Close to the border of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic stands the German city of Zittau. We actually drove through Poland all of 10 minutes to get there. The “object of our desire” was the narrow gauge railroad, the Zittauer Schmalspurbahn. But first a quick stop at a roadside vendor in Poland, manned by a local farmer for some white asparagus.

Being a railfan I try to include a visit to a rail museum or vintage railroad whenever possible. After some careful research, I was able to squeeze this delightful railroad at the last minute prior to continuing on to Dresden, Germany.

The trains steam through the Zittau Mountains, the smallest low mountain range in Germany situated in southeast Saxony at the Polish-Czech border.

You’ll discover picturesque sandstone rock formations and small mountain villages, with lovely Upper Lusatian houses (Umgebindehaus). Steam trains run daily from the departure station to the Oybin and Jonsdorf health resorts.

...what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.

Marianne Wiggins

Using standard steam locomotives or Einheitslokomotiven Class Altbau- VII K, there are simultaneous departures from Bertsdorf station daily in the high season in collaboration with the Saxon-Upper Lusatian Railway Company (SOEG).

Seeing two steam trains leaving the station at the same time as they diverge to their individual destinations is a treat for any railfan and not often witnessed in this day and age.

History of the Schmalspurbahn

The Oybin Mountain Association, a group of civic boosters had repeatedly campaigned for the connection of the Zittau Mountains to the emerging railway network in Saxony. The Kingdom of Saxony saw no need for this but in 1888, an exception was allowed for the construction of the first private narrow-gauge railway by the "Zittau-Oybin-Jonsdorfer Railway Company". The groundbreaking ceremony took place on June 26, 1889, and the railway was officially opened with a pageant on November 25, 1890.

The ZOJE was soon overwhelmed and so the K.Sächs.Sts.EB took over the "Zittau-Oybin-Jonsdorfer-Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft" on July 1st, 1906. By 1909 the number of passengers had risen to 523,000 guests - the narrow-gauge railway had reached the limit of its capacity. A solution that was unique for Saxony was the double-track expansion of a narrow-gauge railway, which was completed on April 15, 1913 between Zittau and Oybin.

The planned cessation of rail operations in 1998 by Deutsche Bahn was prevented by a new operator, the Sächsisch-Oberlausitzer Eisenbahngesellschaft (SOEG).