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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Essen's Low Floor development in the 1930s

Essen Strassenbahn was a leading force in emergent tram design and technology - thanks to its engineering management in the decade 1929-1939. The city pioneered the very first German ' grossraumwagen' in 1933 - a long four axle car with uncluttered features, steel bodywork and clean interior. This was at a time when many German (and European) systems were dominated by two axle tram and trailer(s) - with wood frame construction and dark interiors. The 'Lange Essener' as the new tram was called - led the way for similar large capacity bogie cars being built to vastly different styles in Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Mannheim among many other German systems. Essen went on to order further large capacity bogie cars with even more attractive features through the 1930s.

An even more radical development in Essen in the same period was the revolutionary centre entrance design - the 'Montos' car. Named after the chief engineer Dr Montrose-Oster. Forerunner of today's low floor cars this one-off tram provided a very low step height from ground level and 100% low floor design seating 34 passengers and officially 30 standing. Extensive testing by Essen's engineers including using an elderly tram body on low floor frame and end bogies over two years of experiments from 1931. The final design involved two independent 'axles' with no bulkheads and pedal power control among many innovative technical features. Built by Orenstein & Koppel - the unit was delivered in 1934 and followed by a second example which became a trailer. Both trams were destroyed in an air raid in 1943. Understandably further development work on low floor trams would be set aside as the Thirties ended with the inevitable world war launched by Nazi Germany in 1939 when it invaded Poland.

Photograph : John Woodman Archive

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