The International Steam Pages
The Bruchhausen-Vilsen to Asendorf Railway, 2010
James Waite reports, click here for a later report from Graham Lightfoot (7th June 2012)
Click here for an update (24th February 2010), courtesy of Wolf Siedler.
The cover photo of the February 2007 issue of Voie
Etroite, the French narrow gauge magazine, showed a weird and wonderful looking machine, a four-wheeled railcar which was obviously of great age with long
bonnets protruding at both ends. It had been beautifully restored and was positively gleaming in its red and cream colour scheme. This was no T41
(Wismar works no. 20202 of 1932) of the metre gauge railway from Bruchhausen-Vilsen to Asendorf in northern Germany. It was my first introduction to what was clearly a fascinating railway.
Here it is in its shed at Asendorf. This delightful double ended
Bruchhausen-Vilsen lies about thirty five kilometres south east of Bremen in an area of gently rolling countryside noted for its fruit and vegetable production. On 6th June 1900 a network of metre gauge railways was opened in the district based upon a main line connecting with the standard gauge at Hoya in the east and Syke in the west. A 5km long branch ran from Hoya to Bucken and another, 8 km long, southwards from Bruchhausen-Vilsen to Asendorf. Much of the route was built alongside the existing roads and was quite steeply graded. Five identical 0-6-0 tank locos were built for the railway in 1899 by Hanomag. Their factory was at Hannover, not far from Bruchhausen-Vilsen, and they were probably the nearest locomotive builder. The locos were quite distinctive, being fitted with solid disc wheels and outside Stephenson-link motion. They were named after the principal towns served by the new railway. A sixth identical loco was delivered in 1912.
The system settled down to many years of uneventful operation. In the 1940’s a series of twenty rollbocke bogies was obtained for through operation of standard gauge wagons. Passenger traffic was withdrawn on the Asendorf branch in the late 1950’s. In 1963 the 11 km section of the main line eastwards from Bruchhausen-Vilsen to Hoya was converted to standard gauge, the work being carried out in a single day. In 1965 the remainder of the main line westwards to Syke was converted, leaving the freight-only branch to Asendorf as the only narrow gauge line line. The rollbocke loading facility was moved to Bruchhausen-Vilsen. In 1966 two second hand metre-gauge diesels arrived to take over the freight service to Asendorf.
The preservation society, the Deutsche Eisenbahn-Verein (“DEV”), had its origins in a meeting of four enthusiasts in Hamburg in 1964. The new society grew rapidly. By 1966 it had been given permission to start operating weekend tourist services between Bruchhausen-Vilsen and Asendorf. VGH, a regional transport company which had by now taken over the old railway company, made a gift to them of “Hoya” and “Bruchhausen”, the last two surviving steam locomotives. The tourist service began on 2nd July 1966 - the first preserved railway operation in Germany.
DEV took over sole responsibility for the Asendorf line in 1971 when freight traffic was withdrawn. Passenger traffic on the standard gauge line through Bruchhausen-Vilsen came to an end in 1972 but freight traffic is still operated by VGH. Much of the track throughout Bruchhausen-Vilsen station remains mixed gauge. The rollbocke facilities have been preserved and are used on special occasions. In addition to “Hoya” and “Bruchhausen” the society has acquired five steam locos from other lines in Germany, all but one of which has been restored to working order. There is also an impressive collection of diesel locos, railcars, carriages and wagons. A few have always run at Bruchhausen-Vilsen but the majority come from other German lines. Most of the locos live in the extensive engine shed at the eastern end of the yard at Bruchhausen-Vilsen except for “Bruchhausen” which needs major work before it can steam again. It currently resides in the middle of the roundabout by the station. The working locos and stock are kept in beautiful condition.
This is “Hoya” waiting to leave Bruchhauen-Vilsen station with the 14.00 hrs train to Asendorf. Railcar T44 (ex- Inselbahn Juist, on one of the German North Sea islands) on the left.
The line leaves Bruchhausen-Vilsen station in an easterly direction, passes the large depot and museum building and heads southwards to Vilsen Ort station 0.9km away. The station master here is Harald Kindermann, one of the founders of the preservation society. There’s a short 500mm gauge line in the garden beside the station platform with what looks like a small diesel loco (click here for more information, added 24th February 2010). The railway then turns to the west away from the town and climbs through woodland past Wiehe Kurpak to Vilser Holz station at 2.8km.
Southbound trains normally wait a few minutes here for photographs. Soon after the line leaves the woods, reaches the summit of the climb and runs through fields to Heliegenberg, the main intermediate station at 4km. Here it joins the main federal route 6 for the rest of the distance to Asendorf (7.8km), passing halts at Klosterheide and Arbste en route.
This is a really delightful district to visit. It’s a short walk to Vilsen, the part of the town southwest of the station where many historic buildings survive. Don’t miss the radio store there. Its windows are filled with old-fashioned radios and the store itself looks unchanged since the 1940’s or 1950’s. Look out also for Angelo’s ice cream shop run by a friendly Italian family. They produce the most magnificent concoctions which have to be seen (and tasted!) to be believed. They’ll love it if you talk to them in Italian! Back at the station the main building now houses the Alte Bahnhof bar and restaurant – there’s more good food here. Fans of modern architecture may enjoy the futuristic office building by the station roundabout. It’s the headquarters of the Mittelweserbahn, a company set up by a group of volunteers from the railway which successfully operates freight services over the DB main line under the EU’s open access scheme.
The railway runs every Saturday and Sunday from the beginning of May to the beginning of October. There are also occasional services on public holidays though they are generally worked by railcars and not by steam. Bruchhausen-Vilsen is easily reached by public transport. VGH’s no. 150 service runs along route 6 from Bremen and Syke and details of the current schedule are available online at http://www.vbn.de. On a few Sundays VGH also operates a tourist service on the standard gauge line through Bruchhausen-Vilsen using a vintage railcar. It connects with DB train services at Eystrup and Syke. Their timetable and much background information are on DEV’s website at www.museumseisenbahn.de.
Notes on the steam locos
0-6-0T “Hoya” (Hanomag 3341/ 1899). One of the railway’s two surviving original locos. Fitted with a new boiler in 2006. Here the firelady oils round “Hoya” at Asendorf before returning to Bruchhauen-Vilsen.
0-6-0T “Bruchhausen” (Hanomag 3344/1899). The other surviving original loco. In need of major overhaul and currently displayed at a roundabout outside Bruchhauen-Vilsen station.
0-4-0WT “Franzburg” (Vulcan, Stettin 1363/1894). Built for the Franzburger Kreisbahn, latterly DR no. 99 5605. Preserved at Bruchhauen-Vilsen since 1980. Seen here in the engine shed at Bruchhausen-Vilsen.
0-6-0T “Hermann” (Hohenzollern 2798/ 1911). Built for the Kreis Altenaer Schmalspur-Eisenbahn. Preserved at Bruchhauen-Vilsen since 1968.
0-4-0 Tram loco “Plettenburg” (Henschel 20822/1927). Built for the Plettenburger Strassenbahnen and preserved at Bruchhausen-Vilsen since 1968.
2-6-0T “Spreewald” (Jung 2519/917). Built for the Ostdeitsche Eisenbahn, Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad in the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania). Latterly DR no. 99 5621 on the Spreewaldbahn near Cottbus. Preserved at Bruchhauen-Vilsen since 1971. Seen here in the engine shed at Bruchhausen-Vilsen.
0-4-4-0 Mallet tank “Mallet” (Karlsruhe 1478/1897). Built for the Badische Lokal-Eisenbahn, preserved at Bruchhauen-Vilsen since 1995. Currently the subject of a major restoration project.
There’s a short 500mm gauge line in the garden beside the station platform at Vilsen Ort with a tiny diesel loco of a type mass-produced by Kroehnke Maschinenfabrik and marketed under the name "Lorenknecht". It's powered by a Deutz 5/6 engine. Before preservation it was used at a farm near Hamburg. The 500mm gauge line was originally set up for ground works during the construction of the station building and platform here in 1989/90. Since then Mr. Kindermann has kept it in occasional operation as a representative of the feeder lines which transported agricultural products to many German narrow gauge common carriers.