Welcome to the tour of Berlin's Stammstrecke. Berlin's U-Bahn (Unterpflasterbahn) is the fifth oldest underground railway network worldwide. And like in many other places around the world, some of its eldest sections are not subterranean – as the name would suggest – but elevated.
This tour is the first of two journeys telling the story of Berlin’s first “elevated U-Bahn line” known as Hochbahn Stammstrecke and built by Siemens & Halske at the end of the 19th century. It opened for public service on February 18, 1902.
The tour tells the story of the oldest section of that line, the Östliche Stammstrecke (the Eastern Stem Line) built between 1896 and 1902 as both a new public traffic service and a test of the project’s viability.
It begins at the station “Warschauer Straße” in Friedrichshain and continues down Oberbaumbrücke, an 1896 bridge connecting Friedrichshain with Berlin-Kreuzberg and spanning the River Spree. Then it continues along the beautiful steel viaduct down Skalitzer Straße, Gitschiner Straße, Hallesches Ufer and Tempelhofer Ufer towards today's U-Bahnhof “Gleisdreick” where the eastern branch of the original elevated line ended. On the way, we will be visiting historic stations as well as learning more about the fascinating origins and the past of the line as well as the area it was built in.
Because you will be walking along very busy streets (unless it is Sunday when even Kreuzberg comes to rest), expect a lot of background noise. Unfortunately there is no way of eliminating it but good headphones will definitely help alleviate the problem.
The second tour (to be launched in summer 2018) following not so much the original Stammstrecke as the line's 1920s extension, will continue the story from Gleisdreieck to Uhlandstraße where U1 ends its run. In the meantime, you might enjoy reading the tour author's book, "Notmsparker's Berlin Companion: I Didn't Know That about Berlin" available via berlinarium.bigcartel.com as well as Amazon.co.uk. The second book "Notmsparker's Berlin Companion: Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin" will be published as an e-book in March 2018.
All of the elevated railway stations, Oberbaumbrücke, Kottbusser Tor, European Patent Office, Hallesches Tor and Halesche Brücke, Landwehrkanal, Museum of Technology, Gleisdreieck
We will begin the U-Bahnhof "Warschauer Straße" in front of the station. The best place to stand is slightly to the left of the entrance next to the bridge railing - depending on the time of the day and day of the week, the station might be crowded.
Places to stop along the way:
Bürgermeister Burger Bar (former public toilets, now an extremely popular burger bar under the viaduct in Oberbaumstraße right before U-Bhf "Schlesisches Tor")
Görlitzer Park (Skalitzer Straße/Görlitzer Straße/Wiener Straße)
Bars and restaurants along Oranienstraße
Local Kreuzberg Museum (Adalbertstraße 95a)
In summer: Prinzenbad (public baths in Gitschiner Str./Prinzenstr.)
American Memorial Library (Blücherplatz)
Berlin Museum of Technology (Trebbiner Straße)
Gleisdreieckpark (behind U-Bhf "Gleisdreieck")
Gleisdreieckpark (right behind the U-Bhf "Gleisdreieck")
Potsdamer Platz (you can reach it either with U2 direction "Pankow" or by walking north along the Hochbahn line from Gleisdreieckpark).
Best time of day:
Weekends, especially mornings and early afternoons, are perfect. Otherwise any time outside the rush hours (the trains tend to be packed then) and the street traffic might be quite noisy. That's why, if possible, it is advisable to use good quality headphones
You will need a valid BVG Day-Ticket (if planning to use more trains, trams or buses that day, this would be the best deal) or a single ticket (Einzelfahrschein) valid for 2 hours along a single route. Validate it before boarding the train and keep it on you for the whole tour, please. Do not throw the ticket away!
When walking, constantly keep an eye on the traffic as well as cyclists: under no circumstances should you walk along any of the (mostly red or otherwise clearly marked) bike roads. When on the train, keep your belongings close to your body and safely packed - like all other big metropolitan centres, Berlin has a pickpocket problem on busy lines.
Last but not least, when on the platform, do keep a safe distance to its edge by not crossing the white line.
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