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April 18th 2008
(Posted in: Ffestiniog Railway News)
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HSB Exchange Visit 2008
The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways have been formally twinned with the former East German Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB) since 2006 and staff exchange visits have taken place on a regular basis since 2003.

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HSB Mallets on the summit of the Brocken mountain.
(The agreement put the official seal of approval on the increasingly close relations that have developed between the HSB and the FR/WHR over the past few years.)

From 18th to 20th April 2008, fourteen of our German colleagues will be active behind the scenes and on both lines alongside our drivers, firemen and guards.

The locomotives in the picture are two of the HSB's compound Mallet engines. These are very similar, from the point of view of steam loco technology, to our own K1 Garratt on the Welsh Highland Railway.

The regular crew from one of these Mallets will be getting to grips with K1 and passing on some of their long experience running compound engines to us.

They've been itching to crew this engine since their first visit to Boston Lodge in 2003!

Their group will include eight loco crew and four guards together with senior marketing and customer services staff. Both railway systems strive to provide the best possible service for their customers and exchanges like these help us to compare our practices and learn from each other. We also enjoy ourselves!

Watch out for our surprise beer in Spooner's!

One idea we don't think the HSB will be copying from us is our gravity slate train. We intend to run one of these demonstration trains for them on Sunday morning, 20th April, leaving Dduallt at 09:00 for Minffordd!

Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB)

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Winter on the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen.
The HSB is a metre-gauge system formed as an amalgamation of three major lines stretching 140 km through the scenic and mountainous Harz region of former East Germany.

It is Europe's most extensive steam-operated railway and is a true 'community railway', owned by the local authorities of the region, which took it over from Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR - the former East German national railway) in 1993.

It runs trains throughout the year and carries approximately 1.1 million passengers per year - 700,000 of whom use the most heavily-trafficked line to the top of the Brocken mountain, which is slightly higher than Snowdon at 1142 metres.

The railway has about 240 staff and is therefore a major employer in an area where the economy relies heavily on tourism.

Diesel railcars are used on some of the less busy services, but the HSB possesses 25 steam locomotives. Steam services cover the whole system every day - including an 8.5km extension which opened during 2006 to take the line into the UNESCO World Heritage town of Quedlinburg, over a closed standard-gauge trackbed.

The HSB is also involved in an innovative suburban service from Nordhausen which involves special dual-mode (diesel and electric) trams from the city tramway system working out along the HSB as far as Ilfeld, 17 km from Nordhausen.

If you would like to visit the HSB's website - click here.

Ffestiniog Travel - the Ffestiniog Railway's travel company specialising in rail-based holidays - organises regular tours to the Harz region and other parts of Germany.

Photos supplied by HSB

 

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