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SUMMER 1946 (August)

One evening the following week, I had a two and a half hour session by the main line at Bückeburg. The westbound ‘Nord Express’ that day had come from Berlin and comprised: luggage van, one ‘Wagon-Lits’ Berlin to Paris, two SNCF coaches from Hannover to Paris and Calais, a ‘Wagon-Lits’ from Hannover to Brussels and three unmarked DRG composite corridors, but presumably Hannover to Brussels.

A heavy train of Polish ‘displaced persons’ went east behind 50.1939 from Bw Lehrte which was hauling about twenty four and six wheelers, and a flat truck with the officer in charge of the train’s British staff car on it. Probably he and his one or two men would return by road when the train had been sent safely across the Zone border at Helmstedt. My unit at Winterberg had about six of these unfortunates, all men who had been employed on forced labour in Germany. They lived with us for their keep and lodging until they, or somebody else, had decided what they were to do next. I remember how grateful they were for the small luxuries (in their eyes) such as good soap, tooth paste, razor blades and of course British cigarettes and chocolate. They positively fell over themselves do things for us. Yet at the same time they seemed to bear little malice or even distaste for the civilian population.

A VISIT TO HAMBURG

Among the men on the E.V.T. courses there was a lot of talk about the delights of a weekend in Hamburg. The R.A.F. had a big villa on the outskirts of Blankenese north west of the city. This was used as a transit depot for genuine travellers on leave or postings and also to accommodate men visiting the city on weekend passes, no other questions being asked beyond the production of the pass. I had other delights in mind than most of the people there! So I got a full long weekend pass (we were allowed to skip one Saturday morning and one Monday during the whole course) and went off on M8 (Calais to Hamburg) The whole thing was a marvellous success from my point of view, seeing exactly 200 new steam locos. One of the earliest P8s, 38.1020, painted grey, was at Hannover. A big synthetic oil plant on the way to Lehrte was heavily bombed but there was very little damaged stock and the track at Lehrte itself, one of the key junctions in all Germany, seemed in reasonable order. On these very level lines, many BR 52s were working. 52.2736 (Bw Uelzen) was one which I had previously seen, and taken a photo of, on the west bank of the Rhine near Bonn in October 1945. At Uelzen, I noted the very last of the wartime production series of Kriegsloks; 52.7792. At Lüneburg was 54.416, an old small 2-6-0 of Polish and Austrian origins. It was dark when we arrived at Hamburg and I simply followed the R.A.F. blue crowd on to the electric train to Blankenese and bed. 

It was a glorious weekend of baking sun, the old English August Bank holiday weekend . I covered miles on the S.Bahn and U.Bahn around the city that Sunday. As I started out, 52.5774 of Eidelstedt depot was light in Blankenese station. The electric line ended here in 1946 and the service was an hourly or half hourly shuttle of steam trains, hauled usually by BR 74 2-6-0Ts. The electric service on the S.Bahn was very good and frequent, part of each three car E.M.U. set being reserved for troops. In Bw Altona yard was one of the streamlined 4-6-4s, 05.003 lying dead. This was the one which ran cab-first until the streamlining was removed; it returned to service after rebuilding  in 1950. Most of the non-electric local services were hauled by BR 74 2-6-0Ts and some BR 78s. Several of the former had been built for the Lübeck-Büchen Railway and were even streamlined. Fortunately I saw several of the latter. For the rest it was mainly Pacifics, P8s and BR 50 2-10-0s.

At first sight Hamburg seemed relatively little damaged. There was of course plenty of explosive bomb damage but then the fine, upstanding apartment buildings (found in the centre of almost all German cities) which looked undamaged, were seen, close to, as mere shells. The city centre had been burnt-out by fire-bomb air-raids, especially during one horrific raid and fire storm on the same August weekend in 1942. But everywhere there was signs of restoration; buildings being rebuilt from the inside. I noticed this on a bigger city­wide scale in Köln in 1949. Everywhere there were British and Canadian troops, but of course no Americans. There were women galore too, of all ages 16 to 46, all trying to look about 21. No, the railway was by far the most interesting thing to see in Hamburg! The two great city stations seemed little damaged apart from missing glass in the roof of the Hbf. and a hole in the roof of the circulating area at Altona.

On Monday, the 5th, I departed, weary but still willing, on M7 Hamburg Altona—Calais. I travelled the whole way in the large 4-door end vestibule of the last coach. I missed little and on this one journey, collected 111 new locos. I chewed gum the whole way and by the time we reached Bückeburg about 1700 I was feeling a little sick. As we ran into the Hamburg Hbf. from Altona one of the double-decker push-pull trains passed with a 74.l3xx tank. Another was passed at Hamburg Harburg. Also in the Hbf. was a long train of covered vans loaded with civilians and their possessions. One van was marked in chalk ‘Ost Flüchtlinge’ - refugees from the east. These poor people were just a few of the many thousands being expelled from Silesia, Pomerania, West Prussia and part of East Prussia. This was done to compensate Poland for the Polish Eastern provinces; especially the Polish Ukraine, which had been incorporated in the Soviet Union. Thus it is that former German cities like Breslau, Stettin and Kattowitz are now called Wroclaw, Szczocin and Katowice. The train load at Hamburg would be resettled in the country towns and villages of Schleswig-Holstein. Quite a number of these refugees settled in Winterberg and in 1949 I even met, in Köln, a small boy who told me he had been born in Breslau. The run south on M7 was fast but we had long waits at every station. The only noteworthy loco I recorded was a strange 0-6-0T at Celle, 89.121, with a tall narrow chimney. It had come from the Pfalz Railway which served the southern part of what is now the state of Rheinland-Pfalz.

The long return journey gave me some idea of what the pre-war DRG must have been like. This part of Germany was never the scene of the bitter land-fighting of March and April 1945 which had wrecked most of the railways to the west. In one of the servicemen’s clubs at Bückeburg, I read a most informative article in “Zone Review” which was published by the Control Commission, about the DRG in the British Zone. Out of 12,692 route kms in the Zone, only 1,050 were in operation in June 1945. By July 1946, when the magazine had gone to press, almost 12,000 were in use. In June 1945, the daily loadings were 16,ooo tons but by July 1946 had reached 160,000 tons. The Rhine railway bridges were being restored. The Baerl bridge was back in use in February 1946 (I crossed it in May). This was the first restoration in the north, excluding the famous Remagen rail bridge used, I believe, only by road traffic until its untimely collapse through overuse. Köln South bridge was open to single track in May and the Düsseldorf to Neuss bridge would be open to single track in August. It concluded the long article by stating the two obvious and coal; German energy and inventiveness would have to do all the rest. And we know all to well in Britain they certainly did, railway wise and in most other directions too. The next Sunday, I went again to Hannover and out to Dahren where goods avoiding lines from Seelze (KBS 200) to Lehrte (KBS150 and 220) cross over and send down slip curves to the route (KBS 250) to Kassel and Bavaria. The traffic was mainly freight behind BR 42 and BR 50. There was one P-train from Hannover to Kassel behind a P8. Dahren is near where the ‘Neubaustrecke’, at present under construction, begins. Back in Hannover, I found that M9 from Cuxhafen had broken down at Celle; 01.019 and its train were hauled into the Hbf. by 57.3198 from Bw Celle in reverse. On the way west we passed a U.S. Army troop train behind 50.2054. This continual rail-borne traffic of troops and military civilians is so strange when compared with the almost universal use of aircraft for longer international travel today. On the Saturday before the course ended, I tried to get to Hameln but on arrival at Löhne found there was no suitable train. I went to the shed and the foreman said I could go round. For some reason, I foolishly rang the R.T.O. office in Bad Oeynhausen and was told very brusquely to get off the premises. I had forgotten Löhne was so near the Rhine Army H.Q. The chap at the other end then rang the foreman and told him to see me off. But as it was pouring with rain now, I hung on and we chatted in the usual style. There were 63 locos allocated to the shed and 15 were broken down or damage. There were BR17s and 57s as well as a few Belgian 0-8-0s. I never found out how the latter came to be at Bw Löhne. I noted a fair number of the locos on shed on my way out. I went on to Bad Oeynhausen and returned to Bückeburg on the Autobahn by military truck am far as Bad Eilsen and by R.A.F. bus down to the town.

Before our return journey to Winterberg at the end of the course the following week, I persuaded A.B. to come with me via Kassel and Marburg. I spun the office staff a tale about the remoteness of Winterberg and its ease of access via the American Zone. So they made our double route-form that way. We left Bückeburg in TpM58 at 0935. This was a single-unit diesel railcar painted red and both comfortable and smooth-running. We hoped to catch D186 (Wesermünde—Frankfurt) but Army Movement Control people in Hannover told us we would have to go overnight.

 So off we went for the day to a house near Celle the Army used for casual travellers through Hannover. I went into Celle after lunch and saw 03.114 on the westbound ‘Nord-Express’. The formation that day was an SNCF luggage van, two SNCF corridors running from Copenhagen to Paris; one ‘Wagon-Lits’ diner and three non-corridors and a Danish wooden corridor coach all running Flensburg to Hannover. It looked as if this train was now open civilian travel for part of the way at least. Back at the Hbf. in late evening, Dus 614 rolled in behind two P8s at 2210. This was a new train not listed in the tables for Kassel, shown earlier. There were firsts and seconds and some sleepers (reserved for Americans travelling through to Frankfurt from Wesermünde). The officer in charge of the train, a lieutenant, took our route form and travel chit, despite our protests, and there we were in the middle of Germany, in a train supposed to be for Americans only and without documents! But nothing went wrong, discipline-wise, though as far as a quick, convenient journey went, it was a disaster. I’ll never forget that endless journey which took us to, eventually, Frankfurt ; nor I imagine will A.B.

When we reached Kassel in the early hours, there was a long delay and the Americans in our compartment cursed and swore; ‘These God dammed Kraut railroads’ and such like comments. Finally, we learned that KBS 520 - our line to Marburg and Winterberg - was blocked, so they said, by an explosion on an oil train. So back we went to Eichenberg. We arrived there at 06.30. The top-rank Berlin-Frankfurt Army train (the Americans called it ‘The Berliner’) was there behind a BR 50. We had 01.1095 of Bw Kassel, the first DRG loco I had seen in April 1945. D176 (Wesermünde—Friedrichshafen) came in behind 01.078. To add to the over-crowded scene, a French Army leave train, direct from Helmstedt and Berlin came in behind 39.239 of Bw Bebra; it was made up of the odd-looking French curved body stock with oval windows. 

It must have been a long time since Eichenberg had seen such a collection of important trains, all impotent and apparently unable to go any further! ‘The Berliner’ went out first, then we followed in the reverse direction now behind a BR 50 from Bw Eschwege and up the long hill towards Bebra, through the wonderful hill and forest scenery. Near Oberreiden, we crept along a rickety, single track steel bridge over the River Werra, very near to the Russian Zone which runs on the east bank of the river at that point. The French train was let past us at Sontra and then we went on up to the summit at Cornberg and down the long winding hill to Bebra. On the way down, we passed a northbound express hauled by 03.1060 and banked by a BR 50.

We waited about two hours in Bebra, very tantalising too, as I did not dare leave the train. A.B. was feeling rather weary and travel sick now but the rail scene kept me going! D176 followed us into Bebra on the opposite side of the island platform, with its 01 tender first. There must have been no spare locos at Eichenberg. It then reversed and went off to rejoin KBS 520 at Guntershausen. This was at 11.30. We now had a BR 44 for the next leg of the journey, on KBS 500 to Frankfurt, direct via Fulda. We moved off at 1200 but after Bad Hersfeld the engine had great difficulty with steaming and at Fulda we took a BR 42 as pilot. We dropped it just before the summit tunnel at Flieden, and ran quite fast down to Hanau in about 40 minutes. A.B. was quite groggy now and I had to keep jollying him along. The whole way down to Frankfurt the locos were the usual DRG and Prussian types. We finally came to rest at Frankfurt South station where the U .S. Military trains began and finished .The loop line over the river to the Hbf. was still out of use.

Fortunately for us the British Army had a house at Höchst on the west side of Frankfurt, where the few British troops in the district could live and where travellers like us might stay. An American Sergeant in charge at the station offered us transport to this place and I remember him saying to the German civilian driver, in very fluent German, ‘Du sollst sofort zurück kommen’ - you’d better come straight back’. So at last a decent meal and a wash. There was no comment about our long way round, nor about our lack of documents. The house overlooked, literally, KBS 610 (Frankfurt-Wiesbaden) but I did not see much. I think we went to bed very early but I did note 78.101, 38.1652 and 78.049 on local trains, whilst next morning 18.511 passed with DD1O1(Frankfurt-Bielefeld) a limited accommodation train requiring a permit when used by civilians. These PD- and FD­trains were coming into service as stock became available. That morning we got travel papers and were told to get the evening train from the Hbf. This would be Dus 613 or 615, the return working of the train we came on. ‘Not likely!’ we decided, and so after leaving the minibus at the south station we walked with our kit over a temporary river bridge to the Hbf. to catch P79 at 1600. All enthusiasts know of this most famous of all German stations. The four great train-sheds seemed undamaged except for the loss of wooden framing and glass. We got a very satisfying meal of tuna-fish sandwiches in the American club here. The journey north on P79 was quite uneventful; we simply walked past the ticket-collector at the barrier, talking loudly, and into the last coach which was reserved for American Occupation Forces. As usual the train of six-wheelers was packed except for the two rear coaches, which were almost empty. The railway yards at Friedberg were badly bombed and much rolling stock was trapped. There were the usual long lines of dead engines at each main station. In Giessen station was 38.1866 of Bw Frankfurt 3 and 86.525. 

At Marburg South we got off, having been told that the Americans had a transit house nearby. It was run by a small squad of negro troops. Next morning, I noted the southbound ‘Berliner’ back on its proper route behind 50.704,and 41.142 on D185(Frankfurt—Wesermünde). We got lunch at the house and went by truck to the main Marburg station for the train to Frankenberg. This had a BR 93, of course, and at the rear some goods vans loaded with evacuees from Czechoslovakia and West Prussia. They had chalked this information on the van sides. These vans were detached by shunting the whole train, at Wetter and Münchhausen. We finally arrived at Winterberg, on time at 1915. With a little padding, the whole journey had taken from 0935 Tuesday to 1915 Friday. Had the British Army at Frankfurt had its way, we would not have arrived back until Saturday about noon. From the 1980 Kursbuch I find that one could leave Bückeburg at 0947 and arrive in Winterberg by 1354. The longer way round by Marburg is now impossible by rail since the Frankenberg to Winterberg section is closed.

 

A very blurred photo of 91.723 at Bw Wunstorf on 5/8/46.

The Nord Express passing Bückeburg on its thrice weekly Copenhagen to Paris run behind 01.172 of Bw Hannover Ost on 10th August 1946.

 

01.161 on a Hook of Holland to Hannover military leave train M12 at Bückeburg 10th august 1946.

03.197 (Bw Osnabrück Hbf) at Bückeburg 10th August 1946.

01.178 (Bw Hannover Ost) at Bückeburg 10th August 1946.

03.141 (Bw Osnabrück Hbf) at Bückeburg 10th August 1946.

52.1809 heads an eastbound coal train through Bückeburg on 10th August 1946.

A westbound military train to Hook of Holland, behind 03.260, passes the Brussels to Hannover military service at Haste on 11th august 1946. Note the tanker wagon tipped down the embankment to clear the line.

03.129 at Hannover; note the war damaged buildings behind. 11th August 1946.

The damaged roof of Hannover Hbf, later demolished, in August 1946.

86.525 in Giessen station on 22nd august 1946.

91.952 at Wunstorf on 18th August 1946.

50.2010 ük is seen at a level crossing at Neheim in the summer of 1946 (Photo by A. Curran of AMES 7932 RAF)

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