The Rübelandbahn is steep. That cannot be stressed enough, since just about everything that makes it interesting stems from that fact. Michaelstein is a great example. The line to the left leads to Blankenburg, while the line to the right leads to Rübeland. Trains have to change direction here (and hence always have a locomotive at each end nowadays, because running around would be too slow), but a direct connection would just have been too steep.
For some reason, Michaelstein is also a passenger station, or rather was, before passenger service on the line was cancelled (there are plans to have at least touristic trains with steam engines on weekends again). I don’t have the slightest clue why that is, as it’s in the middle of a huge forest. However, the footpath leading from here to the outskirts of Blankenburg is actually lit at night. Weird place. Anyway, 185 640-0 of hvle (Havelländische Eisenbahn, no idea why they always spell themselves with small letters) is now trailing on a train of empty carriages up the hill.
And yes, if you wanted to get from here to Scotland the downwards-leading line would indeed be the quicker choice.