By train from Lindau to Garmisch-Partenkirchen via the Ausserfern railway

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 stay in Lindau in Lake Constance we continued to out next stop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We had 2 main options of getting there, either travel back to Munich and change trains there which was the faster option, or take the slower yet shorter route via the Ausserfern railway taking us through Austria on the way. Of course we selected the slower yet more scenic route.

The first part of the trip once again took us along the Allgäu railway until Kempten, driving over the most scenic part of this route. Climbing up the hillside as we drove out of Lindau before meandering through the mountains and lakes before alighting in Kempten.

This part of the journey we travelled on one of DB’s 612 diesel units, contrary to the previous time I travelled on one this one was still in the classic DB red with blue upholstered seats. They are equipped with a tilting mechanism enabling the train to tilt in curves allowing it to drive faster through curves and give shorter journey times on curvy routes. The train still has a high floor, meaning you have to climb up some steps through the narrow doors to enter. The cabin is arranged in a 2-2 configuration and fells much more like a long-distance train rather than a regional one. The train also features a first class compartment with reclining seats at one end, a bike area and even a children play area.

In Kempten we made a short three minutes cross platform connection to the regional train towards Pfronten-Ried. Normally this train would operate all the way to Reutte in Tyrol in Austria where it connects onto the Electric service to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich, yet on the day we travelled there where planned engineering works and the train was replaced by a bus between Pfronten and Reutte. This line was clearly a much more rural route with us travelling at a slow speed over curves, along overgrown platforms and whistling at lots of unprotected level crossings. The views along the line and foot of the Alpine mountains was breath-taking however.

The train was operated by a single Desiro Classic diesel unit. For a regional train it had a very upmarket feel and design to it, with reading lights and glass walls to look out through the drivers cab. It was a nice unit for his service, with the low floor and wide doors useful for loading and unloading bikes long the route.

Due to us having to wait at a crossing loop for a delay service going the other way and us having to perform safety procedures when crossing a failed protected level crossing, we arrived about five minutes late in Pfronten-Ried and saw the replacement bus service to Reutte leave just as we exited the station. As it only operated every two hours this meant we would be stuck in Pfronten for two hours until the next bus across the border was there. In my opinion a better coordination would have been useful here as waiting a few more minutes in Pfronten would still have allowed the bus to arrive on time in Reutte for the connecting onwards train to Munich. As we were stuck in Pfronten we walked a short bit and found a bakery to sit down and have our lunch break. While we had a cheap and solid lunch, the 1970’s called to have their bakery back as the entire establishment was a time capsule of the 1970’s.

After two hours we got on the bus to Reutte, taking us along the main road running mostly alongside the railway line further into the alpine area and giving us some nice views.

In Reutte the bus dropped us of in front of the station where we just had a short walk to our connecting train towards Garmisch and Munich. Even though we are now in Austria on an Austrian railway line the train is operated by Deutsche Bahn, the German railways. This has to do with the fact that the Austrian Ausserfern railway is only connected to the German network on both sides, thus DB won the contract to operate the line as they could make a better offer. The train used is a relatively new Bombardier Talent 2, with seats just like in the Belgian Desiro units. It also offers a multifunctional area and a children’s play area. The ride is soft and relatively quiet, just when making corners you hear a puffing and screeching sound as the stabilisers of the train are moving.

The line itself is spectacular as we drive in a valley surrounded by high alpine mountains. When driving over the line I had some memories of the first time I was here back in the 1990’s when my parents took me and my sister on a holiday in Lermoos here in this valley. Back then we also travelled by train, the night train from Brussels to Munich with old-school German couchette coaches in the 1970’s beige-turquoise livery.

Followed by a classical loco hauled regional train in the then contemporary mint green colours with modernised n-coaches before changing onto a ÖBB (as the Austrian railways still operated the line themselves at that point) 4020 electric unit from Garmisch to Lermoos. At the time it was a very tiring trip as we were very young children, but I still have some vivid memories of it. Passing over the line today you can see that a lot has changed over the past 25 years or so, as platforms got raised, more buildings have been built in the valley.

Upon arrival in Garmisch our train coupled onto a unit inbound from Innsbruck to continue combined as one train to Munich. Here we exited the train and walked to our hotel where we would spend the next 2 nights to explore Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Zugspitze mountain.

Despite the extra 2 hours of waiting time in the quiet town of Pfronten, I still very much enjoyed this ride as it provided me with a throwback to some happy childhood times. While the route might not be fast, it is still a nice and scenic way to travel through the region.

Have you passed through places again where you had been as a child on a holiday? And how did that make you feel? Let us know in the comments below!

Previously on this adventure

  1. The delicious German state secret: dining onboard Deutsche Bahn.
  2. VIDEO | Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.
  3. Leipzig Bayerischer Bahnhof.
  4. EAST GERMANY | Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, Leipzig’s GDR museum.
  5. Hyperion Leipzig.
  6. Leipzig.
  7. By ICE from Leipzig to Nuremberg.
  8. Nuremberg Transport Museum / DB Museum.
  9. Novotel Nuremberg City Centre.
  10. Documentation Center NS Party Rallying Grounds in Nuremberg.
  11. Nuremberg’s Zeppelin Field with the Norisring.
  12. Memorium Nuremberg Trials.
  13. Nuremberg’s real-life Playmobil Imperial Castle.
  14. You need at least two full days in Nuremberg.
  15. DB Regio from Nuremberg to Regensburg.
  16. Thurn und Taxis princely palace museum in Regensburg.
  17. Eurostars Park Hotel Maximilian Regensburg.
  18. Regensburg.
  19. With Alex from Regensburg to Munich.
  20. BMW Museum & BMW Welt in Munich.
  21. Munich’s Olympiapark.
  22. Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.
  23. Deutsches Museum’s Verkehrszentrum or Transport Centre in Munich.
  24. Deutsches Museum’s main site on Munich’s Museuminsel.
  25. By train to Neuschwanstein.
  26. Only 15 Minutes and No Photos in Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle.
  27. Museum of the Bavarian Kings in Schwangau near Neuschwanstein.
  28. Füssen in Bavaria, the gateway to Neuschwanstein.
  29. Münchner Stadtmuseum – Munich City Museum.
  30. MUNICH | Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum / Pinakothek der Moderne.
  31. Five days and four nights in Munich, including Neuschwanstein.
  32. By train to Lindau and Lake Constance.
  33. Lindau at or in Lake Constance.
  34. Hotel Bayerischer Hof Lindau.
  35. Trainspotting at Lindau.
  36. Nightjet Vienna/Innsbruck to Brussels, or how we got thrown off the train in Aachen.

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