Summer on the Allgäubahn

05 - 09 June 2013

Report by Duncan Cotterill


After suffering a week of bad weather in the Allgäu area of southern Bavaria at the beginning of May, I still had a long list of shots that I wanted to get. The opportunity to put things right came in early June with a five day trip to the München – Lindau line and the branches to Oberstdorf and Füssen. One reason for visiting at this time was the temporary closure of the Buchloe - Memmingen line for engineering work, necessitating the diversion of München - Zürich EuroCity services via Kempten.

Extremely heavy rains led to serious flooding over a wide area of southern Germany and surrounding countries a few days before the start of the trip. The disruption caused by the floods on the Donau around Deggendorf and Passau were still the top item on every news broadcast until the end of my trip.

Although there had been localised flooding in the Allgäu, there appeared to be no lasting effects and train services were all operating normally on the lines visited. The München – Garmisch line, only a little further east, wasn’t so lucky and was expected to be closed for some time.

This part of the report summarises what was seen. For detailed day by day observations including loco numbers, go to the Day by Day section.

218.423 climbed towards Görwangs with EC194, the diverted 12:12 from München to Zürich on Saturday 8 June 2013. The train would reach the summit of the Allgäubahn, just east of Günzach, after another 8km of uphill running.

It was a rare treat to find this train hauled by a single loco instead of the booked pair of 218s. That may seem like a strange statement but a single engine looks more appropriate on six coaches and the single headed trains I saw appeared to have no difficulty keeping time over the Allgäubahn's rollercoaster profile.

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Attacking the Günzacher Stiege from the other side, 223.061 climbed away from Kempten and out of Illertal with ALX84145, the 08:00 from Lindau to München, on 8 June 2013. In the background the glorious Allgäu landscape stretches all the way to the snowcapped peaks of the Alps on the Austrian border south of Oberstdorf.

Travel Arrangements

Flights from Gatwick to München and back were with easyJet. A hire car was used to get around and accommodation, at the Landhotel Bauer in Sonthofen on the Oberstdorf branch, was arranged via

KBS970 etc München – Kempten – Lindau and branches (The Allgäubahn)

These are among Germany’s most photogenic diesel worked lines, running through the beautiful green, hilly landscape of the Allgäu, the area southwest of München, east of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and just north of the Alps.

The München - Lindau line is double track throughout but the branches to Füssen and Oberstdorf are single track with passing loops. Electrification extends 42km from München to Geltendorf, the limit of the S-Bahn service. All other lines in the area are unwired apart for the last few hundred metres into Lindau Hbf.

More details of the lines and the services that run over them can be found in my earlier trip reports.

DB Regio's red 218s and push-pull sets used to be common on the Oberstdorf branch but now work a tiny minority of services. 218.471 returned from Oberstdorf with the 18:59 Fridays only empty stock to Kempten, photographed approaching Blaichach on Friday 7 June 2013.

Passenger Trains

Nothing much has changed since last year with class 218s working the bulk of DB Regio services from München to Buchloe, Füssen, Memmingen and Kempten.
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The Buchloe – Memmingen line was closed for planned engineering work but services were running as far as Buchloe with the booked traction. The blockade also meant that all four pairs of EC trains between München and Zürich were running via Kempten. The ECs were booked for pairs of 218s between München and Lindau but several were seen single headed, hardly a problem with only six coaches in tow, and timekeeping didn’t seem to suffer. The two pairs of IC trains from Oberstdorf also remain 218 worked to Augsburg and Stuttgart respectively.

Most other DB Regio services were worked by class 612 tilting DMUs but a class 628 was seen on a stopper on the Oberstdorf branch and a pair of 642s turned up on an Augsburg – Füssen stopper.

ALEX services from München to Lindau and Oberstdorf were loco hauled as expected with class 223s working from München to Lindau and back. Most trains were worked by locos in ALEX blue, white and yellow livery but black Dispolok 223.013 was also seen on the Thursday. On the Oberstdorf branch yellow 218.391 was working ALEX services on the Wednesday and Thursday but ALEX liveried 223.065 worked the remaining three days. SVG’s 2143.18 was seen heading west towards Kempten on the Sunday so things could have changed again. ALEX still continues to run a number of two-coach trains west of Immenstadt and a couple were noted on the Oberstdorf branch as well but most trains were three or even four coaches west/south of Immenstadt and six or seven coaches north of there.
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ALEX hasn't got enough 223s to cover all the services they operate all the time so they often hire something in to work the least demanding duty, shuttling back and forth between Immenstadt and Oberstdorf with through coaches from or to München.

After a long period when SVG provided an ex-ÖBB class 2143, yellow liveried 218.391 belonging to DB's infrastructure division has appeared fairly regularly this year.

The loco was photographed heading south from Blaichach with ALX84172, the 17:13 from München Hbf to Oberstdorf, on 6 June 2013.

233.572 passed Görwangs, east of Günzach, with a westbound train of rails on Saturday 8 June 2013. The loco was working hard and could be heard approaching for several minutes before it finally appeared.

Freight Traffic

There isn’t a lot of freight in the Allgäu with a 294 worked Mondays to Fridays pick-up goods from Buchloe to Kempten being the only regular working. That train wasn’t seen but on the Saturday 233.572 worked a heavy train of welded rails west towards Kempten. It isn’t known if it went any further.
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KBS751 Ulm - Friedrichshafen (The Südbahn)

Most Ulm - Lindau services are worked by class 218s on double-deck push-pull sets, some of which run through to/from Stuttgart. 218.496 approached Meckenbeuren with IRE4225, the 10:02 Stuttgart Hbf - Lindau Hbf on 6 June 2013.

A brief visit was paid to this line on the Thursday morning. All but one of the Ulm - Lindau trains seen were worked by 218s on push-pull sets. The exception was IRE4207, formed of a pair of class 611 tilting DMUs. This train had been loco hauled when seen in May. Both the Ulm – Basel Bad (currently only running as far as Schaffhausen) trains seen were pairs of 611s as expected.

The main reason for my visit was to see the one regular daylight freight working, a 232 hauled stone train from Roßberg on the Aulendorf – Kißlegg line to Friedrichshafen that runs Mondays to Fridays. The train isn't due until around 12:00 but appeared on the curve north of Meckenbeuren just after 11:00, exactly as it had done on my previous visit in May. However, this time the sun was shining.

Nice though 218 worked passengers are, you can't beat a heavy freight. 232.635 rounded the curve north of Meckenbeuren with GB61813, the 11:15 Roßberg - Friedrichshafen stone hoppers, running around an hour early as usual on 6 June 2013.

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Comments and Conclusions

It was good to see a black MRCE Dispolok 223 working ALEX services on Thursday 6 June 2013. 223.013 crossed the 3-arch bridge over the Obere Argen, between Harbatshofen and Oberstaufen, with ALX84145, the 08:00 Lindau Hbf - München Hbf. The loco was no stranger to ALEX having worked on the original München - Oberstdorf service in 2007.

Following the disappointing weather in April and May, it was good to get some decent sunny days. The Wednesday and Sunday weren’t brilliant but the other three days were predominantly sunny and I got most of the shots I’d hoped for. The obvious exception was the Füssen branch where I failed to get anything worthwhile.
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All the time spent checking out different locations in the cloud and rain in May proved worthwhile and ensured that few opportunities were wasted when the sun finally did come out.

The Allgäu area sees one of the greatest concentrations of diesel hauled passenger services left in Europe today, particularly if the Ulm - Friedrichshafen - Lindau line is included in the mix. There's plenty of variety as well, in spite of the use of 218s on most loco hauled services, with single and double-deck DB Regio coaches, DB InterCity coaches and SBB coaches all appearing. ALEX 223s add additional variety and the wonderful landscape makes the area irresistible to anyone wanting to take good quality photos. While the Allgäubahn proper requires a car to get to the best spots, those on the Füssen branch, the Oberstdorf branch and the Ulm - Friedrichshafen line are all easily accessible by train and on foot. Go out and get them while you can, the 218s won't last forever.

Thanks as usual to those who supply information in the form of diagrams, timetables and sightings, without which trips like this would be considerably more difficult.
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Of all the shots on my list, this was the one I wanted the most, a westbound train skirting the shore of the Alpsee, west of Immenstadt. A two or three coach ALEX would look lost on that great sweeping curve so it had to be a diverted EuroCity and EC194 was the only one at the right time for the light.

The road in the foreground is closed to non-residents so I had to park at the far end of the lake and then walk 3km to the spot. It was still raining when I left the car but fortunately the light had improved by the time the train appeared 40 minutes later.

218.421 and 218.404 led the 16:00 München - Zürich westwards at Trieblings on Friday 7 June 2013.