Harz Railway, Germany
Arguably the greatest steam railway in the world, the Harz Railway, with three interconnecting lines, travels for 86 miles, stopping at 48 stations through the fairytale villages of Germany’s famous Harz mountains. This is Europe’s longest railway network and while other steam trains are now run for tourists only, this line serves the locals too. On board you can take a step back in time and enjoy a ride to the land of mysterious forests, medieval towns and snow-capped mountains. For railway travellers, this is truly one of the best lines in the world.
Prices from: €44 (valid for three days on the route)
Departing from: Various stations
Journey length: 86 miles or less
Harz Railway route
There are 48 stations on the line (with three branches) and you could easily spend a week hopping on and off the Harz trains exploring this amazing part of the former East Germany. The network is divided into three principal railways; the Harz Railway, which connects Wernigerode to Nordhausen, the Selke Valley Railway, which branches off the railway to arrive in Quedlinburg, and the Brocken Railway, which also branches off the Harz Railway and runs to the summit of the Brocken.
If time is tight, there are two places you need to head for: Quedlinburg, a World Heritage Site medieval town with steep-roofed houses and narrow cobblestone streets. And don’t miss the chance to travel to the snowy peak of Brocken Mountain – at 1,142 metres, it’s the highest mountains in northern Germany and the journey there through a snow-capped landscape is spectacular.
Harz Railway trains
With 25 engines, the Harz Railway boasts the largest fleet of passenger steam locomotives in the world. Most of them are 60 years old or more and all are shining examples of well-kept, well-run trains with the livery of the carriages resembling British Rail’s ‘plum and spilt milk’ colours. On board, passengers get the chance to step outside on to the open verandas between the carriages to breathe in the air and enjoy the stunning views.
Why we love it
The Harz gives travellers the chance to step back in time on some of the best steam trains in the world and enjoy a journey (or two) to some of Germany’s most picturesque locations.