The Anonymous Widower

Riding The Vogtlandbahn

The Vogtlandbahn is one of the more unusual railways I have ridden. This is a basic description from Wikipedia.

The Vogtlandbahn is a private railway company in Germany, which runs diesel trains on regional lines in the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Berlin and as well as routes into the Czech Republic.

And this paragraph describes its origins.

After German Reunification in 1990, there was a sharp drop in passenger numbers on the rail network in all the new Bundesländer. Saxony, and thus Vogtland was no exception. The railways had old locomotives rolling stock and couldn’t compete with the rapidly improving roads. The Saxony government invested in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the Zwickau–Falkenstein–Klingenthal line and the Herlasgrün–Falkenstein–Adorf (Kursbuchstrecke 539). The track was relaid to an 80 km/h standard, disabled access was facilitated at all stations and new stations opened. Maintenance and tracks were rationalised. Some platforms were removed, some stations such as Schöneck were restyled as simple halts.

It is a properly engineered system,which uses standard trains, as these pictures show.

The route I took started at Zwickau Hauptbahnhof, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zwickau Station

Zwickau Station

Note how there are two sets of platforms.

  • The Northern set are numbered 5-8 and handle the main trains to Leipzig and Dresden.
  • The southern set are numbered 1-4 and handle the Vogtlandbahn trains, which continue South-Eastwards to Zwickau Zentrum tram stop.

The two sets of lines join to the West of the station and share tracks to the Leipzig-Hof Line, where trains can go either North and South.

I had chosen a train from Platform 4 at Zwickau that passed through Netzcschkau station, which is where I got off, waited half-an-hour and caught the train back to Zwickau.

The line is no semi-derelict line, but a rather charming line in some ways reminiscent of something like Calder Valley Line. It is fairly level, but it runs across the top of hills with high viaducts everywhere.

These stations and features are in the same order as the pictures.

  • From Zwickau my train travelled West.
  • The train was a modern two-car diesel-multiple-unit, as you see all over Germany. It’s a German equivalent of a Class 170/171172 train.
  • There is a large freight line to the North of the line at Zwickau.
  • There are high-viaducts looking over tidy villages. Think Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch.
  • We passed through Lichtentanne and Steinpleiß stations.
  • The line to Leipzig goes North and we took the Southern route towards Hof, that eventually goes to Munich.
  • We passed through Neumark.
  • We passed through Reichenbach, which looks like a station to visit.
  • We then passed over the Göltzsch Viaduct, which the largest brick-built bridge in the world. It is 574 metres long and 78 metres high, which means it is a lot bigger than the Digswell Viaduct at 475 metres long and 30 metres high.
  • I then reversed by journey at Netschkau station.
  • The train didn’t go the same way back to Zwickau, but after the viaduct, Reichenbach and Neumark, it went a few kiometres towards Leipzig before reversing at Werdau station and coming back to the starting point via Steinpleiß and Lichtentanne stations.
  • Lichtentanne station appears to have platform roofs built like medieval barns in serious timber.
  • The train said it was going to Zwickau Zentrum and after passing through the Vogtlandbahn platform at Zwickau HBf station, the train descended into the City on a tree-lined line.
  • After a stop at Zwickau Stadthalle, the train rolled into the centre of the town at Zwickau Zentrum.

This Google Map shows the Centre of Zwickau.

Zwickau Town Centre

Zwickau Town Centre

The Town Square with the Rathaus (Town Hall) is at the top and Zwickau Zentrum train/tram stop is South of the square and just North of the maion road through the area. This Google Mwickau Stadthalle train/tram stop, shows the intricacy of what has been done.


The trains of the Vogtlandbahn use the two platforms to the North-West. Note that some tracks in the area ,have three rails for the two different gauges. This Google Map of just North of Stadthalle station, shows the lines clearly.

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Note the level crossing in the bottom left corner. I said in the pictures, that I saw another tram stop. This Google Map shows it.

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

You can clearly see the three rail track in this map.

Approaching Zwickau Zentrum train-station/tram stop, the tracks have to cross a dual-carriageway. This Google Map shows the crossing.

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Note how the trains use a single track without electrification at the left and the trams use the other two tracks. Judging by the full version of this map, it would appear that road traffic is controlled by traffic lights.

To complete the route, this Google Map shows Zwickau Zentrum train station/tram trop.

Zwickau Zentrum Station

Zwickau Zentrum Station

There would appear to be a train in the station.

Unfortunately, I got my usual luck with the weather, otherwise I would have explored the area more on foot. The pictures would hopefully have been better too.

The link into Zwickau Zentrum is an interesting concept, where trains and trams share a common corridor through an urban area to a convenient station.

In Zwickau almost standard diesel trains are used, which might be slightly narrower than standard to fit the tram tracks.

As they are independently powered there is none of the problems of dual voltage operation, but they do have the problem of different gauges, which is solved by using three rails.

I think though, that on the shared line, trams and trains both run according to the same rules.

After my visit to Zwickau, I feel even stronger about what I wrote in When Is A Train Not A Train?

I believe that on separated track, trains can run through urban landscape under tram rules.

As our trams generally run on standard gauge track in the UK, I believe track could be shared between trams and trains, provided the following.

  • A compatible rail profile was used.
  • The line would be electrified for trams.
  • Signalling and warning lights would be appropriate.
  • The train has some form of independent power; diesel or on-board storage.

So say if somewhere in South London, the Tramlink and the trains needed to use the same stretch of line, a modern train like a Class 377 train with onboard energy storage would just raise its contact shoes and go.

There would be no complicated dual-voltage tram-trains.



July 22, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | ,


  1. […] service from Nottingham could even be run by tram-trains or like in Zwickau by diesel multiple units, which left the Nottingham to Lincoln Line at Castle station and then went […]

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  2. […] In Riding The Vogtlandbahn, I talked about riding a unique German railway in Zwickau, where the trains go walkabout from the main line station and travel through the city just like trams to a stop in the centre. This picture shows a train-tram at that stop. […]

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  3. […] But even if the link id not electrified, why can’t we imitate the train/trams in Zwickau, that I wrote about in Riding The Vogtlandbahn. […]

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  4. […] Zwickau Zentrum Station and the Rail Link That Thinks It’s A Tram To The Hauptbahnhof, that I wrote about in Riding The Vogtlandbahn. […]

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  5. […] In that German town, an extension was built from the Hauptbahnhof to a new station in the town centre. I wrote about Zwickau’s unique system in Riding The Vogtlandbahn  […]

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