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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

The tram that revolutionised Germany

Today the Alstom 'Citadis' tram type is the most prolific design in Europe with nearly all of the French tram systems operating variants. There are a few exceptions such as Strasbourg and Lille. Nearly a thousand examples of the Citadis model have been built since its inception nearly two decades ago. The design has found its way to

Melbourne, Dublin and Nottingham - as well as new systems in Algeria and Tunisia, with further orders in hand from existing and new customers. A truly successful design for this company.

The 1950s saw an equally (and possibly even more successful) tram design emerge which revolutionised early postwar tramways in west Germany - and set a benchmark for systems aspiring to break away from the traditional trailer operation of previous decades. Below : A Bielefeld trailer set waiting to release the trailer and a shunting operation to reconnect it with its motor unit to return in the other direction from the terminus. This operation was swept away with arrival of a series of Duwag articulated cars (and bogie trailers) during the 1960s - (Above an example en route to Sennefriedhof 1964). Both Photos : John Woodman

The Dusseldorf firm - 'Duwag' Dusseldorfer Wagonfabrik which emerged as a result of prewar mergers of several German tram builders in the Rhineland and Ruhr area of that country; produced a smooth rounded four axle design in 1951. This was a complete break away from the more square ended style of the 1930s as well as the ubiquitous 'KSW' (Wartime tram) design created by the 'Reich' and its transport planners as a quick fix urgently needed to deal with capacity needs in many towns and cities including Austria. The 'KSW' design was purely lengthened two axle cars with matching trailers - both having extended end platforms to provide maximum standing capacity. In turn it heavily influenced the Polish tram systems immediately after the war - whose similar urgent need for more trams resulted in an almost identical design appearing across that country.

However the Duwag four axle design broke completely away from utilitarian constraints and quickly became a favourite 'must have' model in West Germany's rebuilding and economic renaissance from 1951 onwards. The initial bogie car (with matching bogie trailers) soon was overtaken by the larger capacity articulated version with a front redesign - seen here in the new trams for Bielefeld in the early 1960s. This medium size system was keen to sweep away its pre-war trailer sets with their traditional two axle wooden framed trams. The Duewag design was aped by other West German (and Austrian) builders but there were exceptions in several major cities which opted to go with their own new designs : notably Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart. Nonetheless the Duwag model was exported to Rotterdam, Vienna, Basle and Copenhagen adding to their fleets from the 1960s.

Above : An Austrian built Duewag derivative at the terminus of Line 1 - with the Graz Tram Museum in the background and a wartime 'KSW' type poking out of the shed undergoing restoration. Note the three high step loading on this design - obsolescent in the EU and much of western Europe. Image : John Woodman

The Duwag design was to be long lasting. Copenhagen's 100 strong fleet was in turn sold to Egypt where examples continue to operate - and two of these actually returned to Denmark for retro preservation into the Copenhagen fleet colours with operation in that country's excellent national tramway museum. Variants of the design included larger and longer models - the longest examples being operated on the OEG system at Mannheim with several articulations involved. The model may well have been the most successful in western Europe - although the Communist bloc's centralised economic management ensured that a similar prolific tram design - the Tatra T4 model would dominate most east German tramways in addition to almost all those in Czechoslovakia; parts of Russia and its satellites. Even going as far as Pyongyang. Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania were able to maintain their own tram development resources with Yugoslavia actually importing ex Washington DC PCC cars for the Sarajevo system (pre civil war conflict).

The multiplicity of emergent designs from tram manufacturing companies (with the exception of Alstom) ensures that quite a good many are of the here today gone tomorrow type - adopted by a handful of operators, or even only one. Successive styling changes and technological innovation complicates life for operators whose

concern is to ensure supplies of replacement parts well into the future (25 - 35 years) and absence of planned obsolescence. Although naturally design trends and public taste quickly pick up on vehicles which have a 'dated' appearance.

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