My journey across Europe started in the German city of Frankfurt am Main, and my second stop was the Austrian capital of Vienna, with a seven hour long train trip between the two.
Deutsche Bahn services the route with a number of direct services, but at the time we wanted to leave there were none, so we had to make a connection at Würzburg in Germany.
Our train originated elsewhere in Germany, and was actually a little late when it arrived into Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof (main station).
After a quick turnaround we boarded the train, and we headed out of the dead-end station.
Top speed on the route was only 200 km/h, with the train operating over a mix of newly built high speed rail routes, and existing tracks shared with freight trains and commuter services.
There were plenty of freight trains sitting in sidings along the way.
As well as commuter trains at major stations.
The hillsides became steeper as we headed south from Frankfurt.
Electricity seemed to be an ongoing theme along the way. An ‘unterwerk’ is a railway traction substation, which supplies the electricity to run the trains.
As well as substations, I snapped some photos of the high voltage transmission lines.
Solar panels out in the frozen snow covered landscape were not something that I expected to see.
Yet I found them all over the German countryside – apparently the country is the world’s top photovoltaics (PV) installer.
The staff onboard our train informed passengers of the status of the connecting trains at each station stop, so you knew whether you had time to dawdle between platforms, or to make a run for it.
Our train arrived at Würzburg Hbf a little late.
However our connecting train was also running late, so we were able to make our way to the other platform with no trouble.
I went for a wander up to the front carriage of the train, where the driver sits behind a glass window.
The passengers behind also get the same view.
Elsewhere in the train there are screens displaying the details of the service you are onboard.
Most of the journey was through open countryside.
But I spent most of my time waiting for the train to roll through populated areas, where there were more trains to be found.
I passed interesting rolling stock like this DB inspection train and way and works carriage.
As well as fruity coloured freight locomotives.
Shunting locomotives operated by private rail freight companies I had never heard of.
Modern electric freight locomotives.
A few leftovers from the days of the Iron Curtain.
And a train driver taking a piss between shunting moves.
Thanks to the Schengen Area we crossed into Austria with no fanfare at all – the only way I could tell was by noting down which station I was at.
As well as the different locomotives visible outside the train – ÖBB instead of DB.
Given it was the middle of winter, darkness fell quickly, and soon enough we had arrived in Vienna.
For the entire journey I had my GPS datalogger running – the resulting track can be found below.
“Shunting locomotives operated by private rail freight companies I had never heard of”
ALEX colour scheme
To correct your caption above, this modern high speed electric belongs to private (DB competetor) company ALEX, the name being taken from ALLGAU EXPRESS as it was originally known. Being part of the Vogtlandbahn group, itself an offshot of another conglomerate of multi-national railway companies, ALEX does definitely not run a single freight service, its “shunting” activities being limited to passenger carriages. They dont have any shunters as such, all (limited) shunting is done by main-line engines.
ALEX operates a very lively and active express passenger train network radiating from Munich to Lindau on the shors of Lake Constance (“Bodensee”) some 250 kms in length, with a branch from Kempten to resort town of Oberstorf) and another northern line from Munich via Regensburg to Hof, the former border station to extinct East Germany (“DDR”), with a branch line from Schwandorf station (30 mins north of Regensburg) to Prague, Czech Republic.
Munich-Hof is also some 250 kms in length, while Munich-Prague is probaly not short of 350 kms (on Czech soil even being rated as EC services). Many trains going north from Munich are being split up either at Schwandorf or Regensburg stations into two parts (and vice versa) with a new loco awaiting the Prague section train at either Regensburg or Schwandorf stations.
Munich to Lindau (Lake Constance) and Oberstorf is all-diesel (electrification attempts being discussed since 25 (!) years but seemingly to become reality now before 2020…), the Munich to Regensburg line being run exclusively by electrics, with the Regensburg to Hof (and branch line to Prague) being worked again with diesels only.
Diesel as well as electric power is of the most modern state of art, nothing short of DB, rather to the contrary. As is the passenger carriage material, which in many aspects is superior to DBs. And fares mostly are cheaper. (The more as all ALEX services being classified as “Regional” although virtually as fast as DBs non-IC/ICE services, thus qualifying for the cheaper regional price scheme to start with).
Tickets can be bought on board of any ALEX train, while buying tickets aboard a DB train, if at all possible, suffers a hefty surcharge…..
All ALEX routes mentioned (being their only ones) are worked in, say, partnership with DB, thus an ALEX is followed by a DB train, then an ALEX again, and so on. As a fare-paying passenger I would always prefer an ALEX train to a DB one, even if it would entail a one-hour wait.
Besides modern passenger cars, partly air-conditioned, even some double-deck vehicles, ALEX does operate a few nostalgic cars (in red-and-yellow colour scheme similar to former Rheingold stock, with old-style comfortable seating, small tables, even small table lamps etc.), refurbished for 160 km per hour and used in regular schedules. Catching one of these cars in a train is always a big highlight for the fan…..
Hubert – thanks for the info about Alex, I took a look at Wikipedia, and the list of private companies operating passenger rail services in Germany is quite long!
indeed, the list of private rail operators in Germany is quite long, and becoming longer virtually every month… Its sort of a viscious circle. While state-owned DB is suffering from shortage of everything, money, rolling stock, staff, facilities etc., more and more private entities take over passenger services (after legal de-regulation some years ago.) Same goes for freight carriage, but that another cattle of fish…..
DB as the infrastructure owners used to apply hefty useage fees on the private ones (making life difficult for them) but have just recently been curtailed to “sensible fees” by legislation. As mentioned before, some privates share routes with DB, like ALEX, others work many sectors exclusively. A number of privates work diesel as well as electric rail cars out of series production from companies like Stadler of Switzerland, Bombardier, and others, railcars that have initailly been constructed for purely local and regional routes, but were easily adapted to long-range service, upping them for speeds as high as 160 kmh, putting in new seats and more comportable outfits etc., and within a short time (ready availibility), the private operators have a new fleet of rolling stock at much more reasonable purchase prices compared to ordering long-rate stuff from the outset.
This goes as well for private Austrian WESTBAHN (West Rail) working Salzburg (border station between Germany and Austria) to Vienna services hourly in competition to state-owned OEBB. WESTBAHN double deck rolling stock is externally exactly matching Zurich S-train suburban services (both being self-propelled electric rail cars), bought new from manufacturers Stadler of Switzerland, out of a large batch of orders by others, with new drive gear capable of 200 kmh, superior interior (really outstanding, not compareable to OEBBs fleet), on-board ticket buying facilities without penalty surcharge, an attendant in every car (!!), a large toilet in every car, a nice serviced snack bar desk in every five-cars composition, etc. This may not be surprising, knowing that the WESTBAHN founder and initial CEO used to be Swiss SBB chairman for many years before he retired….. (The world `s getting smaller).
All this compares well to German ALEX (sic) where, too, you can buy on-board tickets without surcharge, which you cannot aboard DB, have a nice snack bar in every train which you do have not in DB`s, have a toilet in every car that works, very much to the contrary to DB where I myself was aboard and watched as a train had to make an unscheduled 15-minutes-stop at a small station to “cater” for tumulting passengers demanding to relieve themselves (on a four-hours journey) as the one and only toilet on the train was not working (again…..)
Reverting to the “privates” in Germany – one good thing is that all privates are bound by law to accept pre-purchased DB tickets and vice-versa at an identical fare, and also have to honour any and all special fares, weekend promotions, etc. A really consumer-friendly deal.
This cross-ticket-acceptance rule does not apply to WESTBAHN in Austria however which does not accept OEBB tickets and vice-versa. To “compensate” for this, all WESTBAHN tickets, anyway, are exactly just half the fare of OEBB`s. Plus a number of additional concessions apply on WESTBAHN too.
With an hourly Salzburg to Vienna service on WESTBAHN, who would dare to wait for an OEBB train? Add to this the fact that WESTBAHN is a couple of minutes faster than OEBB on the same routes.
Dont get me wrong, I am not putting down DB in Germany. Not at all. Its a hugh company with a hugh network (although shrinking), a hugh infrastructure, a hugh composition of staff etc. and generally quite acceptable service (acceptable, not outstanding, however). I guess DB`s size is its main stumbling block, it makes it unsurveyable, unflexible, and their big shots in the Berlin DB tower probably have lost their view down to the ground…
Super-fast high-speed ICE trains are not the only answer to today`s rail transportation needs. They are good for publicity, for marketing, but not
for the general travelling public.
All this just as a brief update on a very agile central European rail environment.
(off in an hour to another ALEX ride, hopefully one of their vintage carriages is in the train…..)
I saw one of the Westbahn double deckers in 2012 – they’re a nice looking unit.
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