Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Great Escape - Füssen railway station needs it now

Some old railway stations should have a preservation order and one of these is the Station at Füssen in the Allgäu region of Bavaria. This was the station depicted in the classic film The Great Escape. Today it is under threat from a developer with the full complicity of Füssen's own town council. Preserved railway stations, as well as saving for posterity a piece of local and national heritage, have a commercial value as museums and sets for period films and TV dramas and documentaries. The old station at Loughborough still operates commercially and old steam trains run from there to a fixed timetable. The station at Füssen predates the one at Loughborough.

Call it nostalgia but the repeat viewings of Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) pounding a ball into his baseball glove was one iconic memory from what can only be described as an enduringly good film. The Great Escape, (1963) although it was fiction based on fact, showed that under duress prisoners could work together to the greater good, and even escape in numbers. In reality prisoners did escape from penal institutions in the forties but it would be impossible today in modern prisons of which there seem to be a growing number. In these people are held in solitary confinement, often without any hope, other than by confessing, whether guilty or innocent. Sometimes they are incarcerated because they know too much.

Old Father Time catches up with everybody, prisoners and non-prisoners alike, and has now caught up with most of the stars from The Great Escape although David McCallum still walks this mortal coil. Sadly James Garner died in July this year, and Richard Attenborough in August. So, for sentimental reasons alone, it would be sad to see the old railway station go too. Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the film and an exhibition was staged at the station to celebrate its longevity. The station was bought by a company "Hubert Schmid Bauunternehmen GmbH" for something in the region of 300,000 Euros. The company's plan now, having waited until after the anniversary, is to demolish the old station and build a modern convenience centre.

Unless a company or consortium can come up with an alternative plan that is what will happen. It needs someone with vision and money to find a way of preserving this old and unique example of Bavarian history or it will be reduced to rubble. Suggestions are welcome. What those without money can do is to like the Facebook page about this railway station. Wouldn't it be good to see a centenary celebration in another fifty years. I know I'd like to see it.

Here is a petition you can sign.


  1. Further details on: www.thegreatescapelocations.com

  2. John.....how do you know about the FUSSEN Railway station?

  3. Don, it's through a friend who I met and cycled with in New Zealand and who lives in Füssen. I cannt understand why entrepreneurs don't get together to preserve this station and line . There's a whole industry waiting to happen. A theme-park could be developed around The Great Escape. The only reason I suspect is because nobody knows about it.