Harz Railway steam locomotive smokin'

Smokin'... A Harz Railway 2-10-2 tank engine about to leave Wernigerode terminus with an express to the Brocken...

  Harz Railway map

Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (HSB) = Nordhausen-Brocken-Wernigerode & Nordhausen-Hasselfelde-Harzgerode-Quedinburg.

Green = scenic routes.

Rail Map of Europe:  Reproduced from the Rail Map of Europe courtesy of European Rail Timetable.  I highly recommend buying a copy, more info here. Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

Germany's famous narrow-gauge steam railway

For decades, the narrow gauge railways of Germany's Harz mountains were locked away behind the Iron Curtain, a minor part of the East German State Railway, the Deutsche Reichsbahn,  Starved of investment, these lines were never fully modernised with diesels.  Which is lucky for us, because travelling on the Harz railway behind a magnificent steam locomotive is a wonderful experience as this page will show.

small bullet point  The Harz Railway

small bullet point  The Brocken

small bullet point  How to visit the Harz Railway

small bullet point  Harz railway timetable, prices & tickets

small bullet point  Nordhausen to Brocken in pictures

small bullet point  Brocken to Wernigerode in pictures

small bullet point  Watch the video

small bullet point  How to get there

small bullet point  Where to stay

small bullet point  Escorted tours

The Harz Railway

Today, the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB, Harz Narrow Gauge Railways) operates a 140 km network of metre-gauge railways around the Harz mountains.  These railways remain a means of transport as well as tourist attraction and trains run daily all year round.

The Harz main line runs 60 km (37 miles) from Nordhausen in the south to Wernigerode in the north, with a 19 km (11-mile) branch line to Brocken.  However, such is the tourist traffic heading up the Brocken, you can now regard Nordhausen-Brocken and Wernigerode-Brocken as main lines.  Those routes feature direct trains, a journey between Nordhausen & Wernigerode now involves at least one change of train.

Most trains including all trains to & from the Brocken are hauled by steam locomotives, usually impressive 2-10-2 tank engines built 1954-1956, the most powerful German narrow-gauge steam locomotives ever built.  A few trains are hauled by 1970s centre-cab diesel locomotives, and local services are operated with diesel railcars.  If you find the timetables (not the journey planner) on the HSB website www.hsb-wr.de, a symbol at the top of each column tells you what operates each train.

Wikipedia page about the Harz Railway.

The Brocken

The jewel in the Harz Railway's crown is the line to the top of the Brocken, completed in 1899.  The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz mountains, 1,141m (3,743 feet) above sea level.  In fact, it's the highest peak in northern Germany, the next highest point to the east is in the Ural mountains in Russia.  The Brocken is shrouded in mist for up to 300 days a year and frequently snow-capped from September to May, hardly surprising it's been the subject of myth and legend for centuries.  After WW2 it was off-limits to foreigners, garrisoned by Soviet troops and bristling with Soviet & East German espionage and surveillance equipment.  Today it's a major tourist hotspot, the television tower is now a hotel & restaurant, there are several cafes with open-air benches, a shop, a botanic garden and various walks.  There are several daily direct trains between Nordhausen & Brocken and between Wernigerode & Brocken.  Wikipedia page about the Brocken.

How to visit the Harz Railway

By all means explore the whole 140 km HSB network if you've time, but if you've only a day or two I'd stick with the Harz main line between Nordhausen & Wernigerode and the line up the Brocken.  Here are 4 options which work any day of the week almost all year round:

How to check times, prices & buy tickets

Nordhausen to Brocken in pictures

Nordhausen Nord station   Nordhausen Nord station travel centre

Nordhausen Nord station, on the west side of the Bahnhofsplatz, 100m from the Nordhausen mainline station & Hotel Fürstenhof.


Nordhausen Nord travel centre:  Just inside the station entrance on the right.  Buy tickets at the counter.

The 10:30 Harz Railway train from Nordhausen Nord to the Brocken

The 10:33 train to Brocken at Nordhausen Nord.  The locomotive is decorated as it's the driver's last run before he retires.

Harz Railway train about to leave Nordhausen   Inside a Harz Railway HSB carriage

Ready to leave Nordhausen.


On board.  Several cars in each train have a toilet.

Open platforms on a Harz Railway train   Opening windows in a Harz Railway HSB carriage

The open platforms at each end of the car are great for viewing.  The train travels at only 40km/h (25 mph).


The windows open for ventilation, and can flip right open, great for photography.

Harz Railway train taking on water at Eisfelder Talmühle

Taking on water at Eisfelder Talmühle, the junction station for the Selketalbahn to Stiege & Hasselfelde.

Passing a railcar at Eisfelder Talmühle   Harz Railway schnapps!

Passing a local railcar service at Eisfelder Talmühle.


Harz Railway schnapps is sold on board - delicious!


Scenery from the train.

Elend station

Elend station.  The word elend literally means misery in German, but the place name may have a different etymology!

Drei Annen Hohne, junction station for the Brocken

Drei Annen Hohne, junction station for the branch line up the Brocken.  Another train arrives from Wernigerode and the two trains swap locomotives.  The Wernigerode loco attaches to what was the rear of our train from Nordhausen.  Our train then changes direction, as the junction to the Brocken is behind us.  The train now gets a lot busier with passengers joining the Brocken-bound train here.  You can read about how Drei Annen Hohne got its name here.

Harz Railway scenery   More Harz Railway scenery

Scenery between Drei Annen Hohne & Schierke.


More scenery as the train begins its climb.

The Nordhausen to Brocken train callks at Schierke

The Nordhausen-Brocken train calls at Schierke, the only intermediate station on the 11-mile branch line between Drei Annen Hohne and Brocken.  At the back of the train, the rear platform gives great views back along the track.

Passing a train in a siding   The train nears the summit of the Brocken

A downward train is shunted into a siding to let us pass.


For a while we run alongside the hiking trail.

View from the train climbing the Brocken

The train keeps climbing, the steam locomotive working hard.

The train arrives at Brocken

The train circles the summit and finally pulls in to Brocken station.

Arrived at the Brocken!

Brocken terminus, all change!  The platform is full of passengers waiting for train back down.  The locomotive quickly runs around and attaches to the other end for the return trip.

The Brocken

The Brocken

TV former TV tower is now a restaurant and hotel.

Rock marking the summit of the Brocken   Brocken:  Botanic garden

Rock marking the summit of the Brocken


The botanic garden.

View of Wernigrode from the Brocken

Wernigerode is visible from the station platform, when the Brocken isn't shrouded in fog.

Brocken to Wernigerode in pictures

Brocken station   Brocken station ticket office

Brocken station.


The ticket office.

15:40 train from Brocken to Wernigrode

A diesel is substituting for a steam locomotive on the 15:40 to Wernigerode today, so I decide to wait for the 16:22.

The 16:22 train from Brocken to Wernigerode

The steam-hauled 16:22 from Brocken to Wernigerode is good to go.

The view from the Brocken on the way down

The view on the descent.

Scenery from the Brocken to Wernigerode train

The view on the descent.

Passing a railcar at Drei Annen Hohne   Drei Annen Hohne

Passing a railcar at Drei Annen Hohne.


Drei Annen Hohne.

Scenery between Drei Annen Hohne & Wernigerode

Scenery between Drei Annen Hohne & Wernigerode.

Scenery between Drei Annen Hohne & Wernigerode

More scenery between Drei Annen Hohne & Wernigerode.

Passing Wernigerode castle

Wernigerode castle, on the right as the train approaches Wernigerode.  It's open to the public, see www.schloss-wernigerode.de.

Passing Wernigerode depot

The train passes Wernigerode Harz Railway depot on the approach to Wernigerode station

The train from Brocken arrived at Wernigerode

Journey's end:  The 16:22 train from Brocken, arrived at Wernigerode HSB terminus.

Brocken station Brocken station

Wernigerode HSB station.


HSB ticket office:  Buy your tickets at the counter.

Wernigerode HSB & DB stations

Wernigerode Bahnhofsplatz, HSB station on the left. mainline DB station on the right.  It's just 5 minutes walk into the town.

Wernigerode ssteam depot   Wernigerode depot  observation platform

There's a raised observation deck at the end of Wernigerode platform, overlooking the depot, pictured above right.  The Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel is in the background on the far left.  Pictured above left, Harz railway steam locomotives on shed at Wernigerode.

Morning train from Wernigerode to the Brocken about to leave

A morning train from Wernigerode to Brocken about to leave.  The depot observation deck is on the left.

Morning train from Wernigerode to the Brocken about to leave

Wernigerode depot at night, taken just across the road from the Hotel Altora. The observation deck is on the right.


Video: Nordhausen to Brocken


Video: Brocken to Wernigerode


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How to get there

changing trains at Goslar

Changing trains at Goslar on the way back, with the Wernigerode to Goslar train on the left, the Goslar to Hannover train on the right.

Where to stay

Nordhausen:  Nordhäuser Fürstenhof

In Nordhausen, the excellent Nordhäuser Fürstenhof is on Bahnhofsplatz (station square) a stone's throw from the DB and HSB stations and a 10 minute walk from the town centre.  You'll instantly recognise the hotel from the remarkable 'Cabaret' murals on its exterior.  The hotel serves a good buffet breakfast, but there's no restaurant.  The pizzeria La Stazione on the station square adjacent to the hotel does good beer and Italian food.

The Hotel Furstenhof, Nordhausen   A room at the Hotel Furstenhof, Nordhausen
Nordhausen Bahnhofsplatz

Nordhausen Bahnhofsplatz from my hotel window, DB station clock tower on the left, HSB station on the right behind the tram.

Wernigerode:  Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel

he Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel is just 3 minutes walk from the station, 5 minutes walk from the town's main square.  It overlooks the Harz Railway steam depot across the road, you can select a Railway Room to have a view of the Harz railway.  They have an excellent breakfast buffet and their restaurant serves an equally good lunch and dinner, where your beer arrives by model railway.

Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel, Wernigerode   Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel, room

The Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel.  It faces across the road to the Harz Railway depot.

Beer arrives by model train at the Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel   Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel, restaurant

In the restaurant at dinner, my beer arrives by train.  You can send the empty glasses back on the train, too..

...or Ringhotel Weißer Hirsch

The Ringhotel Weißer Hirsch is a family-run 4-star hotel dating from 1717 right on the town's main square opposite the town hall.  It has a restaurant, bar and even free sauna.

Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel, Wernigerode   Altora Eisenbahn Themenhotel, Wernigerode

Wernigerode's distinctive town hall.


Main square, Ringhotel Weißer Hirsch in the background.

On the Brocken:  Brocken Hotel

On the Brocken itself, the one and only hotel is the Brocken Hotel.  It's not available on any normal hotel booking site, you have to contact them for availability via their website, brockenhotel.de.  Book early, it gets booked up quickly in summer.

Brocken Hotel

The former TV tower is now a hotel & restaurant.

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Escorted tours

Two companies (sister companies within the same group, in fact) offer escorted tours from London to the scenic Harz mountains by train, including a ride on the Harz Railway.  Both have regular departure dates from the UK between April & October plus winter & Christmas tours to the Harz region too.

Great Rail Journeys logoGreat Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527 120

GRJ offers 5-star escorted tours around Europe with 1st class train travel and 5* or 4* hotels.  They have a 10-day tour to the Harz Mountains with train travel to & from the UK, with a range of departures between April & October.  Go to www.greatrail.com, click the search icon and search for 'Harz'.  Browse tour details & departure dates online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727Rail Discoveries logo

Rail Discoveries offers several train-based escorted tours to Germany, with 3* hotels and travel by Eurostar and ICE high-speed train.  They offer a cheaper 6-day tour to the Harz Mountains.  Browse tour details & departure dates at www.raildiscoveries.com, then book online or call 01904 730 727.

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