Posts tagged ‘Deutsche Bahn’

How to read signage at German rail stations

You’re excited – you’ve finally arrived in Germany.

You’ve decided to travel the country by train, but you’re not familiar with the German language, and you may find the signs puzzling and difficult to read.

The following is a short visual descriptive guide to signage at German rail stations to help get you on your way. Examples below are taken from Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof (central or main train station). The general descriptions should apply everywhere throughout the country.


Where’s my train? The departures board (Abfahrtstafel)

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

In most medium- to large-sized German cities, every Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) or central train station will have a large departures board in the central hall and/or over the information booth. The photo above shows the departures board in the middle of Frankfurt’s station with the message:

“Herzlich Willkommen in Frankfurt am Main Hbf – Welcome to Frankfurt am Main Central Station”.

Information on the departures board appears as white block lettering on a dark blue background. From left to right in the photo below, there are six primary columns of information:

  1. Departure time (Zeit)
  2. Train number
  3. Intermediate stops (Über)
  4. Final destination for train (Ziel)
  5. Platform number (Gleis)
  6. Additional information

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

The departures board above shows Regional Bahn train RB 15231 leaving at 830pm (2030h) for Aschaffenburg from platform 12, with stops at F-Ost (Frankfurt Ost) and Maintal Ost. There’s no additional information which means the train is scheduled to depart on time.

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

The other departures board shows InterCity Express ICE 773 leaving for Stuttgart from platform 6 at 905pm (2105h), with stops at Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen) and the city of Mannheim. There’s an additional note that the train is about 15 minutes late, putting the departure time to about 920pm.


What’s my train? Train destination signage (Zugzielanzeiger), by day

Above every platform are overhead digital signs to confirm what travelers might see on the central board. The signs also appear as white lettering on a blue background. Occasionally, two trains will share the same platform which the signage will also reflect. Highlighted sections will correspond to the appropriate train; take note that you board the correct train.

The following are examples of daytime departures from platforms 8 and 9.

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

From platform 8, InterCity Express train ICE 76 leaves at 1158am for Kiel Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), with stops in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Göttingen, Hannover, and Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. There’s a five-minute delay, pushing the departure time to about 1203pm.

Every platform is “divided” into sections, which are also labeled with overhead signage (A, B, C, etc.) indicating where you are along the platform. The electronic sign also shows how the train itself is divided. 1st-class cars are in section A, the dining car is in section B, and the rest of the train consists of 2nd-class cars from sections C through E.

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

From platform 9, InterCity Express train ICE 595 leaves at 1150am for München (Munich) Hauptbahnhof, with stops in Mannheim, Stuttgart, Ulm, and Augsburg. The sign above shows that first-class cars are along section A, the dining car along section B, and the rest of the train consists of second-class cars from sections C through E.


What’s my train? Train destination signage (Zugzielanzeiger), at night

The following is an example of a nighttime departure from platform 8.

Zugzielanzeiger (Train destination signage), Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

It’s 917pm, but the 910pm train from platform 8 hasn’t departed. I’ve labeled the train ICE 526, overhead signage indicating platform sections ‘A’ and ‘B’, as well as the familiar red and blue Deutsche Bahn ticket machines. It’s preferable (and often cheaper) to purchase a ticket before boarding the train; the ticket machines have multilingual options and sell tickets for regional and long-distance trains.

Zugzielanzeiger (Train destination signage), Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

In fact, ICE 526 heading to Dortmund Hauptbahnhof is approximately 5 minutes late, which means this train is about to leave at any moment. The train makes stops at Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport and in Köln (Cologne) at Messe/Deutz station. Note that 2nd-class cars are located along sections A and D, dining cars at sections B and E, and 1st-class cars at sections C and F


Where’s my coach? Coach sequence signage (Wagenreihungsplan)

If you’ve purchased a ticket with assigned seating in a specific coach or car, you have to locate the correct coach for the train. Every station platform has a large sign “Wagenreihungsplan” or “Wagenstandsanzeiger”, describing how coaches are sequenced for each train leaving from that platform.

The labeled columns shown left to right in the photo below are for trains leaving from platform 12:

  1. Departure time (Zeit)
  2. Train (Zug)
  3. Information, notes (Hinweis)
  4. Direction, destination (Richtung, Ziel)
  5. Coach sequence (Wagenreihung)
  6. Signage location, “where am I?” (Standort)

Wagenreihungsplan, Gl. 12, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, fotoeins.com

Coaches in green are 2nd-class cars, coaches in yellow are 1st-class cars, and coaches in red are dining cars. Every coach is labeled by a number. The short black arrow next to the train engine indicates the direction leaving the station. In other words, coaches next to platform sections C, D, E are at the “front” of the departing train at Frankfurt station.

Where is this “Wagenreihungsplan” signage located? (“Where am I?”) The red dot and red vertical line indicate the sign’s location between platform sections B and C.

For example, train IC2297 leaves platform 12 at 820pm (2020h) for Stuttgart. However, there are three rows for the same train number, indicating different coach sequences for different days of the week. The train indicated by the white asterisk or star is assigned for departures Monday to Wednesday (Montag bis Mittwoch) inclusive. Where the red vertical line intersects this row shows that the “Wagenreihungsplan” signage shown here would be located opposite 2nd-class coach number 6.

At times, you may hear a public announcement and/or see a notice on the overhead track signage about changes to the coach sequence: namely,

•   “umgekehrte Wagenreihung”: coach sequence is completely reversed.
•   “abweichende Wagenreihung”: coach sequence is different than scheduled.


Schedules for departures & arrivals

You’ll also see printed-paper displays for arrivals and departures. Arrivals are always displayed as black text on a light grey background, and departures are always displayed as black text on a yellow background. The lists of arriving and departing trains are ordered by the time of day.

Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

The Deutsche Bahn website also provides an updated to-the-minute online version of an arrivals and departures board here in German or here in English. Up-to-date information is given two hours in advance from your present time, including information about the assigned platform for arriving/departing trains and whether trains are early or late. Just like the printed-paper displays, arrivals and departures are shown on light grey and yellow backgrounds, respectively.


Questions or comments about trains in Germany? Please leave them below!

I made the photos above at Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof on 10 October 2009 and 20 November 2014. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6k7.

Saving money with German Rail Pass, Nov-Dec 2014

It’s full on fall, and it’s time I’m in Germany once again.

To continue my streak of visiting the country every year, I’m “home” for the 13th consecutive year with the following itinerary over three weeks in November and December (2014):

  • Frankfurt am Main Airport to Köln (Cologne)
  • Köln to Heidelberg
  • Heidelberg to München (Munich)
  • München to Bielefeld
  • Bielefeld to Berlin
  • Berlin to Leipzig
  • Berlin to Frankfurt am Main

I’m very enthusiastic about the train, and my attachment to Deutsche Bahn’s cross-country trains remains. I’ve purchased a 2nd-class rail pass for ten days (within a one month interval) for USD $345, which includes a promotional 25% discount for this year’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Bahnhofshalle Fernbahnhof, Flughafen Frankfurt : by Martinroell (Wikipedia)

Long-distance train station, Frankfurt Airport : photo by Martinroell (Wikipedia)

Wartehalle Fernbahnhof, Flughafen Frankfurt am Main : by Heidas (Wikipedia)

Departures hall, long-distance train station, Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport : photo by Heidas (Wikipedia)

Am I saving money?

It’s a question everyone asks, and the following comparison will show that the answer is yes.

In the following table, I’ve listed point-to-point fares. I checked fares for the individual “legs” for specific dates on the Deutsche Bahn website, taking note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparangebote” (save offers) and “Normalpreis” (normal price) categories. The last farecheck occurred on 23 October (2014). I estimated distances using “Route” (road distances) values returned by the Luftlinie distance calculator (in German). “Hbf” is the abbreviation for “Hauptbahnhof” or “main train station”.

Route, Nov-Dec 2014 Distance Sparangebote Normalpreis
1. Frankfurt(M) Flughafen – Köln Hbf 180 km € 19—45 € 46—67
2. Köln Hbf – Heidelberg Hbf 250 km € 29—55 € 54—82
3. Heidelberg Hbf – München Hbf 340 km € 29—65 € 73—86
4. München Hbf – Bielefeld Hbf
(via Hannover)
740 km € 81—111 € 142
5. Bielefeld Hbf – Berlin Hbf 390 km € 29—49 € 73—84
6. Berlin Hbf – Leipzig Hbf 180 km
€ 19—39
€ 40-47
7. Leipzig Hbf – Berlin Hbf 180 km
€ 19—29
€ 34-47
8. Berlin Hbf – Frankfurt(M) Hbf 540 km € 29—79 € 110—123
9. Frankfurt (M), Hbf – Flughafen 10 km € 4.35 € 4.35
TOTALS
(€1 = USD $1.3)
2810 km
€ 258—476
USD $335—619
€ 576—682
USD $749—887
10-day German Rail Pass
(25% off promotion included)
USD $345 USD $345
Money saved < USD $274 USD $404—542

The Rail Pass does not restrict the passholder to a specific train on a given date and time. To save the most money, purchasing individual Sparpreis fares ahead of time would be the way to go. I could save money by purchasing individual “Sparangebote” fares well in advance. Otherwise, there are generally available “Normalpreis” fares, which are less restrictive but more expensive. The price difference between Sparangebote and Normalpreis fares is much larger with long-distance rail journeys over 250 km; that’s always been the case whenever I’ve visited Germany and I’ve had to cross the country by train.

I want the schedule flexibility, and that’s why I purchase a Rail Pass in advance. If I decide to stay longer or leave early, I can’t change a “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. My 10-day Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take a train on any day at any time (up to the maximum of 10 days. My desire for this versatility will save me at least USD $350.

Deutsche Bahn lists the following conditions for their two categories.

Sparangebote: Preis für alle Reisenden. Bei Aktionsangeboten und regionalen Angeboten gelten besondere Konditionen. Zugbindung, d.h. Ihre Fahrkarte ist nur in den auf Ihrer Fahrkarte aufgedruckten Zügen gültig. Umtausch und Erstattung 15 EUR; ab 1. Geltungstag ausgeschlossen.

Normalpreis: Preis für alle Reisenden. Volle Flexibilität (keine Zugbindung/unabhängig von der angegebenen Verbindung auf der gewählten Strecke). Umtausch und Erstattung kostenlos, ab dem 1. Geltungstag 15 EUR.

My rough-and-ready translation is:

Savings offers: price for all travelers. Conditions apply to special and regional offers. Your ticket is valid only as printed for the specified train. 15 EUR charge for exchange or refund before the first valid day; no exchange or refund afterwards.

Normal price: price for all travelers. Full flexibility (no specific train / regardless of specific connection on the chosen route). No charge for exchange and refund before the first valid day; 15 EUR charge afterwards.

Koeln Hauptbahnhof, by Remon Rijper

Photo by Remon Rijper on Flickr

Berlin Hauptbahnhof #XII, Alexander Rentsch

Photo by Alexander Rentsch on Flickr

Previously, on German rail and rail passes

•   German Rail Pass, July-August 2013
•   German Rail Pass, late-2012 RTW
•   Yet another trip with German Rail (2011)
•   Across the country with German Rail
•   Saving money with a German Rail Pass
•   Flexibility with a German Rail Pass

The first two photos are from Wikipedia, and the last two are from Flickr. All photos are used with the generosity of the Creative Commons license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com, and is part of the Sunday Traveler series.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).

Instants in tempo: Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Welcome to Berlin, signage, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

“Willkommen in Berlin” | Welcome to Berlin (Instagram)

I love Berlin.

I love train stations.

These two preoccupations always converge at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station). Looming overhead is the large glass roof, like the temple of transport hanging over scurrying passengers; trains pass overhead as the shops reside below; tempting scents from baked goods and grilled bratwurst waft from neighbouring stands; calm measured station announcements and excited conversations in the air is punctuated by screeching brakes of trains entering the station.

I’ve always had a love of transport infrastructure and fascination with transport logistics. I’ll always set aside some time to hang out at the central train station. I’ll come here to observe and, even surrounded by noise, to meditate. I’ll wander through each floor, across the platforms, up and down on the escalators between levels. I’ll watch residents head out to work, going shopping, meeting friends, returning home to their families; it’s easy to pick out new visitors to the city, as they step out into the grand hall towering over the tracks, eyes wide and shiny in anticipation of their visit to the German capital.

From around the city, region, and the country, there are S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains; regional trains; and Eurocity, InterCity, and InterCity Express trains. Converging at this Hauptbahnhof focal point are trains from all corners of the country and beyond.

And if you’ve just arrived on a train and stepped out onto the platform, you might see the overhead sign that greets you: “willkommen in Berlin”.

You might wonder why your welcome is sponsored by Bombardier – they produce trains for Berlin’s S-Bahn urban rail network.

Above all, this place represents my kind of hope: a hope for people from the outside to see what an energetic place this is, and a hope for residents to accept and embrace new ideas from the outside.

Up and down, Gleis 14, Platform 14, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

Auf Gleis 14 | On platform 14 (Instagram)

Mr. Pink, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

Mr. Pink, under the S-Bahn trains (Instagram)

Platform 3, Platform 4, Section E, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

“3E and 4E” (Instagram)

2nd floor above ground, 2nd floor below ground, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

2. Obergeschoss & 2. Untergeschoss | 2nd floor above & 2nd floor below ground (Instagram)

Up and up, escalators, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

“Folks on the up and up” (Instagram)

Golden light, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

“das Sonnenlicht vergoldet die Hauptstadt …” | golden light blankets the German capital (Instagram)

DAS ist Berlin, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Central Station

“DAS ist Berlin” | THIS is Berlin (Instagram)

I made all of the photos above with a 4th-generation iPodTouch in 2012 and 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

Inside out: ICE599, Berlin to Frankfurt

It’s only been thirty minutes since leaving the nation’s capital. I can’t sit still and chill for the four hours on the I-C-E.

I’m on board the ICE train, InterCity Express route 599 from Berlin to Frankfurt1. The information monitor is helpfully providing friendly reminders and relevant details, including the next station and the train’s present speed. The train glides at 200 kilometres per hour with the landscape whizzing by to say “look, you’re moving quickly!” But it feels like I’m standing still.

The features outside approach quickly along a straight stretch of track, and what’s closest rushes by in bunches and blurs, filled with sinuous streaks of colour. My eyes sweep across the landscape, further beyond to the horizon. Leaning against the window, I bring my camera up then down, with intermittent presses of the shutter button. As soon as I’ve figured something out in the distance, it’s gone in an instant. I can only spare a moment to mourn the “loss”, because there’s something new to come along around the next bend.

The constant gentle “clickety-clack” accompanies the regularity of the scenery: green pastures and fields, gentle rolling hills, forested valleys. Maybe I’ll freeze something of value, another memory solid enough to take away with me when I fly out from Frankfurt to the North American side of the big eastern pond.

This I-C-E route passes close to the geographical heart of the country. But I’m afraid it’s my own heart that’s getting cold. Every moment takes me farther away from her, missing her with intensity that grows with increasing distance.

This is my place, she is my home. I’m going to come back; I promise.

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1Deutsche Bahn’s InterCity Express (ICE) route number 599 is a high-speed train service from Berlin to Munich via Frankfurt. The train begins in Berlin, with stops at Braunschweig, Hildesheim, Göttingen, Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Fulda, Hanau, Frankfurt am Main, and beyond to München. The stretch between Berlin and Frankfurt lasts just over four hours for a distance of about 580 kilometres.

I made the photos above in March and September 2011. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

How I’m using my German Rail Pass, July-Aug 2013

Photo on Flickr, by Holly Hayes

I’m participating in a week-long writing-course in Praha at the end of July 2013, and I’m taking the opportunity to return to Germany and visit some friends. Since 2002, traveling within Germany has always been about riding the rails with Deutsche Bahn. My short-itinerary consists of

  • Frankfurt am Main Airport to Köln (Cologne)
  • Köln to Bielefeld
  • Bielefeld to Berlin
  • Berlin to Frankfurt am Main

From the German Rail Passes website, I purchased a four-day 2nd-class rail pass (within 1-month) for an equivalent of €202. I checked fares on the Deutsche Bahn website, and I took note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparpreis” (cheapest) and “Normalpreis” price categories. I estimated the distances using “Strecke” values returned by the Luftlinie distance calculator (in German). The German abbreviation “Hbf” is short for “Hauptbahnhof” or central station.


Route, July-August 2013 Distance Sparpreis Normalpreis
Frankfurt(M) Flughafen – Köln Hbf 180 km € 25—59 € 45—66
Köln Hbf – Bielefeld Hbf 190 km € 19—29 € 37—48
Bielefeld Hbf – Berlin Hbf 390 km € 45—55 € 84
Berlin Hbf – Frankfurt(M) Hbf 545 km € 49—69 € 105—120
Total 1305 km € 138—212 € 271—318
4-day German Rail Pass € 202 € 202
Money saved, in € € 10 € 69—116
Money saved, in USD (€ 1 = $1.30 USD) $ 13 $ 90—151

The Rail Pass does not restrict the passholder to a specific train on a given date and time. To save the most money, purchasing individual Sparpreis fares ahead of time would be the way to go. I don’t save a lot of money with the 4-day Rail Pass if I purchase “Sparpreis” fares (more than 3 days before the travel date). If I’m less than 72 hours to the travel date, I would purchase “Normalpreis” fares, in which case the Rail Pass saves me about $100 USD. The price-difference between Sparpreis and Normalpreis fares is much larger with long-distance rail-journeys beyond 250 km, which is consistent with my findings here and with past trips to Germany.

I prefer schedule flexibility, and that’s why I go with the Rail Pass. For example, if I decide to stay longer in a city (e.g., for lunch or coffee with friends), I can’t change the “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. The Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take another train, if I’ve decided to stay longer or leave earlier than planned.

Previous posts about German rail and rail-passes:

•   German Rail Pass, late-2012 RTW
•   Yet another trip with German Rail (2011)
•   Across the country with German Rail
•   Saving money with a German Rail Pass
•   Flexibility with a German Rail Pass

Note added 22 July: I also used the GoEuro website for a quick and visual examination for travel within Germany. I compared different travel modes for intranational trips and a return-journey between Frankfurt or Cologne and Prague.

Photo on Flickr, by nicki-alex

This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).

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