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The Brocken Railway

21 August 2015

The Brocken Railway makes its way to the top of the tallest mountain in the stunning Harz Mountain range, The Brocken, on a scenic journey that offers panoramic views of this breathtaking region. Originally constructed in the late 1890s, the railway has endured a turbulent history, and still steam-hauls many of its services. Travelling a short but splendid 11 miles through the mountains, The Brocken Railway is a must for steam enthusiasts on rail holidays in Germany.

The Brocken Railway hasn't always been the beautiful, welcoming tourist attraction it is today. The Harz Mountains have occult connections, and many stories of ghosts and ghouls have been told about the Brocken Mountain itself, largely owing to its mist-wrapped peak. Soak up the myths, legends and history of the area on train holidays in Germany and see for yourself the mountain that Goethe described as 'mad with magic'.

Secrets and spies

The first section of the Brocken Railway was completed in 1898 between Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke, with the railway completed all the way to the summit soon after. The railway operated mainly as a tourist line in the summer months until it was damaged during the Second World War and subsequently closed after the division of Germany during the Soviet Era.

During the Cold War, Russian and East German authorities deemed the Brocken a high-grade security zone and the mountain was turned into a fortress. There were listening stations and spying posts along the route for the duration of the cold war. The Brocken provided the perfect vantage point for observing West Germany, and it was closed to civilians for the next twenty-eight years. The line was only used by military personnel and locals, who received special travel permits. Following the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, the railway was repaired and once again opened up for the public to enjoy in 1991.

Today the line runs with steam trains and carriages dating back to the 1950s. These 1950s locomotives were built by the Russians, who had control of the whole of the Saxony-Anhalt region. Under Communist control, progress was slow and steam locomotives were not phased out as they were in the west. East Germany in fact built new steam-powered engines, and it's these that pull tourists to the top of the Brocken Mountain to this day.

Riding the Brocken Railway

The Brocken Railway snakes through dense forests and up steep gradients to the highest point in the Harz Mountains in around an hour. It is the most scenic and longest narrow gauge railway in Germany. The Brocken Railway twists through the forests of the Harz National Park towards the summit of the Brocken Mountain. At around the halfway point the train stops at Schierke Station, opened in 1898 it was used by tourists until 1961 when it was closed to the public.

After Schierke Station the train heads along the Kalte Bode valley, providing stunning views of one of the most picturesque parts of the country. The railway contains a number of sharp curves as it makes its way up the mountain, on these there are some wonderful opportunities to photograph the steam locomotive. 

Stories of the mountain

Believed to be the setting for such tales as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and even Sleeping Beauty, The Harz Mountains have a strong connection to German fairy tales. The Brocken has always had connections with legends of witches and devils, and is the setting for a terrifying scene in one of the most famous plays in German literature, Faust. The Brocken is also legendary for being cursed by ogres. This connection with the occult still draws tourists and horror fans to the summit of the mountain.

Make your way to the highest point in the Harz Mountains on the Brocken Railway with Great Rail Journeys and experience one of the most beautiful views in Germany.

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