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This rambling blog is about building a couple of simple layouts in HO, the available space is rather small but the prototype was not built on the grand scale, most rural stations were merely a curved loop and a siding, which is easy to replicate.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Nebenbahn in Bayern

Nebenbahn in Bayern

Everyone who gets hooked on the model railway hobby knows about branch lines. There are probably more branch line layouts than any other type, and the reason for this is well known: branch lines are usually much simpler in track layout and requirements than main line settings, so they are ideal for limited space modelling. They also have the charm that goes with short trains in rural surroundings and, depending on where you live, the words ‘branch line’ will conjure up all sorts of images of rural bliss.  Nearly everyone reading this will have contemplated branch line modelling at some time or other and many will have done it, or be building branch line layouts at this moment.

There were so many Bavarian branch lines - comprising of 48% of the track in Bayern with 164 state owned ones and 20 private lines. Most were standard gauge but some were narrow gauge, of which a noted survivor is the Chiemsee branch which still operates in preservation, running as a roadside tramway complete with tram engines. By 1977, closures had reduced these Bavarian branches to 79, and more have closed since then. In 1995 the Nürnberg Nordost-Gräfenberg branch (built 1908) was still running in the ‘traditional’ way with a locomotive (albeit diesel) and two steam-heated ’silverfish’ coaches, though most surviving branches are operated by DMUs of various types. The first specially built Nebenbahn was the Siegelsdorf-Markt Erlbach line in 1872 and the last was the Zwiesel-Bodenmals branch which opened as late as 1928. Most of the branch closures have been in the last forty years, but three branches closed in the 1930-39 period, and three others closed during World War 2.   A few branches are visually unchanged from the 1930s, except for motive power and stock, an example being the Cadolzburg branch. 


DB Archiv

   Because Germany is a big and quite varied land and there are regional differences just as in Great Britain. Also, in the old days, if not so much today, there were regional differences in the railways, too, so a Saxon branch would be distinctively different in locomotives, stock, structures, and fittings, from, say, a Bavarian branch. This could be just as marked as the visual differences and the scope for study and research of German railways is just as endless as it is for any other railway, so a short article cannot tell the whole story (though, with luck, we’ll return to it).

If you are tempted to try German modelling, with no pre-conceived notions or allegiances, then the Bavarian area is a good one to start with. Bavaria was thick in natty little branch lines with a distinctly rustic flavour in most cases and as a branch line ‘paradise’ for modellers.

Bayern is popular in Germany, though there are only a few iconic models available in O.

My interest is, I suppose, aided by the fact that most of my German visits are to Bavaria, but I’ve always found the older locomotives and stock from Royal Bavarian State Railways (Königlische Bayerische Staatsbahn: K.Bay.St.B.) fascinating and attractive, especialiy in KBayStB. days when they had an attractive lined dark green livery and lots of bright work.

 What is a Nebenbahn?

First, however, it is worth mentioning the nomenclature which you might encounter in descriptions of German branch lines. The general name is Nebenbahn which means, roughly, secondary or supplementary railway. There is more subtlety in other names, which can include: Vlzlnalbahn - local line, Vizinal being derived from the latin Vicinus or neighbourhood (this type of branch was sometimes of tramway type, including street running); Sekundärbahn - secondary line which might or might not include some street running; Lokalbahn - local line, but a term mostly used for the bigger sort of branch line that connects several towns or at least two main destinations. There was a technical definition in that a Vizinalbahn had track weighing 27.2kg per metre and was therefore quite lightly laid. The other lines used heavier weight track of 34-37kg per metre, though in practice the distinctions were somewhat blurred when some lines that started off as Vizinalbahnen were later extended and upgraded. Lines were further described as Stichbahnen, a true branch line with terminus, and as Verbindungsbahnen, connecting lines between main line routes.

Every sort of economy was observed. Track was very lightly laid, in practice limiting axle-loading to 4.25/5 tonnes. On well drained land, there was economy even in ballasting, using sand, gravel, or cinders or a mix of the three instead of the regular crushed stone chips. Rail bridges across rivers or ravines and where ever possible tracks followed the lines of roads, paths, or rivers to keep civil engineering to a minimum. Four-wheel coaches of great antiquity were in use right up to the end of steam on surviving branches, into the 1960s, these being the original ‘turn of the century’ designs for branch work. The nearest thing to ‘modern’ was the appearance of the steel four-wheel coaches of ‘Thunderbox’ type on some lines and these dated from the 1920s, but even these were not so common in Bavaria where the old Bavarian short and long four-wheelers were available in some numbers.

Track plans Further standardisation came in station designs and layouts. The most basic station found on Bavarian branch lines was the Haltepunkt (stopping point) and this comprised nothing more than a station nameboard and a timetable board which sometimes had the luxury of a light above it on the post. The platform area, itself, all at ground level, of course, was cinders, gravel, or even just dirt and grass. In later years some of these stopping points acquired a shelter of primitive type just like an open-fronted bus shelter of older days, and an example of this type of Haltepunkt can still be seen today on the Cadolzburg branch - just a nameboard and timetable board at ground level.There were a few other stopping places to be seen, particularly on street-running stretches where the usual sort of bus or tram stop with shelter might be used.
 Though the Endstatlon or Endbahnhof (the terminus) was usually a substantial structure with some variety, and therefore probably built by local contractors, there was a standard design of wood structure for use at the usual sort of intermediate station, the Haltestelle. A very good model of this Agenturgebäude is offered in O scale by Lasersachen, specifically of Rothausen, near the old Pola factory. This standard station had an integral goods shed with loading platform. Where a Haltestelle had a siding, the platform might be switched to the other side of the shed, or the whole structure might be set back from the main line so that the loading bank was alongside the siding. Where there was no siding the loading bank could butt up to the main line, and the schedules were usually gentle enough for the train to just wait alongside the loading platform while a consignment was loaded or unloaded, before the whole train went on its way. Simplest type of station is a Haltepunkt (stopping point), with a nameboard, a timetable board, and steps or a footpath to ground level cinder-gravel-dirt ‘platform’ area. Station layouts were simple and logical. Shown here Fig 1 are three station plans (copied from originals in the Nürnberg Transport Museum) of stations on the very long Breitengüssbach to Maroldsweisach branch, which opened in two stages in 1895-96. According to current maps only the first (1895) section of the branch, to Ebern, now remains. There were 14 stations on this 33.8km branch.

Baunach before loop

Baunach after loop added

(Fig 1) Haltestelle at Baunach
Baunach was a typical Haltestelle with a single siding and the standard wood station structure. The platform area was just cinders or gravel at ground level, and the level crossings were ungated. The records at Nürnberg show that Reckendorf and Pfarrweisach had exactly the same track plan and structure.

  (Fig 2) Haltestelle at Ebern (originally an Endstation)
Next is the main intermediate station on the branch, Ebern, which was for a year, 1895-96, the Endstation, and therefore is shown with a locomotive shed on the original plan. What happened to the loco shed after the branch was extended to Maroldsweisach is not known to me and is not indicated on the original plans which date from the line’s opening. Possibly the shed was demolished and the shed road became a siding.


The loading platform was probably stepped at two levels as is quite common in France and Germany. The lower level is at wagon door height for conventional freight handling, while the higher level, probably at the buffer stop end in this case, is above wagon height, allowing carts and lorries to tip their contents straight into open wagons. As no separate goods shed is shown on the plan I suspect that the station building was another standard structure with the goods shed integral. Note the use of a 3-way point, specifically marked as such, and a nice space saver for layout builders.


 (Fig 3) Endstation (Endbahnhof) at Maroldsweisach.   The ultimate terminus on the branch was at Maroldsweisach where another 3-way point is marked as such and gives access to what were presumably a couple of coach or wagon storage sidings. A long loading platform is shown, plus a station structure. This may have been yet another wooden standard design but was more likely to be a proper two-storey structure featuring living accommodation for the station master, etc. A proposed additional siding is indicated (dotted) and I presume this was intended for the locomotive shed. Given the date of the plans they were undoubtedly prepared while the line was still being built and it seems likely that the idea was to close the (temporary?) loco shed at Ebern and transfer the facilities to Maroldswelsach.


 No goods shed is shown, but may have been provided on the loading platform, or more probably (as a later addition) where dotted. I have to speculate, based on practice elsewhere, about some of these matters as these plans of the branch are all I’ve seen of it. I have never come across actual photographs of the branch. The track plans, however, are extremely useful as very typical of branches all over Bavaria, so can be copied with a degree of confidence on the ‘prototype for everything’ principle. Ebern, in particular, is a nice one, either as a through station or as a small Endstation with loco shed. As a terminus the buffer stops were at the right hand end of the plan. If you made this as a layout project you could copy the original idea - build it as a terminus, and if you wanted to fit it into a bigger layout later on, just take out the buffer stops and extend it further. A small engine shed and the Lasersachen  Agenturgebäude kit would be the only railway structures needed, assuming you build up the loading bank from wood or card.

(4) ‘Standard’ layout for a Haltestelle (5) ‘Standard’ layout for an Endstation - Endbahnhof (6) Endstation variation at Stadtlaurigen - none to scale;  Key to all:  (A) Station building (B) Loco shed (C) Coal store or merchant (D) Goods shed (E) End-loading (F) Side loading bank (G) Baywa warehouse (H) Section house or office (W) Weighbridge (J) Ground level cinder platform area (T) 3-way point. Obviously track plans varied a little depending on the sites available, area available, and the terrain, sometimes extra sidings were put in to serve adjacent industries.  The KBayStsB had preferred plans for a Haltstelle and an Endbahnhof and these are sketched showing immediately how closely Maroldsweisach follows the plan. The points forming the double-ended sidings {and run around loops) were quite often 3-way rather than two separate points. For modellers this is good news for it is a great saver of length. Stadtlaurigen was a good example of an Endbahnhof that used 3-way points making it another perfect model for authentic Bavarian modelling.

Bavarian branch locomotives

Since the disappearance of regular steam working in Bavaria, branches have been worked by well-known modern types of power, notably the Class 211/212 diesei and the railbus, and more recently by the Class 614 and 628 DMUs. Some branches were operated by the early diesel railcars in the 1930s, but in general steam power was used. The V36 diesel seems to have been used, also, in the early days of dieselisation, plus the V80 on some branches.

 DVI DRG BR98.75

The earliest branch iocomotives used were the DIII (four only, built for the earliest branches) and the DVI, built 1880-94, 53 in all. These were both small 0-4-0WTs, notably the Gerard DVI DRG BR98.75.
An attempt at something well suited to the sharp curves and general rough conditions of some of the branch lines resulted in the impressive looking Mallet 0-4-4-0T of Bavarian Class BBII, built 1899-1908. Some 31 were built and the Deutsche Reichsbahn designation was Class 98.7. However, despite being a popular subject for modellers this proved to be the least successful of the main branch line types, due to its maintenance costs and complexity, so it was the first type withdrawn, in the 1930s. A superb models of this class were made in O by Fulgurex and Gebauer.

DXI DRG BR98.4-5 at Ingolstadt
The Class DVII 0-6-0T DRG BR 98.4-5, a lengthened version of this was built as a 0-6-2T as Bavarian Class DVIII, which became Deutsche Reichsbahn Class 98.6. An improvement on this was the DX, and this led to the big production run of the definitive Bavarian Class DXI 0-6-2T, later the Deutsche Reichsbahn/Deutsche Bundesbahn Class 98.4-5, some 144 being built in the 1895-1914 period. 

 Ptl2/2 DRG BR98.3

 The BR98.3 was a 0-4-0WT of novel design, a tram engine complete with built-in steam condenser, but with controls and coal bunker arranged for one-man operation, a new idea back in 1906 when the first was built. Production continued in batches until 1927 and 48 were built. A couple were built forthe Royal Prusslan State Railways, too. The bunker took the form of a hopper and the driver controlled the feed of coal by gravity to the firebox. In DRG days and DB days, they were Class 98.3. These engines were widely used, examples are preserved, and the last of them was not taken out of service until October 1962, the Spalt branch being its final home.    Very fine O models have been produced by Kiss, SCE and MicroMetaKit covering all three periods of ownership. Some ‘Glaskasten’ locomotives were used in Austria, and in World War 2 one was taken to Norway for harbour shunting duties. The high bunker necessitated a distinctive two storey coaling stage on Bavarian branches. The ‘Glaskasten’ was mainly used on the short or local branch lines due to its rather limited coal capacity.

 Gtl4/4 DRG BR98.8

 In terms of character the ‘Glaskasten’ might have received all the affection, but the most important Bavarian branch locomotive of all was the GtL4/4 0-8-0T which had all the power and traction that was ever needed. This was Class 98.8 in DRG and DB days and 117 were built in the 1911-1927 period. They were rugged and reliable and some were still in service in the last years of steam. The last one of all, 98 812, went straight into preservation and is still running today. A superb O model of this type was made by Gebauer and a new model is due in the Kiss range in 2016. 


 After the Bavarian GtL 4/4 DRG 98.8 class engines had proved to be very reliable and had all been taken over by the Reichsbahn, it was decided to build further examples of them. However, because they were very slow with a top speed of 40 km/h, the design was modified and the so-called GtL 4/5 DRG 98.10 was built with an additional trailing axle.


There were yet other locomotives used on Bavarian branches, but the foregoing were the common ones of greatest importance.

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