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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

The Other Frankfurt

With Theresa May hobnobbing with Angela Merkel (herself a former citizen of the DDR) today - it is worth stretching this Blog to a momentary visit due east of Berlin. Whilst Frankfurt (Main) garners most attention in the media due to its Trade Fairs and home to Germany's financing giants - not to mention the important air traffic going through or from the city's international hub - Germany has a second Frankfurt which I became familiar with through business connections some years back.

On the Oder River and an hour by road and rail from Berlin this equally important German city lies at the eastern border of the Federal Republic in the State of Brandenburg. On the other side of the river is Poland which shifted its own territories westward by agreement of the Allies in the final year of the Second World War. Whereas before 1945 Frankfurt an der Oder as it is formally known, operated trams across the river on a short route - that service was summarily terminated with destruction of the key road bridge and permanent transfer of land to the new Poland.

Frankfurt still retains a small well managed tram system which I sampled on several occasions on my travels there, with ubiquitous KT4D Czech built cars in a prim red and pale cream fleet colours. Earlier Gotha two axle sets had moved on to other systems or otherwise scrapped, but I understand a local enthusiast group have acquired and restored at least one motor unit and trailer in recent years. All of the pre-war two axle cars had been withdrawn or transferred elsewhere (a frequent ocurrence in the former Communist era) but one tram was recovered and returned to operate as a museum service.

Below : The new low floor era in evidence with the city's main post office as an impressive backdrop. The Germans certainly know how to service their mail.

A very smart KT4D type - the mainstay of the fleet in my days working with the city government - note the high standard of street track (metre gauge)

Below : Mandatory pose beside a tram. This time Frankfurt Oder 215 on Line 6 to the main railway station from an outer terminus. Frankfurt's railway station at the time was still in its former Reichsbahn condition and accessed by an awkward street layout for the trams. It has of course been very much rebuilt and reconfigured since 2000 when these images were taken. The photo was taken at an unofficial stop.

The Oder river has a habit of overpowering its banks and Frankfurt's tram depot has been submerged on a number of occasions. Latterly the city relocated the original tram depot to more solid environs to avoid further deluges. Today the old depot structure remains with a small section used by the local enthusiast group for their preservation work. In line with retained systems in the former east Germany, Frankfurt Oder has modernised its fleet in the past two decades - introducing low floor models and at the same time extending its tram routes. Talk of reintroducing a cross river tram service to the Polish town of Sublice has been an on again off again topic and I suspect will no doubt become a reality in the course of time. I recall being taken on a walking tour of the centre of what is now Sublice and having tram overhead pull offs still affixed to building exteriors - as evidence of the pre-war period.

The transport system's principal information office at the corner of Karl Marx Strase. I suspect the name has since been changed. This is a very smart newbuild structure happily selling a quality souvenir book on the transport system (but not by Rigby Road Publishing). All Images : John Woodman 2000

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