In the Harz mountains, a mountain range in northern Germany, steam trains still puff daily over a network of narrow-gauge tracks. A narrow gauge is with a track width of 1m considerably narrower than a normal railway track. Today, 25 steam locomotives are still in operation on the network of the ‘Harzer Schmalspurbahnen’, of which the oldest dates back to 1897! There are three possible routes on the network: the Harzquerbahn, Selketalbahn and the Brockenbahn. This article focuses on the Brockenbahn, which is a magical train ride (especially in winter) to the summit of the Brocken mountain. The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz region and even in northern Germany. According to the legends, it’s a place where witches come together at night.
The Brockenbahn runs from Drei Annen Hohne (540 m) through Schierke (685 m) to the top of the Brocken mountain (1141 m). It’s also possible to depart from Wernigerode, like I did. In my previous blog post, I already gave some tips to explore this little town. If you stay in the center of Wernigerode, you can walk to the station. When you come by car, there’s a parking lot nearby. I advise to come to the station in advance. That way, you can start your day trip in a relaxed way and you have plenty of time to watch the train getting ready for departure.
From Wernigerode, you reach the the Brocken summit in about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The Brockenbahn first runs through built-up areas, and shortly afterwards enters the majestic forests of the Harz. In Schierke, the train usually stops for about 10 minutes because the locomotive has to take extra water there. It gives you the possibility to get off the train and take some pictures. The steam train then continues through winter wonderland and gets more and more surrounded by fog. And apparently, that’s no exception. The mysterious Brocken summit would have a lot of foggy days per year.
There is a platform on the outside of each wagon where you can enjoy the mystical atmosphere in silence (apart from the whistling steam sound of course!).
When I arrive at the Brocken summit, I can’t believe what I see. Have I just arrived at the North Pole with the Polar Express!? The dense fog and the endless snow plain with crooked pine trees provide a surreal experience. In the Brockenwirt, you can enjoy a hot chocolate.
As an adult, you pay 45 euros for a return ticket. This price is standard, regardless of which station you depart from. You can find more information about prices and tickets on the HSB website. The Brockenbahn runs both in summer and winter. Of course it’s possible that certain trips are canceled when extreme weather conditions occur.
If you like authenticity, just like me, you might like to travel to the Brocken with a “traditionszug”, which adds that extra touch. Normally, there is no seat reservation which means you sometimes have to search for a seat, especially during the holiday periods. In a traditionszug, you don’t have that problem. You travel in a historic train wagon and have a reserved seat. The traditionszug only runs on predetermined dates, which you can find on the following page of the HSB website: https://www.hsb-wr.de/Erlebnisse/Sonderzuege/Traditionszug-oxid/. Because there are some extras included in the ticket (seat reservation, access to the Brockenhaus and a welcome drink), it is slightly more expensive than a regular ticket. From 2020 this would be 49 euros for an adult person (retour).
It’s a quite expensive day trip, but in my opinion it’s worth every euro. What a unique train ride!