{Germany} Historic Steam Train Ride

December 4, 2013


Whether you’re a fan of period movies or a devoted reader of Harry Potter, whether you enjoy the feeling of nostalgia or, like me, are attracted to old things with a bit of history attached to them,  everyone seems to love an old-fashioned steam train. So as a special treat to mark the beginning of Advent, we took ourselves off on an historic steam train ride this past weekend.

boarding the steam train

The Berliner Eisenbahnfreunde e.V. is a registered association of train lovers, which was founded in 1978 with the aim of setting up a museum train service. Its headquarters are located in Basdorf, a village to the north of Berlin in the state of Brandenburg and home to the association’s workshop and the Heidekrautbahnmuseum. The museum has been open since 2000 and includes both the exhibition rooms as well as the open-air grounds – including a train signal ‘garden’ – and the engine sheds. The majority of artefacts were salvaged by members of the association when the Heidekrautbahn train line was modernised, and have in part been restored and put on display. The main exhibit themes include the history of the Berliner Eisenbahnfreunde e.V., and the development of the train line and track ballast. But at the heart of it all is the train service itself, which lets you step aboard a bygone era and makes your heart beat a little bit faster with the nostalgia and romance of it all. Just see for yourselves:

The colloquial name Heidekrautbahn (lit. “heather railway”), for the train line between Berlin and Basdorf,  goes back to the days when many Berliner would take the train to go on day trips to woodland area north of Berlin known as “Schorfheide”. These days the train ride itself is the attraction, and the engines and carriages themselves have also been restored through the association. The rides run from Easter until October and during Advent on various special occasions, though sometimes during the hot summer months the trains are grounded due to the danger of bush fires.

steam train departing

steam train driver

We went on the ‘Adventsdampf mit dem Nikolaus’ (Advent steam ride with St Nicholas) where, you’ve guessed it, St Nicholas himself made an appearance. On the outward journey he came through the train handing out little bags of sweets to all the children, and on the way back he came by again to read the children a story. #MuseumBaby has been taking about nothing else since! For the adults, there was also mulled wine on sale in the restaurant car, as well as a non-alcoholic ‘Kinderpunsch’ and the, for Germany, obligatory sausages. The journey took just over an hour each way, and one of the most exciting things was that you were allowed to stand outside on the platforms connecting the carriages while the train was moving!

steam train santa clause

steam train santa claus and boy

We stopped in Basdorf for about an hour where there was the chance to visit the local Christmas market. To be honest, the market was a bit of a disappointment, but as it wasn’t our reason for the trip we kept upbeat about it. Other weekends include a visit to the museum itself instead, which we didn’t actually get to see, so if we go again next year we might opt for that instead. Train rides throughout the year also include destinations such as the Basdorf Easter Fire, the farmer’s market in Schmachtenhagen one stop along, or an ‘Oldtimer’ day at the museum itself. Prices vary according to the different itineraries, and tickets are bookable via the Berliner Eisenbahnfreunde e.V. website. We paid 17 Euro per adult and 7 Euro for #MuseumBaby (kids age 3 and above) but we thought it was worth every penny. One note though if you’re taking a younger child on the journey: while the train ride itself was really thrilling for #MuseumBaby, an hour is a long time for a three year old, and an hour twice over even more. Other parents had been wiser than us and brought along a few things to keep their offspring occupied when the attention span starting waning, such as crayons and paper, a favourite toy or a book. But this was just a learning curve for us for the next time, rather than a deal breaker.

So, if you’re in Berlin and are looking for a special day out, there’s only one thing for it: all aboard!

steam train interior2

steam train ride tickets please

steam train front view

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4 Responses to “{Germany} Historic Steam Train Ride”

  1. noreen Says:

    wow, what a lovely adventure! the photos are beautiful, especially the last one. I’m with you about trains and nostalgia, and just bought a book for my classroom called “locomotive” about train transportation growing in the U.S. during the 1800s. it’s a picture book for children. happy advent!


  2. Sharon Says:

    A Steam Train Ride. There is nothing like it. A little like flying in a tiger moth. You sit there and watch the world go by the window.

    Cheers Sharon…



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