Höllentalbahn (Black Forest)

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Hell Valley Railway
Line length 74.7 km (46.4 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 1936 until 1960, 20 kV, 50 Hz, AC
since 1960, 15 kV, 16⅔ Hz, AC
Operating speed 100 km/h
Highest elevation 607 m (1,991 ft)
Maximum incline 5.5%
Rack system 1887 until 1933; now adhesion
Route map
Stations, junctions and heights above sea level
Rhine Valley Railway from Mannheim
−2,0 Freiburg (Breisgau) Hbf. 278 m
0 Branch point(replaced by a new route in 1934)
Rhine Valley Railway to Basel
Loretto Tunnel514 m
Sternwald Tunnel302 m
2,7 Freiburg Wiehre 280 m
5,7 Freiburg Littenweiler 317 m
7,4 Kappelertalnow closed
11,0 Kirchzarten 392 m
13,9 Himmelreich 455 m
Falkenstein Tunnel72 m
Lower Hirschsprung Tunnel121 m
Upper Hirschsprung Tunnel69 m
18,2 Hirschsprungnow closed 559 m
Kehre Tunnel203 m
20,6 Posthaldenow closed 657 m
22,2 Höllsteignow closed 740 m
Ravenna Bridge224 m
Ravenna Tunnel47 m
Finsterrank Tunnel248 m
Löffel Valley Tunnel82 m
25,4 Hinterzarten 885 m
29,3 Titisee 858 m
Dreiseenbahn to Seebrugg
32,3 Hölzlebrucknow closed
29,3 Neustadt (Schwarzwald) 805 m
39,1 Kappel Gutachbrückenow closed
Branch line to Bonndorf
Gutach[disambiguation needed] bridge
Finsterbühl Tunnel166 m
Hörnle Tunnel220 m
Setze Tunnel104 m
Kapf Tunnel203 m
45,9 Rötenbach
50,9 Löffingen 804 m
53,2 Reiselfingennow closed
56,3 Bachheim
58,7 Unadingen
Döggingen Tunnel535 m
64,0 Döggingen
67,7 Hausen vor Waldnow closed
Breg Valley Railway to Bräunlingen
Hüfingen Mitte
72,1 Hüfingennow closed
Donaueschingen Allmendshofen
Black Forest Railway from Konstanz
74,7 Donaueschingen 677 m
Black Forest Railway to Offenburg

The Höllentalbahn (literally, "Hell Valley Railway") is a railway line that partially runs through the Höllental valley in the Black Forest of Germany. The line connects Freiburg im Breisgau with Donaueschingen, a distance of 74.7 km (46.4 mi).[1]

Over its entire course the line rises from an altitude of 278 m (912 ft) in Freiburg to 885 m (2,904 ft) in Hinterzarten. Part of the route has a 5.5% gradient, making the line one of the steepest in Germany. The line passes through beautiful scenery along its entire length.


The line, which opened as far as Neustadt in 1887, was constructed for the Grand Duchy of Baden State Railways and was the last project of railway architect Robert Gerwig. The 7.2 km (4.5 mi) section of the line between Hirschsprung and Hinterzarten has a maximum gradient of 5.5%, and was initially operated as a rack railway on the Riggenbach system.[1]

The line was extended from Neustadt to Donaueschingen in 1901. In 1932/33, ten powerful Class 85 steam locomotives were built, which enabled traffic to operate over the Hirschsprung and Hinterzarten section without rack assistance, and rack operation ceased in 1933.

In 1934, a new and partially tunnelled route within the city of Freiburg was opened. This enabled the original route, which passed closer to the city centre and over congested level crossings, to be closed.[2]

In 1936, the Deutsche Reichsbahn electrified the line between Freiburg and Neustadt, installing a 20 kV, 50 Hz AC. This led to the subsequent adoption of the 25 kV AC 50 Hz system in France and elsewhere. Since the eletrification of Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basle railway had been completed in 1958, the Höllentalbahn was linked to the nationwide electric railway system. Therefore, in 1960, the electrified section of the Höllentalbahn was converted to the standard 15 kV, 16⅔ Hz system used throughout the German railway network.

The Höllentalbahn was used successfully to test designs for the DB Class 144. Later, electric motive power was supplied by the Series 145, which was itself replaced by the DB Class 139. Today, the electric line uses modern double-decker rolling stock pulled by DB Class 143 locomotives.

The stretch of line between Neustadt and Donaueschingen remains unelectrified.[1]


After leaving Freiburg Hauptbahnhof, the main station for the city of Freiburg, the Höllentalbahn diverges from the mainline Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basel railway to the east. It the crosses over the mainline on a flyover and serves two further stops within the city, before starting its ascent of the Höllental.[1]

High points on the stretch of the line through the Höllental include the Hirschsprungfelsen (a rock formation) and a crossing of the Ravenna Gorge on the 40-metre (131 ft) high Ravenna Bridge. The section of the line between Hirschsprung and Hinterzarten has a steep maximum gradient of 5.5%, betraying its origin as a rack railway.[1]

After leaving the Höllental, the Dreiseenbahn railway to Seebrugg diverges at the spa town of Titisee, close to the Titisee lake. The town of Neustadt follows, where electrification ends and through passengers normally need to change trains.[1]

Further on, between Neustadt and Donaueschingen, the viaduct at the former Kappel Gutachbrücke station crosses the Wutach at the beginning of its long gorge. While in a 535-metre (1,755 ft) tunnel near Döggingen station, the line crosses a main European watershed, between the Rhine drainage basin (flowing into the North Sea) and the Danube drainage basin (flowing into the Black Sea).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland. Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH. 2009. pp. 101, 110–111. ISBN 978-3-89494-139-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Deacon, Ray (1998). Freiburg: From classic tramway to light rail. LRTA. pp. 18, 33. ISBN 0-948106-22-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links

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