FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam on the Chiemsee Bahn

Posted in Germany, Prien am Chiemsee by folkestonejack on June 1, 2015

The Royal Palace at Herrenchiemsee was opened to the public just six weeks after the death of King Ludwig II on 13 June 1886. Although visitor numbers were low at first they soon shot up to extraordinary numbers and it was this dramatic increase in the number of visitors arriving at Prien am Chiemsee that spurred rapid development of the transport infrastructure in the area.

Steam locomotive no. 1813 departs from Stock in mid-afternoon

Steam locomotive no. 1813 departs from Stock in mid-afternoon

Although there had been a ferry to the islands since the mid-nineteenth century the additional tourist traffic soon necessitated a more frequent ferry services to Herreninsel. However, the absence of a shuttle service between the railway station and the harbour remained a problem for arriving passengers.

Ludwig Fessler was quick to seize the opportunity and reached agreement with George Krauss (founder of the Krauss Locomotive Works in Munich) to construct a 2km single track metre-gauge line between the mainline station (Prien) and the harbour (Stock am Chiemsee).

The line opened on 10th July 1887 and was an immediate success. Services soon had to be increased to meet the demand, despite the relatively expensive fare for the time. Although the train only hauls passenger carriages today, in its early years the consist included two open wagons with coal for the steam ships and the islands. In time the freight traffic disappeared and for a time it seemed as though the entire railway would follow suit.

The last crossing before Prien station

The last crossing before Prien station

Thankfully the threats to the line were staved off and the the railway looks to be thriving. Remarkably, the railway still uses the same steam locomotive and stock today that it did at the beginning of its existence (although the boiler in the locomotive was replaced in 1957). In 1962 the railway purchased a diesel locomotive for use when traffic is lighter.

On the day we visited we were lucky enough to see the steam locomotive in use and took advantage of the good weather to walk the footpath that runs alongside the line to check out the photographic opportunities.

The yard at Stock offers a good opportunity to see the loco run around (the locomotive is bi-directional and was running with the chimney facing towards Prien during our visit). After leaving the harbour station (crossing a busy road) the line runs through a residential area, passing the rear of a tavern, residential care home and flats.

A three foot tall hedge along the line makes photography tricky for a fair chunk of the way but there are a few interesting footpath and road crossings that offer some opportunities. As the line reaches Prien it crosses a couple of roads, passes a pretty pond and then curves round to Prien station.

Mid-afternoon at Stock station

Mid-afternoon at Stock station

If you are relying on catching a mainline train it is worth noting that the timings are quite tight and if the train is more than a couple of minutes late (as it was on the afternoon we visited) you could be left with a dash through the adjacent subway to make your connection!

Overall, it is a thoroughly delightful line. If you combine it with a sailing on the steam ship Ludwig Fessler (now under diesel-hydraulic power) and a visit to the Royal Palace at Herrenchiemsee it makes quite an amazing day out.