Auf der Pälzische Eisenbahne…

… gibt’s gar viele Haltstatione,
Kowelenz, Bingen, Bad Kreuznach, Lautre und Waldfischbach.

Ehm, sorry, wrong federal land for that song.

I think I can call my hobby project of travelling on all rail lines in Rheinland-Pfalz that are still in service complete.

Well, actually there are two tracks that I have not visited: couple of kilometres (about three) north from Unkel to the land border (when I went there the trains were going just to Unkel because of road works and I see no point of revisiting it again) and Zellertalbahn (Monsheim-Münchweiler, that one has been closed for at least this and last year and I’m not sure it will open next year—if it does I’ll go there); same for draisine-only tracks—I’m not a cyclist. Anyway, let’s start with the overview of Palatinate railway network.

Rheinland-Pfalz is divided into two parts by the river so the rail network looks like two nets connected in several points (essentially near Koblenz and somewhat Mainz). There is one and a half high-speed train lines (one going from Frankfurt Airport to Airport Köln/Bonn and something going from Mannheim via Kaiserslautern to Saarbrücken and Paris but it’s definitely not a high speed line). The right bank network consists essentially of a railway along the Rhine and several lines that connect neighbouring federal lands (Hessen and Nordrhein-Westfallen) including the high-speed one. The left bank network has several lines that form a very good connectivity: railways on the Rhine side go all way from Lauterbourg to Ludwigshafen to Mainz to Koblenz to Bonn, there’s an East-West line connecting Mannheim to Saarbrücken via Neustadt and Kaiserslautern, there’s another East-West line connecting Koblenz to Trier and Luxembourg, there’s yet another line connecting Mainz to Idar-Oberstein and Saarbrücken, there’s West border line going from Saarbrücken to Trier and Bonn, there’s North-South line going from Bingen to Kaiserslautern and Pirmasens (consisting of several railways actually), there’s a line Worms-Bingen, there are some lines connecting Karlsruhe and Wörth to Neustadt, Pirmasens and Saarbrücken, and there are still more. There are some local lines that branch from those and have a terminus in some small place you’ve never heard of. And there are some museum lines as well. Here is the official map from Deutsche Bahn for regional lines operated on regular basis (so no high-speed or museum lines there). As for special lines I can name semi-museum line from Linz (not on Danube) to Kalenborn, museum lines Kuckucksbähnel (from Neustadt to Elmstein), Brohltalbahn (Brohl-Engeln, it has the slowest express I’ve ever seen) and narrow-gauge museum Stumpfwaldbahn (which kinda duplicates Ramsen-Eiswoog part of regular line).

My tickets from museum lines (maybe I should start collecting them).

It would take too long to describe all of the lines so I’ll just talk about some peculiarities. First of all, it’s scenic and you have a lot of scenery kinds to choose from: there is the largest forest in Germany, there are nice mountains with different geology, there’s Middle Rhine with castles at every mountain, there are fields and even former volcanic area.

Second, Rheinland-Pfalz probably has more abandoned and dismantled railways than those in service. Just look at the list in German Wickedpedia—it looks like most current branches were part of longer railways that were closed later and many branches are remains of much longer railways.

Third, Rheinland-Pfalz is weird. Southern part of it is quite French to the point that you can see both TER and TGV trains there and stops are sometimes announced in French too. But in the very Eastern part of Rheinland-Pfalz you have Girod and in Northern part there’s Monreal. In Eifel. Why not have normal German names like Vogelweh, Geilhausen or Waldfischbach? And there’s weird RB90 route (Limburg an der Lahn—Siegen) that usually does not go all the way so you have to transfer in Westerburg from RB90 to RB90. But the real something is track numbering on the stations. I’m not talking about train arriving to “Gleis Ost” which is the only track here, I’m talking about numbers. Normally you number your tracks from one and sequentially above, maybe reserving ten-something or hundred-something for some auxiliary tracks but that’s not enough for Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland. Few examples: on route Saarbrücken-Lebach Merchweiler has tracks 20 and 30, Gennweiler has tracks 40 and 50 while Illingen has tracks 41 and 51; Betzdorf has tracks 101-106 and 112 and neighbouring stations have tracks 40x (on two different stations), 50x and 60x.

And finally some words about special railways there:

  • Linz-Kalenborn is a private railway that is (as usual) a remaining part of a longer line that connected Linz with a line to Altenkirchen (and that’s a popular place to dismantle tracks—track Siershahn-Altenkirchen is for freight traffic only, track Siershahn-Engers is not in use even for museum rides, track Bendorf-Siershahn is both). They have rail bus operating there regularly on weekends and holidays. The most important thing for somebody is that they have a stop at the local brewery.
  • Kuckucksbähnel is a museum line that runs not so often but it’s a steam train and nice forest. Definitely worth a ride;
  • Stumpfwaldbahn is a narrow-gauge railway that runs about every hour between Eiswoog and Ramsen, usually with diesel locomotive but sometimes they have steam train. It’s nice but nothing special considering scenery;
  • Brohltalbahn is operated one to three times a day at weekend and on holidays, usually with a pair of diesel locomotives but sometimes they have steam train as well. It’s remarkable for two things: going to Vulkanpark Brohltal (the area of former volcanic activity) and having the slowest express train (Vulkan Express as they call it covers ~17km in one and a half hours). Still worth checking out;
  • There was a special rail bus going from Karlsruhe via Landau to Dahn and Bundenthal-Rumsbach but looks like it’s handled by Deutsche Bahn now.

There is a lot that can be told about Rheinland-Pfalz and its railways but I hope that this short review gave you at least an idea of what to expect there.

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