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The “unhurried train”

Upper Lusatia
Die Zittauer Schmalspurbahn ist täglich unterwegs.
Der rüstige Oberlausitzer Alfred Simm ist mit Herzblut bei der Arbeit. Foto: DAMPFBAHN-ROUTE Sachsen

“Steam-based trips into the mountains daily”

“Mind the gap,” Alfred Simm calls out. A rugged local resident, he is standing at Zittau’s main train station. The old steam train’s boiler is heated up and ready to go. The doors have closed. And slowly, slowly, the Zittau Narrow-Gauge Railway begins to chug away. “Steam-based trips into the mountains daily”, say the brochures. The Zittau Mountains, to be exact. Here, in the far southeast of Saxony, right where the borders of Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic meet, is Germany’s smallest range of low mountains.

The steam-powered narrow-gauge railway is the perfect way to explore the scenery. En route from Zittau to Oybin or Jonsdorf, the train passes stunning sandstone rock formations and picturesque villages of timber-framed homes nestled in the hills. 

Zittauer Schmalspurbahn

Die Zittauer Schmalspurbahn ist täglich unterwegs.

Spectacular natural beauty all around

The train starts out slowly, puffing down to the lowest point along the route. A cloud of steam forms above the locomotive before it is snatched away by the wind. Next station. Next stop. The train continues across a bridge spanning a valley. All the while, passengers hear its rhythmic chugging sound. The engine is incredibly powerful, something you can feel throughout your body as it gathers speed.

“Steam locomotives appeal to people all over the world,” Simm says. It is a fascination that continues right up to the present day. Plus: “These days, a lot of people are looking for ways to slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle. Here, with spectacular natural beauty all around us, we offer that for the whole family.” Simm has been working as an ambassador for STEAM RAILWAY ROUTE Saxony for ten years.

Der rüstige Oberlausitzer Alfred Simm ist mit Herzblut bei der Arbeit. Foto: DAMPFBAHN-ROUTE Sachsen

The train chugs on. Now we are in the “open view and dining car.” The train charges ahead on the tracks, with the Zittau Mountains speeding by to either side. Tunnel after tunnel, curve after curve – just as it has done for 131 years.

Die Zittauer Schmalspurbahn - ein Highlight für Jedermann.

More than 250,000 passengers a year

The Zittau Narrow-Gauge Railway was once a part of the Royal Saxon State Railways. These days, it welcomes over 250,000 passengers each year, up from 96,000 some 15 years ago.

The 16-kilometer route network opened in 1890, and it has remained a fortunate addition to the area to this day. When it first opened, the railway used the name “Zittau-Oybin-Jonsdorf Eisenbahn,” or “ZOJE” for short. The locals soon came to joke that the initials stood for “Zug ohne jegliche Eile” – literally “train without any haste,” or “the unhurried train.”