Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fussen via DB - Updated

In February 1999, my lady friend and I embarked on a 14 day business trip to Munich (Munchen), Paris and London. Up to that time, I'd never had an interest in visiting Europe. But much to my surprise, as our Boeing 777 descended on final approach into Munich, I was suddenly overwhelmed when I realized the history of man that had played out on the land beneath our aircraft.

We traveled in February. While that was dictated by the business we had to attend to, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We had light snow flurries the entire time we stayed in Munich. It really added to the beauty and ambiance of the area. And being a “shoulder” travel period, we didn’t have to compete with the crowds found during “peak” travel time.

We took a day trip to Füssen to see Neuschwanstein Castle. The complete Deutsche Bahn (DB) railroad schedule is a thick as a big city phone book! This route map is for just the Bavarian District! Munich is the bright red dot in lower center of map. [Use the "+" icon to enlarge map.] Many trains operate in a “push-pull” mode, and this particular locomotive is the “pusher” on the first leg of our day trip to Upper Bavaria. Can anyone on the Continent id this type of locomotive for me?

My buddy Mike over in England had alerted me that German trains run on time. Sure enough, as I watched the hour hand on the station clock make its final click to 9AM, there was the subtlest of nudges as we departed Munich (Munchen!)

We had a six-minute train change at Kaufbeuren.


Once again, precision is remarkable. Looking across the platform, our connecting train was arriving and slowing down to a stop in near perfect synchronization to ours.

From Füssen we made the final leg up to Neuschwanstein Castle in a two horsepower wagon! I could write several pages describing Ludwig II, King of Bavaria's Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle is best known to American children as being the castle Walt Disney used as a model for his theme park castles.

Ludwig II King of Bavaria
March 1864 - June 1886

If you get a chance to go to Europe, make sure you build in a trip to Bavaria. I wish we could have had a month to explore more. One day was just a tease. We had planned a high-speed overnight train to Milano, but rail strikes were popping up all over, and we couldn’t take the chance on getting stranded.

Station Füssen. This clean Class 218, V160 motor family Bo-Bo, 2,467 hp diesel-hydraulic, had powered our train up from Kaufbeuren. These units have the nickname “rabbit” because of the angular twin exhaust stacks.

Only one “ear” is visible in this shot. The “thunder bolt” between windscreens warn maintenance personnel of the potential danger of overhead wires. There is an odd grab handle; how do you get there? And what are the "flag" like thingies on the nose?

Phil Cotterill caught this Class 218 diesel-hydraulic leaving Kempton several years ago. Exhaust pattern clearly shows how units got the "rabbit ears" moniker! (Thanks, Phil.)

I compared my German experience to my knowledge of the Coast Starlight service between Vancouver (WA) and Seattle. The Coast Start-late, in one study period from October 2005 through August 2006, delivered its passengers on time only 2% of the time, with trains consistently running 5 to 11 hours behind schedule. Apparently, the outlook for the future is just as grim.

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