Short and sweet – that’s the best way to describe the Preßnitztalbahn. Located in southern Saxony, near the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, the Preßnitztalbahn runs a total of only 9-km. What this heritage railway lacks in track, it makes up for in enthusiasm and hard work!
We started our visit at the Jöhstadt station, a large but non-descript brick building. The loading area was only a short walk further along the road, and revealed the historic engine shed, complete with a variety of wonderful steam locomotives, all in running condition.
If you have never been to a narrow-gauge railroad in Germany before, you are in for a big surprise: many of them allow you to walk around the yards and into the workshops (which are often quite clean), taking photos whenever you like. The Preßnitztalbahn is no exception, and everything has been made as safe as possible for visitors.
The locomotive shed is almost a work of art in its own right – who else would bother to put flower boxes on the windows of a workshop! I suspect that many a wife has become a railroad fan due to these tactics.
There are a variety of passenger coaches, but Chris and I rode in one of the oldest, #970-751, which featured a rare clerestory roof (more commonly seen in North America). The wooden benches inside looked rather Spartan, but were actually quite comfortable!
Shortly after leaving Jöhstadt, we passed the cute, fully restored “mini-station” at Schmalzgrube. From there, the route was mostly through the woods, along a river. The area is very scenic, and you can arrange to get off at any of the stops along the way, and also to be picked up again later. We continued on to the end-of-line station in Steinbach.
Since it was now noon, we walked back (not very far) along the shaded trail to Wildbach, where there was a charming little restaurant with outdoor seating and great food. After lunch, we retraced our way to Steinbach in time to witness the most popular event of the journey – our steam locomotive was filling up with water from Germany’s most beautiful (and most photographed) waterhouse. This lovely little building is nothing like the watertowers once common in North America.
Soon after, we were riding back to Jöhstadt, returning from there to Dresden by bus. Overall, the Preßnitztalbahn may be the most family-friendly steam railway in Germany. They are one of the few railways that publish information in English, and their Google+ page has a huge (and well deserved) following. The list of special events that they hold each year is impressive.
If you have young children, appreciate steam engines with real character, and want to enjoy the great outdoors (or at least a few kilometers of it), then put the Preßnitztalbahn on your list of holiday destinations. You won’t be disappointed!