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By the term "rail hot spot" I mean a place where rail traffic is concentrated, often because of 2 or more railway lines joins together. On this page I will try to give a description of some of the german rail hot spots, I have visited.



There are many good railfanning locations in the German capital Berlin. You will find many passsenger trains and a some freight trains. Many of the locations are pretty photogenic.

Railway lines:

A big city like Berlin has a lot of railway lines, and I will not mention all of them. One of the major main lines is Berliner Stadtbahn that snakes its way through Berlin, from east to west, serving the major stations Berlin Ostbahnhof - Berlin Alexanderplatz - Berlin Friedrichsstrasse - Berlin Hbf - Berlin Zoologisher Garten.

There are many good photo locations on this mainline, especially because it has a lot of curves. Among good photo locations is Berlin Alexanderplatz looking east, Friedrichstrasse with Fernsehturm in the background and Savignyplatz, where regional trains and long distance trains pass without a platform disturbing the picture.

Berlin also features 2 circular railway lines, the inner ring, Berliner Ringbahn, is used primarily for S-Bahn trains, the outer ring, Berliner Außenring, is used for primarily for regional trains and freight trains.

Passenger trains (status summer 2012):

For S-Bahn-services classes BR 480, 481 and 485 are used. BR 481 is the most common. Regional trains is normally double decker trains with a BR 112/114/143 locomotive in push-pull operation, BR 182 can also be seen on some lines.

Long distance trains are mostly ICE-trains but locomotive-hauled trains are also common. Several daily connections to and from Warszawa/Poland are hauled by PKP locomotives.

Freight trains:

Most freight trains go around Berlin on the Berliner Außenring. Berlin Schönefeld is easy to reach by public transport, lies on the Berliner Außenring and a god place to railfan freight trains. Volume varies, but can be 3-4 freight pr. hour. Freight trains are mostly a mix of intermodal, tank car traoms and mixed freights. Most freights are hauled by DB Schenker with a variety of traction, but other operators are also seen, on a regular basis also polish PKP Cargo.
Selected photos from Berlin:

DB 120 110

DB 120 110 heads a train through Berlin Schönefeld (278 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB 143 877

DB 143 877 arrives at Berlin Friedrichstrasse with the Fernsehturm in the background (245 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 140 013

DB Schenker 140 013 in Berlin Schönefeld with a tank car train carrying petrol products (205 kb, opens in a new browser).



Großkorbetha is a small town a little south of Halle. Großkorbetha er a wellknown rail hot spot and offers, besides the mainlines, also a relatively small, but busy freight yard.

Railway lines:

Großkorbetha is the southern corner of a "triangle" with Halle to the north and Leipzig to the east as the to other corners.

Thüringer Bahn runs south from Halle through Großkorbetha to Erfurt and Bebra; this lines has relatively much north-south passenger and freight traffic. In Großkorbetha this line is joined by the line from Leipzig, (KBS 582), thins line mostly carries regional trains and east-west freights. The last "leg" in the "triangle" is the line between Halle and Leipzig; this line does not go through Großkorbetha.

Passenger trains (spring 2011):

Großkorbetha is served by regional trains pulled by BR 143, occasionally also BR 182. In addition there is also a number of non-stopping trains, typically ICE T trains or conventional trains pulled by BR 101.

Freight trains (status spring 2011):

Quite a variety of freight trains can be seen in Großkorbetha, typically around 4 freight trains pr. hour. Mixed freights, tank car trains and coal train are the most common - container and intermodal traffic is also seen, but in relatively small numbers, especially compared to the main north-south routes in Middle Europe. The coal trains runs between Wählitz (mine) and Buna (powerplant) and is hauled by Mitteldeutschen Eisenbahngesellschaft MaK locomotives.

Specific locations:

Below I have listed 3 locations in Großkorbetha, but there are probably more:
  • The station itself is a obvious and easy option, but some of the freight trains pass on the other side of the yard, not visible from the platforms.
  • North of Großkorbetha: just over 1 km north of the station - where the lines from Leipzig and Halle meet - is a bridge over the tracks. The downside is that the overhead wires may be in the way of great photos.
  • South of Großkorbetha: about 1 km south of the station there are paths along both sides of the railroad line. Depending on the sun these offers reasonably good photo opportunities. I have only visited the path on the eastern side, from here you can catch trains going south in a curve.
Selected photos from Großkorbetha:

MEG 215

Mitteldeutschen Eisenbahngesellschaft (MEG) 215 (MaK G1206, aka 275 215) heads a empty coal pendel train Buna - Wählitz through Großkorbetha (234 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 185 164

DB Schenker 185 164 heads a tank car train with some kind of fuel (UN 1202) through Großkorbetha (315 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB ICE T 411 026

DB ICE T 411 026 "Leipzig" runs through Großkorbetha (248 kb, opens in a new browser).

Hamburg area:


The north-german city of Hamburg offers plenty of rail action, especially freight. The harbour in Hamburg is among the biggest and busiest in the world, and this generates a lot of traffic - about 8% of all freight traffic on german rails are generated in Hamburg. So the whole Hamburg area can be considered as one big rail hot spot.

Railway lines:

The busiest part of Hamburg in terms of railway traffic is south of the Elbe down to the big Maschen Yard. South out of Hamburg Hbf runs a multi-track railway (part of both the Hamburg - Hannover line, KBS 110 and the Hamburg - Bremen - Wanne-Eickel line, KBS 120) going south to Hamburg-Harburg, where most passenger trains stop.

Along the line are freight lines to and from the harbour areas. A little south of Hamburg Hbf the line is joined by the Güterumgehungsbahn, this is a freight only line allowing trains to and from the north to go avoid Hamburg Hbf and the main passenger lines. At Veddel a line goes of to the west to Hamburg Süd as well as the Peutebahn to the harbour areas east of Veddel. South of Wilhelmsburg (just north of the Hamburg Süderelbe bridge) a line goes of to Hohe Schaar.

Hamburg-Harburg is 12 km south of Hamburg Hbf., and the line south is here joined by the busy line to and from Cuxhaven (Niederelbebahn, KBS 121). A freight line of the Niederelbebahn serves the Walthershof and surrounding harbours.

This means that basically all north-south traffic goes through Hamburg-Harburg, making this a very busy rail hot spot.

A little south of Hamburg-Harburg the line to Bremen (KBS 120) goes of, but until Buchholz this line is almost only used by passenger trains. Trains to Hannover and most freight trains to Bremen continue south, freight trains going through the big Maschen yard. South of the Maschen yard a freight line takes the freight to Bremen onto the Hamburg - Bremen line in Buchholz. Traffic south to Hannover continue on the KBS 110.

Just south of Hamburg Hbf. lines goes of the north-south mainline to Lübeck (and Puttgarden/Denmark) and Berlin. West of Hamburg Hbf is Hamburg Altona, Altona and Hbf is connected with the Hamburg-Altonaer Verbindungsbahn. From Altona lines go north to Kiel, Flensburg - Padburg / Denmark and Niebüll.

Passenger trains (status summer 2014):

Regional trains south of Hamburg Hbf towards Bremen, Hannover and Cuxhaven are operated by Metronom, trains on the lines to Bremen and Hannover are operated by class 146 locomotives, trains on the line to Cuxhaven are operated by class 246 locomotives. Regional trains to the north, Lübeck and on the line to Berlin (?) are hauled by DB class 112 and 143.

Long-distance passenger trains south of Hamburg Hbf are either ICE 1 / ICE 2 or traditional trains hauled by class 101. Sometimes you will see other locomotives such as class 110, class 120, MRCE ES 64 U2 or ÖBB 1016.

At Altona besides the usual DB power you are likely to see Nord-Ostsee-Bahn class 251 - originally delivered to Norway, but returned to Siemens because of many problems - now they operating for Nord-Ostsee-Bahn.

Besides these mainlines are S-Bahn and U-Bahn lines, but these will not be described here.

Freight trains:

Most trains are hauled by DB Schenker class 140, 145, 151, 152, 155, 185, 189 or 295. But basically anything german might show up as well as some foreign power. SBB Cargo class 482 and 421 are fairly common, as well as DB Schenker Scandinavia class 185 and DB Schenker Danmark class EG. Czech Metrans is also (very) common.

German operators use a varied mix of power, often rented. You are likely to see EVB, HGK, ITL and OHE with locomotive classes 185, ER20, 232 and Vossloh G2000. Besides something more unusual probably will show up.

Specific locations:

The number of good locations are relatively few - in many places catenary masts, signals etc. makes it difficult to get good photos. Below is a description of some of the locations - there are certainly more, but these I have explored.

Wilhelmsburg is a stop on the S-bahn going to Hamburg-Harburg. There is a small yard here and 2 bridges cross the tracks, one at the station and one a bit north of the station. Photography from the bridges is not the best because of the overhead wires, but it can be done with reasonable result. Photography from the S-Bahn platform is difficult because of signals and catenary masts. See map on Google Maps.

Hamburg Süderelbe:
The railway crosses the Hamburg Süderelbe on bridges carrying 8 (!) tracks. This location is some distance from Hamburg-Harburg, but can be reached by bus 149, 152 or 153. The south side is in my opinion the best, and the bridges make a nice background. You are pretty close to the tracks, so you need both a lens in the midrange - a 28-75 mm zoom or similar is ideal. Because most of the trains are going by fast, you also need a fast shutter speed to avoid blurry pictures. See map on Google Maps.

Hamburg-Harburg is a major rail station in the southern part of Hamburg with intense passenger and freight train action. It is located on the mainline out of Hamburg, north of where it splits into the mainline to Bremen and the mainline to Hannover.

The best place to be is probably the western platform (track 6), in the northern or southern end. The northern end offers a good photo point for southbound freight trains coming from the harbour, the southern end is better for northbound freights.

There are also some freight traffic on the through eastern tracks, photography is possible from the platform at track 1, it is a bit difficult to get a good composition because of the catenary masts, but it can be done. Through freights on the eastern tracks are running quite fast, so you need a fast shutter speed.

An easy way to get to Hamburg-Harburg is of course by train (....) - but if you travel by car, you can park in the Phoenix Center opposite the station. And if you are accompanied by your family or others, that do not have the same passion for trains, you may also "park" them in the Phoenix Center which offers good shopping.

Meckelfeld is just north of the big Maschen Yard, and is served by regional trains. This location offers massive freight action, but doesn't offer good photographic opportunities. You can take pictures from the platform, but vegetation might be a problem, you can also take pictures from the bridge, but then only in one direction at a time. The third option is a parking area next to the tracks just south of the station, but here vegetation is also a bit of a problem.

Hamburg Waltershof:
Hamburg Waltershof is a part of the harbour on the southside of the Elbe, next to the A7 Autobahn, and consists of the two large container terminals Waltershof and Burchardkai. These two terminals generate a lot of container trains. From the Niederelbebahn Hamburger Hafenbahn goes of to the Alte Süderelbe yard and continues to the Waltershof, Burchardkai, Altenwerder and Hansaport harbours.

A good place to watch the traffic to and from Waltershof and Burchardkai is north of the Alte Süderelbe yard. It may be a bit difficult to find, but with public transport it is actually quite easy. From Hamburg-Altona take bus 150 to AIRBUS/Estebogen or 250 to Fischbeker Heideweg. About 10 minutes after leaving Hamburg-Altona the bus enters the Elb tunnel, it takes about 4 minuttes to cross under the Elbe. Get of at the first stop after the tunnel. Walk about 250 m back in the direction you came from, and walk down a little path - and you are at the tracks.

Buchholz (an der Nordheide) is the first major station after Hamburg-Harburg on the line to Bremen. In Buchholz the main line to Bremen is joined by a double tracked freight line from the Maschen yard. Besides freight traffic to and from Bremen, the Ruhr area etc., a fair amount of the north-south freight traffic goes via Buchholz - Rotenburg - Verden - Hannover avoiding the often congested, direct line from Hamburg-Harburg to Hannover.

Getting around:

Probably the best way to get around is by public transport. After 9 in the morning, you can use a 9-Uhr Tageskarte (9 AM Day Ticket), it's valid on regional trains, S-bahn, U-bahn, busses and some ferries. More info on

Selected photos from Hamburg area locations:

DB Schenker 185 162

DB Schenker 185 162 in Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg (311 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB ICE 401 062

DB ICE 401 062 at Hamburg Süderelbe (196 kb, opens in a new browser).

ITL 185 598

ITL 185 598 at Hamburg Süderelbe (216 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 145 022

DB Schenker 145 022 heading a container train into Hamburg-Harburg from the south (260 kb, opens in a new browser).

CFL Cargo 185 566

CFL Cargo 185 566 heads a freight north through Hamburg-Harburg on the eastern through track - timing is critical to avoid catenary masts (284 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 145 096

DB Schenker 145 096 running through Hamburg-Harburg on the through eastern tracks (232 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 152 132

DB Schenker 152 132 in Meckelfeld seen from the bridge (350 kb, opens in a new browser).



Leipzig-Thekla is a small station a few kilometers from Leipzig city centre. The line to Eilenburg and Cottbus here run side by side with the freight line around Leipzig, the Leipziger Güterring.

Railway lines:

Rail map of Leipzig Thekla

On the map you can see the railway lines at Leipzig-Thekla. From the west both the freight line around Leipzig and the passenger line from Leipzig Hbf runs parallel into Leipzig-Thekla. In Leipzig-Thekla, passenger trains use the 2 southern tracks, that continue to Eilenburg and Cottbus. The 2 northern tracks cross over the tracks to Eilenburg on a bridge and continue south-east til Leipzig Engelsdorf freight yard.

Passenger trains (spring 2011):

Leipzig-Thekla is in general served by trains every hour, these trains are diesel trainsets and run between Eilenburg and Leipzig Hbf. Besides there are non-stopping trains, these are loco-hauled by a BR 143 or a BR 182. These passenger trains run on the two southern tracks.

Freight trains (spring 2011):

Freight trains normally run on the freight line, just north of the 2 tracks going to Eilenburg and Cottbus. These trains are coming from or going to the Engelsdorf freight yard in the eastern part of Leipzig. But freight trains sometimes also run on the tracks to Eilenburg/Cottbus.

Most freight are either mixed freights or chemicals. Container and intermodal are not so frequent. Perhaps 70% of all freights are run by DB Schenker, the rest is run by private operators. BR 155 is perhaps the most common locomotive, but there is a good variation in the types of locomotives used. Besides BR 155, also "Ludmillas" are relatively often seen.


It relatively easy to get unobstructed photograps in both directions. But depending on the time of day, the rising or setting sun can be challenging.

Selected photos from Leipzig-Thekla:

DB Schenker 185 005

DB Schenker 185 162 against the setting sun in Leipzig-Thekla (218 kb, opens in a new browser).

DB Schenker 232 635 + DB Schenker 232 693

DB Schenker 232 635 + DB Schenker 232 693 in Leipzig-Thekla (256 kb, opens in a new browser).

Rhein - right bank ("Rechte Rheinstrecke"):


The right bank of the Rhine from Wiesbaden north to Köln.
Both banks of the Rhine between Rüdesheim/Bingen and Koblenz has double tracked railway lines with quite a lot of traffic. The lines carries both passenger and freight trains, but the high speed trains use another line between Köln and Frankfurt.

There are sevaral good locations along the right bank, below is some of my favorites.

Kaub: Just north of Kaub you can take a small road up to the tracks, here you can get good pictures of southbound trains going through a s-curve. Northbound trains are however a bit difficult to photograph.

Lorch: Follow the road that leads to the station to just past the station. This is a good spot for taking pictures of trains in both directions. Coordinates: 50° 2'23.69" N 7°48'50.27" E.

Assmannshausen: The northern end of the eastern platform is a good place to catch trains coming through the curves. There is a crossing just north of the station, when the crossing is activated you know a train is coming and can have your camera ready.

Rüdesheim: Rüdesheim offers many possibilities - you can walk on both sides of the tracks and crossings warn you of approaching trains.

Selected photos from "Rechte Rheinstrecke":

Rhein - left bank ("Linkse Rheinstrecke"):


Left bank of the Rhine between Bingen and Koblenz
Also the left bank offers many good locations.

Königsbach: A little south of Koblenz with a parking area. Good for northbound trains coming through a curve. Coordinates: 50°18'52" N 7°35'16" E.

Bacharach: A little north of Bacharach, opposite of Pfalzgrafenstein, where there is a ferry to Kaub, you can stand in the side of the road. However, watch carefully for car traffic.

Rheindiebach: A little north of Rheindiebach is a good place where the railways goes through a small s-curve, with good photo opportunities in both directions. Coordinates: 50° 2'38"N 7°47'10" E.

Selected photos from "Linkse Rheinstrecke":

Köln West:


More to come...

Selected photos from Köln West:

Updated October 4, 2014 / copyright Finn Møller
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