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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Trolleypole Haven (In Germany)

Whilst British tram systems were typified by the common use of trolleypoles for current collection elsewhere in many European countries, Germany in particular, pantographs were more or less standard features on most tramway fleets. There were of course exceptions. Hamburg in particular stands out with this large operation retaining trolleypoles on its trams right to the end of the system (the first German city to give up trams in 1978 - West Berlin excepted).

Two far smaller and distinctive towns also continued with trolleypoles to the end of their operations (Koblenz and Paderborn). I was fortunate to be stationed near Paderborn in the early 1960s as part of the Army's BAOR establishment. This allowed a brief encounter with the diminutive two axle cars that made up all of the area's transport operator (PESAG). At one time PESAG operated the longest interurban tram service in Germany with a main line between Detmold and Paderborn - towns well known to National Servicemen of the postwar era for their large British army garrisons.

Above - passing loop on line to Schloss Neuhaus with 1920s built cars caught alongside the main road to Paderborn. Right : Paderborn terminus with trolleypole having been turned for the next trip to Schloss Neuhaus. The Cathedral steeple in the distance.

PESAG never ventured into modern tram operation preferring to continue with its two axle cars from the days of the Kaiser supplemented by not dissimilar types built in the 1920s. This traditional small town system had a 'frozen in time' appeal for enthusiasts, although mostly ignored in favour of the numerous progressive operations which dominated (west) German urban systems with Duwag postwar trams.

By the time of my arrival in Germany the PESAG tram service was reduced to a single line from Paderborn's rebuilt postwar Hauptbahnhof (the original having succumbed to a battle for the town in 1945). However mainline steam powered trains still thundered through the town centre adding to the mix of transport interest. A single track stub terminus outside the station building was shared with new Mercedes buses neatly attired in cream with green colours - not dissimilar to Blackpool Corporation. The single tram depot was sited to the east of the town centre through which the remaining service cars trundled to take up service. At most four trams were needed for the last tram route to Schloss Neuhaus - a cut back of the far longer tram route to Sennelager a major military training centre for both infantry and tanks, and home to successive uniformed 'squaddies' from the time of the Kaiser to the latest Bundeswehr servicemen - as well as BAOR units stationed locally. Below : Bundeswehr national servicemen stand to attention after completing training :

By contrast the Author tries his hand at tank driving in Sennelager. The postwar tank is a 'Conquerer' then being withdrawn from frontline service (nothing to do with the Author).

Without turning circles - the tram service called for turning of trolleypoles at each terminus in time honoured fashion. In fact PESAG studiously avoided turning circles on its once extensive network. The remaining tram depot was on Tegelweg adjoining a railway station and goods yard with connecting tracks for DB delivery of materials. Two diminutive steeple cab locomotives provided the necessary shunting power, with one remaining in service. Withdrawn trams were being broken up after outside storage on a side track adjoining the depot building. Inside several tracks had been concreted over to allow the incoming bus fleet to gain cover alongside the dwindling number of trams.

Below : PESAG 101 shades of Copse Road. Withdrawn trailers waiting for removal on the depot side track.

This fragment of the Paderborn network ended in September 1963 with a brass band at the Schloss Neuhaus terminus and obligatory speeches. No trams were preserved but the depot was given over to alternative use in later years. So ended trolleypole operation in the State of NorthRhine-Westphalia - leaving Koblenz and Hamburg to continue a great tradition, joined by West Berlin then in the process of replacing its tram services with buses. Its counterpart in the east preferring to retain (and expand) its own system. My visits to the enclave of West Berlin fortuitously allowed both use of the special British Army train which ran (under guard) from near Hannover to Berlin Zoo station after negotiating passage from the Soviet Zone of Germany on its daily round trip service. This requires a seperate blog at some stage.

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