Trains during the cold war.

During the (1st) Cold War, Berlin was divided into 4 parts.

British, American, French and Russian. The border (the Berlin wall) was situated between the Russian zone and the other zones, but the wall also stood around the "west zones" because Berlin was located in the middle of the former GDR / East Germany as a kind of island.

That poses a problem because how do you get people and goods from West Germany to Berlin, if Berlin is an island in the middle of the GDR / East Germany?

On the map, you see West Berlin in red. Surrounded by the GDR.

After the end of World War II, agreements were made about how Germany and Berlin would be divided. Agreements were also made at the time about how traffic between West Germany and Berlin would take place. However, something went wrong in those agreements: only an air corridor between west and Berlin has been formally recorded. So, nowhere was road traffic, rail and waterway access formally established.

This gave the Russians the formal opportunity to shut down all other traffic (than air) on June 26, 1948. They were formally justified in doing so.... So, only air traffic was allowed, which then led to the famous Berlin Airlift that lasted until May 12, 1949.

Anyway, before and after the blockade by the Russians, there were more options: air, water, road and rail.

Air traffic was not efficient for military transport, ships takes too long and is too risky, road traffic too risky and also not efficient with larger numbers, so the railway remains.

This time we look at military transport by rail between Berlin and West Germany.

Each “west power” started the journey from its own station / zone in Berlin.

  • The Americans initially departed from Bahnhof Wannsee and from 1947 Bahnhof Lichterfelde West was their point of departure.
  • The French departed from Bahnhof Berlin-Tegel.
  • The English used Bahnhof Berlin-Charlottenburg.

These trains were therefore not "connected" to each other, so they all countries had their own specific trains for their specific military transport.

From Berlin, all those trains traveled to Helmstedt. There was no stopping in the DDR part, doors remained closed, the train was guarded, the curtains remained closed against viewing inward and photographing from the train was strictly forbidden. Just to name a few measures….

After Helmstedt the trains went to their final/intermediate destination:

  • The Americans went to Frankfurt and Bremerhaven.
  • The English to Emden until 1949 and then to Hanover / Rotterdam (Hoek van Holland)
  • The French went to Mainz.

The starting point for all those trains to enter the GDR was always Helmstedt.

But we are not there yet. All those trains were only used for military transport and not for civilians, so each "western power" had its own train. These trains were not "just" assembled from rented equipment from the (west) Deutsche Bahn, but were fixed compositions and were therefore also in a guarded area during standstill.

If DB equipment was hired at all, it was exchanged for a longer period of time and not “just for a while”. Often that equipment was also provided with stickers with the flags of the relevant "western power" so that it was VERY clear what kind of transport it was.

But it went even further!

Not only were stickers put on those carriages, but entire trains were converted specifically for this purpose. The French cars are a perfect example of this. An entirely unique color scheme, with French flags, with the text TMFB: “Train Militaire Francais de Berlin”:

A nice anecdote to show how exciting these types of transports were and that there was quite a bit of political pressure on them: On the national holidays of the GDR, May 1 and Republic Day on October 7, all Reichsbahn locomotives were decorated with the flags of the DDR and red flags. The western powers (logically) refused to run this decorated locomotive. So on those days the train was stopped, and the journey was not continued until 00:00 the next day. And then of course without DDR flags.

There is not much left of all those specific carriages and trains. The above carriage has been preserved in the Alliiertenmuseum in Berlin-Dahlem, the Americans have shipped a generic DB carriage to Fort Eustis, VA in the United States, and that's roughly about it. Everything else has been scrapped or repainted and ended up in normal passenger service and when it was too old, almost all of it was scrapped as well. After the military transport was stopped, a number of French carriages were still in use at BahnTouristikExpress in the colors violet/white, but they have all been scrapped in the meantime. In model, on the other hand, there is more to be found!

The military French carriages are (all scale N, 1:160) released by Arnold (HN4188) in a series of 4. There are a sleeping carriage 1st class, a carriage of the type Acm, an escort carriage and a carriage of the type WGmk.

The British also had their own train. It was made in model by Roco under number 927. This is a Salonwagen, Gattung Salon4üm, with the imprint 'ROYAL CORPS OF TRANSPORT' including the British flags.

A similar type of carriage has also been used for a special train for Queen Elizabeth II for her state visit to Germany in 1965 and was also used (during the 2nd World War) by Heinrich Himmler and served as a carriage after the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany. for the Federal President of West Germany.

Now especially the French series of carriages was beautiful and specific, but there is always a bigger and better one.. And that were the Americans. There were special train sets to transport, for example, a general, in all luxury, special carriages for personnel and even special medical trains!

Specifically for medical transports, the Americans also had real trains, so equipped with beds and medical equipment. Arnold built the series VT 08.5 with the imprint 'United States Army' 'Medical Service' under number 2954.

The US Army purchased six VT 08 . trainsets5 for deployment in Germany. The first two, VT 08 801–802, were designed as luxury salon cars, the other four, VT 08 803–806, served medical care and patient transport.

These train sets from 1956 had a power of 736 kW and a top speed of 140 km/h. The sets were delivered in green livery and in 1973 were given the TEE colors red and beige. Five trainsets, 608 802–806, were withdrawn in 1974, the 608 801 was only withdrawn in 1991. At the end of the eighties,, the trainset was rebuilt, the front windows were replaced by a continuous glass in accordance with the Baureihe 103. The trainset nicknamed “The General” was in use until 1990 as a train of the American ambassador in Germany. It is now stored in Karlsruhe. Of the hospital trains, only the Arnold model remains:

The Americans also had trainsets made by Waggon- und Maschinenbau AG Görlitz (WUMAG), of the series 137 152 (DRG). After 1945 it was deployed at the US Army and in 1949 under the new number VT 04 102 a/b on the been rails. In 1950, that deployment stopped, and she was finally deployed again via the DB with the DR in East Germany under the original number 137 152 a/b, and from 1970 under number 183 001.

The model is made with the used number B6vT-34, with the imprint 'MEDICAL DEPARTMENT', 'Ambulance Car'. This one is made in 1:160 scale by Kato under number K10717.

And then of course there were the carriages for regular military transport of the Americans. The first is a model made by Roco under number 926. This is a Liegewagen 2. Class, of the series Bc4ümg,  with imprint: 'UNITED STATES ARMY'

And since you also have to eat something along the way, specific dining carriages were also present. This was built by Westwaggon (Cologne) under the series /type C4i-36. The last went out of service in 1979.

There too, Roco has recreated one in scale N / 1:160 of the series B4ye-36/50, with the imprint 'RK 405'. The Roco number is 933.

For American military transports between Berlin (West) and American bases in Germany, in 1964 the Gebrüder Credé wagon factory in Kassel built three so-called escort cars with a “pulpit” on the roof and side observation windows to hang at the ends of the trains. These were operated by the United States Army Transportation Corps based in Berlin-Lichterfelde West. The wagons were registered by the Deutsche Bundesbahn as private wagons in series Pwghsen and were based at Helmstedt.

After Lichterfelde West closed in 1993, they stood in Münster until the end of 1999 before one was bought by the Allied in Berlin e.V. association in Berlin-Tegel. Another car has gone to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis near Newport News in Virginia (USA), and the third has been on display at Helmstedt station since 1994 and has been on loan from the Zone Border Museum at the South Korean train station Dorasan in the demilitarized zone since 2016.

Two identical escort wagons were also used by the French Armed Forces on Berlin routes. They are now in the inventory of the German Railway Museum in Tuttlingen in Baden-Württemberg.

All in all, a fascinating period on the railroad tracks. With the withdrawal of the Allied troops after the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the power of attorney for Berlin, the operation of the military trains was stopped.

The last American train ran on December 8, 1990. The terminal buildings at Bahnhof Lichterfelde West were demolished in 2008. The trains of the British and the French also stopped running around that period. An end of an era.

2 Responses

  1. Remco van Kleij says:

    een enorm leerzaam en mooi artikel. Omdat ik een modelbaan heb, gesitueerd in het voormalige grensgebied, helemaal leuk. Zelf rij ik HO met DR en DB materiaal en wissel ik wel van periode voor en na de val van de muur. Zo’n rijtuig mis ik wel in mijn verzameling, dus hopelijk vind ik er nog eens een. Bedankt.

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