It was September 1974 when I first set foot on European soil at Zurich airport. We had just travelled from Nairobi Kenya, where we were within a whisk of losing all our expensive photographic equipment before we got started. We hired a car for a day to photograph the big 59 class Garratts. Before leaving the capital, we decided to do a little shopping and someone smashed the car window as we returned. They ran off when we approached. That taught me not to leave camera bags, or anything in full view. It was quite a change from Australia.
We arrived on our Swiss Air Flight to meet our 3 comrades who had driven all day from England with the 5 birth Comer Campervan, ready for the European steam adventure of a lifetime. Unfortunately, my friend’s luggage went to Johannesburg from Nairobi, so we had a day to kill before heading out of town.
We headed for Lucerne which looked gorgeous in early morning light, and then on to the Brienz Rotthorn Bahn rack railway, which I think is still running. In any case it was about all the steam there was in Switzerland at the time. After a pleasant if slow trip up the mountainside, watching the Cheese being loaded and rising above the clouds, we stopped for lunch at the mountain top restaurant. We thought we had come to heaven with a basket with an amazing array of Swiss Chocolates and Bread sitting on our table. Being true Aussies, we figured they were there for the taking as a token of thanks for patronising the establishment. This was short lived. At the end of the meal, our waiter totalled up every crumb we had consumed and charged us an exorbitant amount for the lot. We had been in Europe less than a day and already in money mad Switzerland we had blown our budget. It taught us yet another lesson and made us more prudent for the rest of the trip.
On the way back down the hill, a troupe of Swiss Yodellers came on board. It really was like the “Sound Of Music” with bells around the cows’ necks, Swiss Horns and of course the Yodelling singers!
On To Germany
Our instinct was to get out of Switzerland as soon as possible to the relatively cheap haven of West Germany. Yes, at the time the Berlin Wall stood firm, and the country was split in two. An Aussie dollar was worth 4 marks at the time. Today it is 1.5 Marks to the Aussie Dollar and before the GFC it was 1 to 1. We headed for Rottweil, back tracking through Zurich.
As my mates were dead tired, they threw me the keys to our Right Hand Drive car, and I gingerly started driving down what I knew to be the wrong side of the road. This was challenging to say the least.
All went well until we reached the German Border Post. By this stage I had been driving a while and was getting a bit tired. I took the camper a little too close to the guard house and clipped it with the mirror. Having read all that stuff about Germans and their lack of sense of humour, I was petrified I would be locked up or worse! As it turns out they thought the whole incident was very funny and sent us on our way. We were to find out that compared to Eastern Europe, borders in this part of the world are heaven.
The number 1 on the map is Brientz. This was a 186 km drive
Rottweil, is a small town of some 25,000 people, situated in Southern Germany. At that time it was the last German outpost for the Prussian P8s, known as the 38 class. These were rather different from our Australian version, being 4-6-0s and built in the early 1900s. We were able to photograph the last remaining 38 in West Germany, 38-1172-0, built in 1915 and in service until a couple of months after our visit in February, 1975. These locos spread all over German occupied territories, and we managed to photograph a few in Poland under the guise of the OK1 class. There were 3,700 of these engines produced, while only a handful were left by 1974!
While at the depot, we saw West Germany’s last remaining 78 class tank engine in regular service as well. These hauled many passenger trains in the area over the years.
Of course, we didn’t come all the way to Europe to get a few depot shots, so we headed out into the countryside. Here we get a delightful shot of the 38 class on a regular passenger train from Rottweil to Villigen.
We found out that the 38 was going for a trip down the Danube while we were there, so we followed along for a while. It certainly is a place of spectacular scenery.
38 class on a tour passing one of those cliff top dwellings the Danube is famous for its Castles and spectacular scenery.
Fortunately, there was other steam in the area. I believe the whole thing went diesel or electric the year after we were there. Certainly many of my travels had a great sense of urgency, not always because of pending dieselisation, but the disappearance of locomotive variety. In latter years there were often only one or two types of loco running everything. You can see this with the huge number of QJs and JFs in China.
Speaking of common West German steam, the freight trains along the Danube were hauled by 50 class. The road ran alongside the river and railway line which was very convenient. Surveying the area, I decided the best spot was on top of the cliff next to the road, so I did some rock climbing on a fairly precarious precipice. As I got higher and higher, it was quite scary! It was worth the climb as it made for some great photography.
German 051-747-0 takes a leisurely stroll down the Danube with a passenger train
I love this shot, however, the view from the other direction is even better in my opinion.
051-202-0 heads beside the Danube on a freight
The above shot probably had the normal full sun for Northern Europe at that time. A little further down the line we caught up (almost) with the passenger. It was passing a site where tourists stopped to take pictures.
We farewelled this area and headed to our next destination in the Black Forest.
50 Class heads past a scenic lookout while tourists watch on
Part of this line is the famous Dornstetten Viaduct, a very high bridge. We managed to get a photo of a steam passenger crossing this structure while we were there.
50 class crosses the Dornstetten viaduct on a passenger
This was our first taste of German steam and a very pleasant one at that. At the same time it introduced us to the rather hazy weather that was a feature of that part of the world. It is a far cry from the clear skies of Australia and South Africa. Still, I am very grateful I made it in time to see some of these great locomotives.
As the 38 hauled special continues on its way, we bid farewell to the Rottweil area.