There Used to Be a Railway Here…

We had a planned power outage today morning so I went for a long walk instead of working. I did not take my camera with me, but I did snap a few pictures with my phone. let’s start with a picture of “find teh sleeper”.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Did you find it? What looks like a strangely shaped valley in a forest is a former railway road. The signs are still there if one looks for them. Unnatural basalt gravel (we are on phyllite here, which, btw. is suitable for making natural whetstones). And sleepers buried in the moss and ferns. Look, there is another one, a few meters further.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And the unnatural valley is suddenly cut short by an earth mound completely overgrown with half-century-old trees today. I forgot to take pictures of their roots. Next is a vestige of the reason why this railroad is now defunct and derelict.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.t

This metal pole was upright when I was a kid and a sign “Caution, state border ahead!” was on it. And although this particular border was with Eastern Germany, the sentiments under the communist rule were not conducive to cross-border travel, thus the railroad was blinded and nature was left to take over. If you were to follow the railroad on google maps, on the Czech side you can follow its former route completely to the border, but on the German side, there is no trace of it anymore. I can’t remember if it was ever finished on the German side and it is not information easily to be found on the internet – I would have to borrow the town chronicles again.

So where there used to be a railroad, there are now trees, bushes, and wildflowers.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I was a bit surprised by the pale Aquilea, I do not remember seeing that one around here, ever.

For some reason, I thought this dead aspen tree and this particular part of a rivulet were interesting to look at.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

You can see a mixture of natural, local rocks with pieces of brick and some grey pieces of imported basalt gravel in it. I will write some more about local geology when I am making whetstones.

In my childhood, the end of the railroad also served as a local garbage dump, As kids, we went occasionally there to scavenge some interesting things. There are many interesting things to be found in a garbage dump when one is a kid. This was pre-massive use of plastic bags and similar crap, so most of the things that were dumped there were ceramics, glass and metal. But I cannot even find the site of the dump anymore. It was covered with dirt and I think this is where it used to be.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Twenty years can mean big-ish trees. I really do not know the exact location of the garbage dump, it is completely overgrown and covered with trees today.

When approaching the still somewhat functioning railroad, I came by this stripped-down, derelict warehouse.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I hate sights like this, I abhor waste in all its manifestations. When I was a kid, this warehouse was still functional, covered in corrugated sheets, and used to load and unload cargo wagons. Although not very much. The whole town went downhill after the deportation of Suddeten Germans after WW2. It was deliberate – the communist regime had no interest in maintaining a town so close to the Iron Curtain, thus the deported population of over 15.000 was filled in with barely over 2.000 people from all over Czechoslovakia, with some of them being sent here as a punishment for misbehaving. But there was still some industry here and thus some need to move cargo. And there were also personal trains coming by regularly. In fact, the train was the main means of transport for me when I was studying at the university twenty years ago. Oh, how the time flies.

Here you can see the nowadays official end of the railroad. In the growth to the left is hidden the decrepit depo from the previous picture.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And last is the picture of the current train station. It is the westernmost train station in the Czech Republic. If more than five people were to wait for the train, they won’t be able to keep out of the rain unless they are comfortable being very, very close to each other.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There used to be a big and beautiful building here, but it was demolished in 2014. The town wanted to renovate it into an apartment building, but the owner (Czech Railroads) declined to transfer the ownership of the building to the town and send in a demolition team instead. It even made the news, something that does not happen to our little town often. The reasons for the outright demolition were never explained, but since the building was carefully disassembled with the healthy wooden boards and timbers from the rafters and the good-quality old-time fired bricks being hauled away neatly packed on palettes, my personal suspicion is that someone rich somewhere greased some palms in order to get cheap building material. Although that might be just my paranoia speaking and the demolition was a simple act of incompetence and not of malice. Either way, it is definitively a legacy of our libertarian-leaning governments that ruled our country since the fall of the iron curtain. That has led to infrastructure being neglected and overemphasis on cars, like in the west.

The EU has stepped in a bit lately to fill the gap in financing rural communities’ infrastructure, but it was too late for the railroad.



  1. Bruce says

    Looking on a map, it seems clear that any resident of the town of Adorf, Saxony, Germany, who might want to visit Bayreuth or anywhere else in Bavaria, Germany, would have found it very convenient just to take a train straight through the intermediate town of Hranice, Czech. Especially as the rail line that ends NE after Hranice is aimed straight at the nearby town of Adorf. Of course, once the end of WWII came, Adorf was in East Germany, while Beyreuth was in West Germany, so for 45 years it was impossible to imagine such a trip.
    It’s a shame that right-wing US economists during the GHW Bush administration decided that the way to make the end of communism irreversible was to promote turning party leaders into criminal oligarchs. Apparently, it was felt that private corruption would successfully bribe most socialist leaders into dissolving national assets into their own private, personal gain.
    The past third of a century of corruption may not be any worse than previous eras, but it is more ironic, as it was promoted with a fake veneer of pretending that stealing government assets was an example of the MORAL superiority of capitalism. There likely were some high and moral aspects to the west at the time, but promoting corruption was a shameful low point, even if we see why they thought or said it might have been justified. Your train station building was one more recent casualty of Chicago-school economics taken to the extreme. Sad.

  2. Tethys says

    The photo of the empty depot is very evocative.
    The patterns within the broken pavement, with all the plants sprouting
    It’s always fascinating to see how quickly nature reclaims the ground.

  3. Ridana says

    To me that depot, graffiti included, looks a lot nicer than most of the city bus stops around here. The ones with actual shelters, that is. Most are just a sign by the roadway.

    There was an Erie-Lakawana rail line half a mile from the house where I grew up and another owned by Pennsylvania RR another mile south of that. Both are so gone now you could never tell they were ever there if you didn’t know.

  4. Ridana says

    And of course it’s spelled “Lackawanna.” I had intended to check the spelling but got sidetracked. >.>

  5. says

    @Bruce, the railway does point on towards Adorf in former East Germany, but on the other side, it does not go into Germany. It goes out of the town and turns around in a wide arch back inland to Aš. There was a very old railroad going from Aš to Selb and eventually Bayreuth. It was closed off after a train full of passengers crossed the border there illegally early in the cold war (freedom train). It was reopened recently in 2015 and there are again trains crossing the border between Aš and Selb. Entering the EU helped CZ hugely in many regards and it saddens me deeply that we have a lot of idiots who want to ruin the country by leaving it again. Luckily they are not a majority, but still, they are loud and do have some influence, like our former president Václav Klaus (a libertarian hack and an antisocial asshole) and his son, Václav Klaus jr. (ditto with sprinkles on).

  6. lumipuna says

    Fascinating. May I ask, how long has the border in this area been at its present site? Do you think the rail line is older than that?

  7. says

    @lumipuna, the border was where it is since Austria-Hungary and well before the rail was built.
    From what I remember from the town chronicles (I have read those over twenty-five years ago):
    Hranice used to be a bigger town than Aš, but when the railway was proposed, Hranice did not want to build it for fear of it becoming an issue during the next armed conflict (the town had a bad experience with troops marching through). Aš did agree to the railway and has begun to grow faster than Hranice. When Hranice finally caught up and allowed the railway to be built here too, the town was already in decline, and it never recovered from that.

  8. lumipuna says

    Thanks, Charly. It seems odd they’d continue building the tracks past the town proper and then stop right at the border line. Maybe they were lobbying to have a connection built to Adorf, but the project fizzled out or was killed by the onset of Cold War? Or if the tracks on the Saxon side were actively dismantled shortly after WWII, there would be fully grown forest in their place by now.

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