9 August, Germany – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’
After an early morning start and a three and a half hour drive down the terrifying German autobahn (there really are no speed limits on them) we arrived in Wuppertal to spend the day celebrating a less well known mode of transport – the suspension railway.
Built in 1901 it’s a fantastic piece of engineering consisting of 472 bridge supports spanning the roads and river. Running across the top of the arches are two tracks, with hanging trains travelling in both directions every 3 mins. None of us had ever seen anything like it, and it’s the only one of its kind in Europe. We boarded a train and embarrassed ourselves in front of German commuters whooping and high fiving like idiots as the carriage scooted along, gently rocking from side to side. Once you’re out of the town the arches become like spiders’ legs stretching either side of the river, and we got off at the point where one of the strangest railway accidents in history occurred.
In the 1950s a travelling circus was trying to drum up publicity, so they somehow managed to get an elephant up the stairs and into one of the train carriages. Once the train started moving the elephant freaked out and smashed its way through one of the carriage doors, falling into the river below. Amazingly it survived with only minor cuts and lived for another 41 years.
Once Johny and I had got into costume we boarded our very own private train and recorded a sketch all about the incident, with me dressed as a ringmaster trying to tame the crazed elephant while Johny’s journalist looks on. Once it was all over we sat beneath the terminus having coffee and ice creams and watching the carriages rattling backwards and forwards above us. I think I prefer it to the tube. It’s a much more pleasant way to travel – as long as there are no elephants on board.