Harz Railway

Brocken, Saxony-Anhalt | C.1897

Photo Credit: Bine Jo Mortensen

Among its dense forests and snow-capped mountains, deep within the Harz Mountains, Brocken Mountain stands proudly above the peaks and valleys of northern Germany. The Harz Railway, Europe’s longest railway network, winds through the region transporting passengers up to Brocken each year.

Plans for a railway to Brocken began as early as 1869, but took over twenty years to come to fruition. After Prince Otto of Stolberg-Wernigerode administered the land for railway development, the Brocken Railway was opened in 1898. The neighboring Harz Railway had been opened the year before. Both rails are part of three interconnecting lines that form the Hard Narrow Gauge Railway, the third being the Selke Valley Railway.

Before the railways offered picturesque train tours, they endured their fair share of turmoil brought on by war and political strife. During WWII, parts of the track suffered damage from bombs and artillery shells. Upon the construction of the Berlin Wall, Brocken and its station lay beyond the legal bounds and were no longer accessible to the public. East German Border Troops who were stationed on the mountain often boarded trains carrying commodities to make sure no  stowaways were attempting to cross the border.

Today, the Harz Narrow Gauge Railway attracts up to 1 million passengers each year and serves a blend of tourists, hikers, and locals. Its route extends 86 miles and serves 48 stations with a fleet of 25 steam engine trains. Efficient as any modern railway, it continues to run through idyllic landscapes of Germany even passing through medieval towns where steep-roofed houses and narrow cobblestone streets remain preserved as they appeared centuries ago.

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