The small German East Frisian Islands of Borkum, Langeoog, Wangeroog, and Spiekeroog all operate narrow guage railways to help service tourist destinations on the almost car free ecologically sensitive islands. Even though the trains operated are steam or diesel hauled, they preform the function of an interurban, conveying passengers from ferry piers to the main villages. Having rail transport means that auto traffic on island roads roads are kept to the bare minimum or not at all, preserving the idyllic nature of the islands.
The Friesian island railways do provide a small lesson for Rail to the Valley as the proposed Fraser Valley Interurban will not only function as an alternative to the car for valley residents, but convey tourists from downtown Vancouver, up through the Fraser Valley with a transit mode that hasn’t been available in 60 years.
Borkum is bordered to the west by the Westereems strait (which forms the border with the Netherlands), to the east by the Osterems strait, to the north by the North Sea, and to the south by the Wadden Sea. It is the largest and westernmost of the East Frisian Islands in the North Sea, due north of the Dutch province of Groningen.
The island is partially car-free. Off-season, driving by car is permitted everywhere, otherwise there are car-free zones. The only town on the island is also called Borkum. Passengers get a free train ride between the harbour and the town of Borkum.
Langeoog is one of the seven inhabited East Frisian Islands at the edge of the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea in the southern North Sea, located between Baltrum Island (west), and Spiekeroog (east). It is also a municipality in the district of Wittmund in Lower Saxony, Germany. The main ferry termainal and town are connected by a short railway.
Wangerooge is the eastern most and smallest of the inhabited East Frisian islands in this group (according to some other measurements, Baltrum is the smallest) and the only one that belonged to the historical district of Oldenburg between 1815 and 1947, whereas Borkum, Juist, Norderney, Baltrum, Langerooge and Spiekerooge always belonged to the county of Ostfriesland. As of the census of 2004, the island has 1,055 inhabitants. Especially in summer the island accommodates more than 7,000 visitors a day.
In order to guarantee recreation, cars are prohibited on the island. The island can be reached by ship from Harlesiel, or it can be reached by plane from Harlesiel, Bremen, or Hamburg. The ferries leave at different times every day according to the tide. As on most East Frisian Islands, a small narrow gauge railway line, the Wangerooge Island Railway, connects the harbor to the main village.
The single track Wangerooge Island Railway (Wangerooger Inselbahn) is an unelectrified narrow gauge railway with a rail gauge of 1,000 mm located on the East Frisian island of Wangerooge off the northwestern coast of Germany. It is the most important means of transport on the island and is the only narrow gauge railway operated today by the Deutsche Bahn.
Spiekeroog is one of the smaller of the East Frisian Islands, off the North Sea coast of Germany. It is situated between Langeoog to its west, and Wangerooge to its east. The island belongs to the municipality of the district of Wittmund, in Lower Saxony in Germany. The only village on the island is also called Spiekeroog.
There is a quaint diesel rail service on the island and from April to September (depending on holiday times), a horse-driven railway operates between the old railway station and Westend.