Royal Bavarian State Railways

What delights the hearts of fans of historic locomotive technology more than a trip on an operating steam locomotive? A trip on a very special steam locomotive! By Tobias Heitmüller

The express steam locomotive Class S 3/6 of the former Royal Bavarian State Railway, later known as 18 478, is one such steam locomotive – built by J.A. Maffei in Munich in 1918. Classed in railway circles as one of the finest steam locomotives in Europe, it is also unique in being one of the few 4-cylinder steam locomotives in Germany. Most steam locomotives in Germany only had two cylinders. 

I had long wanted to see this S 3/6 in the Bavarian Railway museum in Nördlingen and finally got the opportunity to do so in 2022 when the Bavarian State Railway offered a special run on the occasion of the 50 + 1st jubilee of the Ulm Railway Society (Ulmer Eisenbahnfreunde, UEF).

At the beginning of July 2022, our special trip started in Nördlingen in glorious weather, taking passengers via Aalen and Stuttgart to the railway festival hosted by the UEF in Amstetten. 

The first highlight of the trip awaited us on the stretch from Stuttgart to Amstetten, the Geislinger Steige (“Geislingen climb“ - an old trade route over the low mountain range of the Swabian Jura). This is one of the steepest main line sections in Germany and it challenged the S 3/6 (a feast for the ears!). After about six hours at the railway festival and admiring some more historic guest locomotives, the trip continued to Ulm and then back to Nördlingen via Aalen. 

I recommend the trip on the S 3/6 to all railway fans, it is truly special. While there, don’t miss the Bavarian Railway Museum and Nördlingen’s medieval town centre famous for its all-round walkable city wall.