Berlin Straßenbahn

Berlin Straßenbahn

The Berlin Straßenbahn (Berlin Tramway) is one of the oldest tram networks in the world and continues, to this day, to be one of the largest. It is operated by Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) (Berlin Transport Services) which was founded in 1929. Today the standard gauge-network has a route length of 190.4 km and 380 stops.

In 1865, a horse tramway was established in Berlin. In 1881, the world's first electric tram line opened. Numerous private and municipal operating companies constructed new routes. So at the end of the 19th century the network developed quite rapidly and the horse trams were changed into electric ones. By 1930, the network had a route-length of over 630 km with more than 90 lines. In 1929, all operating companies were unified into the BVG. After World War II, BVG was divided into an eastern and a western company, but was once again reunited in 1992, after the fall of the GDR. In West Berlin, by 1967 all tram lines had been shut down. With the exception of two lines constructed after the German reunion, the Berlin tram continues to be limited to the eastern portion of Berlin.

From horse bus to electric trams

The public transport system of Berlin is the oldest one in Germany. In 1847, the first public line opened: The "Concessionierte Berliner Omnibus Compagnie" (Concessed Berlin Bus Company) operated the first horse-bus line of the city, beginning service on the 1st of January. The growing market experienced the launch of numerous additional companies, with 36 bus companies in Berlin by 1864.

On June 22, 1865, the opening of Berlin's first horse tramway marked the beginning of the age of trams in Germany, spanning from Brandenburger Tor along today's Straße des 17. Juni (17th of June-Road) to Charlottenburg. Two months later, on the 28th of August, it was extended along "Dorotheenstraße" to "Kupfergraben" near today's Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a terminal stop which is still in service today. Like the horse-bus, many companies followed the new development and built horse-tram networks in all parts of the today's urban area. In 1873, a route from "Rosenthaler Platz" to the Gesundbrunnen (Health well) was opened, to be operated by the new "Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn" (Great Berlin Horse Tram) which would later become the dominating company in Berlin under the name of "Große Berliner Straßenbahn" (GBS) (Great Berlin Tram).

On 16 May 1881, the region of Berlin again wrote transport history. In the village of Groß-Lichterfelde, which was incorporated into Berlin-Steglitz 39 years later, Werner von Siemens opened the world's first electric tramway. Initially, the route was intended merely as a testing facility. Siemens named it an "elevated line taken down from its pillars and girders", because he wanted to build a network of electric elevated lines in Berlin. But the sceptical town council did not allow him to do this until 1902, when the first elevated line opened.

The electric tram in Groß-Lichterfelde was built in meter-gauge and ran from today's suburban station, "East Lichterfelde", to the cadet school in the "Zehlendorfer Straße" (today "Finckensteinallee"). A single trip cost more than an average hourly wage. The route was refitted to standard gauge in October 1925.

The new development overran the old horse trams, causing the final horse tram to be shut down in 1910.

On 18 December 1899, it became possible to travel underground, even under the Spree River, upon completion of the Spreetunnel between Stralau and Treptow. Due to structural problems, it was closed on 15 February 1932. From 1916 to 1951, the tram had a second tunnel, the Lindentunnel running under the well-known boulevard Unter den Linden.

Great Variety of Companies until the formation of the BVG

The history of tramway companies of the Berlin Straßenbahn is very complicated. Besides the private companies, which often changed due to takeovers, mergers, and bankruptcies, the cities of Berlin, Spandau, Köpenick, Rixdorf, the villages Steglitz, Mariendorf, Britz, Niederschönhausen, Friedrichshagen, Heiligensee and Französisch Buchholz, and the Kreis Teltow (Teltow county) had municipal tramway companies.

The most important private operating company was the "Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn" (Great Berlin Horse Tramway), which called itself "Große Berliner Straßenbahn" (GBS) (Great Berlin Tramway) after starting the electrification. Acquired nearly all of the other companies throughout the years. In 1920, the GBS merged with the municipal companies BESTAG and SSB to become the "Berliner Straßenbahn" (Berlin Tramway), which was reorganized in 1929 into the newly-formed municipal "Berliner Verkehrs-AG" (BVG) (Berlin Transport Company). Besides the tramway, the BVG also took over the elevated and underground rail lines and the bus routes which were previously operated primarily by the "Allgemeine Berliner Omnibus-Actien-Gesellschaft" (ABOAG) (General Berlin Bus Company).

The following table includes all companies that operated tramways in today's Berlin before the formation of the BVG. The background color of each line marks the drive method which the respective company used to serve their lines at the time of the formation (blue = horse tram, yellow = steam tram, white = electric tram, red = benzole tram).

On the day of its formation, the BVG had 89 tramway lines, a network of 634 km in length, over 4,000 tramway cars, and more than 14,400 employees. An average tramway car ran over 42,500 kilometers per year. The Berlin tramway had more than 929 million passengers in 1929, at which point, the BVG already had increased its service 93 tramway lines.

In the early 1930s, the Berlin tramway network began to decline; after partial closing of the world's first electric tram in 1930, on 31 October 1934, the oldest tramway of Germany followed. The "Charlottenburger Chaussee" (today "Straße des 17. Juni") was rebuilt by Nazi planners following a monumental East-West-Axis, and the tramway had to leave. In 1938, however, there were still 71 tramway lines, 2,800 tram cars and about 12,500 employees. Consequently, the bus network was extended during this time. Since 1933, Berlin also had trolley buses.

During World War II, some transport tasks were given back to the tramway to save oil. Thus an extensive transport of goods was established. Bombings (from March 1943 on) and the lack of personal and electricity caused the transport performance to decline. Due to the final fights for Berlin, the tramway system collapsed on 23 April 1945.

The Berlin Tramway since 1945


The Berlin tram network is today the largest one in Germany, and, in spite of many cutbacks, one of the largest in the world.

Around Berlin there are some additional tram companies that do not belong to the BVG:
*the Potsdam Tramway,
*the Strausberg Railway (which is in fact a tram line),
*the Tramway Schöneiche-Rüdersdorf, and
*the Woltersdorf Tramway.

The last three companies are located in the eastern suburbs at the eastern edge of Berlin. Each of them has only one line.

----:"This article contains information from the German-language Wikipedia article Straßenbahn Berlin."

Further reading

Literature (written parallel in English and German)

*Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: "Berliner Straßenbahnen. Die Geschichte der Berliner Straßenbahn-Gesellschaften seit 1865" (Archive No. 6), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1973, ISBN 3-85649-006-X
*Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: "Berliner Straßenbahngeschichte II. Ein Bericht über die Entwicklung der Straßenbahn in Berlin nach 1920" (Archive No. 31), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1977, ISBN 3-85649-031-0
*Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: "Die Straßenbahnlinien im westlichen Teil Berlins. Der Wiederaufbau ab 1945 und die Stillegung im Westteil der Stadt bis 1967. (2 Bände)" (Archive Nos. 46/52), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1986, ISBN 3-85649-046-9

Literature (in German)

*Arbeitsgemeinschaft Blickpunkt Straßenbahn e. V.: "Straßenbahnatlas Deutschland 1996", Berlin, ISBN 3-926524-14-6
*Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: "Rekowagen - Die etwas härtere Art, Straßenbahn zu fahren", Verlag GVE, Berlin, 1996, ISBN 3-89218-045-8
*Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: "Historische Nahverkehrsfahrzeuge - Berlin und Brandenburg", Verlag GVE, Berlin, 2001, ISBN 3-89218-027-X
*Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: "100 Jahre »Elektrische« in Köpenick", Verlag GVE, Berlin, 2003, ISBN 3-89218-082-2
*Sigurd Hilkenbach und Wolfgang Kramer: "Die Straßenbahnen in Berlin", Alba, Duesseldorf, 1994, ISBN 3-87094-351-3
*Sigurd Hilkenbach und Wolfgang Kramer: "Die Straßenbahn der Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG-Ost/BVB) 1949-1991", Transpress, Stuttgart, 1997, ISBN 3-613-71063-3
*Wolfgang Kramer und Heinz Jung: "Linienchronik der Elektrischen Straßenbahn von Berlin. (2 volumes)", Arbeitskreis Berliner Nahverkehr e. V., 1994 (Vol. 1), 2001 (Vol. 2)
*Holger Orb und Tilo Schütz: "Straßenbahn für ganz Berlin. Geschichte - Konzeption - Städtebau", Jaron Verlag, Berlin, 2000, ISBN 3-89773-024-3


Tram 68 was named by National Geographic Society as one of the 10 Great Streetcar routes along with:

* Toronto's 501 Queen (TTC) - 24.8 km (15.4 mi) - longest tram route in North America
* Lisbon's Companhia de Carris de Ferro de Lisboa (Carris) 28 Tram
* Seattle's Metro Transit (King County) George Benson Waterfront Streetcar 1.6 mi
* New Orleans Regional Transit Authority St. Charles Streetcar Tour - oldest tram route in North America
* Hong Kong Tramways - 13km (8 mi) - one of three tramsways using double decker cars
* San Francisco Municipal Railway Streetcar F

External links

* [] The web site of the operation company BVG.
* []
* []
* []
* []
* [ tram in Berlin]
* [ Straßenbahnreisen/Sporvognsrejser: Berlin]

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