Since 1898, the Kirnitzschtalbahn has been transporting hikers, tourists and spa guests to their destinations. It was planned from the beginning as an excursion railroad. For about 8 kilometers, the meter-gauge train accompanies the Kirnitzsch River on its course through the bizarre rock world of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains from Bad Schandau to the Lichtenhain Waterfall. The journey takes 25 minutes, in summer the train runs every half hour.
In the narrow valley, only a single-track route could be realized, which also runs mostly on the road. This often leads to obstructions by cars and thus sometimes to delays. The only head-on collision between two railroads occurred in 1973.
Over the decades, the existence of the railroad has been threatened several times. Often, the structural condition of the line was poor, which is why the railroad operation was completely stopped between 1969 and 1972. In 1985, too, it had to be interrupted temporarily due to structural deficiencies, but the final discontinuation was prevented by protests. Since 1990, the railroad has been running again on its full length. After a flood in August 2010, operations were again temporarily at a standstill.
The railroad owes its popularity not only to the impressive landscape, but also to the historic carriages, which have been lovingly maintained for decades. The fleet consisted and still consists of a mixture of different streetcar cars. The wagons built in 1928 especially for the Kirnitzschtalbahn have not been in regular service since the end of the 1970s, nor have some particularly old other wagons. Instead, wagons were brought in that had already been in service for a long time in various cities (Dresden, Plauen, Zwickau, Jena, Halle, Leipzig) and had been taken out of service there. Thanks to these historic wagons, the Kirnitzschtalbahn served as a backdrop in the movie "The Reader" (even though it was supposedly running in a city there).