Bad Doberan is the starting point for a nostalgic steam train journey through streets and fields all the way to the beaches of the Baltic Coast.
The beach resorts of eastern Germany are decidedly old fashioned. Their grandeur belongs to a time when the families of counts and barons frequented the beachfront promenades. And to get to the Baltic Coast, they had their own railway lines built, too.
Leading the way was Duke Friedrich Franz I, who created Germany’s first resort of Bad Heiligendamm. And it was his interest in horse-racing, as practiced at the nearby racetrack at Bad Doberan, that prompted the inauguration of one of Germany’s most delightful little trains, to ensure that his dukeliness could combine a flutter on the nags with a splash in the sea.
The Molli is a charismatic 15km-long narrow-gauge service which connects the resorts of Bad Kühlungsborn and Bad Heiligendamm with the normal-gauge line at the spa town of Bad Doberan. It is a much loved part of the community, and is equally at home proceeding in stately fashion down the centre of the cobbled main streets, picking up passengers outside the shops, as it is striking out across cornfields and through butterfly-filled woodland, along avenues of limes.
One of Germany’s most delightful little trains
Technology on the track hasn’t changed much in the last 75 years, and stationmasters still have to wind up the Molli’s level crossings by hand. Three of the five steam locomotives that presently run the service (12 departures a day, starting at 7.30am and ending at 6.30pm, fewer in winter) were introduced in 1932, and run equally well in either direction, which is fortunate, because the Molli has no turntable to turn them round.
The rolling stock is similarly original. Coaches from 1886 and 1902 are kept in a shed at Bad Kühlungsborn, but even the working 28 coaches and five luggage vans were all delivered between 1925 and 1930, and still carry the original red and ivory livery. They were overhauled in 1983, and much of the woodwork was replaced with steel, although the uncompromisingly hard wooden seats have remained. Some trains also have an added Salon coach with upholstered leather seats, for an extra charge. And if you can pay a little more, and you can get to ride with the engine-driver, although there’ll be little or no comfort involved.
Look for ‘Sommerfahrplan’ to find the timetable on the Molli website.