Wernigerode, a town of about 35,000 people on the north slopes of the Harz Mountains, is the headquarters of the Harzers Schmalspur Bahnen GmbH (Harz Narrow Gauge Railway Company, HSB), a network of metre gauge railways that connect it with Nordhausen and Quedlinberg. The steeply-graded lines include 44 stations and halts and extend over about 140 km. The first of the lines opened in 1887. They were operated by Deutsches Reichsbahn, the nationalised railway company of the former GDR, from 1949, and HSB, the present private company, took over in 1993, working with the support of local authorities. Many trains are steam-operated by a fleet of 17 2-10-0T tank locomotives built in the 1950s, but some services are operated by diesel rail buses and locomotives.
One branch of the system that is particularly popular with tourists goes to the summit at Brocken, at 1141 m above sea level the highest point in the Harz Mountains, where there is a former Soviet listening post.
Some freight services are operated on the network by piggy-back vehicles which carry standard gauge wagons.