Wednesday 4 December 2013

Rügen, Germany

A narrow-gauge steam railway operating a regular service, 365 days a year.  Sometimes I'm surprised by what I find!

The railway is the Rügensche Bäderbahn (website only in German), on the island of Rügen in north east Germany.  During the post-war years, Rügen lay behind the "Iron Curtain", in communist-controlled East Germany.

The railway is known locally as "Rasender Roland" (Rushing Roland).  Not that it rushes.  "Rushing" Roland trundles at a sedate pace across part of the island, linking three of the main towns on the east coast with Putbus, which lies inland.


The trains operate every two hours, every day throughout the year, with an increase to hourly between the coastal towns during the summer season.

At Putbus, Rushing Roland connects with a diesel-operated, standard gauge branch line.

During the summer months, the steam trains continue beyond Putbus to follow the standard gauge line to a terminus at Lauterbach Mole.

The track between Putbus and Lauterbach Mole is dual-gauge.

Lauterbach Mole is a single-track dead end, lacking any facility for the locomotive to run round its train.  This results in quite an unusual method of operation. 

At Putbus, a diesel shunting locomotive is attached to the rear of the train, for the journey to Lauterbach Mole.  The shunting locomotive is then at the front of the train for its journey back to Putbus.

The steam locomotive remains attached at the rear.

On arrival back at Putbus, the diesel shunter is detached.
The steam locomotive can then run round the train, ready to resume the onward journey to Rügen's eastern coast.

The standard gauge railway to Putbus and Lauterbach Mole is a branch line from the island's largest town, Bergen auf Rügen.  It runs as a single car shuttle, operated as Pressnitztalbahn (website in German only).

The branch is run by the same company which operates Rushing Roland.

At Bergen auf Rügen, the branch connects with the railway line on and off Rügen.

Services to Rügen from the German mainland are operated by DeutscheBahn.

Most services are local trains running to Stralsund and on to Rostock.



A small number of longer-distance InterCity trains operate onto Rügen, providing direct services from a number of major German cities.  In this image, a train is about to leave Ostseebad Binz for Stuttgart, a 12-hour journey of around 1,150 km which will call in at cities including Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Köln.

A comprehensive network of bus services is operated on Rügen.  These are provided by Rügener Personennahverkehrs GmbH (RPNV) - website in German only - with the tag line "Eine Insel mit Viel Bus" which translates to "an island with many bus(es)".

Many of the buses I saw were two-door single-deckers, with a mix of low-floor and high-floor vehicles, when I visited the island in September 2013.

Although some of the buses were in a plain white livery, there were plenty in advertising colours.


White timber-clad buildings are typical of the architecture found in Rügen's seaside towns, such as Binz (left) and Gohren (below).

Longer, three-axle vehicles were also in use.  These also had two sets of doors, and were a mix of low-floor and high-floor buses.


A couple of shorter-length vehicles were in use on local services including Bergen auf Rügen (left) and in the seaside town of Gohren (below).


I also found a minibus in Bergen auf Rügen, operating a service to nearby towns.

In Bergen auf Rügen, bus routes converge on a modern bus station.  This is a short walk from the rail station.  Many of the buses are timed to allow convenient connections here.

Another connection point is at Serams, in open countryside (below).  Here, buses converge from Bergen auf Rügen, the towns of Binz and Sassnitz, and from Sellin, Gohren and beyond, enabling passengers to interchange.

At least one articulated bus operates on Rügen.  The vehicle prominently proclaims that it is gas-powered.

Articulated buses that I have seen elsewhere in Europe have invariably had at least three sets of doors (sometimes four or even, in Bratislava, five).  This one is an exception, with only two doors, maybe reflecting that it is used on rural and interurban routes rather than on intensive city services.  The orange square at the front indicates that the bus is on its way to do a school trip.

On fine summer days, cycling is a popular leisure activity on Rügen.  On a number of the island's bus routes, certain buses tow trailers during the summer season to carry bicycles.

The summer season runs from early May to early October.  The bus timetable indicates which journeys are scheduled to carry bicycles.

Road trains operate regular "Bäderbahn" shuttle services carrying holidaymakers around several of the seaside towns.  I photographed this one in Binz.

The Bäderbahns are independent of the RPNV bus network (and are separate from the steam railway, Rügensche Bäderbahn, as far as I can tell).  The Bäderbahn in Binz operates all year round, others are seasonal.

Private road trains provide local tours, such as this one in Binz.


Another "novelty" vehicle aimed at holidaymakers is this North American school bus, which operates as Seebrücken Express.  Seebrücken refers to the piers in the towns of Binz, Sellin, Gohren on Rügen's east coast.
A number of ferries complement the bus and rail network, both along the coast and across lagoons which lie inland.

There is at least one tram on Rügen, but it is not in public service.

The tram appears to be a static exhibit at Rügen's railway and technical museum (website in German only) at Prora, near the coastal town of Binz.

Rügen is a charming holiday destination.  This did not escape the attention of the Nazi regime.
In the 1930s, the regime planned a colossal holiday resort on the island's coast at Prora.  Eight concrete blocks stretching nearly 5 kilometres along the beach were built.  They would have accommodated 20,000 holidaymakers.

The holidaymakers never came.  The outbreak of World War 2 interrupted the project as it approached completion.

Small parts of the Prora complex are in use, including a documentation centre which tells the story of Prora.  The rest is derelict, slowly deteriorating. 

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