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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Trams I Have Known - Paderborn

John Woodman

It is1963 and I had just joined the (British) Army. My regiment was stationed just north of the cathedral town of Paderborn in NorthRhine-Westphalia. We were part of a front line (20th) armoured brigade responsible for facing off against a possible Soviet attack on West Germany in the height of the Cold War when tensions between the Soviet Union and NATO powers required continuing vigilance and preparedness. However my transfer from Blackpool to Paderborn via Catterick Camp training courtesy of 3RTR in 1963 also brought me conveniently into a brief encounter with the local transport operation, then in the final stages of winding down its once extensive interurban tram network between Paderborn and Detmold. The latter located on the edge of the Teutoburgerwald which saw Roman legions cut down by swathes of tribes thus ending the Roman Empire's incursions east of the Rhine river. In Britain a not dissimilar experience resulted in a large garrisoned wall being built from the Solway to Wallsend on the coastline facing the North Sea.

Whilst colleagues back in Blackpool were preparing for the final weeks of the Fleetwood to North Station tram service '1' I had the good fortune of riding on the remnant of the PESAG tram service between another main railway station (Paderborn Hbf) and an outlying small town at Schloss Neuhaus. The handful of trams retained on this 4 mile service were all typical wooden bodied two axle cars of the 1920s if not before - which had conveyed soldiers over the same route (albeit extended) since the Great War. Of course the uniforms varied considerable over the years with British khaki prevailing by the time I arrived. The surviving tram depot was located in the eastern part of Paderborn requiring trams to negotiate a circuitous journey through Paderborn's historic centre (somewhat bashed about a bit in the final months of WW2) to gain the terminus outside the city's main railway station.

Paderborn trams shared the distinction of using trolleypoles with only a handful of west German systems namely Hamburg and Koblenz. This involved the conductor manually turning the trolleypole at both terminii - not dissimilar from scenes I had photographed in Blackpool in the early Sixties. The operator was already well advanced in replacing its meandering interurban rural lines with smart new Mercedes buses - also in a pale cream and dark green livery very similar to Blackpool's colours. The tram depot was being shared by both buses and dwindling tram fleet. Like Blackpool PESAG also had a steeple cab electric locomotive; two in fact, to handle local goods traffic and deal with track repair work. They resided outside the depot on Tegelweg much like Blackpool's example in Copse Road Depot yard.

Below : An almost new Bielefeld Duwag articulated car winding its way around a terminus loop en route to the cemetery

Below : Stored two axle trailers and motor cars at a new tram depot on the outskirts of Bielefeld. The modernised frontage of the lead car was an exception and contrasts with sister car to its left.

Both photos : John Woodman

The end came in September 1963 by which time I had the chance to ride several times along the foreshortened rump of a longer line extending to Sennelager - then (as now) a major military training ground favoured by both infantry and tank units over successive decades since the Kaiser's era. Three further tram systems lay within an hour of Paderborn. Herforder Kleinbahn in the east around Detmold, Bielefeld's town network to the north; then going through a metamorphisis from traditional two axle and trailer sets to brand new Duwag 'grossraumwagen'; and Kassel in the south (in the US zone of Germany) with locally built articulated cars by Crede interrunning with pre-war two axle trams (and trailers). The latter being steel sided and framed becoming the last such trams of this type to operate in west Germany.

Above : PESAG electric loco (one of two) outside the tram depot - in a dull green livery. Below : A 1920s typical Paderborn tram approaching its depot on Tegelweg pulling two trailers on a depot shunting exercise. A Mercedes bus stands alongside the track fan which has some tracks disconnected already as part of the ongoing tram conversion work. Both Images : John Woodman


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