Forthcoming steam weekends (2021):
08-09 May 03-04 July 09-10 October
Opening hours at other times:
from 03 April to 16 October every saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.
Further information is available here.
Forthcoming steam weekends are available here.

other types of vehicles The "Disaster train"


Apart from its locomotives, the society possesses an extremely unusual train. Known as the "Catastrophe" or "disaster" train, it was in essence a breakdown train officially intended for use in cases of natural disasters (hence its name) or serious accidents to care for the sick or injured. In reality, it was much more frequently used during large-scale troop manoeuvres of the Warsaw Pact countries in the GDR as a mobile hospital. In total, there were 14 of these trains in the former GDR, of which ours is the last in working order.

Our train was converted in the years 1975/76 from four-axle passenger cars of the Bghw type, and technically (as were the other thirteen) was officially under the charge of the German State Railway's Berlin HQ Machinery Management. However, its papers show that its movements were determined by officers of the People's Army.

Four railway personnel were permanently stationed on board the train to look after the carriages and make sure they were always functional. When the train was in service, they were joined by various doctors, nurses, cooks, kitchen helps and other assistants. Unfortunately, we have been unable to track down any information on how many would have been involved.

Altogether, a train like this would have been composed of two bunk-bed cars, in which three-tiered bunks were installed, a stores car in which there would also have been tents to protect any other victims, an operations carriage, a kitchen car and a generator car. In addition, HQ Material Management had six supply carriages altogether, which were always ordered – centrally from Berlin – as required to the trains when they were in service.

Our train, of which we are currently able to display the operation carriage, kitchen car and generator car, was stationed for its short working life in Jerichow and at the beginning of the 1990s found its way to Salzwedel to be scrapped when we were able to rescue the three most important carriages from this fate. So let us make a little tour of the vehicles.

First of all, we board the kitchen car, and we find ourselves in a large vestibule accommodating a large steam boiler. This was to supply the whole train with steam heating, and also to supply two of the three large cooking surfaces with steam heating.

Behind the boiler is a small room in which the tableware was cleaned and dried with hot air. From this room we can see into the large kitchen, which is fitted with a stove with eight gas-hobs and three large cooking surfaces. Altogether, the capacity of the kitchen would permit 800 single portions of stew and 50 diet meals to be prepared at the same time. Behind the kitchen is space to prepare meals, with large chiller areas, dressers, potato peelers etc.

Der Küchenwagen von außen.

Der Küchenwagen von außen.
Without any doubt, the operating carriage is the most gruesome in the entire collection. Entrance here gives onto a tiled room where the injured persons were undressed and washed. There follows the operating theatre equipped with an operating table along with breathing apparatus and all the usual medical paraphernalia required for emergency medical attention. Further on there is a small room in which operating materials could be stored and medical instruments sterilised. Finally, there is a dispensary in the carriage.

The generator car provides initially a cabin for the four-man crew of the train, already mentioned, who can also sleep here. Next to it is a small workshop which also contains the machinery console. Behind a soundproof door is the core of the car, the generator room. This houses two 4-cylinder diesel engines, which were easily capable of supplying the entire train and the attached tent city with electric power. All the equipment in the car, as well as in the rest of the train, is still fully functional.

Fixtures and fittings in the kitchen cars

Der OP-Wagen von außen.

Operating tables

Der Maschinenwagen von außen.

Machinery in the generator cars

Der Begleiterwagen von außen.

Ein Abteil im Begleiterwagen.

image of the month

Dampflokfreunde Salzwedel e.V. Am Bahnhof 6, 19322 Wittenberge