Black Forest Railway (Badische Schwarzwaldbahn)

Over breakfast we agreed that this was probably not a good day to be driving around the Black Forest on snow bound roads even with winter tyres so we decided to take a train journey instead.   This being Sunday there wasn’t a lot of traffic about and the snow that had fallen remained mostly undisturbed and lay like a thick carpet across the road and the pavements.  We negotiated our way safely to the station, left the car in a car park and because it was still snowing left it hoping that it wouldn’t get completely snowed in while we were away.

We had missed the train by just a couple of minutes so this provided an opportunity for an early morning beer in a bar opposite the station while we waited before going back to purchase our €30 day return ticket for a journey into the forest on the Badische Schwarzwaldbahn.  The Black Forest Railway (as we know it) was completed on 10th November 1873 and today is a twin-track, electrified railway line running in a north-west to south-east direction and links Offenburg on the Rhine Valley Railway with Singen on the Upper Rhine Railway. It passes directly across the Black Forest, through spectacular scenery on a route that is one hundred and fifty kilometres long, ascends six hundred and fifty metres from lowest to highest elevation, and passes through thirty-nine tunnels and over two viaducts. It is the only true mountain railway in Germany to be built with two tracks, and is the most important railway line in the Black Forest. 

Being Germany the scarlet DBAG Class 146 locomotive and modern double-decker passenger cars arrived and left completely on schedule and we selected good seats on the top deck with excellent views on both sides.  The first part of the journey was quite flat as we passed through Gengenbach on our way to Hausach as the train lines followed the route of the Kinzig valley through sleeping vineyards and lifeless orchards and then as the valley narrowed the train began to climb effortlessly towards the most dramatic and scenic part of the route through the Gutach valley to Hornberg and then to Triberg and on to Sankt Georgan.

In this middle section the train has to ascend six-hundred metres through a series of helical tunnels and this part of the line was the most complicated to construct and was completed last.  The route passes through thirty-seven tunnels in this section and across one large viaduct at Hornberg.  On its way from north to south, the line passes under the main European watershed (which divides the drainage basins of the major rivers of Germany north and south) twice, once via the Sommerau tunnel between Triberg and Sankt Georgen, which is one thousand seven hundred meters long, and then via the Hatting tunnel, between Engen and Immendingen, which is nine hundred meters long.

This was a brilliant journey through magnificent scenery, thick snow and blizzards and as I was not driving today I was able to enjoy the fabulous views.  After Sankt Georgan the line began to descend again until it reached our first destination of Villingen-Schwenningen where we left the train after a journey of an hour and ten minutes.  It had stopped snowing now but not before it had deposited several centimetres on top of the town and everywhere looked pristine and clean under a dazzling white mantle.

Perhaps Villingen is always quiet on a Sunday or perhaps the snow had kept people indoors because the place was curiously quiet today and everywhere was closed and it was obvious that this was not the place to drive out to for Sunday lunch on a snowy day.  The town was much like Freiburg only smaller with a main street with too many shops but pretty enough with pastel coloured facades and colourful window displays but as there wasn’t a great deal to do we only stayed for forty minutes and then took the next available train back to Triberg.

From the eastern edge of the forest we went back through the cork screw loops into the high mountains covered in pine trees all bearing a heavy burden of snow and standing in rows like an army regiment ready to march.  Before we reached Triberg there was another blizzard and the train passed through the long dark tunnels each ending with the explosive contrast of the brilliant white cresta run channels of trackside snow as we passed out of them.

The station at Triberg was a little way out of town so we caught a bus with lots of other people into a busy main street full of activity but whatever was going on must have just finished because within just a few minutes Triberg was just as quiet as Villingen.

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