FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Chasing crocodiles at Schwarze Pumpe

Posted in Germany, Schwarze Pumpe by folkestonejack on May 3, 2014

Our second day took us to the mine railway around Schwarze Pumpe, which translates literally as ‘black pump’ and sounds oddly appropriate given the concentration of industry today.

It is tempting to imagine that this area got its name from the mining industry, but in fact the pump in question was a watering hole for horses next to a restaurant! It was painted black (signifying the plague) during the Thirty Years’ War to protect the locals from the plundering of Swedish mercenaries.

Electric locomotive 4-1306 hauls an early morning at Schwarze Pumpe

Electric locomotive 4-1306 hauls an early morning at Schwarze Pumpe

Today, the powerplant dominates the area and a fleet of crocodiles regularly criss-cross the largely rural landscape. Our first stop, at a field on the outskirts of Schwarze Pumpe, gave us the perfect illustration of this.

The frequency of trains was a delight – a stop at a nearby level crossing delivered three trains within the space of half an hour. A couple of bemused security guards from the local mine turned up to check us out, convinced that we must be environmental protesters. To be fair, it’s probably not often that they get visitor enthusing about their mining operations!

After a lunch stop in Spremberg we returned to the fields, hoping that the sun might make an appearance and give us at least one perfectly illuminated shot. Luck did not seem to be on our side – from our spot in the fields we saw five trains on distant lines, but none appeared on the bridge/line nearest to us until one and a half hours had passed. Our wish for sun had not been granted either…

In fact, it was not until 4pm that the sun put in more than a fleeting appearance – at last giving us some good opportunities to shoot crocodiles in sunlight. After four trains passed within half an hour we could relax a little and head away knowing that not all our shots would betray the gloom of an overcast day.

Fully laden with coal for Schwarze Pumpe

Fully laden with coal for Schwarze Pumpe

Shortly after this, an emergency stop by our convoy (three minibuses and a handful of cars) gave us an unexpected chance to get a shot from our field of dreams in full sunlight. It was rather wonderful to see a crocodile crossing the bridge fully lit.

Electric locomotive 4-310 crosses  the landscape in full sun

Electric locomotive 4-310 crosses the landscape in full sun

Our day finally ended at 6pm and our minibus transformed into the “Zwenkau Express” for a blast down the autobahn to our hotel on the outskirts of Leipzig. The express tag turned out to be more literal than we anticipated, with the rest of our convoy arriving at the hotel forty minutes later.

Parallel roads

Parallel roads

The reward for a sometimes frustrating day by the lineside was some rather terrific food at the Krautergarten restaurant (Hotel Seehof) which has to be the most unlikely location for a four star hotel that I have ever seen (opposite an industrial estate and lorry park), but really deserves to be given a try.

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