German railfans exploring the world of rail

For many railfans their interest in railways ends at the border of their own country, with little interest in the trains found elsewhere in the world. But it seems that German railfans are an exception to this, being happy to follow trains wherever they run.

Trains everywhere!

I first noticed this when I was looking up the Richards Bay Coal Line in South Africa, and the only Wikipedia page on the subject was in German – nothing in English, and nothing in Afrikaans.

Photo by Pechristener, via Wikimedia Commons

A history of the tramways in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar – the German language page is three times as long as the English one.

Unknown photographer, via Wikimedia Commons

A track plan for the MTR Light Rail system in Hong Kong – drawn by a German.

MTR Phase I LRV 1029 on route 615 in Yuen Long

As was the track plan for the Hongkong Tramway system.

Hong Kong tram #46 in Wan Chai

But why? Science and technology form a large part of German culture, which presumably combined with a open worldview means a German railfan is more likely to take an interest in the railways elsewhere in the world.


There is a German company called Tanago that runs guided railway photography tours to offbeat locations all over the world.

Liked it? Take a second to support Marcus Wong on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
This entry was posted in Trains, Trams and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to German railfans exploring the world of rail

  1. Hubert Strasser says:

    Absolutely correct. Would not know the reason why but German rail freaks are pretty active internationally, more active maybe than other nationalities. This is not to praise the “Germans” as such but maybe just their temper to discover new things.

    I for my part, as a German, used to ride on rails world-wide (all modes) for half a century, whereever I dropped into for a lay-over as a (now retired) active aircrew. While the other folks were attempting their luck on the “cultural” side, or simply tried to fix an appontment with a member of the other sex for the next stop-over, I always was quite busy discovering rails. More often than not very much to the laughter of my fellow crew members.

    As an addict, I would even call myself a railway historian, and especially old, disused tracks, maybe half buried under sand or gravel, drive me crazy to discover, and I have succeeded in most cases, albeit maybe sometimes only after month-long reseach attempts.

    Referring to organized guided rail tours by one of the numerous German operators, I never was too happy to join them, as firstly there were (and are) pretty expensive, compared to regular rail fares, and secondly, they most of the time would have kept my bound within the group, while on individual research – even maybe for the price of missing out on something – left me independant.

    What I can really recommend for individual travel is

    being an outstanding tool for planning, even on the budget side.

    By the way, a totally different subject.

    You have probably heard of the “Hunters of the Sunken Engine”…
    180 years ago, a small steam engine was shipped on a sailing ship down the river Rhine from the manufacturers plant to the operators shed, a distance of some 150 kilometres within todays Germany. Then there came a big storm, off the planks fell the poor engine, and gone she was!

    For 25 years (!) a group of specialists from the genre (some of them I happen to know personally) did scientifically supported research to find her again, all backed by universities, geologists etc. until some five years ago (!) when they discovered someting exactly on the spot of the accident that must have been her….. They even published a book on the subject. Size, contours, materials, all pointed to the very engine, buried in deep mud six meters under the surface of the river Rhine. A very big, a really very hugh, action followed, and about a million Euros were raised for the recovery undertaking, in addition to much of industrial support. The river Rhine was closed for the extensive commercial shiping traffic while the diggers digged, a real “state action” indeed, TV stations all over the world (!) reported, the New York Times as well as the London Times had extensive coverage, about ten thousand viewers had booked for good money to watch the recovery from ashore on 21 October last, the big day came, and they found…..

    – nothing –

    Noone has an explanation for this failure, with all those scientific confirmations before, and the organizers, headed by the wonderful Darmstadt railway museum, have now given up (so far, that is). They said they first have to gulp this tremendous disappointment before considering eventual future actions.

    Happy New Year!

    • +1 for how useful the website is – I used it when I travelled across Europe, and it seems like they have every passenger rail corridor in the world covered!

    • An interesting comparison for railfan interests is Australia.

      Until a few decades ago each Australian state had a government run railway operator, and railfans often limited their interest to just their “home” railway – sometimes even ignoring private lines and narrow gauge systems close to home.

      It doesn’t help that Australians are pretty parochial, identifying with our home state rather than ‘Australia’ as a whole.

    • While over in American, they had so many different railroads that just going beyond your “favourite road” gave railfans a massive variety to look at.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *