The Fichtelbergbahn is a narrow-gauge railway that runs from Cranzahl in Saxony to the highest town in Germany, the town of Oberwiesenthal. The route is just over 17 kilometres long and is one of the most popular excursion tips in the Ore Mountains.
We spent a few days in Oberwiesenthal and did not miss the opportunity to travel from the terminus station in Oberwiesenthal to Niederschlag station. From there we then went on a hike back to the starting point.
The narrow-gauge railway comes to Oberwiesenthal
In 1893, it was considered that a railway connection to Oberwiesenthal would have a positive effect on the development of the region and the best route was sought. Of three possible variants, it was decided to build a railway line from Cranzahl through the Sehmtal valley, starting from the Weipert-Annaberg railway line. It was also decided to build a narrow-gauge railway, as the predicted traffic volume could definitely be handled with this type of train.
In 1894, surveying work and adjustments to the planned route began. Construction began in April 1896 and was completed in July 1897.
It soon became apparent that more people wanted to travel on the narrow-gauge railway than had been planned. One reason for this was certainly the lively excursion traffic that quickly developed.
After coal was scarce during the First World War and fewer trains of the steam railway ran, train traffic increased more and more in the 1920s. At that time, the railway transported a lot of construction material for the Fichtelberg suspension railway. In the 1930s, buses were increasingly used to travel through the valley in parallel with the narrow-gauge railway. The capacity utilisation of the trains decreased again and the operation of the railway line became more and more uneconomical. Solutions were sought, but the Second World War put them on the back burner. The excursion traffic collapsed completely, the timetable was thinned out more and more and finally discontinued in 1945.
After the war, uranium mining began in the Bärenstein-Niederschlag area. The area was declared a restricted zone, which also affected the railway line from Cranzahl to Oberwiesenthal. The narrow-gauge railway was now used to transport the mined uranium. In addition, the miners had to be transported to the mining area. At shift change, the train had up to ten wagons that had been transferred to this line from other narrow-gauge railways. In the mid-1950s, the uranium mining era came to an end, the exclusion zone was lifted and the area was once again open to recreation.
Over time, more and more holidaymakers came to Oberwiesenthal by train. This remained the case until 1990, when the railway lost its importance as a feeder. The line had just been renovated, but despite this, freight transport was discontinued and passenger transport was also considered to be abandoned or privatised. Since 2007, the Saxon Steam Railway Company has been operating the line and now calls the narrow-gauge railway the Fichtelbergbahn. Today, almost exclusively tourists travel the route.
Route of the Fichtelbergbahn
We started our steam train journey at the station in Oberwiesenthal, at 893.962 metres above sea level the highest point on the line and also the highest station in Saxony. There is a reception building with a waiting area and ticket office. In addition, there is also a fairly large souvenir shop and a restaurant.
After choosing one of the carriages, there is free seating, we took a seat on the typical hard unpadded wooden benches. Every time we get into such a wagon, I admire the people who used to travel across the country for hours on these uncomfortable benches. It wasn’t long before there was a jolt and the steam train slowly began to move.
First, the journey took you over a 100-metre-long and 20-metre-high steel scaffolding pier viaduct out of the town. After taking a look at the 1244-metre-high Keilberg, you drive into the Pöhlbach valley to Unterwiesenthal station. The railway line runs through a somewhat narrower valley along the Czech border to Hammerunterwiesenthal. During the ride, you can climb onto the small outside platforms and let the steam of the locomotive blow around your ears. There is even an open wagon, but it was unused during our trip due to the weather. In summer, it is definitely nice to enjoy the ride there.
After crossing the B95, the line continues down into the Pöhlbach valley to the next station in Niederschlag. Here we left the train.
Without us, the train then continued via Kretscham-Rothensehma, Vierenstraße, Neudorf and Unterneudorf. The journey ends in Cranzahl and there you have the option of changing trains.
Hike from Niederschlag to Oberwiesenthal
Niederschlag railway station is located in the middle of nowhere, out of the way in the forest, about 1.5 kilometres from the village of Niederschlag. There is a massive station building that was built in 1948 for the miners by the mine operator and nothing more.
The Fichtelbergbahn stopped for a while and waited, as the line is only single-track, for the oncoming train. Enough time for us to take another good look at the train and enjoy the puffing and pounding as it set off.
Then we crossed the railway line and set off to hike back to Oberwiesenthal. The route has a manageable length of just over 6 kilometres. Not to be sneezed at are the climbs you have to overcome in between. We hardly met any people on our hike and really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the area. From time to time we heard a bird or saw a squirrel, it was relaxing for the senses.
The well-signposted path led us through a dense forest at the beginning. We had picked out a route in advance and still let the navigation guide us. This way we could be sure that we would not miss the view into the marble open pit.
After a while, the path led past fields and the spa town slowly came into view. The ski jumps rose impressively on the opposite hillside.
We have recorded our hiking route. Have fun re-hiking!
Information about the Fichtelbergbahn
Kurort Oberwiesenthal station
09484 Kurort Oberwiesenthal