Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein


Sunday 17 January 2016


The view out my window when I woke up. Only a few cm of snow, but not very inviting. But after a good breakfast, I Googled the Darmstadt attractions, thinking that I might, much against my usual habits, spend the day indoors, maybe even in a museum.

Well, I was half right. The attraction that attracted my eye was the railway museum at Kranichstein. Museum, just not indoors.

Ok, where’s Kranichstein? Found it on Google maps; it’s way the hell out in one of the nearby townlets. But when I ask Google for a walking route, well, it’s only 6,7 km. Ok, let’s head that way; if the weather is a disaster, we can always abandon the idea.

GPS route.jpg

The day was okay, and although I am off the little throw-away paper map, I studied Google’s recommendation carefully enough that I had no trouble. You will observe that the latter part comprises staying right along the rail lines, so it was pretty easy.


The museum is open 10-4 on Sundays.


From this side, this is clearly the firing and steam generation part of a Lok. The other side is cut away, so we can see what’s going on.


Generally, red shows where the fire is, blue shows water, white is for steam. We can see how the firebox is immersed in water, including extracting heat through the flue pipes leading to the front.


To the left, the hole where the fireman shovels coal onto the grate.


Steam collects under the steam dome, whence it is channeled toward the superheater on the right.


Here, the superheater collecting the last possible energy from the flue gases, a screen to suppress sparks, and the chimney. This black cavity would presumably accumulate ash and need to be cleaned out from time to time.


Moving right along, the turntable itself. Roundhouse shops to the right.


A few Loks are left outdoors, almost humorous, some of them.



The humor in these is not so obvious, but they have no drive gear.


Going on into the roundhouse shops, we find Loks that are, many of them, roadworthy. The museum association sponsors steam-powered trips during the high season.


No mention of the world events into which these Loks fit. There must be stories. For better or worse, at least these machines survived.


While we looking at labels, this is a tender. Two interesting things here, first that steam propulsion consumed more water by volume than fuel Öl (oil). The second point is my extraction from what our volunteer tour guide said. It being all in German, I may have it completely wrong. For what it’s worth, I think he said that the oil was so heavy that it would not flow unless heated, so especially in cold weather, the fuel had to be heated before the fire could be started to heat the fuel. Clearly, there’s more to that story!


And while we on about signs, I thought it was interesting to see the typeface in use even in a heavy industry setting. Through the door, a machine shop, with overhead power shafts and leather belts running down to power individual machine tools.


Here, a standard blacksmith shop, presumably limited to things small enough, say, for one or two men to pick up.


I didn’t say anything about the group. Access by guided tour only; there were five of us visitors, including Junior here. Dad and Mom bracketing the tour guide, who was happy to explain things in simple detail to Junior and in more detail to Mom.


The fifth visitor was a guy who brought along a tripod and wandered around slightly away from the rest. I empathize.

One of several things I noticed for the first time today is that the counterweight cast into the wheel was sized according to the mass of iron that would otherwise unbalance the wheel.



As well as having the fuel solidify, it would really irritate your management if the water froze and started rupturing pipes and tanks.

This Lok was fitted out so we could climb up into the cab.




Remember seeing the grate in the cutaway exhibit earlier!

Junior decided he wanted to become a train-man and didn’t want to leave the cab. Good for him! (But he eventually did, of course, happily with no grumping on the part of anyone.)


From the stencils on some of the Loks, I observed that compressed-air brakes were not universal (well, of course not, not in the beginning: direct mechanical pressure was how you would naturally do it). And then they had air brakes, and the way to identify the air compressor is by the fins needed to dissipate the heat.


Whereas the assembly behind the tour guide here is a water pump. No fins.

Well worth the visit! Good show!

Walked back into Darmstadt on mostly the same route I had taken in the other direction. I thought this garbage incinerator was worth a foto: only steam coming from the stack. Their link says they burn 200.000 tons (metric tons) of garbage per year, but doesn’t say how much power they generate.


6 Responses to “Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein”

  1. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Nice exercise in techno-archaeology and a walk to boot.

    The Deutsch is a bit beyond me, too–it may be a bit dated–but I was interested enough by the 1935 date in the photo with the fluid capacities to try and decipher the last line. It refers to the linkage–by which I assume the whole drive train–dating to that year. But I can’t tell if that’s the year of manufacture (best guess) or the year this model of drive was introduced.

    This suggests to me a certain modularity in the lifecycle maintenance approach. I suppose these things wore out and got Frankensteined back together. Do boilers come and go? Or are the drive trains the more expendable parts? On machines like these it’s hard to guess where entropy will take its greatest toll…but at least the drive train has discrete, serviceable parts. And you mention a couple of examples in the yard with no drive links….

    Nice post!


    • 86dave Says:

      Thanks for comments. One of the other photos, not posted, has the same text for the linkage type, but model Tr, 1938. So I agree with your conjecture of presumably improved models introduced successively year by year.

      I also noticed a lot of the exhibits with stencils relating to Knorr Bremse, especially of style K-GP mit Z (no idea what that means). Knorr still makes brake systems for heavy vehicles, BTW. I noticed these stencils everywhere, but have fotos of only a couple. Next time, and maybe with an English-speaking enthusiast for a guide. I’d also like to find out more about ED Mainz, text that shows up everywhere.

      As to what’s replaceable: when you look at these, it’s clear that pretty much everything can be removed, probably even including the boiler from the frame. During normal times, you might expect the boiler and the frame to define the existence of the Lok, but during the war, who knows what damage was worth the effort to repair! In any event, it would clearly require substantial rework in all of the running gear to convert from mechanical to air brakes, for example. I also noticed that the newer Loks had a nest of what I at first thought were wires running along the frame, but later realized were tubes for pressurized lubrication oil. Earlier models were just static lube, of course, either heavy grease or via local reservoirs.

      But coming all the way down to your question: do drive links wear out? They sure don’t look as if they would, do they! And they have clamp and cotter arrangements that would allow them to be adjusted and tightened many times. Still, it’s metal sliding on metal, transmitting a great deal of power with perhaps not the best imaginable lubrication, and exposed to dirt and grit. So maybe …


  2. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Well, Mainz is a city about 30-35km WSW of Frankfurt, which in turn lies some 30km due north of Darmstadt. The three form the points of a roughly equilateral triangle as the crows fly, with Frankfurt am Main (the river Main) and Mainz on the far side (from you) of the Rhein.

    Google Maps shows some pretty hefty rail lines between Darmstadt and Mainz, so there’s a clue…

    …and, from http://www.worldrailfans.info/Articles/Europe/Ger-EngDictionary.shtml#E, another:

    “Eisenbahn Direction (ED): A regional administrative unit”

    Apparently, the Kranichstein operation was (maybe still is?) overseen by some department in Mainz. Which would presumably have stenciled its authority all over the inventory.

    Since these last guys are actual rail afficionados, I’d trust them more than I would my own Deutsch, especially when things go all idiomatische. For example, “linkage” could have a lot of meanings. Armchair internet exploration is an uncertain thing.


  3. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Onward to deciphering “K-GP mit Z”, then (no time right now)….


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