Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Tiny narrow gauge trains on often lengthy railways have long been used in areas of Northwestern Germany where peat bogs are found. In earlier times, the peat was used as fuel, in the modern era I presume it is entirely for gardening. The railways haul the peat from areas where it is cut or dredged, to the works where it is processed, bagged, and shipped to wholesalers or retail sellers.
This is not quite a typical Torfbahn - most of the locos I saw had cabs.
The pictures here were taken in 1970 and 1971, when I was stationed in Bremerhaven, Germany, an area which had many Torfbahnen (torf = peat, bahn = railway, bahnen = railways). Most of these railways are 60cm (~2 feet) gauge.
The slide says "Kippwagen - Neu Ebersdorf." These tilting cars were used for track maintenance, and have the same ballast-like commodity loaded as you see in and around the track in front of them. As I recall, this is the line north from Heinschenwald.
My selection of images here was simple: they are every one of the Torfbahn slides I found today that would go through the scanner. At the time these were taken, I saved some money by getting my slides back unmounted. My favorites I mounted in glass mounts. Those won't go through the scanner. The ones here I mounted later in plastic mounts, or were from early Kodachrome rolls, before I switched to Agfachrome and unmounted.
Same two ballast cars in distance. Same ballast-like material scattered around a low spot in the track. The rear of my Fiat 850 Sport Coupé just barely peaks out from behind the bushes at right.
This post was meant to be a quick and dirty job, and as I couldn't find a "safe" cleaning brush, I skipped cleaning off the dust. The dirt is obvious. The quick, not so much, since I couldn't seem to stop writing - I initially intended to post the pictures without individual captions, and to just have 25-words-or-less of explanation. Too late for that.
The Torfwerk (peat works) at Bahnhof Hainschenwald, on the Bremerhaven to Bremervörde railway line. Two loaded peat cars can be seen in the yard.
I will either find or remake digital transfers of the glass mounts and add them later. I might also find a brush and clean and rescan these eventually. I may come back and clean up the captions after some map research. Perhaps. Probably?
The Torfwerk at Gnarrenburg, on the Bremervörde-Osterholzer Eisenbahn. The passenger seat of the 850 peeking in. The next time I was at Gnarrenburg, the Torfwerk was full of smoke and arriving fire engines. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the fire engines. Things were probably pretty confused.
Torfbahnen are a subgenre of Feldbahnen, "Field Railways," which have been used in many other activities as well, including mining, construction, agriculture. industry, but which had their greatest development in the First World War, where they moved supplies and troops behind, and even sometimes into, the trenches. 
I don't believe any Torfbahnen were using steam by 1970, but this locomotive was sitting off to one side at a Torfwerk, probably already designated for preservation. If anyone recognizing it could provide info on where it was and what became of it, please comment below - in either German or English.
Last time I checked, there were several Torfbahn and Feldbahn Museums in Germany. There were already some when I was taking these pictures. They generally celebrate the peaceful uses, and display equipment much like that shown here, perhaps some of the same equipment.
Torfbahnen could wander far - the peat cuttings here are beyond the distant tree line, the Torfwerk probably a similar distance behind me. The 850 Sport Coupé pokes its nose in, from the left. This may the Hainschenwald line again. I loved driving the little one-lane paving-stone farm lanes between the fields.
My first Torfbahn discoveries were happy accidents, later I had topographic maps of several peat areas and could set out with expectations based on thin lines or tick marks alongside a road.
 I have no recollection as to where this is, but I believe they were cutting not far away and loading into trucks here to haul to a distant Torfwerk. 
Many Torfbahnen, including Gnarrenburg, are still in use. My Schweers + Wall Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland 2009/2010 shows a number of large and medium-sized systems, as should the most recent editionI have enjoyed using Google maps satellite view, among others, to follow the lines of various Torfbahnen, finding the trains and the active peat cutting areas. 

This is the line near Hainschenwald, again, through the Wald itself (Wald = woods). The track is tight up against the roadside at right, then in the middle distance swings right toward the trees and crosses the road to head into the woods to the left. Road-shoulder trackage like this was not uncommon. The blur here was deliberate, or from taking the picture out the windshield of a moving car.

Torfbahn tracks are easily relocatable, as the cuttings shift, like sections of toy train track, and well suited for soft soil. Torfbahn bridges, across the frequent drainage ditches of this type of countryside, are also simple constructions - an I-beam under each rail was typical. Roads for highway trucks are not suitable for marshy grounds, nor easily relocatable, nor environmentally sound.
 An older peat cutting site. The equipment would move back and forth across the cutting area like a harvester, bring the Torf for loading into the Torfwagen.
 The relative age of earlier cuts could be seen first by color, then with older cuts by vegetation stages.
An actively worked line passes an area of Heide (heath) that appears to be in original condition.
  My railway outings were enjoyable not just for the trains, but also for the scenery, and many Torfbahnen ranked quite highly for scenic value, especially since I have been a heather fan since childhood. And in between the Torfbahnen and scenery, I was seeing full-sized trains, often with steam or electric locomotives. Or at least railbusses, which were fun too.
Another nice piece of working line and scenery
My outings from Bremerhaven went in all directions and, especially to the Southeast, on all types of roads. Often I would spot a promising looking Torfwerk without time to explore, and would return at a later date. 
Nice pile of peat, sad locomotive.
Once, I had a friend with me, and thought this would be a good introduction to Torfbahnen. I had no topo map of this area and had no idea how long the line was.
A long and lonely (rail)road ...
So we started at the Torfwerk (I believe the one with the steam loco pictured above) and ended up walking a kilometer or three through these woods before we came to the open Heide - and as I recall the loading area was still not in sight, so we turned back. Faint memory suggests that when I did get the topo map, I learned we had gone about 2/3 of the way. I don't think Phil enjoyed it much.

As previously mentioned, I will probably eventually return to this topic. 

Comments welcome in English oder auf Deutsch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring breeze

Looking north from Carkeek Park

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I took this picture at Beverly, Washington, roughly 50 years ago, age 13, while on a Boy Scout camping trip nearby. 

This ancient electric locomotive set was waiting to help a Westbound Milwaukee Road train up the Saddle Mountains to Boylston, where the old railroad bridge can still be seen over I-90. These helper locomotives may have cut off at Boylston, or at Kittitas, or may have continued West through the Cedar River Watershed [past the front of the Ed Center] to Tacoma.

The electrics went away after a few years, the railroad a few more years later. The old grade became today's Iron Horse Trail.

Beverly, Lower Crab Creek, and the Missoula Flood areas to the East and North remain one of my favorite areas for daytrips.

Why post this today? Well, I was in the basement looking for a wall map of Germany, and accidentally tipped over a box overflowing with photographs. While picking up the mess, this one caught my eye: For the thirty years I have been returning to the area with family & friends, I have kept thinking that I should find an old picture.

This isn't the picture I was thinking of, but maybe sharing it will make the other one come out of hiding.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yakima Canyon

Yakima Canyon, near Umtanum
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Richmond Beach

Empire Builder, 28 April 2011

[click on image for more 3D viewing options & other 3D images]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

3D Streetcars

Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar in 3D [click on image for more 3D viewing options].

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rainy Day

Photographically, this may not have much to offer, having been taken through a rain-spattered windshield with a camera phone.

But at other levels it may say a lot.

The spot is probably my favorite rainy day trackside lurk. Not far from home, low key. There are better places for sunny days, and photography, so it is trackside, and doing "something different," which ameliorates the rainy day funk a bit.

This stretch often makes me think of other places I have been with similar arrangements. I once paced a steam locomotive (DB class 44 2-10-0, If I remember correctly) hauling a heavy coal train for several miles toward the Luxembourg border near Trier, Germany, in the late dusk along a similar arrangement of raised train track and screening trees. There are also the raised tracks in Tacoma toward Ruston. Many other places, over many years.

I also quietly admire that this is new: the recent double-tracking of the short stretch of single formerly here meant widening the roadbed, so from this angle at least, this is a new embankment, with new box-culverts. Not all change is loss.

Trains may not currently dominate my interests as they have for much of my life, but I still spend some time each week with railway books, be they about British branch lines, German Straßenbahnen, the cement & coal lines of Northeastern Pennsylvania, or whatever. I still go trackside, often to the same stretches of track.

I still enjoy taking pictures, sometimes with the big camera, sometimes with my phone.

Trains are still worth watching, still worth taking pictures of. Rain or sun.