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Rails on the North Sea Islands - Borkum

Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany
Picture above: A general view to the steam traction and hotels on the Borkum island on the German North Sea. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.

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Borkum *

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Created for by Ilkka Siissalo. Pictures by Ilkka and Sanna Siissalo.

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Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany
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Rails on the North Sea, Germany
Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany
Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany

The island of Borkum is the southernmost still on German territory and is actually by far closer to the Netherlands – or more accurately, the land of Groningen of the federal kingdom of the Netherlands – than Germany. The island is about 36 square kilometres and is about 30 km away from the German mainland. There is a village or city, as the borkumers call it, with about 8000 inhabitants and thousands and thousands of tourists during summer time.

Borkum has been inhabited by the Vikings and the Celts before the present day Dutch and Germans and even the island's odd sounding name comes from the very past. What is now Borkum, was Bork-uyin in the very first written documents hundreds of years ago. Pronounced correctly this is fonetically very close to Bork-öyn, or the isle of boars, in old Viking Scandinavian language. 

The island is a beautiful beach resort with tens of kilometres of wonderful sand beaches, great food and nice small hotels and hostels. A tourist paradise.

Borkum once had an extensive narrow gauge railway system of over 30 km, most of which was built by Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht just before World War II. Borkum was then a very important military base with a lot of bunkers and with a large military airfield. Gradually the railroad however lost importance, especially after Germany lost the war and after 1945 all military installments had to be destroyed on the islands. In the 1970s the remining railroad was close to be closed down, but luckily was eventually saved.

In the late 1990s then a lot of money was spent to make the whole remaining 7,5 km into dual track, new locomotives and new coaches were bought and now the Borkumer Kleinbahn (Borkum Small Railway) hauls all the tourists from the ferry harbour to the city and is a remarkable tourist attraction itself. It is a 900 mm gauge width narrow gauge railroad, which has 3 modern small diesel locomotives from the 1990s (Schöma, 1993, red) and one older diesel (Schöma, 1969, yellow) in day to day use, as well as one rebuilt small two-axle steam engine (the “Borkum”, previously “Dollart”, built by Orenstein & Koppel in 1945) and a so called Wismar type railcar (Wismarer Schienenbus, so called pig nose), stemming from Hitler´s Kriegsmarine´s days 1939-40, which are occasionally used for historic and touristic trains. Most of the carriages look old, but are in fact from 1992-93. Despite their wooden, old style benches they have modern air brakes and the railroad has modern automatic  warning bells and booms at major road crossings. Therefore the borkumer trains are “fast” – up to 40 km/h.

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 Borkumer Kleinbahn Rolling Stock

Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany
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Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany

This section takes a look at the traction power at Borkumer Kleinbahn. Both steam and diesel locomtives exist and at least one "pig snout railbus" can occasionally be seen in operation.

Closer information will follow later.

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Borkum Kleinbahn, Borkum, Germany  
Rails on the North Sea, Germany  
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Main > Reference > Germany > Rails on the North Sea > Borkum
© Railroad Reference 2004 - 2011   -   Created 22.9.2011 Ilkka Siissalo, updated 31.10.2011 John McKey