Prussian Eastern Railway
Prussian Eastern Railway (German: Preußische Ostbahn) was the
railway in the eastern
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia until 1918. Its main route,
approximately 740 kilometers (460 mi) long, connected the
Berlin with the cities of Danzig (Gdańsk) and Königsberg
(Kaliningrad). At Eydtkuhnen (Chernyshevskoye) it reached the German
Empire's border with the Russian Empire. The first part of the line
opened in 1851, reaching Eydtkuhnen in 1860. By March 1880 the total
route length reached 2,210 kilometers (1,370 mi), with a main
parallel route in the south via Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) and Thorn
(Toruń) to Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk). The lines were the first part
of the later
Prussian State Railways
Prussian State Railways (German: Preußische
1.1 Construction of the main line
1.2 Importance to Prussia
1.3 Reichsbahn era
2 Current situation
3 Branch and spur railway lines
Berlin suburban line
5 See also
8 External links
Frederick William IV
From about 1840, the Prussian military urgently sought a railway
connection to the Russian border for strategic reasons. The railway
was also seen from the early years as a means of developing the
underdeveloped areas of
East Prussia and Pomerania. A lack of interest
from the private sector led King Frederick William IV to initiate in
1845 preparatory work for the construction of the Eastern Railway.
Construction was stopped, as the members of the provincial diet
East Prussia refused consent for the king to
borrow for the project. This vote was confirmed in the United Diet
(Vereinigter Landtag), the first parliamentary body covering all of
Prussia, which was convened in April 1847 and subsequently dissolved.
Members voted by a two-thirds majority against authorising a
government loan for the Eastern Railway project.
Only the events of the March Revolution of 1848 and the appointment of
August von der Heydt
August von der Heydt as the Prussian Minister of Commerce
and Industry—and therefore responsible for railways—led to
progress on the issue. In August 1849, Von der Heydt laid before the
diet a draft law for the construction of the Eastern Railway, which
was adopted on 7 December 1849.
Previously, on 5 November 1849, the Railway division of the Eastern
Railway (Königliche Direktion der Ostbahn) had been established in
Bromberg. Minister von der Heydt then initiated the restart of the
construction of the Eastern Railway with funds from the "Railway
Construction of the main line
August von der Heydt
Kreuz junction in 1900
In 1848, construction had already been completed of the main line of
the private Stargard-Posen Railway Company (Stargard-Posener
Eisenbahn), between Stargard and Posen (Poznań). This line is now
part of the Poznań–
Szczecin railway. In the middle of the line near
the village of Lukatz, a railway station was created at a junction of
a line to Kustrin (Kostrzyn nad Odrą). From this same station, the
first 145 km long section of the Eastern Railway was built via
Piła Główna) to Bromberg; this was opened on 27 July
1851. The station near Lukatz was later called Kreuz (cross), which,
from 1936, was the official name of the town. It became an important
railway junction. It is now called
Krzyż Wielkopolski in Polish. The
continuation of the first section via
Dirschau (Tczew) to Danzig
(161 km) was completed on 6 August 1852. During this time, trains
between Kreuz and
Berlin ran via the Berlin-Stettin railway and the
Vistula rivers, the railway continued to be built
from Marienburg (Malbork) via Elbing (Elbląg) to Braunsberg
(Braniewo) (83.75 km); it was opened on 19 October 1852. It was
Königsberg (62 km) on 2 August 1853. After the
completion of the railway bridges over the
Vistula in September 1857
and over the
Nogat on 12 October 1857, the 18 km long Dirschau
Malbork line was completed. At the same time, the 29 km
long direct line from
Frankfurt (Oder) via
Lebus to Küstrin as well
as the 105 km line from Küstrin via Landsberg an der Warthe
(Gorzów Wielkopolski) to Kreuz was opened.
Berlin was therefore
reached by a shorter route via the Lower Silesian-Märkische Railway
(Niederschlesisch-Märkische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, NME). The
Prussian state railways
Prussian state railways acquired a stake in the NME and took over its
management in 1850 and purchased the remaining shares of the railway
In 1853, Edward Wiebe was the Director of the Railway division of the
Eastern Railway in Bromberg. Already in the 1840s, he had been
involved in planning the line and since 1849 he had been in the
technical management of the Railway division of the Eastern Railway.
One of his successors was
Albert von Maybach
Albert von Maybach (1863–1867), previously
Chairman of the Board of the
Upper Silesian Railway
Upper Silesian Railway (Oberschlesische
On 1 October 1866, an 18 km of the line was opened towards Berlin
from Küstrin to Gusow and, on 1 October 1867, the last 64 km
section of the direct line between
Königsberg was opened
from Gusow to
Berlin East station (
Berlin Ostbahnhof) via Strausberg.
The line was extended from
Konigsberg on 6 June 1860 to Insterburg
(Polish: Wystruć, Russian: Черняхо́вск) via Gumbinnen
(Polish: Gąbin, Russian: Гу́сев), Trakehnen (Polish: Jasna
Polana, Russian: Я́сная Поля́на) and Stalluponen
(Nesterov, Russian: Не́стеров) and extended to Eydtkuhnen
(Chernyshevskoye, Russian: Черныше́вское) on the Russian
frontier on 15 August 1860, a total distance of 153 km.
Transhipments and transfers took place at the station over the border
then called Virbalis in Lithuanian (German: Wirballen, Russian:
Verzhbolovo, Вержболово, Polish: Wierzbałowo), now called
Kybartai. Later the gauge-conversion of carriages on through trains to
the broad gauge tracks of the Russian Railways was carried out there.
In 1871, the 34 km shorter Schneidemühl–Konitz–
Tczew) line was built parallel, bypassing Bromberg. After the
completion of these sections work began with duplicating the line from
Küstrin east. The route from
Berlin to Kustrin however, was already
duplicated. In addition, there were several sections of line built
parallel with the main line over short sections.
In 1882, the Silesian station (Schlesischer Bahnhof) was opened as the
new terminus for the line in
Berlin and the old East Station was
Importance to Prussia
Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) Main Station around 1890
Once completed to the east, the Eastern Railway line opened up the
Prussian provinces from Berlin. Freight traffic exceeded projections
by several times. This was mostly made up of agricultural products
such as livestock, grain and vegetables. The disruption of river
traffic by the frequent low water levels in the Oder,
Warta rivers or their freezing in the winter months led to periodic
spikes in freight traffic on the Eastern Railway.
The Eastern Railway itself was also a significant economic factor. Its
construction during an economic crisis created jobs on a large scale.
At the height of its construction in June 1851, 12,000 workers were
employed on building its track. The Royal Railway division of the
Eastern Railway in Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) established ten operating
offices in Berlin, Schneidemühl (Piła), Stolp (Słupsk), Danzig
(Gdańsk), Konigsberg, Allenstein (Olsztyn), Thorn (Toruń), Bromberg
(Bydgoszcz), Stettin (Szczecin) and Posen (Poznań). In 1880, its
rollingstock included 265 passenger and express locomotives, 320
freight locomotives and 93 tank locomotives.
A local railway industry was established to supply the Eastern
Railway. In 1855, the Union-Gießerei (foundry)
Königsberg began to
build locomotives, the
Schichau-Werke (works) of
Ferdinand Schichau of
Elbing followed its example in 1860. The
equipment manufacturer, L. Steinfurt built freight wagons and
Further independent railway divisions were created in Bromberg,
Königsberg and Posen under the reorganisation of the Prussian
state railways in 1895.
The Eastern Railway was at the time one of the major long-distance
rail routes in Europe and one of the main axes for east-west traffic.
Several international trains ran on it, including the legendary luxury
train, the Nord Express, the latter in the "golden age" before the
First World War.
The development of the main railways and branch lines extended the
network to 4,833 route kilometers in 1895. At this time
served by seven daily long-distance freight trains from eastern
Germany and, in long-distance passenger traffic, fifteen trains ran
daily to East Prussia. Since 1892, “D-trains” (D-Züge:
long-distance expresses) also ran on the Eastern Railway.
Line of the Eastern railway near
Müncheberg (exit to the east)
After the First World War the Prussian state railways, including the
Eastern Railway, along with the other German state railways were
incorporated into the newly created Deutsche Reichsbahn. Under the
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles the
Polish Corridor was created in 1919,
Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig and
East Prussia from Germany,
East Prussia as an exclave. The Eastern Railway line became a
major transit link between
East Prussia and the rest of Germany. This
caused a bottleneck at the bridge over the
Vistula to the south of
Danzig near Dirschau, now
Tczew under Polish control. Conflicts over
the use of the railway during the interwar period were declared by
Germany as part of the causes of World War II.
By contrast, the over 1,000 metre-long steel bridge built between
1905 and 1909 over the
Vistula near Münsterwalde (Polish: Most w
Opaleniu) was dismantled from 1927 to 1929, because the Poles had no
use for a bridge to the East Prussian city of Marienwerder (Kwidzyn).
In the summer 1939 timetable four pairs of express trains, twelve
D-trains and a pair of long-distance transit trains between
Königsberg operated on the line. The latter required a travel time of
6 hours and 36 minutes for the 590 kilometre long line from
Berlin Silesian station.
The railway network of the former East Prussian province in 1937 had a
length of 4,176 kilometers. On 22 January 1945, the last train ran
Konigsberg to Berlin; after that no continuous rail traffic ran
on this line.
Since 1991 the term Ostbahn (Eastern Railway) has again been used to
appeal to the nostalgia of tourists wishing to travel along parts of
the former line.
Substantial boundary changes were made as a result of the German
defeat in World War II, so that the only part of the former Eastern
Railway to remain in
Germany is the section from
Berlin to the Oder
River near Küstrin. This, along with the sections now located on
Polish or Russian territory, is mostly operated as a single-track
branch line. Some formerly important international stations, such as
Eydtkuhnen, no longer exist or have only a very minor role. The only
international long-distance train on the Eastern Railway in recent
years was the D-448/449 night train (Stanislaw Moniuszko), linking
Berlin-Lichtenberg and Warsaw, which ran on the line as far as Piła
Główna until 2009. Additionally, through carriages ran on the line
Kaliningrad and Krakow.
The section within the current borders of
Germany that connects Berlin
with the Polish border near Küstrin-Kietz is now a largely
single-track non-electrified main line, part of the tariff zone of the
Association) and has been operated by
Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn since
10 December 2006 with
Bombardier Talent diesel multiple units. On 22
December 2006, the line speed was restored to 120 km/h between
the 75.0 and 80.7 kilometre points for the first time in 60 years.
This did not affect travel times or the timetable, but the change is
considered a sign of an incipient upgrade of the Eastern Railway.
Bridge over the
The line in
Poland from Kostrzyn to
Piła is double track except for a
short section at the eastern exit of Gorzów station. The line is
single track from
Piła to Gutowiec. The line is now duplicated again
Gutowiec to Bogaczewo. It is single track from Bogaczewo to the
national border with
Russia in Braniewo. From
Elbląg to Kaliningrad,
a Russian broad gauge track was laid next to the standard gauge track;
this has been dismantled between
Elbląg and Bogaczewo. This track is
still present in Młynary, but unused. Between Chrusciel and Braniewo
the ballast is missing and it is not usable. From
Tczew to Bogaczewo
the line is operated with electric trains. As the line passes through
a sparsely populated area, far from urban areas, the Eastern Railway
here only carries minor traffic.
Kaliningrad Passaschirski – the former
The short section of line from
the only part of the former Eastern Railway that still has an
important function, as it is the transit route from
Kaliningrad to the
Russian heartland. It belongs to the
Kaliningrad Railway and has been
rebuilt to Russian gauge. The station with controls at the Lithuanian
border is now Nesterov, since the former border station at
Chernyshevskoye was completely dismantled after
Lithuania was annexed
Soviet Union and border controls were abolished. Russian
Railways now plans to rebuild the border station at Chernyshevskoye
Nesterov station does not provide sufficient capacity. The
Mamonovo (Heiligenbeil) until shortly before Kaliningrad
has a main track in Russian broad gauge and formerly had a standard
gauge track. While the broad gauge track follows the traditional route
from the west to
Kaliningrad South Station (formerly Königsberg
Hauptbahnhof), the other track diverted south around the city and
reached the station from the east.
Branch and spur railway lines
An important branch of the line was the 290 km long line between
Thorn and Insterburg (Russian: Chernyakhovsk, Черняхо́вск)
created in 1871–1873 after Thorn was connected with Bromberg in
Founded in 1846, the Stargard-Posen Railway Company (Stargard-Posener
Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, SPE) built a 170 km-long single-track
main line, which connected the two provincial capitals of Stettin and
Posen. The route crossed the main line of the Eastern Railway at Kreuz
station. Because the company's revenue in the early days did not meet
expectations, the government took over the SPE in 1851 and placed it
in the Royal Railway Division of the Eastern Railroad in Bromberg,
then in 1857 it was also temporarily managed by the state-owned Upper
Silesian Railway (Oberschlesischen Eisenbahn). It was formally
nationalised on 1 January 1883, although the company name was still
used in July 1886. Other important lines of the Eastern Railroad were:
Danzig – Neufahrwasser (1867)
Neustettin – Wangerin (1877, Pommersche Centralbahn)
Neustettin – Konitz (1878, Pommersche Centralbahn; now the Chojnice
- Runowo Pomorskie line)
Neustettin – Belgard (1878)
Neustettin – Zollbrück (Pommern) – Rügenwalde/Stolpmünde (1878)
Schneidemühl – Posen (1879)
Schneidemühl – Neustettin (1879)
Laskowitz – Graudenz – Jablonowo (connecting the railways Bromberg
Königsberg and Thorn – Insterburg, 1879/78)
Insterburg – Goldap – Lyck (1878/79)
Berlin suburban line
On the map of 1893 is the Silesian Station, northeast of it is the
abandoned former Ostbahnhof; to its right is the "main workshop,
Berlin", the office of the Rail Division of Bromberg and Stralau
Rummelsburg station at the junction with the Eastern Railway
While the traffic to the east was limited mostly to long-distance
services, upgrading of the line began in Berlin. First, the tracks of
Berlin Ringbahn (the circular railway, the eastern section of
which opened in 1871), the Lower Silesian-Märkische Railway
(Niederschlesisch-Märkische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft) from Frankfurt
(Oder) and the Eastern Railway connected at a level junction near
Stralau Rummelsburg station. From 1 May 1888, trains could run through
the Silesian Station over the
Berlin Stadtbahn to the centre of Berlin
and the lines to its west. Shortly afterwards another pair of tracks
was added to the northern half of the Ringbahn to allow suburban
trains to run independently of long-distance traffic.
The interweaving of long-distance and suburban tracks at the junction
of the Lower Silesian-Märkische railway and the Eastern Railway led
to increasing congestion. The location of the intersection with the
Ringbahn had insufficient space, so a new grade-separated junction was
built on the main line from
Frankfurt (Oder) 2 km away at
Rummelsburg depot. From there a line ran to the northeast to connect
with the main line just to the west of Kaulsdorf. An additional
platform was opened at
Kaulsdorf station in 1901 for the traffic on
this line, known as the VnK line. “Vn” may have stood for
Verbindung nach (connection to) or von und nach (from and to) while K
probably stood for Kaulsdorf or Küstrin. The old platform was left on
the original line for suburban services to the Ringbahn. To the west
of this was the link with the Stadtbahn suburban tracks. In 1903, a
separate pair of suburban tracks was laid next to the Frankfurt (Oder)
line between the intersection of the long-distance lines at
Rummelsburg and the start of the Stadtbahn. This required a
grade-separation of the Stadtbahn tracks with the link to the Silesian
The junction of the Ringbahn with the Stadtbahn and Stralau
Rummelsburg station were entirely rebuilt in 1903. The two east–west
lines and the Ringbahn were each given a platform for suburban
traffic. This development made Stralau-Rummelsburg station one of the
biggest stations in Berlin. In 1933 its name was changed to Ostkreuz.
In the mid-1920s, extensive electrification began on the Berlin
suburban lines. Electrification of the Eastern Railway was completed
on 6 November 1928. Operation of a mixture of steam and electric
trains continued until January 1929. On 15 December 1930, the suburban
services were designated as S-Bahn services as far as Mahlsdorf
station. The long-distance platform was removed at Kaulsdorf station.
The Germania plan of the
Nazis envisioned a comprehensive upgrading of
the line. The train was to be extended to Strausberg or Rüdersdorf
south of the line. Another pair of long-distance tracks would have
been built as far as the
Berlin city limits at Mahlsdorf. Since the
Eastern Railway was a strategically important route on the basis of
its orientation, work continued on this project despite the outbreak
of the Second World War. In 1944, the predominantly suburban
single-track line to Strausberg was put into operation, but services
continued to be operated with steam trains. Electrical operations
commenced in 1947-1948 in four stages. The S-Bahn route was later
extended on a newly built branch line to Strausberg Nord.
In 1989, the U-Bahn line E (now U 5) was extended over the VnK line to
Wuhletal station. It is the only station in
Berlin where it is
possible to transfer between S-Bahn and U-Bahn services on the same
platform. In 1992,
Birkenstein station was opened between Mahlsdorf
and Hoppegarten. At the same time a second S-Bahn track went into
operation on this section.
History of rail transport in Germany
History of rail transport in Poland
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2009. pp. 36–37, 125, 129. ISBN 978-3-89494-139-0.
^ "Wiebe". Meyers Konversationslexikon (in German). 1885–1892.
Retrieved 17 December 2011.
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879–939; 1125–1172; 1431–1461 (also separate publication:
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Deutschen Reichsbahn (Ost) 1945/46 (in German). Nordhorn: Kenning.
Kado (1927). "Die Erneuerung der Ostbahnbrücken über
Oder und Warthe
bei Cüstrin". Die Bautechnik (in German). 5 (39): 533–546.
Wolfgang Klee (1982). Preußische Eisenbahngeschichte (in German).
Stuttgart u: Kohlhammer. ISBN 3-17-007466-0.
Lothar Meyer, Horst Regling. Eisenbahnknoten Frankfurt/
Oder – Das
Tor zum Osten (in German).
Berlin 2000: transpress.
Elfriede Rehbein. Zum Charakter der preußischen Eisenbahnpolitik von
ihren Anfängen bis zum Jahre 1879 (in German). Dresden
1953 (Dresden, Hochsch. für Verkehrswesen, Diss., 1953)
Bernhard Strowitzki (2002). Elfriede RehbeinS-Bahn
Geschichte(n) für unterwegs (in German). Berlin: GVE.
German and Polish timetables of various sections of the railway,
The webpage devoted to the old roundhouse in Schneidemühl (Piła)
Axel Mauruszat. "Preußische Ostbahn" (in German). Bahnstrecken in
Brandenburg. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
"www.ostbahn.eu" (in German). Retrieved 17 December 2011.
Axel Krueger. "Infos zu Bahnen rund um die Preußische Ostbahn" (in
German). Bahnstrecken preussische-ostbahn.de. Retrieved 17 December
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