Railway junction

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Rolleberg junction of the new Mannheim – Stuttgart line (center). Left Karlsruhe – Bruchsal, right Stuttgart – Heidelberg

Railway nodes are crossings and links in the rail transport system that are required for the infrastructure as route nodes and crossings or for operational processes for train provision or linking with other modes of transport . Similar names for this are railway junction , railway junction , junction station , abutment station or rail cross .

For passenger traffic, train stations are usually created at these nodes, which are differentiated according to the type of route they are connected to and their location in the route network. The connection to other modes of transport results in interface functions that are fulfilled, for example, by port stations or airport stations. Railway nodes can gain additional importance for operational processes if they serve as train formation systems for passenger and freight traffic (provision and marshalling yard).

Importance of the railway nodes

In an extensive and dense rail network , a large number of structural and functional railway nodes have arisen, from simple junctions to crossings of one or more routes to large node areas with a large number of nodes and operational links. The central function of railway nodes is to link the train flows on the various routes while maintaining quality standards with the highest possible capacity. In passenger transport, the accessibility and punctuality of connecting trains as well as the capacity at peak times are the focus of interest. In freight transport, the focus is on the continuity of the nodes with the lowest possible waiting time. Mixed passenger and freight traffic therefore pose particular challenges for railway hubs.

Structure of the railway node

Most of the railway junctions have grown over time and their spatial and structural design has been shaped by different urban and topographical constraints. There are numerous variants for routing trains in nodes and the time dependencies, so that rail nodes have very individual structures that make it difficult to assign them to certain groups.

Railway junction Altenbeken / North Rhine-Westphalia

The type of route link is a distinguishing feature:

  • Crossings in the form of a passage connect routes via parallel tracks that are connected to one another via switches and enable train crossings between the routes.
  • Crossings with separate sections are led through the crossing point on different levels - often at right angles. A connection between each other can be created for passenger traffic through a tower station that connects the different levels via walkways. The railway lines can be connected in a wide area by connecting lines, similar to motorway junctions, albeit with a significantly larger curve radius.
  • Connection nodes and stations are located on a continuous railway line and provide the starting or ending point for further routes,
  • Separation nodes and stations are located at a fork in the route, which can be crossed with or without a stop and have correspondingly powerful track connections that can be driven through at higher speeds,
  • Contact nodes and stations represent the contact sections of two continuous railway lines with the possibility of train crossings.
View of Hamburg Central Station from the south (Altmannbrücke)

History of the railroad nodes

Earlestown station in Newton-le-Willows ( Merseyside , Great Britain) is the world's first railway junction . Here on July 25, 1831, the lines of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the Warrington and Newton Railway were connected in the station with the then name Newton Junction .

Crewe established itself as a further important railway junction from 1837 and later, like Newton-le-Willows, became a railway town . Further railway nodes were created in the British capital London and in other large cities.



Railway lines in the Hamburg transport association HVV 2013


The Fürth Crossing 1845, an early railway junction between the first German railway and the Ludwig-Süd-Nord-Bahn

Germany's first railway junction was built in Köthen (Anhalt) on September 10, 1841, when the Berlin-Anhalt Railway met the main line of the Magdeburg-Leipzig Railway Company , which was completed the previous year . The Köthen station became Germany's first transfer point, the importance of which grew when the line of the newly built Anhalt-Köthen-Bernburg railway from Bernburg (Saale) was connected to Köthen in 1846 . The latter was later merged with the Magdeburg-Halberstädter Eisenbahngesellschaft , which required the construction of a fourth station. Even before the end of the century, routes in the direction of Aken (Elbe) and Radegast were added, so that Köthen could now be reached from six directions.

In the past, railway junctions were treated as secondary in operational and expansion planning. With the basic plan " Netz 21 ", Deutsche Bahn AG intends to unbundle fast and slow traffic - the separation of passenger and freight traffic. This inevitably increases the importance of the railway nodes as collection and distribution points. In the expansion planning of the rail network, the performance of the nodes is now assigned a decisive role (see node expansion measures ).

Todays situation

passenger traffic

The most important German railway hubs for passenger traffic today, measured by the number of passengers, are: Hamburg Hbf , Frankfurt (Main) Hbf , Munich Hbf , Köln Hbf , Berlin Hbf , followed by Stuttgart Hbf , Hannover Hbf , Düsseldorf Hbf , Nürnberg Hbf and Essen Hbf .

Other heavily frequented train stations are Bremen Hbf , Duisburg Hbf , Leipzig Hbf , Dortmund Hbf and Mannheim Hbf .

Signal box of a signal box: Trier Hbf
Freight transport

The most important German rail hubs for freight traffic are the locations of the most important marshalling yards: Maschen Rbf (near Hamburg ), Seelze Rbf (near Hanover ), Hagen-Vorhalle , Gremberg (in Cologne ), Mannheim Rbf and Nürnberg Rbf . The Dresden railway junction brings together freight traffic from different directions in Germany and transfers it to the Czech Republic via the Elbe Valley Railway .

Small railway nodes

One of the many typical small railway junctions is, for example, in the Lower Saxon district town of Rotenburg (Wümme) . Here, three further routes branch off from the main Hamburg-Bremen route in the direction of Verden and on to Hanover, in the direction of Bremervörde via Zeven and, until 1958, in the direction of Brockel - Visselhövede . Many of these small railway junctions have lost their former nodal function as a result of the abolition of general cargo traffic and line closures.

Junction stations that are not on a main line are referred to as branch line nodes. Due to the strong "retreat from the area" due to line closures of the German Federal Railroad since the post-war years, most of them have lost their transport significance or even the rail transport as a whole. Examples include green city in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Gummersbach-Dieringhausen with depot in Gummersbach or stop (Halver) in Wipperfurth in North Rhine-Westphalia .


According to the traffic tasks, the following station types are distinguished in the nodes:

  • Passenger stations (Pbf),
  • Freight stations for general cargo traffic (Gbf),
  • Transshipment stations for combined transport (Ubf),
  • Marshalling yards (Rbf),
  • combined forms,

as well as works stations and the closed, historical general cargo stations.

The railway junctions are subdivided according to their size into the simple crossings of two lines, the "big junctions" with crossings or links between several lines and functional areas and the "big junction areas", in which a large number of junctions and operational links are located. A distinction is made in the Deutsche Bahn AG network:

  • Major hub areas : Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Dortmund, Halle / Leipzig, Dresden, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim / Ludwigshafen, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich,
  • Major nodes : Stralsund, Rostock, Lübeck, Bremen, Osnabrück, Minden, Hildesheim, Braunschweig, Magdeburg, Cottbus, Münster, Hamm, Göttingen, Kassel, Düsseldorf, Hagen, Aachen, Erfurt, Zwickau, Giessen, Fulda, Koblenz, Wiesbaden, Mainz , Trier, Würzburg, Saarbrücken, Heilbronn, Karlsruhe, Regensburg, Ingolstadt, Offenburg, Freiburg, Basel, Ulm, Augsburg.


Map of the Vienna railway junction

The most important railway junction is in the Austrian capital Vienna . Since December 2015, the newly built Vienna Central Station has played the role of the central railway junction in passenger transport.

Other important railway nodes in the Austrian railway network are located in the provincial capitals Graz , Linz , Salzburg , Innsbruck and Klagenfurt ; only the stations in Bregenz and Eisenstadt are not railway hubs.

Furthermore include Attnang-Puchheim , Bischofshofen , Bruck an der Mur , Selzthal , Villach , Wels and Wiener Neustadt to the main hub of the ÖBB. Other railway nodes that are important for railway operations are in St. Michael , Absdorf-Hippersdorf , Feldkirch , Ebenfurth , Krems an der Donau , Spielfeld-Straß , Ried im Innkreis , St. Valentin , Tulln , Gleisdorf , Stainach-Irdning and Fehring .


The most important railway hubs for passenger traffic in Switzerland are the main train stations in Basel SBB , Bern and Zurich HB , followed by the train stations Arth-Goldau , Biel , Buchs SG , Lausanne , Lucerne , Olten , Rotkreuz , Brugg and Winterthur HB . The Genève-Cornavin station in the city of Geneva is not a railway junction in the strict sense of the word, but serves as a border station to France in addition to local traffic .

In freight transport, the main hub stations are the marshalling yards: shunting yard Basel-Muttenz , Limmattal west of Zurich and marshalling yard Lausanne Triage located in Denges west of Lausanne.

Node expansion measures

The capacity of railway nodes sometimes limits the performance of a railway network more than the capacity of the lines. This applies all the more, the denser the network and the higher the traffic load on the nodes. Node expansions can therefore achieve greater capacity increases in existing networks with comparatively little investment than new routes or expansions. The capacity of a railway junction can be increased primarily through construction measures such as the installation of points that are suitable for higher speeds or avoidance of point crossings through the construction of overpasses and signaling measures, e.g. B. self- setting , train steering , enabling parallel entrances, simplified route part resolution.

Track plan Frankfurt (Main) Airport, connection of the high-speed line Cologne – Rhine / Main

In complex nodes, such construction measures can be very extensive and thus costly, especially if there are capacity restrictions through tunnels ( Mainz railway tunnel ), bridges ( Hohenzollern Bridge , Cologne) or inner-city routes (Berlin).

In the expansion planning of the rail network, the performance of the nodes is now assigned a decisive role, as can be seen, for example, in the two current basic studies on the rail network expansion (e.g. the German review of the requirements plan for the federal railways of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development and the rail network 2025/2030 : Development concept for efficient rail freight transport in Germany by the Federal Environment Agency).

See also


  • Joachim Fiedler: Railways. Planning, construction and operation of railways, S, U, light rail and trams. 5th, revised and expanded edition. Werner Verlag, Neuwied 2005, ISBN 3-8041-1612-4
  • Ewald Grassmann: Handbook of Railway Construction . Carl Röhrig Verlag, Darmstadt 1961
  • Dietmar Lübke (coordination): Handbook Das System Bahn DVV Media Group GmbH Eurailpress, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-7771-0374-7
  • Werner Mikus: The effects of a railway junction on the geographical structure of a settlement: using the special example of Lehrte and a comparison with Bebra and Olten / Switzerland . Freiburg Geographical Hefts , volume 3. (Zugl .: Diss. Univ. Freiburg 1966): Freiburg 1966.
  • Wilhelm Müller: Railway systems and driving dynamics , Springer Verlag, Berlin (West) / Göttingen / Heidelberg. Volume 1: 1950, Volume 2: 1953.
  • Erich Preuss (ed.): The large archive of the German train stations. Munich: GeraNova magazine publisher. Loose-leaf edition, appears continuously. ISSN  0949-2127

Web links

Commons : Railway Knot  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Railway junction  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Dietmar Lübke (coordination): Handbook Das System Bahn DVV Media Group GmbH Eurailpress, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-7771-0374-7 .
  2. Werner Weigand: Investigation of network nodes - basis for expansion planning . In: Der Eisenbahningenieur , June 2010 issue, pp. 354–358.
  3. BT-Drs. 18/580 (PDF; 69400 kB) Transport investment report for the 2012 reporting year, information provided by the Federal Government, pages = 107–118, 160–166
  4. Wolfgang Fengler, Jochen Böttcher: Structured analysis of railway nodes ETR Eisenbahntechnische Rundschau, September 2007, pp. 526–532.
  5. BVU / ITP on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS): Review of the requirement plan for federal railways Archive link ( Memento of the original from May 25, 2012 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. (PDF; 36.6 MB), Freiburg / Munich, Nov. 2010 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bmvbs.de
  6. Umweltbundesamt (Ed.): Schienennetz 2025/2030: Development concept for efficient rail freight transport in Germany Archive link ( Memento of the original from October 15, 2014 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. (PDF; 37.0 MB) Dessau / Berlin 2010 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.umweltbundesamt.de