MUCH GRICING ON THE MARSCHBAHN
Diesel Freight Diversions on the Marschbahn and in Southern Denmark
Germany and Denmark - 14 to 23 July 2015 - Report by Duncan Cotterill
Work to upgrade the the main line between Lunderskov and Padborg in southern Denmark continued into 2015 and culminated in a three-week closure in July and early August. Passengers had to suffer the indignity of bus substitutions, leaving freight traffic to take a long diversionary route from Lunderskov, via Esbjerg, the little used Tønder – Niebüll border crossing and the Marschbahn south to Hamburg. This was a repeat of a similar period of diversions in July and August 2014. Apart from the last few km into Hamburg, the whole route is unelectrified and significant sections are single track.
This year's diversions followed last year's pattern fairly closely. Passenger services and infrastructure in the area were also very little changed so I won’t spell everything out again. Please refer to my July 2014 report if you want more details of the line and its operation.
Essentially DB operated freights that would have normally run between Hamburg and Denmark on the electrified line via Neumünster, Flensburg, Vojens and Vamdrup were diverted via Niebüll, Tønder and Esbjerg instead, requiring diesel haulage. German class 232 or 233 diesels were used between Hamburg’s Maschen Yard and Esbjerg with Danish class MZ locos taking over between Esbjerg and Fredericia. Trains continued from Fredericia with electric traction. As last year, overnight trains tended to run from Hamburg to Husum via Neumünster/Jübek while daytime trains used the traditional Marschbahn via Itzehoe. The diversions only covered freights operated by DB. Other operators made alternative arrangements including using ferries instead of a rail only routing.
Trains running via Itzehoe were restricted to around 900 tonnes, presumably due to overall weight restrictions on the Hochbrücke Hochdonn (Hochdonn high bridge) over the Nord-Ostsee Kanal (Kiel Canal), while those that went via Jübek were permitted almost double the tonnage. Sending everything via Jübek would have been DB's best option in some ways but the passenger service took up all the available daytime paths on the line so it wasn’t practical. One change this year was that Danish drivers worked the 232s between Tønder and Esbjerg with German drivers working south of Tønder. Last year the German drivers worked through to Esbjerg but took a Danish pilotman from Niebüll to Esbjerg.
The diversions started on 13 July 2015 and are scheduled to continue until 3 August 2015. My visit was from Tue 14 to Thu 23 July although the first and the last days were mostly spent travelling.
The first couple of days were fairly chaotic, particularly with trains from Hamburg running very late, but then everything seemed to settle down into a regular pattern that followed the plan fairly closely, both in terms of timekeeping and the days of operation of individual trains. Towards the end of the trip northbound afternoon freights regularly ran very early on the German section of the line but on the day I was at Tønder and 47412 arrived 90 minutes early, it was held and only got away 8 minutes ahead of schedule. Presumably the hold-up was down to waiting for a driver as there was plenty of spare capacity on the line.
Nominally twelve 232s and 233s were available to work the Hamburg - Esbjerg section with a further six in reserve. Sixteen different locos were seen in use : 232.201 / 230 / 280 / 428 / 469 / 498 / 589 / 668 / 669 and 233.040 / 285 / 321 / 511 / 572 / 662 / 698, all fairly clean. Around half the locos seen were veterans of last year's diversions (232.201 / 230 / 469 / 668 / 669, 233.285 / 321 / 662). Most trains were single headed but some double headers were seen, most often on northbound train 47412. This must have been to get locos into position as the loads certainly didn't require the use of a pair.
On the Danish section DB turned out its entire fleet of six MZs, plus MZ 1425, borrowed from Svensk Tågkraft. Also available if required were five MX or MY diesels hired in from various operators. The trains I saw were all MZ hauled by locos : MZ 1425 / 1449 / 1452 / 1453 / 1456 / 1457. The DB owned locos generally seemed to be preferred and 1425 was only seen once. MZ.1449, which was heavily graffitied last year is just as bad this year but the others were presentable if a bit scruffy.
REGIONAL PASSENGER SERVICES (Germany)
No significant changes from last year with Nord-Ostsee Bahn (NOB) operating regional services between Hamburg and Westerland. Trains were generally formed of seven coach single-deck push-pull sets worked by class 223 or 251 diesels, generally coupled to the Westerland end of the set. As before, some trains ran with an additional four coach push-pull set at the north end and the loco sandwiched in the middle. These sandwich trains were invariably powered by 251s. NOB’s own 223s and 251s were used along with additional 223s hired in from MRCE Dispolok. Locos seen were :
223.001 / 010 / 011 / 012 / 014 (MRCE Dispolok D-DISPO ER20-001 / 010 etc)
223.053 / 054 / 055 (Nord-Ostsee Bahn D-NOB DE2000-01 / 02 / 03)
251.002 / 003 / 007 / 008 / 010 / 011 (Veolia Germany D-VL DE2700-02 / 03 etc)
Although I didn’t see it, the first of the new Bombardier Traxx multi-engined diesels 245.201 appeared on a couple of evening NOB services while I was there.
INTER CITY SERVICES (Germany)
InterCity services continue to be worked by pairs of DB class 218 diesels based at Niebüll depot with four pairs of trains a day running at (very approximately) two hour intervals. Trains continue to include portions for Dagebüll, detached at Niebüll and taken forward on NEG services. Ten different locos were seen on IC duties : 218. 319 / 321 / 344 / 345 / 363 / 369 / 376 / 379 / 381 / 385.
SYLT-SHUTTLE SERVICES (Germany)
Again the Sylt-Shuttle car carrying operation continues very much as last year with pairs of DB 218s hauling shuttle trains loaded with road vehicles over the Hindenburgdamm between Niebüll on the mainland and Westerland on the island of Sylt. Saturdays and Sundays are the best days with trains running at half-hourly intervals in both directions for most of the day. The intensive weekend services require six pairs of locos to be in service at any time. Fifteen different locos were seen on Sylt-Shuttle duties : 218.313 / 314 / 321 / 322 / 340 / 342 / 345 / 359 / 362 / 369 / 371 / 372 / 380 / 381 / 397. Two pairs of locos, 218.345+369 and 218.321+381 were seen working IC and Shuttle services at different times during my visit.
PASSENGER SERVICES (Denmark)
The Arriva operated passenger service between Niebüll / Tønder and Esbjerg was severely curtailed for the duration of the diversions with many trains replaced by buses for part of their normal route. Trains generally ran as normal between Esbjerg and Ribe with a handful of Monday to Friday services continuing to Tønder. There were no weekend services south of Ribe and no services at all between Niebüll and Tønder. The route is well served by parallel roads and substitute bus services were provided. The trains that did run were operated by the usual Arriva Danmark class AR (Lint 41) articulated 2-car DMUs.
DSB passenger services were significantly different to last year with the IC3 operated InterCity service between Esbjerg, Fredericia and København having disappeared without trace, west of Fredericia at least. The only services that were operating were stopping trains from Esbjerg to Fredericia, many of which continued from Fredericia to Lindholm in northern Jutland. Trains ran approximately hourly and every train I saw was worked by one of the popular class MG (IC4) articulated 4-car DMUs.
Two specials were seen, one in Germany and one in Denmark, but both hauled by Danish locos. On Saturday 18 July Braunschweig based MY 1142 worked an impressively long train including former Rheingold stock to Westerland and back. The train originated at Münster with the MY taking over at Elmshorn.
On Wednesday 22 July MT 152, a centre-cab Bo-Bo, worked a 2-coach special from Esbjerg, or possibly Bramming, to Lunderskov and back. Remarkably the same loco had been photographed on a similar train on the same line during last year’s visit.
The freight diversions were the main reason for my visit and most of the trip was spent attempting to fill in the gaps of my photographic coverage after last year’s successful trip. Although the weather wasn’t as good this year, it was still sunny over half the time and Sunday 19 July was the only day I didn’t get any photos in good light. A few spots on the Marschbahn have become overgrown in the intervening period, notably those a km or so north of Langenhorn, but most are still very much as they were last year. I seemed to recall that Morsum had semaphores last year but I may have been mistaken. It certainly has colour lights this year but Langenhorn, Stedesand, Risum-Lindholm, Niebüll, Lehnshallig and Klanxbüll still have proper signals. Keitum and Westerland should also have semaphores but I didn’t venture that far west.
At times the line between Langenhorn and Niebüll was mobbed with German photographers, most of whom were sensible and friendly but a few had some very strange ideas and stood or parked in places that spoilt things for everyone else. Fortunately the inconsiderate minority seemed to stay away during the second week, making life a lot easier.
There were a few changes to locations on the Esbjerg – Fredericia section in Denmark, generally related to the clearing of vegetation and rebuilding of bridges in preparation for electrification of the line. No evidence of electrification masts was seen anywhere. The bridge around 2km west of Bramming is in the process of being rebuilt and isn’t currently (officially) accessible but the bridge just over a km west of Tjaerborg is a lot better than it was after tree clearing on both sides. There are also new possibilities, for westbound trains at least, from the newly rebuilt bridge at Andst, about 3km west of Lunderskov. The next bridge, at Røved, 3km east of Vejen is still virtually the only place where there’s a really good shot of eastbound trains.
The section from Niebüll to Bramming continues to be the most difficult section to photograph by a long way. I spent a fair amount of time checking this year but found few places with any height and the line was often hemmed in by vegetation or unsightly fences. Despite considerable effort, no really good locations were found, just a handful that were better than nothing.
I used a hire car to get around but it would be quite feasible to get to most of the good locations on foot from the nearest station, whether on the Marschbahn or in Denmark. Better still, hire a bike. Cycle tracks parallel most of the main roads and the area is generally flat so it’s ideal for getting about on a bike.
COMMENTS AND CONCLUSIONS
Photographically the trip achieved most of its objectives with shots obtained in good light at the vast majority of the locations I was targeting. The relatively predictable nature of the freights was a great help and ensured that little was missed unintentionally. It’s appropriate at this point to thank Phil W for the times, the company and the texts, all of which were invaluable in ensuring I knew what was coming and had a good idea when it would arrive.
At times there seemed to be more Brits than Germans at the lineside, not something you often see on the continent but something to be welcomed. For the country that pioneered railway enthusiasm and produced many of the world’s most accomplished steam photographers, Britain is very underrepresented in the international modern traction photography stakes and it’s great to find that there are others prepared to get away from station platforms and seek out attractive locations for photography. The diversions had to be the European diesel event of the year and well worth making the effort for, particularly as the opportunity is unlikely to ever be repeated.
Even without the diverted freights, the Marschbahn is still worth a visit. There can’t be many places in Europe where everything is still loco hauled, let alone diesel hauled, and with four trains each way an hour between Niebüll and Westerland at weekends, it can be very busy indeed. Add in the semaphore signalling, the remarkable civil engineering of the Hochbrücke Hochdonn and the Hindenburgdamm and you have something very special indeed. Don’t delay though. It’ll be all change on the loco front before long with new characterless diesels replacing the venerable class 218s, the brutal class 251s and even the bland class 223s. The semaphores can’t last for ever either. If you can get there before the diversions finish, so much the better, but it’s worth going even when they’ve finished.