The F&WHR have been formally twinned with the HSB since September 2006, regular staff exchanges having taken place since 2003. As the largest operators of steam-hauled narrow gauge railways in Europe there are obvious synergies and each organisation benefits openly from the experiences of the other. As well as the staff exchanges close contact exists between the managements of both companies.
The event kicked off on the evening of 5th October with a welcome dinner where the necessary safety inductions were taken care of and we were able to meet old friends. Our group was predominantly made up of steam crews and Boston Lodge management but also included four diesel drivers, two guards, two from infrastructure management and four interpreters. About two-thirds had taken part in previous exchanges.
On Thursday 6th after visiting Westerntor works and carriage depot we were treated to a non-public familiarisation run from Quedlinburg to Wernigerode via the Brocken. During this run all the steam crews were given a chance to get to grips with one of the impressive Harz 2-10-2 tanks. Whilst in Alexisbad we had the opportunity to take the obligatory group photo!
On Friday 7th and Saturday 8th we were rostered alongside the regular HSB loco crews, railcar drivers and guards on service trains throughout the system, the interpreters helping with communication as required. The guards were able to distribute publicity about the F&WHR amongst the passengers including a flyer in German language. The steam loco´s were all decorated with Welsh flags and these have featured prominently in the local press.
The infrastructure group was shown a number of recent projects. Of particular interest were the HSB´s train operated trailable points and their comparison with our own installations.
The generosity of the HSB management and patience of the operating staff was boundless. The final programme point was an “Oktoberffest” in Westerntor works where we were all together again and able to compare our experiences. This also gave us the opportunity to thank all our hosts by presenting HSB General Manager, Matthias Wagener, with one of the “King of the Hill” headboards from the Welsh Highland “Superpower” event in September. There are no doubts about the Harz 2-10-2s being the kings of their hill: the Brocken.
Planning discussions are underway for the next HSB staff visit to the F&WHR, probably in Spring 2013.