Germany is an excellent country to get around; especially by train! There are so many border crossing entry points by train; of course the alternative option is to fly.
Being able to speak a little German always helps but I found most people spoke some, if only a little English.
Deutsche Bahn (DB) operate the national rail service, throughout Germany; also offering many cross border trains into neighbouring countries. Deutsche Bahn timetables in PDF format are available. Alternatively the DB website can be used to plan your trip online.
There are also open access operators offering regional services, completely exempt from DB, such as:
A comprehensive list of both passenger and freight operators in Germany can be found on the helpful Railfan Europe websites’ Germany page.
Train times and Tickets
Booking train tickets both within or cross border into Germany (on DB operated trains) can be done on the Deutsche Bahn website, or if you only require reservations for either Interrail, Eurail or railway staff passes then this can be done via phone to the DB office in London.
Deutsche Bahn (DB) offer many different ticket options for unlimited travel in certain areas of the country and also countrywide passes; all having different lengths of validity, some of which are restricted to non-IC trains only. Details of all can be found on the DB Websites’ “offers” and German Railpass sections.
If choosing to use an Interrail pass, either for just within Germany, or to pass through Germany, all the relevant details on the passes, including the different types/lengths of validity available, can be found on the InterRail website.
Finally travel in Europe can be made a lot simpler by using the very, very, helpful smartphone app courtesy of Eurail. This app is available both online and offline and is always up to date (well it has been for the countries I’ve used it in; including for any planned engineering works); for me it was an essential part of my travel in Europe. This app is linked to the Hafas system, which countries like Germany, Austria & Switzerland use for their train planning online tool. Eurail has done what the individual countries haven’t though and made it available offline.
For the Rail Enthusiast
A comprehensive list of German Locomotives by their respective railway system can be found on the Railfaneurope website’s Germany page. This also explains a bit the various operators of the network and how they have amalgamated over the years.
Regional maps of the German Rail System is available on the Deutsche Bahn Website. For those wanting a more comprehensive and detailed map/atlas one is available from Schweers & Wall; also listing the distances within.
An excellent source of information on both ongoing topics within the world of German Railways and current locomotive workings is the Drehscheibe Forum (translated as Turntable Forum). Postings in the Community section under “lokvorschau” list the following days’ loco workings, not a comprehensive list but it does list the older locos, which are the most important of course.