More Allgäubahn Diversions
20 - 24 June 2012
Report by Duncan Cotterill
Regular readers of these pages will be aware that the Allgäubahn from München to Lindau via Kempten is one of my favourite German lines, abounding with superb photo positions but rather short on loco-hauled trains, especially west of Immenstadt. From 10 June to 8 July 2012 the parallel route via Memmingen was closed for engineering work and three pairs of EuroCity trains between München and Zürich were diverted via Kempten, joining the one pair that normally goes that way. I spent five days on the line between Wed 20 and Sun 24 June, photographing the ECs and other trains. See my previous reports for details of the line and the services that use it. I won’t cover the basics here, only the changes since my last visit in September 2011 (report here) and other sightings of interest.
I flew from Heathrow to München with Lufthansa and hired a car to get around. Accomodation at the Landhotel Bauer in Sonthofen on the Oberstdorf branch was booked through www.booking.com.
This section of the report summarises what was seen. For train by train details with loco numbers etc, go to the Day by Day pages.
The vast majority of trains ran as expected with all the EC services double-headed by Mühldorf class 218s on six, or occasionally seven, coach rakes of SBB stock. In previous years the diverted trains hadn’t been formally retimed and, as a result, had just run 15 – 20 minutes late after regaining their normal route at Hergatz or Buchloe. This time the timetable published in December 2011 contained details of the diverted trains with earlier departures from München for westbounds and later arrivals for eastbounds to allow for the slower route via Kempten and maintain the standard timings in Austria and Switzerland. While westbounds generally ran close to the booked times, a number of eastbounds ran up to 20 minutes later than expected. Ironically, this was almost certainly due to delays west of Lindau as internal ALEX and DB services ran to time.
The daily InterCity services from Oberstdorf to Augsburg and Magdeburg continued unaltered with 218 haulage to Augsburg and Stuttgart respectively. Ulm provides the locos for these services and they usually come from a small pool of locos numbered in the 218.4xx series. However, this time 218.326 was also in use and worked the Augsburg train at least three days in a row.
DB Regio have made some alterations to their services this year, reducing the number of 218 workings on the tedious route from Augsburg to Lindau via Memmingen to one a day. On the positive side, there is a new two-hourly service from München to Kempten, replacing the trains that previously terminated at Kaufbeuren. Not all the Kempten trains are loco hauled but most are and this dramatically increases the opportunities to photograph 218s and red coaches on the scenic section over the Günzacher Steige between Biessenhofen and Kempten. There are also additional loco hauled trains this year between Augsburg and Füssen, as described in my April trip report. West of Kempten the vast majority of DB Regio services are still worked by class 612 DMUs with only a handful of services to Oberstdorf worked by 218s on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays there are a few more 218s to Oberstdorf and also a “Radlzug”, or Bike Train, from München to Lindau and back, worked by a 218 and push-pull set.
ALEX trains continue to operate as before with class 223 haulage from München to Immenstadt, where the Oberstdorf portion is detached. The 223 then continues with the remaining two or three coaches to Lindau. Only three different ALEX 223s were seen during the whole trip, 223.061, 223.068, 223.071. The fourth turn was worked by mustard and silver Dispolok 223.007, harking back to the first incarnation of ALEX when 253s (as they were then) in this livery were the norm. In those days ALEX locos didn’t go to Lindau and they didn’t haul the distinctive blue, white and yellow coaches that form today’s ALEX trains, so some fairly unique pictures were possible.
The Immenstadt – Oberstdorf ALEX portions are still worked by a class 2143 hired from SVG. Blue liveried 2143.18 was the resident loco at the beginning of the trip but red liveried 2143.21 was seen heading west near Günzach on Friday so they could have swapped around.
There is little freight on the Allgäubahn and associated routes and nothing regular west of Kempten. A pick-up goods ran from Buchloe to Kempten and back on Thursday, hauled by 294.710, and from Buchloe to Günzach and back on Friday with the same engine. 294.661 was seen east of Günzach with a short train of scrap metal on Friday and was a divertion from the Memmingen line according to a local photter. The only other freight related experience was seeing 233.452 go towards München light engine, east of Buchloe on Wednesday.
June can be a difficult time for railway photography with harsh lighting in the middle of the day, always assuming there is any light. With this trip I had little choice when to go as the EC diversions were only on for a few weeks.
It had been almost two years since I’d visited the eastern section of the line and I was dismayed to find a number of the classic spots between Kempten and Biessenhofen had become hopelessly overgrown, or in one case planted with a forest of trackside poles. In some ways it was a blessing in disguise as it made me look for alternative locations rather than duplicating existing shots. Having visited the line at least once a year since 2006, I thought I knew where all the good spots were but was amazed to find a load of new locations, several of which were very good indeed.
As always, the weather played a huge part in the success or otherwise of the photography. Every day had a mixture of bright sunshine, hazy light and thick cloud with enough good light for me to feel that the trip was a moderate success. In addition to the cloud, there was a prolonged period of rain on Wednesday afternoon and a few heavy showers to contend with. Thursday and Friday were also notable for oppressive heat and humidity that made walking any distance an ordeal.
Comments and Conclusions
The Allgäubahn remains one of the best lines for photography in all of Europe, at least when there are EC diversions on. There’s glorious scenery, excellent photo locations and a variety of motive power, coaching stock and liveries. Best of all, there are no wires. All that’s needed is long trains to fill the big vistas and sweeping curves. Apart from the railway interest, the Allgäu is also a very pleasant place to be with picturesque villages and towns, friendly people and plenty of good hotels and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back.
There should be more opportunities to photograph diverted EC trains in the next couple of years. The upgrading and electrification of the line from München to Lindau via Memmingen is expected to take until 2017 and there will undoubtably be more engineering occupations before it’s finished. How long the 218s will last is a moot point as DB should have 15 new Bombardier diesels in service in Bayern by 2014, not enough to eliminate the 218s but enough to make a large dent in their ranks.
The future of the 2143 workings to Oberstdorf must also be in doubt with the recent announcement that ALEX services from Nürnberg to Plzen will cease at the end of the year, to be replaced by more München to Plzen trains. These will probably be operated as portions of existing München - Hof services, reducing the requirement for class 223s north of Regensburg and possibly freeing up a loco to work the Immenstadt - Oberstdorf trains.