A trainspotter in Germany 1945-1947

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Prussian G8 0-8-0 BR55-1666 at Finnentrop on 12/3/46. Photo G.E. Rabone.

One of the hazards of writing a blog is that sometimes the material that I come across during my researches turns out to be more gripping than the intended subject of the post. While looking for a map of Berlin’s railways before Germany’s reunification I came across a map of the city’s railways as they were just after the end of WWII. Then the map suddenly vanished, returning the dreaded 404 ‘Page not found’ error. Further poking about with the URL in an effort to recover the map lead me to Steve Rabone’s website. Here there is much to delight the railway enthusiast including Steve’s own railway modelling in ‘S’ gauge and the former MR station at Hellifield. However, the real gem is On Her Majesty’s Service, an on-line copy of a small book written by Steve’s father, G.E. Rabone, in 1983 about his gricing in Germany between April 1945 and January 1947.

Having stumbled across the book by accident I stayed up half the night and could not stop reading until I reached the end when Steve’s father returns finally to England. This is primary historical material at its best. G.E. Rabone was part of a small RAF radar unit and his movements around Germany – both official and unofficial – gave him plenty of scope to record the situation on the railways of Germany and the country as a whole. The writing is concise and to the point. Steve’s father does not dwell on the destruction wreaked by the war, but he does not ignore it either. Here is part of his account of a visit to Hamburg.

At first sight Hamburg seemed relatively little damaged. There was of course plenty of explosive bomb damage but then the fine, upstanding apartment buildings (found in the centre of almost all German cities) which looked undamaged, were seen, close to, as mere shells. The city centre had been burnt-out by fire-bomb air-raids, especially during one horrific raid and fire storm on the same August weekend in 1942.

The railway descriptions are equally pithy. Steve has scanned his father’s notebooks so if the reader is so inclined the locomotive numbers can be matched to the text.

Minden, 9kms to the west. Fifteen derelicts were stored at the shed, two BR 50, three BR55, two BR 17,four BR 58 and a modern Polish 2-10—0 of class Ty23; over 400 of these were built in the 1920s and 1930s. There was also a small American-built 2-8-0 of Polish class Tr20, taken over by the DRG like the previous engine in 1941.

If you enjoy BTWT, you will enjoy On Her Majesty’s Service. You can read the whole book by following the link below.

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6 Responses to “A trainspotter in Germany 1945-1947”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    A link to a thing which has promise of being truly mouth-watering. Hearing about stuff like this, has me cursing my ill-luck at having come along rather late in the day – was born, not until shortly after the period of Mr. Rabone’s travels.

    Am going absolutely to have to lay off following the link to this particular “dose of crack cocaine”, for some while. For all of July, see having more urgent fish to fry – the distraction-time looks like being unaffordable…

  2. Mike Winslow Says:

    My anti virus will not allow me to get to the site. Says it is highly dangerous. It says the same thing when I try to access the official Swindon Town FC site. The only difference it resolutely refuses to allow me access. I can get the footie if I go to parental control. The ‘photo and your comments make the page an absolute must.

    Any ideas how I can access this item?

    Many thanks,

    Mike Winslow

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Alas there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ and it may well be that the ‘free hosting service’ tries to do naughty things to PCs that try to access it.

      BTWT is researched and written on an Apple Mac that so far (touches the nearest railway sleeper) seems to be immune from such problems.

      Rather than playing around with the virus and malware protection software on your own machine, you could try accessing the site from an Internet café.

  3. Mike Winslow Says:

    Hello again,

    I’ve just returned from our one and only internet cafe, and following your advice I’ve managed to get of about 30 pages before the ink ran out! At £1.50 for 30 minutes and 10p per page the total of £4.50 is I suppose reasonable. The funny thing is the internet cafe and I both rely on F Secure for our AV protection. There is some fascinating stuff I’ve managed to get off.

    Many thanks for the original information and the advice.

    Yours sincerely,

    Mike Winslow

  4. Stephen Rabone Says:

    I’m the owner and author of the website on which my father’s memoirs are located. I have now moved all the content off the “free” website onto my own website at http://www.steverabone.com. This is a paid for website so should not give you any problems with access. Perhaps the link could be altered above on this blog. Thanks for the comments both on the blog and from readers. I’ve sent a copy of what has been written to my father (now aged 87) and he was delighted.

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Links updated. Many thanks Stephen. Please convey my appreciation to your father for his fascinating material. Best wishes D.

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