The End of Times is here! German trains are no longer punctual. Germany practically invented the entire concept of being on time, they were the stop-watch culture. I am half German and before I went to Germany, I thought I was hyper-sensitive about time. I was a slacker! My parents were terrifically punctual and even they were left in the dust by the time-sensitive German conductors and engineers. I have an amusing story about all this, of course.
Why German Trains No Longer Run on Time
By David Crossland in Berlin
Say it ain't so, Sam! This is earth shattering news. What next? Trains running like in Rome? I have a lot of experience with trains because I love them so much. The physical freedom of a train! You can wander all over the place. There is lots of scenery to look at. You don't have to worry about crashing your car while gawking at the moon rising over a river. You can find romance on a train! You can play poker on a train with bored businessmen and win enough to pay for the return ticket! And a hotel room. Yes, trains were a lot of fun for me.
Off the rails: The road to privatization has made German trains less efficient.
The cliché that German trains always run on time is no longer true. Their reputation has been eroded, at least among German passengers, by a creeping increase in delays in recent years as national operator Deutsche Bahn sheds staff, rolling stock and equipment to shape up its accounts for privatization.
The deterioration is obvious to anyone who regularly travels on German trains, and one of the country's main passenger lobbies, Pro Bahn, regularly complains about it.
German rail services remain good overall -- the sleek red-and-white ICE high-speed inter-city trains are generally reliable, despite the delays -- and standards have a long way to slip before they reach the British experience of the 1980s and 1990s, when train cancellations, collapsing seats, blocked lavatories, general filth and ludicrous excuses (like "the wrong kind of snow" or "leaves on the line") were routine.
Germany used to be über-efficient! The horror of the Nazis was how they carefully scheduled and ran their hideous ethnic cleansing scheme. They transported their victims all over Europe using trains that ran on time no matter how many bombs were falling or how close to Germany the Soviet troops were shelling. The death trains were always on time. It is interesting to see Germany slowly becoming more and more like France, England, Spain and worse of all, Italy. Italian trains were notorious back in the sixties. One hoped to make the train arrive within two or three days of its scheduled arrival.
The US came nearly as badly, to this day, one is lucky if a train isn't 6 hours late. If one was picking up someone from the station, bringing a sleeping bag and a full meal was required. I have waited long for these trains to limp into the station. When I ride them, it is no suprise to end up parked next to a cattle feed lot in the pouring rain for six hours while freight trains roar past.
But back in the sixties, riding trains in Germany was fun. Often, the trains had compartments and these were pretty private! I loved them. These are the famous compartments we see in movies like 'Murder on the Orient Express.' Indeed, I rode in one of the last trips for that famous train.
I went to school in Germany in 1968. In between trying to overthrow governments, I went around Europe playing my cello. Her name was 'Flosshilde', one of Wagner's Rhein Maidens in the Ring Cycle. One day, in the dead of winter, I had to tak a local train from Tübingen to Donauschlingen which is where the great Danube wellsprings well up out of the meades at the foot of the Black Forest. This being winter, alongside the tracks were big hummocks of dirty snow. I was dressed up, of course, in miniskirt, long coat (a necessity when scantily clad) and real silk stockings.
In America, we wore those nylon stocking that I ripped all the time. No pair lasted even a week with my abuse. I just couldn't hack wearing them. When I arrived in Europe, ticked off that my nylons were running faster than a fastback running for a touchdown, I went to a store and learned all about silk stockings. They were a thousand times more comfortable than nylons. They felt sensual on the legs and ever-so-skanky to the touch. They were wonderfully durable and lasted forever. And they came from China.
Back then, because the Chinese were commies, we couldn't buy things from them. Today, the government is still commie and we buy everything from them but still, no silk stockings like I had in Europe. The continent was still partially in ruins from WWII yet the women had silk stockings!
Back to the trains in Germany: I had a purse, a suitcase and my cello. The train got slightly delayed due to the snow storm and we came into the station about 5 minutes late. I was at the door of the third car, waiting to disembark. The trains slowed down, put on the brakes slightly with a squeal and shudder, I began to step out when it took off again!
'Halt!' I yelled. In a commanding voice, I ordered the conductor to stop the train. He shook his head and pointed to his big pocket watch. 'Es kann nicht halten,' he explained. I threw my luggage out as people int he station ran alongside the train. We left the station and I lifted my cello over my head and yelled, 'Geronimo!' and jumped from the train.
I landed on a snow bank and the cello was unharmed. People on the train applauded. People at the station came running over to see if I was alive.
My lovely silk stockings were torn and my legs were bleeding. I limped into the station with people shaking my hand and laughing. Heh. Never try to stop a German train behind schedule! At the concert, people got a good look at my bandaged knees clutching the cello.
Trains are an important part of any civilzed nation's transportation systems. The parlorous state of the US train system is a scandal. I recently took the best train in America, the AMTRACK line from NYC to Albany. It limped along at a pokey pace a Chevette could outgun. It clacked along the rails as if this was pre-WWII. I am totally ashamed of our train system. We also don't have silk stockings. That's two strikes. One can lose civilization swiftly if one doesn't attend to things. Like good outdoor cafes or decent tenors in an opera.