The Kirnitzschtal tramway, also known as the Kirnitzschtalbahn (Kirnitzsch Valley Tramway), is an electric tramway in Saxony in Germany. The line runs through the valley of the Kirnitzsch river in Saxon Switzerland, from the town of Bad Schandau up to the Lichtenhain Waterfall. Unfortunately, the waterfall was a bit dissapointing as it is only artificial and is active only once in about ten minutes. The line opened from Bad Schandau as far as the Lichtenhain Waterfall on Saturday, May 28, 1898 and it is still in use today.
Fun fact: The first service was delayed by 45 minutes when the car derailed on its maiden trip.
The line was operated a tourist service from the beginning, with service from May to October. In the opening year 80,000 passengers rode the line.
The initial vehicle fleet comprised six enclosed motorcars and six trailers. During the night of July 26, 1927, fire destroyed the depot and the entire fleet. Traffic was restored on August 12 and continued until October 31 using borrowed cars. In 1928, a new fleet of five motorcars and six trailers built.
The Kirnitzschtal tramway was reconstructed from 1985 to 1990. The very serious flooding of the Elbe in 2002 caused services to be suspended as the line’s Bad Schandau terminus, along with the rest of the town, was under 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) of flood water. Reconstruction of the Kirnitzschtal road, together with extensive track replacement, again caused suspension in 2003. On August 7 2010, another heavy flooding in the Kirnitzschtal caused damage to both the line and its vehicles. The depot was flooded to the height of the tram floors, causing damage to the cars motors, gears and axles. The line did not operate again until Easter 2011.
The line is 7.9 kilometres (4.9 mi) long, of metre gauge, electrified at 600 volts DC on the overhead line system, and uses four wheeled motor coaches and trailers. It has seven regular stops points in addition to the two final stops. The single track line has two passing loops, one at the depot and the other between the Forsthaus and Nasser Grund stops. Loops also exist at both final stops, to enable the motorcars to run around their trailers.
The line is unusual in that it is mostly “gutter running”, a type of track layout once common on rural tramways in Germany. In the case of the Kirnitzschtal Tramway, the track is laid in the southern, eastbound, lane of the S165 Kirnitzschtalstrasse road. Thus westbound trams heading towards Bad Schandau travel against the normal flow of road traffic, requiring heightened attention from both tram and road vehicle drivers. Although some of the line’s tramcars are double ended, only the doors on the south side are used, as all the stops are on the south side of the road.
Currently the line operates throughout the year. In the winter months it operates every 70 minutes, whilst in the summer months it operates every half hour. The winter timetable is typically operated by a single Gothawagen motor car operating on its own, whilst the summer timetable requires three such motor cars, each pulling one or two matching trailers.