Traveling by train is the most common way of getting around in Europe (other than by car). Deutsche Bahn AG, the German Railway, Inc., known as German Rail in the English-speaking world, is one of Europe’s most advanced rail systems. On a typical day, 350,000 passengers travel the long-distance routes of Deutsche Bahn, more than 64,000 of those in the popular new high-speed ICE trains.
Germany’s very first train line, the Ludwigsbahn, was already running between Fürth and Nürnberg in 1835. However, Deutsche Bahn has only been in existence since January 1994. Until that time, German trains had been run by two separate state-owned, deficit-ridden operations. The Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) or German Federal Railway was the old West German railway that had been running things there since Germany’s division in 1949. The Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) or German Imperial Railway in former East Germany kept the pre-war name of the railroad that Hitler and those before him had known. The 1994 privatization was a merger of the two German state railroads that had tried to act as one since German reunification in 1990. However, the privatization was also an effort to get the government out from under billions of marks of mounting debt.
Since June 1991 the new ICE trains (InterCity Express) have been operating on several high-speed lines between major German cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt. These sleek, white trains travel at 250-280 km/h (155-174 mph), whisking passengers along in quiet, comfortable cars equipped with video screens (in first class), stereo headsets, fax machines, and telephones. Like jet airplanes ICE cars are pressurized, sparing passengers any ear discomfort in the tunnels required to keep the roadbeds straight and level for high speed...
Austria’s state-owned Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB, Austrian Federal Railways) and Switzerland’s Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB, Swiss Federal Railways) have vast networks of rail lines in those countries. Switzerland also has several private railways, most of them in mountainous regions.
For good practical advice on rail travel, please see Rail Travel Tips on the next page.
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