|Our Member Holger Blaul, from the Newspaper "Die Rheinpfalz"|
|People in our region: Rhein-Haardtbahn Interurban
and its Greatest Fan
It has accompanied Holger Blaul since the beginning of his life. He had seen it for the fist time from his parent's house at Fussgoenheim. He already was familiar with it when he later rode to school at Bad Duerkheim. Since then, there is a relation of a special kind between them, you may talk about passion without exaggeration. We're talking about the Rhein-Haardtbahn Interurban and one of its greatest fans.
The parts withnessing Holger Blauls passion are spead throughout the house. In show-cases, he keeps prototype-like models and the walls are covered with photographs of Rhein-Harrdtbahn trains. His archives are in attic. In a special room, he has stored 20.000 slides of tramways, may be more, and about 5.000 of them show the Rhein-Haardtbahn. Additionally, he has collected numerous photographs, sorted in special folders for the different vehicles. Some metres of the shelves are reserved for folders with copies of original documents and plans, he keeps historical tickets in stamp-collector albums. And the huge bibliotheque of related literature presents itself, well-sorted, in some bookshelves. It is no problem to Holger Blaul to find his way through the vast material. Everything is named and sorted exactly.
In a room in the cellar, Holger Blaul has begun to reconstruct the drivers cabin of a tramcar from 1956. And through the door originally leading into the passengers room, you can now enter a store holding technical spare parts, such as old nuts and bolts. "I'm a passionate Screwer", says Mr. Blaul, who is a telecommunications worker by profession. "When there are old parts to be repaired, I need the fitting bolts." What he means becomes obvious, when we follow him to a hall in the yard. On only 20 square metres, there's a jewel of technical and traffic history. An old tramway drivers stand, including the manual signal bell and an old telephone from the early days of the Rhein-Haardtbahn interurban bring back the memories of those ancient times. The wall is covered with original pantographs, and different rail sections illustrate the change in technique. Below the roof, there's a section of overhead line mounted. In every piece, you can feel Mr. Blauls passion of keeping and restoring.
His special "love" is to old tramway controllers. He's got eight of them. Nothing special? The respectable fact is, despite the little number, that his most interesting one weighs not less than 850 Kilogramms (about 1700 pounds). He brought the last one 1997 from the city of Cottbus. It's a type which had been used everywhere in eastern Europe. Is there anywhere a bigger private controller collection than this? "No", he answers smilingly, "maybe even not in a museum."
Ho can he get all these things? Since his youth, he isnt't unknown to the tramway companies of the region. He had always been there, when there was something to be withdrawn or scrapped. With his parents' support, he brought home what seemed interesting to him. The remarkable collection also consists of parts that older railfans left to the 34-year old collector.
Like many railfans, the interest in trams and trains leads Mr. Blaul also to far countries. In 1993, he traveled through Mexico and the USA for three weeks. "We've been to nearly every city with a streetcar system," he remembers. In Blackpool, England, he was fascinated by the illuminated trams riding along the beach in the evenings. A tour of special interest led him to Romania in 1996. There, he met an old "companion". One year before, Rhein-Haardtbahn interurban have sold an older train to the tramways of the city of Arad. The visitor met No. 1014 in its old outfit, but in new surroundings: The front was decorated with the RHB-Logo like before, and along the sides, there were also the well-known german advertisments. He tells that from Arad's hills with vineyards, he could feel like home in palatinate. The railfan from germany was a very welcome guest to the new owners. And outside the city, he had been asked to ride "his" train himself - of course, he didn't refuse!
At the question of his wife's opinion about his time-taking hobby, he smiles. "She has known before" he says. She's with him on the journeys and appreciates his passion. Holger Blauls wife is a daugther of the leader of the former railway and tramway museum of Viernheim. They got to know each other on a railfan excursion.
by: Josef Kaiser
(translated by Ralph Dissinger)
Source: RON - RHEINPFALZ ONLINE, wednesday, February 2nd, 2000
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