schweb1901title - Flying train 1902

In those days it was Elberfeld and Barmen where Eugen Lagen, an engineer from Cologne, built his famous monorail system that still operates to this day. Kaiser Wilhelm II participated in a trial demonstration run on 24th October 1900. The monorail opened for public services on 1st March 1901 between Zoo Stadion and Kluse, and on October 24th of the same year it opened to Vohwinkel. That is the extent of the system as seen in this unusual film from 1902. There are other films of the Schwebebahn in those very early days, however this is a new one technically. Its an old movie from 1902 which has been upscaled and coloured to give it more feeling and context in relation to the time period it was located. The various towns in the valley were merged in the 1930s to become Wuppertal.

Its a great work! The upscaled size of the film really brings the visual delights home. People are walking everywhere and there isn’t a single car (automobile) to be seen. Everyone is dressed in Victorian attire. At one point a horse and its van can be seen (this is just before what is now the modern Wuppertal Elberfield station – at the time it was known as Doppersberg.)

The film begins at Bruch and extends almost to Kluse, basically taking in the highlights of the entire line as it was at the time. The rest of the monorail system, the lenghty section from Kluse to Berliner Platz (now Oberbarmen) was still under construction and would not be open for another year or so.

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The Schwebebahn at the junction of Kasierstrasse and Grotenbecker Strasse. Note the lovely houses both here and on the hillside. Children can be seen playing on swings whilst a mother walks her two children in the street, whilst other adults go about their everyday tasks or are simply walking from place to place. Note the gas lamps! A modern view can be seen via Google Streets

Elements of what seems to be child slavery can too be seen. The scene at the bottom of the Sonnborn (where the line turns to begin its traverse along the Wupper River) one can spot two adults walking merrily along, and one of them is looking back to make sure two small boys are hard at work rolling along some sort of wooden contraption. No wonder child labour was convenient! Thankfully its outlawed to a great extent these days.

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The scene at the junction of the present Sonnborner Strasse and Sonnborner Ufer has two children wheeling a large wooden structure while the adults walk light handed.

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Some may wonder what this thing is! Its the former turning circle that was used to turn trains back at Zoo Stadion until the line westward to Vohwinkel opened.

What this turn back did was the points would move across and the train would then go down the incline and round the loop and back up the other side in order to regain the route towards Kluse. This apparatus was still in full existence until at least the sixties. Pictures taken in 2000 show a part of it still attached to the superstructure. There was a similar structure at Kluse and both of these meant a more intensive service could be operated over the central section of the line if so desired. The reason for it dropping downward and under the main line was due to a simple reason. Less structure was needed to build compared to it having to go above the main line.

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A view of the Zoo Stadion turning facility in use. Source: Wikipedia

When the line from Zoo Stadion to Vohwinkel was being rebuilt a huge turntable was installed at this location and it did exactly that – it turned the trains round on the spot so they would be facing the other way. The installation remained in use for a good few years beyond that particular construction phase.

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The later version at Zoo Stadion which operated 1974 to 1992 (2000 according to some.) Source: Westdeutsche Zeitung

There are no intermediate turning points on the line these days, they were really only useful in some situations, there was the time that was needed to halt traffic in both directions direction and move the structures so that one train could turn. Ultimately it wasn’t something that saved an awful lot of time and the Schwebebahn being a railway that operates as a metro, all trains run the full length of the line these days. If trains need to be re-allocated paths or taken out of service this procedure can be done at either Vohwinkel or Oberbarmen anyway.

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Doppersberg/Elberfeld station – which is now the current Wuppertal Hauptbanhof. Many of the stations were originally built in an art noveau style, some more strongly than others. Just one original station remains. Note the tram and the lovely staircase leading to the top of the monorail structure. Compare with the modern view below!

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Wuppertal Hauptbanhof. Source: Twitter

One of the most endearing sights has to be the telegraph poles sited on each and every one of the steel columns that supports the line! The upscaling makes these so much more evident and it demonstrates how the Schwebebahn had to rely on classic railway infrastructure even thought it was a super advanced railway!

The film can be viewed below – or on You Tube if one wishes.

The You Tube video which was released on 8th August 2020.

Some might wonder why I’ve used psychedelic lettering for the title picture! This in fact is the same lettering used by the Schwebebahn for its 70th anniversary publication alongside a scale drawing of one of the railcars built in 1901 – and I thought it was appropriate to use it in this context too.

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