Berlin Termini – History – 4


Part 4 – 20th Century

Berlin Nord-Süd Tunnel 1930s

Although not strictly connected with long distance terminal traffic, the opening of the Berlin Nord-Süd Tunnel for S-Bahn services (in stages between 1936 and 1939) did have an impact on two of the old termini.

Model in German Museum of Technology

The new line took traffic from three suburban S-Bahn lines that had previously fed into Stettiner Bahnhof.  The line ran into in a tunnel that went via an interchange with the Stadtbahn at Friedrichstrasse to a new underground station at Potsdamer Platz. From there it continued in tunnel via Anhalter Bahnhof before surfacing south of that station to feed 3 lines that had previously originated in the Wansee and Ring stations at Potsdamer Bahnhof.

Nord-Sud Bahn Tunnel Map / Creative Commons / 2.5

The Nord-Süd tunnel was flooded in the last few months of the Second World War but was eventually rehabilitated.  During the cold war it served as a link between northern and southern parts of West Berlin, with a free interchange for West Berliners at Friedrichstrasse (located in the eastern sector) with the Stadtbahn.  The trains using the line skipped stations that were in the eastern part of city; manned by armed guards, these became known as ghost stations.  The line was reopened in full after the fall of the Berlin Wall and remains in use today.



1945 and after….

After 1952 all the remaining “dead-head” terminal stations were closed and all long- distance traffic was concentrated on the Stadtbahn. Zoologischer Garten in the west and Ostbahnhof in the east became central Berlin’s main long distance stations. During the whole Cold-War period the pair of long-distance tracks on the Stadtbahn west of Ostbahnhof remained unelectrified.


Traffic was initially separated but with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, it was completely severed. An outer railway ring was constructed further out of the city so that trains heading from destinations in the DDR to the west of West Berlin could access the east of the city.  Although many of these terminated at Ostbahnhof, Lichtenberg, just outside the centre, was also heavily used by trains heading from north of the DDR to the south.

IMG_5312 (002)

Meanwhile, services heading from West Germany to the DDR, Poland and the USSR entered West Berlin at Berlin-Wansee having crossed the West/East German border at Helmstedt/Marienborn. They made stops at Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstrasse, and Ostbahnhof before heading east.   By the mid-1980s there were 5 or 6 pairs of these trains, heading from the West to Warsaw, Leningrad and Moscow every day.



After reunification

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, trains to and from Western Germany began to increase.  The first Inter-Regional trains ran to Cologne in 1990 with Inter-City trains soon after.   All these new services used the Stadtbahn which was soon electrified at the German standard 15kV and, between 1994 and 1998, modernised extensively. Long distance services stopped primarily at Zoologischer Garten and (the current) Ostbahnhof.


In 2006 the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof was opened; built on the site of the old Lehrter main line terminus. It was constructed in the shape of a cross at the point where the east-west Stadtbahn intersected with the newly constructed Berlin North-South main line in tunnel.  The pre-existing Lehrter S-Bahn station on the Stadtbahn was rebuilt and extra platforms for long distance trains were built next to it.


Although the opening of the new North-South main line saw many long-distance trains diverted away from the Stadtbahn, some trains, notably those heading from Hannover and to Frankfurt (Oder) and Poland, still use it. Although they no longer stop at Zoologischer Garten; the remaining terminal stations in central Berlin are now the Hauptbahnhof itself and Ostbahnhof.

S-Bahn Map /Arbalete / Creative Commons / 4.0

The Berlin North-South main line

Ever since the east to west Stadtbahn was constructed in the 1880s an idea for a similar north to south line had been mooted but nothing had happened.  Finally in the decades after reunification of the city the plan finally came to fruition.

North South Lines in Berlin – Creative Commons – 2.0

The line is a four-track Y-shaped connection between two separate points on the Ringbahn in the north and Südkreuz in the south.  In the north two lines from the west combine with two from the east, feed into the lower level of the new Hauptbahnhof.  The west feeder follows the old approach route into Lehrter station, whilst the east feeder begins near Gesundbrunnen formally on the line out of Stettiner Bahnhof.


After passing through the new lower level of the Hauptbahnhof, the lines head south in tunnel via a new Potsdamer Platz station, for regional trains only, before emerging near the old yards outside the old Ahnhalter terminal and running on the surface to Südkreuz.   In this sense, the lower level of the Hauptbahnhof could be said to be replicating the role previously played by Lehrter, Stettiner, Anhalter and Potsdamer termini.


The line is used by a mixture of Inter-City Express (ICE), Inter-City and regional trains.  Long distance trains from cities in the north such as Hamburg tend to head through the Hauptbahnhof and terminate at Südkreuz, whereas long distance trains heading south to places like Munich tend to start at Gesundbrunnen before heading through the Hauptbahnhof.  In this sense, Gesundbrunnen and Südkreuz are now effectively terminal stations along with Ostbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof.


Return to Berlin Termini – History / Part 1

Return to 2022 – Germany -“Berlin Termini”


The following books are in my personal collection

Gottwaldt, Alfred B. – Das Grosse Berliner Eisenbahn-Album – 2000

Gottwaldt, Alfred B. – Das Berliner U und S Bahnnetz – 2004

Hardy, Brian – The Berlin S Bahn Handbook – 1996