Marsh Railway

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Marsh Railway
Native name Marschbahn
Locale Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Line number
  • 1210 (NOB)
  • 96 (NEG, border–Tønder)
Line length 211.1 km (131.2 mi)
Number of tracks
  • 2: Morsum–Klanxbüll
  • 2: Niebüll–Bredstedt
  • 2: Hattstedt–Husum Nord
  • 2: Husum–northern Eider Bridge
  • 2: southern Eider Bridge–Elmshorn
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification (Elmshorn–Itzehoe) 15 kV/16.7 Hz AC overhead catenary
Route number
  • 103 (Elmshorn–Itzehoe)
  • 130 (Elmshorn–Westerland)
Route map
237.7 Westerland(SyltShuttle)
235.7 Tinnum
233.3 Keitum
228.8 Morsum (Sylt)
211.7 Klanxbüll
208.2 Emmelsbüll
205.1 Lehnshallig
Ferry from Munkmarsch
Højer Sluse
from Esbjerg
from Tinglev
(closed as far as Tønder-Ost)
63.3 Tønder
Denmark/Germany border
171.6 Süderlügum(also a siding)
167.8 Uphusum(reopened in 2009)
162.3 Boundary between neg and DBAG
Link lines neg/DBAG
(SyltShuttle car loading point)
to Dagebüll (neg)
194.1 Lindholm
to Flensburg
Lecker Au
Bundeswehr siding
190.3 Stedesand
Scholmer Au
184.3 Langenhorn (Schleswig)
176.8 Bredstedt
to Löwenstedt
172.7 Struckum
165.8 Hattstedt
159.4 Husum Nord
to Husum Außenhafen
Mühlenau (bascule bridge)
from Tönning (to 1902)
158.3 Husum
to Flensburg, to Jübek
Bw Husumto Rendsburg
153.6 Hörn junctionto Tönning
147.1 Friedrichstadt
Eider (Bridge 417 m)
145.2 St. Annen Eider Bridge crossover
140.8 Lunden
133.9 Wittenwurth
from Karolinenkoog
4.8 129.3 Weddingstedt
from Büsum
 ?.?           Weddinghusen
Flying junction
0.0 124.5 Heide (Holst)
to Neumünster
119.6 Hemmingstedt
112.4 Meldorf
105.5 Windbergen
0.0 101.2 Sankt Michaelisdonn
Line to MarneFriedrichskoog III
5.1           Eddelak
91.4 Burg (Dithm)
7.8           Blangenmoor
90.2 Hochdonn Nord crossover
10.0           Brunsbüttel Condea siding
12.1           Brunsbüttelkoog Nord
swing bridge,
Hochdonn High Bridge
15.6           Brunsbüttel
13.7           Brunsbüttel Ost siding
86.5 Hochdonn Süd crossover
10.9           Kudensee siding
83.2 Vaale
8.8           Sankt Margarethen (Holst) siding
0.0   74.2 Wilster
71.0 Bekdorf
68.1 Heiligenstedten
from Wrist
64.9 Itzehoe
Stör (bascule bridge)
63.1 Itzehoe Alsen siding
59.6 Kremperheide
54.2 Krempe
47.4 Glückstadt
(1.5) Glückstadt port
43.5 Herzhorn
37.7 Siethwende
31.7 Elmshorn West
from Kiel
30.7 Elmshorn
to Hamburg

Source: German railway atlas[1]

The Marsh Railway (German: Marschbahn) is a main line in the state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany that links the stations of Elmshorn in the south and Westerland on the island of Sylt in the north. It is part of a 237 kilometre long through route from Hamburg-Altona to Westerland (Sylt) and is listed in the Deutsche Bahn timetables as Kursbuchstrecke 130. The first part of it was opened in 1845 and is one of the oldest lines in Germany.

Tondern station
The Hindenburg causeway in front of Sylt
Trials locomotive DB Class 240 in Niebüll


The Marsh Railway, as its name suggests, mainly runs through marshlands. There are also some sections of the line that run through the higher-lying geest. The line crosses the Kiel Canal on the 42 metre-high Hochdonn High Bridge. The bridge’s total length is 2,218 meters and its main span over the channel is 143 metres-long. There is also a bascule bridge north of Husum station. Between Klanxbüll and Morsum stations the line runs across the Hindenburgdamm (causeway) through the North Frisian mudflats.


The first section of the current Marsh Railway was built by the Glückstadt-Elmshorn Railway Company (Glückstadt-Elmshorner Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft) shortly after the opening of the Altona–Kiel line on 18 September 1844. The company opened a line from Elmshorn to Glückstadt port station on 20 July 1845. Twelve years later, on 15 October 1857, the line was realigned in Glückstadt and extended to the edge of the Stör river in Itzehoe. In 1878, a swing bridge was built across the Stör—which was replaced in 1910 during the duplication of the line by two bascule bridges—and the line was extended to the Heide station of the Neumünster–Heide–Karolinenkoog line, which opened on 22 August 1877.

On 1 January 1879 the Glückstadt-Elmshorn Railway Company became the Holstein Marsh Railway Company (Holsteinische Marschbahn-Gesellschaft). In 1888, this company was acquired by the Schleswig-Holstein Marsh Railway Company (Schleswig-Holsteinische Marschbahn-Gesellschaft). On 1 July 1890, the company was acquired by the Prussian government and it became part of the Prussian State Railways.

In 1886 construction began on an extension and on 1 September 1886 the line was opened via Lunden and a bridge over the Eider near Friedrichstadt to Husum, where it connected with the Flensburg–Husum–Tönning line. The line was extended further north to Bredstedt on 17 October 1887 and to Niebüll on 15 November 1887. The line was subsequently extended further north to Tønder, connecting to branch lines to Tinglev and Højer Sluse, which was the port for a ferry connection to Sylt. The line was extended to Bredebro, Scherrebek, Ribe and Bramming, where it connected with the Danish rail network.

Rail network 1849
Rail network 1861
Rail network 1899


Marsh Railway trains at Altona station
DB Intercity in Husum
Husum station, a NOB train to Hamburg
An ER 20 hauls a NOB Marsh Railway express from Westerland to Hamburg-Altona
Nord-Ostsee-Bahn train at Husum

In 1920 northern Schleswig became part of Denmark, and the border was established between Niebüll and Tonder. This meant that traffic to Sylt had to cross the German-Danish border twice, although the Danish authorities allowed sealed transit trains to operate, avoiding customs inspections of passengers. The operation of transit trains and the Hoyer–Sylt ferry ended with the inauguration of the Hindenburg causeway in 1927.

Originally, the Marsh Railway ran from Wilster directly to St. Michaelisdonn. During the construction of the Kiel Canal, a swing bridge was built on the line at Taterpfahl near St. Margarethen. During the widening of the canal in 1920, a new high bridge was bridge was built on the geest at Hochdonn on a 5.8 km long bypass route. It was originally initially planned for the line to be built directly from Itzehoe to Meldorf, but because of protests from Wilster and Sankt Michaelisdonn, the line was rerouted on a devious route to include these towns. The old track was rebuilt to run from Wilster to Brunsbüttelkoog and on the north side to Brunsbüttel Nord.


Significant changes took place on 1 June 1927 with the opening of Hindenburg causeway, which was prepared in 1922 by prolonging the line from Niebüll to Klanxbüll to enable material transports. Deutsche Reichsbahn (German State Railways) opened a new station at Westerland together with the connecting part of the line. The Sylt Island Railway lost its traffic between Munkmarsch and Westerland, because the ferry service between Hoyer and Sylt had been closed. The Island Railway built a station next to the Reichsbahn station, with a simple reception building.


After World War II many (often long) express trains ran to Westerland, especially in the summer season. Most trains ran beyond Hamburg towards Cologne and the Ruhr, some went to southern Germany. Daily service also operated as interzonal trains from Berlin (running without stopping in the former East Germany), which were augmented in the summer at weekends by a second pair of trains.

Until the 1970s, these services were hauled by class 01.10 locomotives. These were replaced by class 218 diesels.

A significant improvement of services on the Marsh line occurred with the timetable of summer 1978. Regular interval Intercity (IC) trains were introduced between Cologne and Hamburg, with some first and second class carriages running beyond Hamburg to Westerland. A year later IC connections from Westerland to Frankfurt am Main and Munich were added.

Clock-face timetable since 1991[edit]

The 1991 there was a complete transformation of the passenger transport services on the Marsh line and in Schleswig–Holstein. New two-hourly express trains were introduced that ran between Hamburg and Heide making even fewer stops than IC trains. These trains were aimed at offering travel times of less than two and a half hours from Hamburg to North Sea resorts, such as Büsum via Heide, Dagebüll via Niebüll and Sankt Peter-Ording via Husum. Hourly local trains were introduced, stopping at all stations to Husum. Trains were added during peak hours from Pinneberg to Itzehoe.


  1. ^ Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland (German railway atlas). Schweers + Wall. 2009. ISBN 978-3-89494-139-0. 


  • Bock, Hans (1989). Die Marschbahn von Altona nach Westerland (The Marsh Railway from Altona to Westerland) (in German). Heide: Boyens. ISBN 3-8042-0458-9. 
  • Landesarchiv Schleswig-Holstein/Altonaer Museum (1994). Schienen zum Fortschritt. 150 Jahre Eisenbahn in Schleswig-Holstein. (Lines to progress. 150 years of railways in Schleswig-Holstein) (in German). Schleswig and Hamburg: Self-published, exhibition catalog. 
  • Staisch, Erich, ed. (1994). Der Zug nach Norden (The railway to the north) (in German). Hamburg: Ernst Kabel Verlag. ISBN 3-8225-0298-7. 
  • Stumpf, Rolf (2003). Die Eisenbahn nach Sylt (The railway to Sylt) (in German). Freiburg: EK regionale Verkehrsgeschichte Band 38. ISBN 3-88255-455-X. 

External links[edit]