Harz Mountains Brockenbahn railway – an awesome narrow gauge train
The Brocken Railway in Germany’s Harz Mountains is a train lover’s delight. An historic narrow gauge steam train, the Brockenbahn Railway (today, officially, the Harz Mountain Railway) circles its way up the highest point in Northern Germany from its start in Wernigerode.
No visit to the Harz Mountains in Germany should be considered complete without riding on the historic and thoroughly magical “Brockenbahn” railway. The Brocken narrow gauge Harz Mountain train is powered by steam engines and winds its way to the peak of the Brocken, the highest point in the Harz.
The train, in former East Germany, traces its history to the late 1800s as well as through two world wars and Soviet repression during the decades Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall. Somehow, it managed to survive. In 1992, with fully restored carriages and steam engines under the now privatized Harz Mountain Railway banner, it re-established a route to the Brocken summit, home of a Soviet listening post during the war. The train carries tourists throughout the day on a ride that takes a little over an hour and a half, puffing steam and smoke from Wernigerode up past Steinerne Renne, through a 70-meter (230-foot) tunnel, to Drei Annen Hohne, and then up and up, steeply grunting through Schierke and finally winding its way around the Brocken to arrive at the barren summit. The Brocken, at 1,142 meters (3,747 feet), is also the highest point in northern Germany.
Riding the Harz Mountains Brockenbahn Railway
Your ride on the Brockenbahn railway will begin at the main Wernigerode train station, though you can also jump on the train at the Westerntor station just a kilometer distant. While you can take the train round-trip, we’d recommend just riding up and enjoying a marvelous walk down after spending an hour or so visiting at the summit.
This classic ride begins at the main Wernigerode train station although you can also jump on the train at three other stations in Wernigerode. While you can take the train round-trip, we’d recommend just riding up and enjoying a marvelous walk down after spending an hour or so visiting the summit.
We can assure everyone that train buff or not, anyone who enjoys history and a bit of adventure will fully enjoy the picturesque scenery of the Harz Mountains as forests and meadows give way to an open, wind-swept plateau with stunning views in all directions near the Brocken summit. (Be sure to watch our brief video about the train ride at the end of this story).
On the hike down on one of many superbly well-marked paths, you can head to many destinations, including Drei Annen Hohne where you can easily catch a bus back to Wernigerode. You can also, as we did, hike all the way to Wernigerode itself. You’ll need to be in good physical shape, pack food and snacks and plenty of water, as well as appropriate clothing for weather changes. And good walking shoes are a must.
Along the way, you’ll find it’s not difficult to imagine the Brocken being a meeting place for witches. Dense forests and whispering winds conjure up images of Hansel and Gretel. Goethe was so impressed with the Brocken legend that he set a scene from Faust there. And don’t forget to head into the tourist information office during your stay for your sticker depicting a witch – free with a tourist pass that comes with a hotel stay.
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