Railway ferry connection

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The largest combined rail ferry in the world: FS Skåne
“100 years of rail ferry traffic Sassnitz – Trelleborg”, German special postage stamp from 2009
Railway ferry across the Yangtze River near Nanjing , China , in the 1930s

A railway ferry connection or trajectory is a connection of railway lines by means of ferries for the transport of rail vehicles .

Rail ferry connections are used where bridges over straits , lakes or rivers are not practical for technical or financial reasons. The railway ferries used are equipped with track systems, among other things. Railway ferry connections or railway ferry lines are sometimes synonymous as the ship used on them as a railway ferry .

General technique of railway ferries

Copenhagen ferry , 1904

In a few cases and for short distances, rope or chain trajectories are used.

Initially, rail ferries, like other free trajectory ships, were designed as paddle steamers , whereby both wheels were operated independently of one another, each with its own machine. This made the difficult maneuver of mooring easier. Later the paddle steamer was also equipped with a propeller . Double-ended ferries with propellers at the stern and bow and additional side thrusters , if necessary also at the bow and stern, are common today . The ferry beds are usually self-centering. Adjustable mooring fenders are required for ships that are to call at ferry beds of different widths or are to be loaded and unloaded on two decks .

MFS Prins Richard , an almost symmetrical double-ended ferry

The ferries are navigable either from both ends or only from one side, with both types being similarly widespread. Ships with loading options at both ends are available both as symmetrically constructed double-ended ferries and in classic lines with one main direction of travel. This type of construction is particularly common on ships that navigate open sea waters. A peculiarity that there are hardly any other ferries, a second, fully equipped bridge at the rear of reversing and precise shrinkage.

Locomotives represent dead, unusable masses for railway operators and ship operations and are usually only hauled during overpasses.

Gedser F, ferry bridge converted to mooring over the stern with additional superstructure

While connections to and from Sweden used to be served exclusively by ships to be loaded via the stern, in Denmark those to be operated via the bow were common. The ferry across the Strait of Messina serving the passenger train service is also loaded and unloaded via the Bug. In particular for the additional transport of motor vehicles and in order not to change the train sequence, ferry beds have already been rebuilt several times in order to change the entry direction. In Gedser this happened in 1993, shortly before the railway ferry service was closed. To moor, trajectory ships initially had to take in ballast water or drain it in order to compensate for the difference in height to the land track. Examples of this principle are the ferry connections across the Bosporus in Istanbul and across Lake Van in Eastern Anatolia. Raisable and lowerable ferry bridges were developed early on. This made it possible to compensate for both water level and draft fluctuations of the ships, especially in tidal waters . Interlocking tenons and holes on the ship and ferry bridge ensure that the track system is connected correctly and without displacement. Ballast cells that can be flooded and drained quickly are always necessary on multi-track ferries in order to compensate for the shifts in mass during loading and unloading.

Selected rail ferry connections

Active trajectories

A EuroCity is being built in Puttgarden
Freight loading in Sassnitz, 2014

Baltic Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Black Sea


Railway ferry TatvanVan , Turkey




Former rail ferry connections

In addition to the construction of bridges or tunnels, which make the use of ferry crossings superfluous, other reasons such as traffic shifts or political circumstances can lead to the discontinuation of ferry connections.

Great Britain

Baltic Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Black Sea Region


  • United StatesUnited States St. IgnaceMackinaw City north of Mackinac Street in Michigan , USA , with the special feature of two different ship propeller sizes . In winter, when the river was covered with ice, the rear, larger propeller operated forward and the front propeller operated backward. The ice was broken by the resulting wave movement. The connection was shut down in 1984 and officially closed in 1986.United StatesUnited States


Former inland lake trajectories

Central Europe


  • NorwayNorwayMæl ( ) - Tinnoset ( ): 30 km long railway ferry route across Tinnsjå in southern Norway , operated by Norsk Hydro , which connected the approx. 16 km long Rjukan Railway with the Tinnosbanen and thus the rest of the Norwegian railway network. The ferries ran from August 9, 1909 to July 4, 1991 between Rollag (Mæl) and Tinnoset stations and carried around 1.5 million freight cars during this period. In June 1994 the railway and ferry lines and the remaining material were declared a Norwegian national industrial monument. The company was opened with the D / F Rjukanfoss , the D / F Hydro , built by Åkers in 1914 , was sunk by saboteurs of the Norwegian resistance ( “keyword: heavy water ) on February 20, 1944, the D / F Ammonia , which was commissioned in 1929 was the first steam-powered train ferry in the world, the M / F Storegut , which went into service in 1956, is the largest inland train ferry in Scandinavia with 1119 gross register tons .NorwayNorway

D / F Ammonia is today in Mæl, M / F Storegut in Tinnoset, both of which are now only used as floating parking spaces for the railway vehicles that have been preserved until now. In 2015, 4.5 million Norwegian kroner were made available for the repair of the two ships.

Former river projects

Rheinhausen – Duisburg-Hochfeld route
with freight train and new bridge, beginning of January 1874

Other railway projects across the Rhine were only in operation during the planning and construction of a railway bridge.


  • Arnulf Hader, Günther Meier: Railway ferries in the world. From the traject to the three-deck ferry . Koehler Verlag, Herford 1988, ISBN 3-7822-0393-3
  • Hans Schlieper: Railway trajectories across the Rhine and Lake Constance . Alba Verlag, Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-87094-369-1

Individual evidence

  1. Welcome Derince, Welcome Kosekoy. railturkey.org, December 11, 2013, accessed December 15, 2013 .
  2. Rail Ferry service. Alyans, accessed December 15, 2013 .
  3. Schedules of ferries in Black Sea. ukrferry.com, accessed December 7, 2013 .
  4. Turkey / Russia: Samsun-Kavkaz rail-ferry line inaugurated with the participation of transport ministers from Turkey and Russian Federation. (No longer available online.) UIC, February 27, 2013, archived from the original on December 12, 2013 ; Retrieved December 7, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.uic.org
  5. ^ CN's Aquatrain. Canadian National Railway Company. Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  6. Shipping Schedule. Alaska Railroad, accessed June 22, 2018 .
  7. ^ CGR: US-Mexican Interline Rail-Ferry Service. CG Railway. Retrieved June 24, 2018 .
  8. ^ Rail Freight by Rail Barge across New York Harbor. New York New Jersey Rail, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  9. High-speed trains travel to Russia by ship. (No longer available online.) Siemens AG, November 13, 2008, formerly in the original ; Retrieved July 9, 2009 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / w1.siemens.com  
  10. https://tass.ru/transport/4317267
  11. ^ Tekirdag Derince Ferry is On Way. railturkey.org, November 28, 2013, accessed December 15, 2013 .
  12. Chief Wawatan Train Ferry. Retrieved June 24, 2018 .
  13. Ferrocarril Chemex / Chemex Railroad. Retrieved June 24, 2018 .
  14. http://www.bls.ch/d/schifffahrt/wissen-geschichte.php
  15. History of shipping in Switzerland http://www.schiffe-schweiz.ch/ ( Memento of the original from January 26, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. : Lake Zurich Trajekt ( Memento of the original from September 24, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed June 13, 2009 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.schiffe-schweiz.ch @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.schiffe-schweiz.ch
  16. ^ [I] FS 1993, but like 100 years ago: ferry boats on Lake Iseo (m24B). In: Drehscheibe Online. Arbeitsgemeinschaft DREHSCHEIBE eV, accessed on June 15, 2015 .
  17. ferry traffic on Lake Iseo; Quotes from Drehscheibe 121 (1996) and 141 (1999). Drehscheibe (Bahnzeitschrift) , F. Glaubitz, accessed on June 25, 2018 .
  18. CHIATTE - LAGO D'ISEO - Trasporti ferroviari in navigazione (YouTube video of the railway ferry from Paratico to Lovere). Giuseppe Pasi, accessed on May 23, 2020 .
  19. Archived copy ( Memento of the original dated June 2, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / home.c2i.net
  20. Repair of Norwegian ships. Retrieved May 10, 2016 .

Web links