Just off the northwest coast of Germany, near the Denmark border, there are 10 unusual tiny islets called “halligs” just barely peeking out above Wadden Sea. Little-known outside the region, they make up the German portion of the North Frisian Islands. These forgotten mudflats are so low-lying they are continually flooded by the salty water, and some have even disappeared completely with the rising sea level.
One of the halligs, Nordstrandischmoor, is home to only 20 or so people. Up until 1934, these few residents were almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, as the surrounding sea is too shallow for boats to navigate. Then a long, stone dam was built up between the island and the mainland, and along with it, one of the strangest railways in Germany.
The Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor island railway, known simply as the “Lorenbahn” to locals, is a private narrow railway that extends about two miles out into the North Frisian Wadden Sea, connecting the once-isolated island to mainland Germany. Many households have their own private wagon (or “lore”) that they use to transport themselves and all sorts of wares to and fro (provided they are over 15 years old and have a moped license). The railcars are diesel-fueled now, though they used to have sails and rely solely on wind power.
The Lorenbahn was originally built as a construction line to haul materials to build up the island’s sea defenses, and it is still used as such, in addition to carting around the local islanders. Though short—the line is just 2.2 miles now—it is a truly beautiful ride. Nordstrandischmoor is situated within the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park and is brimming with marine wildlife.