In the German town of Lathen, 13km from the German-Dutch border, lies the Transrapid Test Facility
. In 2011 the facility was shut down because the operation license expired. I read an article from January 2017 suggesting that the facility should still be there. The government has yet to provide the money needed to demolish the facility.
I decided to go to the facility while it still stood. I had the day off on tuesday, so I just went. I knew the trip would take a long time and in order to make it back in time, I had to get up at 5AM. So I got up at 5AM, started cycling at 6AM and I arrived at ‘s Hertogenbosch Centraal at 7AM. There I took the train to Utrecht, where I was greeted by this fossil:
From Utrecht I took the Intercity to Zwolle, where I hopped onto the Vechtdallijn-train to Emmen.
These trains, unlike the Trains of NS were quite comfortable to ride with a bike because I could strap my bike to the chairs. Innovation ladies and gentlemen. Also, Arriva’s conductors are much more sociable, which was great.
From there I had to cycle for 2.5 hours to get to Lathen, especially because the directions I had printed out were talking about streets that didn’t exist or turns I shouldn’t be taking. An hour after departing from Emmen I arrived at the Dutch-German border, which was a nice.
I do love open borders here. I did rest for a minute or 5 at the border lock at the canal-side.
As for European border roads; blink and you’ll miss it:
At 12:30 I arrived in Lathen. You have no idea how good it feels to see the sign for “Lathen” after cycling for 2.5 hours, which, btw, is more than I’ve cycled in one sitting in years.
As I was approaching the facility I was fearing that I had overhyped it, but that wasn’t the case. As this beauty, the Transrapid 09, entered my field of view, I was not disappointed:
That thing was truly massive, and for a train that has remained untouched and unmoved since 2012 it looks really well maintained. Don’t forget that the train stood on a closed down test facility, not in a museum or an active test facility.
Though it wasn’t completely closed down because there was still a person in the gate-box, whatever it’s called. If he wasn’t there I’d have gone on the terrain to make close-up shots.
I knew that there was a second train on the terrain, but the signs pointed out that this train was the Transrapid 07, not the Transrapid 08, which was interesting.
If you search “Lathen” in Google Maps, the image they show is of the TR07; this train. When you cross the road, there is a monument. There is no explanation anywhere as to what this monument was for, but I knew what it was for.
In 2006 there was an accident where the clearance was given for the Transrapid 08 to depart, when a maintenance vehicle was still on the rails, which killed 23 people. To this date, every single article written about maglev trains (or at least in German) have to remind people of this human error at least once. Next to the monument, 23 trees have been planted; one for every victim.
I continued north to see more of the facility, when I spotted something I didn't expect. Other tourists
The Transrapid 08. I can only imagine that this vehicle is whatever’s left of the 2006 accident. It very surprising to see the TR08 on the facility.
I originally wanted to cycle all the way to the information centre in Dörpen, but that was way too far away, so I stayed around the test facility in Lathen instead. I made some more pictures of things like the platform:
The satellite station:
Switches and the rails, and many other things:http://imgur.com/a/HYODj
I also went to the Rathaus because they promised Transrapid Information, but it was like 2 paragraphs, so that was disappointing.
After that I went home. All in all I spent almost 6 hours about non-stop on a bicycle. I cycled 87km (54mi) after leaving from Emmen and 105km (65mi) overall. That would’ve been like 120km but my bike committed suicide as I left s’ Hertogenbosch for home. And then there you are; in the middle of nowhere, 4 hours walking from home, an empty phone battery and a broken bike. Good thing I was next to a hospital. Asked the parking guards to call someone for me, so I did get home, but my bike is wrecked.
Would I do it again? No. Unless a friend would accompany me, I could get access to the facility, had a drone to use for sky-photography or the facility would be reopened. The last one is not impossible. I read an article or 2 about the Chinese being interested in reopening the facility.