Every year we plan a few big trips together, Timothy and I. When we heard ÖBB’s proposal to launch Nightjet service to Brussels in December 2019 we jumped on the occasion and included a ride back home from Austria to Belgium on the Nightjet after our autumn Berlin, Czechia and Slovakia trip. However as we all know in early 2020 an annoying new coronavirus COVID-19, appeared and shook up travel all over the world. We changed our plans to an itinerary in ‘safe’ Germany including stops in Leipzig, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Munich, Lindau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen from where we would take a short train ride to Innsbruck to board our Nightjet back home.
After our short visit of Regensburg and the castle of Thurn and Taxis we were on our way again, headed for Bavaria’s capital Munich. To get there we selected the more exotic Alex train which runs every two hours instead of the more mundane red DB Regio trains operating the other frequencies. Alex is one of the older privately run rail services in Germany and one of the few using traditional loco hauled trains. They have two main service areas, Alex Nord and Alex Sud. Today we will be travelling on the Northern Axis, which contains two branches.
In Schwandorf both the branch from Hof and the one from Prague are combined, both run by diesel power until Regensburg. In Regensburg the train changes direction and the diesel locomotive is changed for an electric one the rest of the trip to Munich.
The train itself consists of a number of different types of coaches, all with different levels of comfort and amenities.
The blue coaches are owned by CD Czech railways and always form part of the Prague branch, they are both 2nd class and air-conditioned with one having open seating and the other classic 6 seat compartments.
The Grey coaches are the newest coaches operated by Alex, they are ex Italian coaches previously operated by their owner Trenitalia. They are all air-conditioned and are either full 2nd class or mixed 1st/2nd class with bike and accessible areas.
The more classic blue-green coloured coaches are the older coaches Alex has been operating for a longer time, except for the new air-conditioned double decker coaches they are all second hand equipment from Deutsche Bahn without air-conditioning.
The coaches with folding doors are all second class with classic compartments, either former West German UIC-X Bm coaches from the 1960’s and 70’s or former East German UIC-Z Bomz coaches from the 1980’s.
The coaches with sliding doors are some of the last coaches delivered to former East-German Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1991 and are mostly mixed class 1st/2nd class ABomz with compartments having 6 seats in 2nd class and 5 seats in 1st class. As we bought a 1st class Bavaria ticket we took place in the ABomz coach in the Hof portion of the train to experience some “classic” train travel in a compartment coach with opening windows. The seats where comfortable and very thick and padded, the classic way of building things.
The northern axis of Alex doesn’t have a very spectacular scenery between Regensburg and Munich, but did provide us with some nice rural views along the route.
Upon arrival in Munich we could see that our train was pulled since Regensburg by the Taurus electric locomotive wrapped in special ‘Adler’ foils, commemorating the first locomotive in Germany.
We had a nice ride on-board Alex, and it was nice to have experienced a classic train journey again as these older loco hauled trains are disappearing at a fast rate. But if you travel this line, do make sure they operate the train best fitting your schedule, they are not special enough to wait an extra hour and lose precious time, especially as the older coaches are progressively getting replaced by the newer ex-Italian coaches.
Do you prefer a classic loco-hauled train or do you prefer a modern air-conditioned unit with all modern amenities? Let us know In the comments below!