthaus (near Trier) to watch the Luxemburg loco and the CFL train, along with an incoming train from Saarbrücken with (iIrc) a BR01 pass through. Fellow B&Ger Tim Chao and I then drove our diminutive 'Micra' back towards Koblenz, and I dropped Tim off in Wittlich at the station before stopping in Piesport.

Photos by Tim Chao

Sunday, April 4: After breakfast and attending church service at the beautiful village church in Piesport we headed back towards Bullay, but stopped in Pünderich to watch the railbus (‘Ferkeltaxi’) make its way to Traben-Trabach from Bullay and watch a westbound steam train headed to Trier cross the long stone viaduct there. It was raining, at times hard, and by the time we were back in the car I was soaked. We dried off on the drive to the Bullay station, where additional trains came and went. I filmed first at the station, then down at the edge of the Mosel. I apologize for not being able to describe the trains in more detail, but after about the first half-dozen in a day, it becomes hard to keep track!

More shots near Bullay by Tim Chao

I made a side trip late in the afternoon to the Mosel Line near Piesport to catch the TEE on its way back. It was running about ten minutes late, and I surmised that the steam train behind it, an East German consist with a DRG BR01, was also ten minutes late. Never assume such a thing. Not ten minutes after the TEE passed I watched in dismay from my rental car as a plume of smoke went past as I drove to a new viewing location. My attempts to outrun it using small tractor paths were in vain, though I think had I had one as a passenger in the car, even a pro rallye driver would have been gripping the armrest in terror!

Monday, April 5: I was out early (again) to the small town of Hetzerath on the Mosel line where a handful of enthusiasts were waiting for a pair of steam trains. One of the enthusiasts was Ron Perry, with whom I had corresponded prior to the event, and the two of us excitedly exchanged stories of the weekend. We were both at the station that morning to catch the first two trains of the day. As the first one approached we realized it wasn’t the coal-fired BR41 we expected, but the Danish NOHAB diesel that had been pressed into service because of problems with the 41. The train in the opposite direction did have the advertised oil-fired BR41 up front. I headed back to Piesport and enjoyed breakfast. My father and I were back at Ehrang mid-morning to watch a couple of trains come into Trier. My father wanted to make a side trip to Bitburg for a non-train-related stop, which took up the middle part of the day. In the afternoon I dropped him off and took up position near Uerzig and watched the same BR41 pass by, with Tim Chao and a few railfans waving frantically out the window as they went by. I finished the day in Daun with a couple more steam train ‘drive-bys’.

Thanks, Tim!  Great shots!

Tuesday, April 6: I had other plans on Tuesday, but although the Dampfspekatakel event was ‘officially’ over, there were still quite a few special trains and steam locomotives in Gerolstein. My other plans were to take me to Bonn, but I got up early in hopes of stopping in Gerolstein to catch some of the ‘ambience’ of the BW plus to watch the departure of the ‘Plandampf’ freight train. What followed would prove to be the highlight of my trip.

If you were to picture the Gerolstein BW facility in the 1960’s, you would have come fairly close over the Dampfspektakel weekend. Locomotives going in and out, steam trains and railbusses going by on the line next to the BW, etc. However, there would be one big difference between the actual historic operation and the ‘Spektakel’, namely the thousands of enthusiasts crammed around the turntable and across the grounds, climbing on equipment as they struggle for a viewing or photographing spot, walking in front of you as you try and film, and making sure that the lines are long enough that it will take at least a half hour to get a sandwich, buy a beer, or use the bathroom. If you were to remove, say, all but about EIGHT of those fans, you would experience what I got to enjoy that morning. Those of us who ventured out so early on Tuesday in the bright sunshine (and truly, when I got there it was less than a dozen railfans) were treated to what for me were the most amazing three hours of the weekend. For the next three hours I got to watch the locomotive crews at work in an orchestrated spectacle of ‘how things really were’ for those same crews, mostly unchanged, for the past 175 years.

Photo by Heiner Neumann

When I arrived, all but two of the roundhouse stalls had steam locomotives in them, with noses out the doors, and steam and smoke filling the bright blue sky. The handful of us who came out early watched steam locomotive after steam locomotive be pulled out of the roundhouse, spun on the turntable, and be readied for the day’s activities. The BR58 was first, and the first order of business was to clean out the ashes. We watched in awe as the fireman climbed onto the front of the locomotive and open the smoke chamber door. He shoveled out the ashes that had collected there and resealed the massive round cover. Ashes were also dropped out of the firebox. After this operation was completed, the water crane was turned into position and the tender was filled. The locomotive was moved to a neighboring track and with the help of a 1950’s Fuchs crane, the tender was loaded with coal. The BR50 was also prepared for its trip that day, and at the same time, the transfer train from the BW to the station was set up. We watched the T11 get lubricated as an ‘orientrot’ V60 assembled the two freight trains that were scheduled to make runs that day. There was so much going on, it was hard to decide what to watch, and we scampered as a group back and forth from the service tracks to the turntable, into the roundhouse, and back to the service tracks. By the time the freight train finally left shortly after ten, the crowd at the roundhouse had ballooned to several hundred since the first return trip for the ‘Pendelzug’ from Gerolstein station, but the morning had been absolutely amazing. My last memory of the Dampfspektakel was a good one- the BR50, with about a dozen freight cars in tow, pulling past the BW and disappearing past the rows of thunderboxes, Umbauwagen, and Prussian compartment coaches…

Finally, if you would like to see a short video of the

Dampfspektakel, please click on the image below. 

The DVD of the trip is available as well by

clicking on the same link.  Enjoy!

If you would like to order the 2-hour DVD, please click here