Passenger Rail advocates in the United States view the 300 km/h German express trains as one model for improvement of the United States network.  And yes, they are fun to ride, and generally punctual.

The modal German, however, rides an ordinary Inter-City train, or a regional train, or the S-Bahn.  Here's a midmorning view of all tracks in use at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof.

Hamburg, 2 September 2014.

At right, two rakes of the split-level coaches that make up the regional trains, generally in two- to six-car formations.  I'd call them dinkies, except that on the Racetrack you see twelve-car dinkies.  Perhaps scootchen will catch on.  In the center, an Inter City Express formulation, and a motor bringing in an Inter City conventional train.  Out of view to far left, the single-level electric units, some of which use a New York Central style third rail, that provide the Hamburg S-Bahn service.

While I was waiting trackside for my train to Köln, a German-style auto-train rolled through, enroute to Hamburg - Altona.

It's the Monday departure from Villach, Switzerland.  No worries about rock-throwers trackside, apparently.  The rake was about fifteen cars.  I don't see a lot of Escalades or Navigators on those racks, though.

My train to Köln is Inter-City 2327, made up of coaches that look like what European coaches should look like.  A diesel propels the second-class section (perhaps originating elsewhere, there are passengers aboard) into the station, cuts off, a few minutes later an electric with the first-class section and food service shows up.  The routing is via Bremen, Osnabrück, Dortmund, Wuppertal, into Köln.  The monorail in Wuppertal is somewhere distant from the main stations.  Perhaps a return trip is in order?

The Köln station is hard by the Dom.  (And yes, there are plenty of outlets serving Kölsch beer nearby!)

That's one of the fourth-generation Electroliners headed for the high-speed line.  Those locks on the railing are a German wedding custom: write a memory on the lock, secure it to a bridge railing, toss the keys in the river.  Yes, I'm standing above the Rhein here.

Trains are coming and going, but I did get one general view of the trainshed.

The scootchen are out of view underneath the shed.

Upstream, at Bonn, look who has the station catering concession!

Because of the volume of passenger traffic, passengers reach platforms either by overhead bridges, as at Hamburg, or through pedways that are sometimes part of the local sidewalk network, as at Nürnberg, Bonn, and Köln.  Sometimes, the passages are spartan, with perhaps a cigarette-vending machine along the walls.  At Köln, the passages would do the commuter concourse at North Western Station -- now that the French Market and some small stores have opened -- proud.

And, on occasion, the Scootchen run late.

Köln, 4 September 2014.

I'm early for my 0845 Thalys and two changes of train to Manchester.  The train is due out at 0747, and it's still in the station.  Stations tend to be busy all day, but during the commuter hours, even in Hamburg, the foot traffic is never as overwhelming as it is at North Western or Union during those hours of the day.  And at Hamburg, the only egress from the stations goes through the food courts.  Yet people manage.

One other vignette from the regional services: at Remagen, the dispatcher sent a container train north through the station at the time my train back to Köln was due.  The way that container train was rolling, though, the scootche would only delay it further.

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