Light Rail in the Ruhr

By Oliver Mayer

Page 2

Dortmund's light rail system has a total length of 74.3 km, all 1435 mm gauge. This gauge was chosen when the first horse-car opened in 1881. This horse-car was converted to an electrical tramway in 1894. In the south of Dortmund a 1000mm gauge tramway system opened in 1899, some lines were converted to standard gauge, but most of it closed in 1954. The light rail expanded through the 1930s, when the network reached 167 km, serving not only Dortmund but also the neighbouring towns of Castrop, Luenen, Unna and Schwerte.

From 1960 some tram lines were closed with others converted to underground light rail called Stadtbahn. To date two underground lines have been built, going from the Northeast to the Southwest and from the Northwest to the Southeast of the city. The east-west line is still on the surface, as is one short north-south line. By 2005 there will be three lines underground in the centre of the city, continuing as normal surface tramways in the suburbs.

Three generations of cars are in use, all of them double-ended: The GT8, dating from 1959, will be retired in the next two years as they are not able to run in a tunnel. The successor of the GT8 was the N8C, introduced in 1980. Both GT8 and N8C are 2.30 m wide high-floor cars with steps for boarding. The latest generation of cars are the wider (2.65 m) B80C Stadtbahn cars dating from 1986. They serve both underground north-south lines, while the N8C and the few remaining GT8 handle the other lines. The B80C Stadtbahn cars normally provide level loading from high platforms. From the end of 1996, some B80C cars were extended with an additional segment in the middle, making it an eight-axle-car. Those cars are now called B8, while the old six-axle-cars are renamed B6. Low-floor-cars are expected to ultimately replace the N8C cars on the east-west line.

At Dortmund University, there is a monorail, called H-Bahn, connecting the northern and the southern campus, with a branch-line to the S-Bahn (railway) station. You can see the current operations and the timetable of the H-Bahn.

Essen is the largest town in the Ruhr with a population of 620,000. It was the first Ruhr town to open a tramway in 1893. As in Bochum, the gauge had to be 1000 mm because of pressure from the German Railway. Fuelled by industry, the town of Essen and its tramway network grew, reaching more than 110 km in the 1930s. After the war some lines were closed while others were converted to standard-gauge Stadtbahn. Today there are 59.6 km of narrow gauge left while the Stadtbahn has grown to 13.8 km. Essen has some interesting features for the light rail enthusiast, particularly the mixture of metre and standard-gauge. The company running the Stadtbahn, trams and buses in Essen is the EVAG.

Essen, meter-gauge car, type M8S
Essen, meter-gauge car no.1019, type M8S, built in 1976 by Duewag. In Stadtmitte-depot, 4.3.1995.

The original plan from the 1960s was to close many metre-gauge light rail-lines and to convert the important ones to Stadtbahn with some underground sections. This policy was stopped by high costs and only one more line to Altenessen and Karnap is being built for year 2001 opening. Today, there are three Stadtbahn-lines: U11, U17 and U18. U11 runs south of the Hauptbahnhof (main station) in a tunnel with mixed-gauge tracks The cars have folding steps permitting stop at both high platform and street level stations. U17 has no high platforms on its surface sections relying on folding steps. All metre-gauge light rail lines are underground in the centre of the city where stations have low platforms, so allowing the future introduction of low-floor cars. Siemens' new Combino low-floor car (built 1996) will be tested in Essen.

Essen's cars are interesting. As usual in the Ruhr there are 8-axle-articulated cars from the 1960s. Most are single-ended, but all have doors on the left side of the car to serve those underground stations with centre platforms, M8S, M8C and M8D are metre-gauge cars from the 1970s and 1980s. The Stadtbahn has B80C cars from the 1970s and 1980s and second-hand P86 cars from London's Docklands Light Railway. The P86 cars were bought in 1993 for 1 million DM each and are being rebuilt and converted in Essen adding driving cabs and pantographs but retaining the Docklands livery. With the rebuild the total costs of 2 million DM is only half that of a new B80 car. As the P86 cars have no folding steps, they can only be used on U11- and U18-lines. In 1996, ten more Docklands-cars have been bought, the P89 series, making it a total of 21 ex-Dockland-cars in Essen.

Essen, meter-gauge museum-tram
Essen, meter-gauge museum-tram no.888 (built in 1940 by Duewag with a bogie from 1921) with trailer no. 350 (built in 1957 by Duewag). At Bredeney on a special service, 4.3.1995.

Two light rail-lines were converted in the early 1980s to a track for guided buses (Spurbus in German). Later tracks for the guided bus were laid in one light rail tunnel, and duobuses (buses that can run either on diesel or on electric) were running in the tunnel together with light rail cars. The duobuses used electric traction in the tunnel and also on a short section above the ground, requiring two wires like trolleybuses. They also had doors on the left side. Due to technical problems the duobuses are no longer permitted in the tunnel and run only with their diesel engine. Although it appears that the time of the duobuses is over, guided buses still appear to have a future in Essen.

Muelheim has the smallest system in the Ruhr with 32.4 km of metre-gauge light rail and 5.5 km of standard-gauge Stadtbahn. The first line was a standard-gauge steam tramway from Duisburg in 1888, today this is Duisburg light rail-line 901. Tramways operated by the town of Muelheim first appeared in 1897. Between 1910 and 1913 and from 1924 to 1928 the network expanded rapidly to 45 km. More recently 7 km have been closed and 5.5 km were converted to underground Stadtbahn. This line is U18 (replacing former tram line 18) and is jointly operated with Essen. Muelheim does not have its own depot for Stadtbahn cars; these are maintained in Essen. As both systems have worked together intensively since the 1910s Muelheim has the same cars as Essen. Muelheim has the latest cars - four low-floor-light rail vehicles of the Bochum-type, delivered in 1995. Oberhausen, the town north of Muelheim, has reopened its light rail line on 2nd June 1996. This new line (112) is operated jointly by Oberhausen and Muelheim with low-floor cars, identical to Muelheim-cars except for the livery, maintained in the Muelheim depot.

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