Daily under steam the historic Brockenbahn has been on a narrow track since the late 19th century and travels through dark mountain spruce forests and barren heathlands up to the granite plateau of the highest elevation in northern Germany. A trip on the Brocken Railway is reminiscent of a trip on the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter.
Since 1899 the Brockenbahn has been traveling on narrow routes through the Harz
The Harzer Schmalspurbahn towards Brocken starts in the colourful half-timbered town Wernigerode and drives over the Bhf. Steinerne Renne at the end of the Holtemme gorge with its many waterfalls to Drei-Annen-Hohne, one of the most varied starting points for excursions and hikes in the national park. From here she itches comfortably to the station in the climatic health resort Schierke and becomes here the actual Brockenbahn. Their traditional trains circumnavigate the Brocken about eleven times a day until they finally reach the terminus station at the summit, the highest station in the country, smoking and puffing. Since 1899, the whistling of the steam train has stopped from the heights of the Brocken slopes through the untouched Harz National Park , its characteristic white clouds of smoke can be seen from afar.
The three Harz narrow-gauge railways – the Harzquerbahn, the Brockenbahn and the Selketalbahn – which move along a route only one metre wide and represent the largest narrow-gauge network in Germany, originally served to transport goods. Today they are used for tourist purposes and attract almost one million people a year with their nostalgic appearance. The powerful coal-fired steam locomotives, mainly built in the 1950s, and old, red-beige painted railcars take the traveller back in time. So if you want to slow down from everyday life and experience the history of the Harz Mountains, a ride on the Brockenbahn is the perfect way to do so.
Brockenbahn – Steam Train through the National Park
After the train station Schierke the Brockenbahn first crosses the cliff-rich valley of the Kalten Bode and primeval forests that nestle close to the route. If you look out of the window, you could almost pick up the moss growing on the boulders, which only a few arm’s lengths away from the edges of the tracks gives the landscape exactly the mysticism for which the Harz is known. To the left, behind dense spruce forests, one soon sees the Wurmberg with its unique stone layers towering up, before the historic locomotive passes the Eckerloch valley basin and the no longer operated Bahnhof Goetheweg. Afterwards, the track spirals around and steadily feeds itself to the target the often foggy, legendary Brocken.
On the winding route – the powerful steam locomotive comes into view again and again – there are many unique panoramic views of the increasingly barren coniferous forests of the Harz National Park and worthwhile views of the Harz foreland. Once below the tree line, the forest thins out and the railway passes rough plateaus and stony block heaps – as far as the eye can see. As the Brocken is the only mountain of a German low mountain range above the natural forest border, subalpine vegetation prevails here, which is comparable to the flora in the Alps. After about 19 kilometres and about 50 minutes drive (from Schierke) the train finally ends at 1,125 metres above sea level in Brocken station, a granite building dating from 1924 which is located just below the summit. Getting out and walking a few more meters, you can now marvel at the diverse mountain world of the Harz Mountains from high above and look as far as the North German Plain.
Active hiking and chugging
The nostalgic railway experience can be ideally combined with extensive hiking to admire the natural beauty of the original landscape around the Brocken not only from the train window. Depending on your interest or physical condition, you can either climb the Brocken from Schierke, for example, first on foot and then enjoy a relaxed ride down, or you first take the steam locomotive-covered train and then climb back down to Schierke on Schusters Rappen. With a little luck you might also meet an animal Brockenfan on the hike or train ride: The tame Brocken fox is always around the mountain and seems to have become especially friendly with the Brockenbahn. You can often find this clever predator at train stations, where the red fox is always on the lookout for tidbits at the trains and usually gets something successfully.
The Brocken landscape is unthinkable without
The historic Brockenbahn is a technical monument and an unforgettable experience for young and old. To this day it keeps the charm of the early 20th century alive and combines technical and landscape experiences in an extremely harmonious way, which fascinates every visitor to the Harz mountains.
A ride with the Brocken Railway can be very nicely combined with a hike in the Harz Mountains. Good starting points are the stations Schierke and Drei Annen Hohnen. There you can park your car and get on the train directly. Very popular with visitors is the trip between Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke. The ticket is cheap and the hike back to the starting station is also possible for children (hiking with children).