Wuppertal suspension railway

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Wuppertal suspension railway
Generation 15 suspension railway train
Generation 15 suspension railway train
Route of the Wuppertal suspension railway
Route length: 13.3 km
Power system : 750 V, originally 600 V  =
Maximum slope : 40 
Minimum radius : 75 m
Top speed: 60 km / h
Dual track : continuous
Main workshop, depot and turning loop
0.0 Vohwinkel suspension railway
0.8 fracture
1.6 Hammerstein
2.0 Superstructure over the Sonnborn Cross
2.3 Sonnborner Strasse
2.7 Start of the water route
2.8 former turning loop and zoo turntable
2.9 Zoo / stadium
3.0 Düsseldorf – Elberfeld railway line
3.6 Varresbecker Strasse
4.5 West end
5.1 Pestalozzistrasse
5.9 Robert-Daum-Platz
6.5 Ohligsmühle
7.0 Central station ( Döppersberg )
7.5 Kluse
7.6 former Wendeschleife Kluse
8.2 district Court
9.2 Völklinger Strasse
10.0 Loher Bridge ( Junior University )
10.5 Adlerbrücke ( opera house )
11.3 old market
12.0 Werther Bridge
12.6 Wupperfeld
13.3 Oberbarmen Bf
Depot and turning loop

The Wuppertal suspension railway is a public transport system opened on March 1, 1901 in Wuppertal . The overhead railway is considered landmarks of the city and is since May 26, 1997 under monument protection . The operating company is the Wuppertaler Stadtwerke (WSW) or its subsidiary WSW mobil . The official name is Eugen Langen monorail suspension system , Langen himself created the word "suspension railway". Before the city of Wuppertal was founded in 1929, the name “suspension railway Barmen-Elberfeld-Vohwinkel” was common.


Pictogram of the suspension railway on the stop signs

Definition, legal situation and tariff

The Wuppertal suspension railway is technically defined as a monorail (subcategory overhead monorail ) or as an overhead monorail . The term “suspension railway” is technically incorrect because, in contrast to a magnetic suspension train, there is constant contact between the route and the vehicle and, in contrast to a cable suspension railway, the route is rigid. Originally, the Wuppertal suspension railway was classified according to the Prussian Small Railway Act as a small railway similar to a branch line and thus a railway from a traffic law perspective . In 1943 the concession was changed to that of a tram . Now it is considered similar to a subway as a streetcar of special design and is in accordance with Regulation on the construction and operation of the trams (BOStrab) operated. In common with a subway, it is completely separated from individual traffic .

The Wuppertal suspension railway has been integrated into the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) since 1980 . It passes through it both the tariff area 65 Wuppertal West and the tariff area 66 Wuppertal East and thus lies sixth in the area served by the monorail When VRR is as light rail - line out 60th In contrast to the other lines of the Rhein-Ruhr Stadtbahn, the addition “U” is dispensed with. The route number was not originally written on the vehicles and was only found in timetable publications and on route network maps . It was only with the introduction of the latest generation of vehicles in 2016 that the line number was temporarily displayed, and the suspension railway pictogram is now shown instead.


Typical routing on the waterway
Two GTW-72 cars meet on the overland route , 2005

The Wuppertal suspension railway runs as a diameter line from Wuppertal-Oberbarmen via Barmen , Elberfeld and Elberfeld-West to Wuppertal-Vohwinkel ; it crosses the city from northeast to southwest. Due to the valley location and the resulting ribbon town- like topography of Wuppertal, a large part of the city's popular destinations can be accessed by the suspension railway due to the chosen route. In addition, almost no valuable ground-level traffic area was used for the suspension railway.

The track length is 13.3 kilometers, the track length 28 kilometers. Of this, 26.6 km are mainline tracks and 1.4 km are operating tracks. For the first 10.6 km, the railway follows the course of the Wupper downstream at a height of about twelve meters , here the water precisely dictated the route. At the level of the stadium at the zoo , she leaves the Wupper to the right, crosses the federal road 228 and runs the remaining 2.7 km to the final stop Vohwinkel Schwebebahn at a height of about eight meters between the houses along Sonnborner Strasse, Eugen-Langen-Strasse, the Kaiserstraße and the Vohwinkeler Straße back.

The latter section is referred to as the “land route”. An alternative colloquial name is “curtain rod route” because the strict residents there were paid for curtains by the operating company when the railway was built so that the passengers could not look into the apartments. Particularly in the evening hours, this should prevent women from being gazed at by "gentlemen of dubious reputation" in the evening toilet in the boudoir .

In contrast to the “water route”, the “land route” has a noticeable gradient , the maximum gradient being four percent. The highest point of the entire route is the terminus in Vohwinkel at 180 meters above sea ​​level . The lowest point is the transition from the land to the water route near the Sonnborn main church , where the route is 142 meters above sea level. Due to its design, the suspension railway is consistently double-track and is operated in right-hand traffic. The two direction tracks run four meters apart. In general, an arc radius of 90 meters could be built, only two curves have a radius of around 75 meters.

In Sonnborn ( Elberfeld-West district ), the suspension railway crosses the federal highway 46 at the level of the Sonnborner Kreuz . Immediately in front of the terminus in Vohwinkel, a short section of the Solingen trolleybus runs beneath the suspension railway structure, but since the extension of the 683 bus to Vohwinkel train station, the overhead line has not been used there, as the buses switch to their auxiliary drive beforehand. Another prominent point on the route is the Sonnborn railway bridge , where the Düsseldorf – Elberfeld line crosses the suspension railway.

The travel time on the entire route is 28 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day and day of the week. The operator records 24.8 million passengers annually, with an average of 82,000 people being transported on working days. On average, each passenger covers 4.7 km on the suspension railway.


Support number 342 over the waterway
Portal number 24 over the land route

Due to the uniqueness of the suspension railway system, the builders had to design the track as a new structure. Static requirements, the complicated route over the flood-prone Wupper, the behavior of the trains with the possibility of commuting, keeping a sufficient clearance below the suspension railway vehicles free, urban planning aspects, the complicated power supply and the construction and development of the stations had to be taken into account .

A system of inclined pairs of supports was chosen, between which bridges were suspended. These standard bridges, also called "Rieppelträger" after their inventor Anton von Rieppel , have spans of 21, 24, 27, 30 or 33 meters. The nodes were designed as joints so that the simple static system of a beam girder on two supports could be used. Originally there were 473 such supports, on the land route one speaks of portals, and 472 bridges. Today, after installing two superstructures, there are still 468 columns or portals and 467 bridges. The columns and portals are numbered consecutively. The pairs of supports were installed in two different versions. The so-called pendulum supports (support yoke) were connected to the foundation and girder again via joints so that they can be used to transfer the vertical loads and the transverse forces. The anchor supports (standing yoke), on the other hand, give the system the necessary stability. They can absorb the longitudinal forces that result, for example, from braking or accelerating the trains. The anchor supports were installed in the scaffolding every 200 to 300 meters.

Despite the efforts of the executing planners at MAN to standardize components, numerous components of the suspension railway framework are unique; they can only be used in one place. Many of the components have been protected by patents .

Over the years, the color of the paintwork on the suspension railway structure has been changed several times. At first it was painted in sea ​​green , also called " Cologne Bridge Green ". After the Second World War , red paint was initially applied provisionally, which then gave way to a light gray over several years. Today the complex shows itself again in its typical sea green. The brown parts mark the danger area of ​​the clearance profile (called the “driving profile” for the suspension railway), which the drive units of the vehicles require and which must not be entered during operation. The main purpose of the paint is to protect the structure from corrosion and must be constantly renewed. At the end of the 1990s, light installations began to be added to sections. In this way, the scaffolding can also be perceived as an urban connecting strip at night.

Monorail system

Turning loop at the suspension station Wuppertal-Vohwinkel
Drive set at the end of the car
Train swinging out in a curve, 2011

The Wuppertal suspension railway is a hanging monorail. A single continuous rail serves as a track for all trains, the car bodies hang underneath. The drive units of the trains, which roll on the rails, consist of wheels arranged one behind the other in pairs , which are in close proximity to the electric motor and gearbox . In contrast to normal railway wheels, the wheels of the suspension railway have two wheel flanges which are equipped with wheel sound absorbers to reduce railway noise . The monorail trains are directional vehicles with a driving cab, are located at the ends of track turning loops .

The trains of the suspension railway commute during the journey by accelerating, braking, different loads, cross winds and cornering. The maximum pendulum angle on the free stretch is estimated at 15 °, in the stations it is between 4 ° and 7 °.

Power supply

In 1897, a new power plant was built in Elberfeld in the Wupper valley, which was to supply the suspension railway with electricity , among other things . There were the switches with which you could control the individual sections of the power supply of the suspension railway. It was not until 1988 that control was transferred to the control center of the suspension railway.

A busbar is arranged on the supporting frame next to the running rail , from which the traction current is tapped by means of a busbar pantograph with a contact strip. The electrical voltage of the direct current system is now 750 volts. The return current of the circuit flows over the rail. The running rail is located on top of the supporting structure. The busbar, on the other hand, is attached to insulators under the carrier. The resilient pantographs are located on top of the car body.


The first generation of cars was driven by four series motors with 25 kilowatts each at 600 volts DC voltage, which were controlled by a roller drive switch with a crank drive. The motors reached a speed of 900 revolutions per minute. This type of car was braked by brake shoes, which could be pressed against the wheels with compressed air up to 4.5 bar. Since no compressed air could be generated in the railcars, they had to be supplied with compressed air at the end turns. The 1972 series was powered by four 50-kilowatt motors; when the new suspension railway was switched from 2015, the output was increased again to 75 kilowatts per motor. In addition, three-phase asynchronous motors were installed for the first time in this generation , with which energy can be recovered during braking.


The original operator of the suspension railway was Elektrizitäts-AG, formerly Schuckert & Co from Nuremberg. As the client, it negotiated with the three participating municipalities of Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel to be allowed to run the company for 75 years on its own account. The cities should then automatically become owners. The license required for this was granted on October 31, 1896.

In 1913, the ownership changed when Elberfeld and Barmen, after long discussions, united the suspension railway with some tram companies - a dispute that attracted attention throughout Germany as the “Wuppertal Tram War”. The new operator was the Aktiengesellschaft Continentale Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebs-Gesellschaft , which was to operate the suspension railway until the transition to the three cities planned in 1957.

But as early as 1920 the railway was sold to the suspension railway Vohwinkel-Elberfeld-Barmen-AG , from which the Continentale Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebs-Gesellschaft AG took over 51 percent and the city of Elberfeld 49 percent of the shares. The new company now also operated tram and bus routes.

The Second World War brought about further restructuring. All Wuppertal means of transport were merged retroactively to January 1, 1940 to form Wuppertaler Bahnen AG . The town of Barmen-Elberfeld, created in 1929, called Wuppertal from 1930 onwards, had previously acquired the shares in the Continentalen Eisenbahn- Bau- und Betriebs-Gesellschaft AG . On March 1, 1948, the Wuppertaler Bahnen AG became the transport department of the Wuppertaler Stadtwerke AG , which was founded on the same day .

In 2013, the city of Wuppertal acquired the entire infrastructure of the suspension railway for 130 million euros, only the vehicles themselves remained in the possession of WSW mobil. Since then, the latter have had to pay rent to the city for use. The background to this transaction is a cost saving of two and a half million euros annually. The reasons for this are cheaper loans and municipal depreciation rates. The fact that the suspension railway generates an annual deficit of around 20 million euros also plays an important role in this context.


Platform scene at the Pestalozzistraße stop, the boarding zones are marked in blue, 2008

The suspension railway serves a total of 20 stops, four of which are on the land line. The stations, sometimes referred to as “train stations”, have an average distance of 700 meters from one another. The Völklinger Straße and Landgericht stations have the greatest distance between them, between which a kilometer has to be covered, the shortest distance between the stops is between the Hauptbahnhof and Ohligsmühle stations , they are 420 meters apart. Most of the stations changed their names over the years, some even several times.

All stops were built into the yoke between a pair of pendulum supports and a pair of anchor supports. Numerous stations are statically suspended in the scaffolding system; other stations, such as Hauptbahnhof or Alter Markt , are statically independent of this. The stations are about twelve meters wide, so that about three meters wide outer platforms are on both sides of the route. All trains consist of one-way vehicles with one-sided doors. The central platforms planned at the beginning were never built in order to have the possibility of a static separation between the route and the stop as well as to create the bridges.

The length of the stop is around 25 meters. The stations are accessed by stairs; only recently have many stations been retrofitted with elevator systems. Because of the strong traffic flows, the main station and zoo / stadium stations each have two staircases per platform. The initially installed platform screen doors, which were only opened after the wagons had come to a standstill, were removed again in 1921, as they greatly increased passenger switching times. A wire netting between the two platforms initially served as fall protection, otherwise the view down to the Wupper was not blocked. The wire nets were later replaced by gratings.

All today's stations either have a previous building or come from the time the railway was built. These original stations were built according to a building system that was modified depending on the urban planning requirements, the number of passengers and the need for representation. A very special style was chosen, which got its appearance from the dark highlighting of all structural parts and the light treatment of all flat components. The aim was not to create a uniform structure, but to use a complementary design language that better accentuated the technical function of each component. Due to some decorative elements, such as can still be found today at the Werther Bridge station , this type of construction is often associated with Art Nouveau .

To date, most of the stations have been replaced by new buildings. This happened for the first time in 1926 at the Döppersberg station (main train station) to take account of the increased number of passengers. The Rathausbrücke station (Alter Markt) had to give way to a new building in 1967. The Bembergstrasse and Alexanderbrücke stations were damaged during the Second World War and were demolished until 1954 in order to accelerate the suspension railway. They were only replaced by new buildings in 1982 and 1999 under the new names Ohligsmühle (Alexanderbrücke) and Kluse (Bembergstraße). Most of the stations have only been replaced in the course of modernization since 1996. The typical properties of the original stops have been lost. As an example, only three stations were newly built in an identical form: Werther Bridge, Völklinger Strasse and Regional Court. Following the dismantling of the Werther Bridge station in autumn 2012, the Hauptbahnhof station is the only one that was built before the Second World War. Since the beginning of 2004, the suspension railway stations have been video-monitored with several surveillance cameras.

The stops of the suspension railway from west to east are described below:

former name
district No. description picture
Vohwinkel suspension railway
Vohwinkel 01 The station is located at the western end of the line and is equipped with a turning loop and switches. The switches permit the arrival and departure of the operating facilities (depot and workshops) to the west of the station. In 2007 the station building from the original period had to give way to a new building. From the station you can reach the Wuppertal-Vohwinkel train station , the city center and the trolleybus to Solingen. Vohwinkel suspension railway
Vohwinkel 02 The stop was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It forms a group with the Hammerstein and Sonnborn stations. Like their predecessors, they were planned according to a uniform construction principle. The stops were built above the street between the rows of houses on the foundations of the old stations. The function determines the shape and material of the stop: steel for the supporting structure, glass for the outer skin and wood for the platform surface. The new stairwells, also built on the old site, were widened as much as possible and received elevators . Due to the difficult and very different property situations, each staircase had to be individually adapted to the local conditions. The architects responsible for this were also Bernward von Chamier and Francisco Molina. fracture
Elberfeld-West / Vohwinkel 03 The stop was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It forms a group with the Bruch and Sonnborn stations. The primary supporting structure consists of the two portals arranged above the street as well as the lattice girder running longitudinally between them. This is 33 meters long at this point and takes the roof loads as well as the platforms suspended from sheet steel and the facade. The architects responsible here were also Bernward von Chamier and Francisco Molina. Hammerstein
Sonnborner Strasse
Elberfeld-West 04 The stop was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It forms a group with the Bruch and Hammerstein stations and opens up the Sonnborn district. Despite the cramped urban situation, it is generously designed. Material and color design are based on the old stations. The steel of the main supporting structure was coated in the Cologne bridge green typical of the suspension railway structure. The facade profiles are slightly offset in a white-green according to the original axis dimension of the old facades of 60 centimeters. The architects responsible were again Bernward von Chamier and Francisco Molina. Sonnborner Strasse
Zoo / Stadium
Zoologischer Garten
Elberfeld-West 05 The station was rebuilt after the previous one was demolished. The steel and glass construction was provided with extra-wide platforms due to the expected crowd at sporting events. Zoo / stadium
Varresbecker Strasse
Elberfeld-West 06 The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. Above all, it opens up the Bayer plant from the west and the districts of Varresbeck and Kiesberg . Varresbecker Strasse
West End
Elberfeld-West 07 The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. Above all, it opens up the Bayer plant from the east and the Westende district . West end
Elberfeld-West 08 The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It opens up the western part of Elberfeld. Pestalozzistrasse
Breite Strasse
Elberfeld-West 09 The station was also rebuilt after the previous one was demolished. The 1999 accident occurred nearby . The Luisenviertel and the residential area Arrenberg are in the immediate vicinity . Robert-Daum-Platz
Ohligsmühle / City Hall
Elberfeld 10 After the Alexanderbrücke station burned out during the attack on Elberfeld in June 1943, it was dismantled like the Kluse station by 1954. Instead, the station should be served by tram. With the cessation of tram operations in 1987, it was decided in advance to rebuild both stations in the 1970s. On September 4, 1982, the station, designed by the Rathke architects' office in 1974, was opened under the new name "Ohligsmühle". During the expansion, the station was refurbished and the supporting structure could be replaced, as the station itself is not supported by the scaffolding of the suspension railway. During the renovation, the originally turquoise glazing was replaced by a neutral one. The multi-cranked meter-thick pipes that support the station were repainted from red to silver-gray. The escalators have been removed and replaced with two elevators . It is the only station on the line with prism-shaped stairways and platforms and opens up the western inner city of Elberfeld. Ohligsmühle
Main station
Wuppertal Hbf (Döppersberg)
Elberfeld 11 This station is the busiest stop; the stop, which opened on March 20, 1926, replaced a previous building by the architect Bruno Möhring. The first building designed by Möhring, which was popularly known as the “Elberfeld Bathtub” because of its shape, was no longer able to cope with the number of passengers, so in 1925 construction began on the Köbo House , which is both a commercial building and a bus stop. Since the station is not directly supported by the main supporting structure of the suspension railway, it was possible to replace the scaffolding with a roof hatch in 2000. As a result, the station could be renovated and did not have to be dismantled. Once fully expanded, the station will be the only one on the line that opened before World War II; it opens up the inner city of Elberfeld as well as the Wuppertal main station, formerly Wuppertal-Elberfeld. On the initiative of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR), both stations were renamed "Hauptbahnhof" to indicate the mutual transfer options between the suspension railway and the railway. The most important bus station in Wuppertal is located parallel to the route between the Brausenwerther Bridge and the station . Central Station
Kluse / Schauspielhaus
Elberfeld 12th After the station burned out during the attack on Elberfeld in June 1943, it was not put back into operation after the Second World War. With the cessation of tram operations in 1987, a new construction of the station was planned, which was opened on March 26, 1999. Kluse
District Court
Elberfeld 13th The station came from the original time, was dismantled in October 2010 and rebuilt in identical form by June 2011 (reopening on June 20, 2011). It opens up the courts, the vocational college at Haspel and the campus at Haspel of the Bergische Universität Wuppertal . district Court
Völklinger Strasse
Barmen 14th The station came from the original time and was dismantled from autumn 2011 to mid-2012 and rebuilt with the same shape. It opens up a part of sub-mercy. The employment agency and the Wuppertal police headquarters can also be reached via this station. Völklinger Strasse
Loher Bridge (Junior Uni)
Loher Bridge
Barmen 15th The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It opens up a part of Unterbarmens with the Unterbarmer main church and the districts of Loh and Kothen . Since the opening of the new Junior University Wuppertal building right next to the station, it has been given the suffix “Junior Uni”. Loher Bridge
Adlerbrücke / Opera House
Barmen 16 The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It mainly opens up the city quarters of Loh , Rott and Kothen . Eagle Bridge
Old Market
Town Hall Bridge
Barmen 17th The Alter Markt station is the most important station in Barmen. After initially provisional reconstruction after the Second World War, the current building dates from 1967. The station opens up Barmen's pedestrian zone and the town hall. old market
Werther Bridge
Barmen 18th The station dates back to the original period and opens up downtown Barmer from the east. It was described as the most beautiful of the remaining old stations and was the only one with clear Art Nouveau elements. In 1984 the station, which had been badly damaged by the ravages of time, was extensively restored. In collaboration with the Wuppertal artist Anneliese Reckewitz-Epple, the station got its original color back. The station was dismantled in the autumn holidays of 2012 and then rebuilt in the same shape by summer 2013, but supplemented with lifts suitable for the disabled. The official opening of the station took place on August 19, 2013. The new construction of the Werther Bridge station
Bridge (444–445)
Mercy 19th The station was rebuilt as part of the modernization after the previous one was demolished. It opens up the western part of Oberbarmen with the Old Church of Wupperfeld , the Immanuelskirche and the Heidt district . Wupperfeld
Oberbarmen Bf
Oberbarmen Bf / Berliner Platz
Mercy 20th The eastern terminus opens up Oberbarmen. It was dismantled together with the carriage hall to the east and rebuilt by 2012. In the front part of the wagon hall there is now a direct turning system similar to the turn at the Vohwinkel station, so that the entire hall no longer has to be traversed to turn. The Oberbarmen train station and an important bus station are located near the station. Oberbarmen Bf

Depots, turning systems and main workshops

A train when turning in Vohwinkel
Turning loop at the Zoo station in 1900 with a test vehicle from the 1900 series

The railcars are located in the depots at the two end stations. While the Oberbarmen depot only offers storage facilities, all repairs can be carried out in the Vohwinkel depot by the main workshop. The facilities are built on three floors (above: light repairs; in the middle: storage areas; below: general overhauls and the possibility of placing the wagons on the rails).

Since the turning system at the zoo was dismantled, there are only four turning loops . In the east, this is the loop in the Oberbarmen depot, the trains turning here had to pass through the entire depot area by 2012 in order to be able to return to the actual stop. Today, like the Vohwinkel terminus, it has a turning system in the station area. The loop in Vohwinkel is also independent of the two other loops in the depot there, which are run through, among other things, to park the car after the end of operations or when the clock frequency changes .

There used to be an opportunity to turn around at the end of the waterway, i.e. shortly after the Zoo / Stadion stop. Originally it was a turning loop until it was dismantled in 1945 as a spare parts dispenser. In 1974 a new turning system was installed in the form of a turntable . The layout consisted of a rotating track segment on which a multiple unit and track could be rotated in the opposite direction. In addition, a siding had been laid, which could also be reached by swiveling the turntable. This facility was used as planned until the early 1990s, but had the disadvantage that the route was impassable in both directions while turning. In addition, there was a constant leakage of hydraulic oil, which was necessary to drive the turntable. Since the leaked oil ended up in the Wupper, this condition was no longer acceptable in the 1990s, which is why the turning plant was shut down. From then on, the system served as a normal part of the rolling tower until it was dismantled.

There was also a loop east of the Kluse station , which was no longer used after the Kluse - Oberbarmen section was opened in 1903 and was dismantled in 1954 at the latest.


The Kaiserwagen, a GTW 72 and part of a newly delivered GTW 15 in Vohwinkel

The vehicles have two braking systems : a compressed air brake and a handbrake with brake pads . The control technology is located in the car body . With regard to their width and length - relatively small for independently routed railways - all cars are based on the streetcar trains common at the end of the 19th century, consisting of a two-axle railcar and a two-axle sidecar . At least in terms of width, there is an analogy to the small-profile network of the Berlin subway . The following is an overview of the wagons that have been procured so far - all of them had similar drive units:

1898 series

The two test cars from the 1898 series were the first to drive on the scaffolding. They were delivered via the railway connection of the Elberfeld gasworks and on 13./14. Tracked on September 1898, as there was only a 400 meter long test section between the west end and the Sonnborn Viaduct; Depots did not yet exist. The two railcars had the road numbers I and II. On December 5, 1898, the first test run was carried out at 16 km / h. By March 4, 1899, the test route was extended to a length of 660 meters, so that the speed of the test drives could be increased to 40 km / h. The cars were painted green and had a gold-colored trim. They had two doors on each side, because train dispatching was also planned on central platforms at times. They were not used in the regular service, but exclusively for test drives and chassis test executions. In 1920 they were scrapped.

Series 1900/1912

Car number 3 at the Breite Strasse station (today Robert-Daum-Platz )

These vehicles consisted of main and side cars. When the company opened on March 1, 1901, there were a total of 26 vehicles, including 21 main cars and five auxiliary cars. Initially, both one and two-car journeys were planned, until the decision was made in 1912 to only use two-car trains even in times of low traffic. So five main cars were converted to side cars (1912 series). Due to the loss of two side cars in 1917 (total loss after a rear-end collision and crash near Wupperfeld; scrapped) and in 1942 (total loss due to fire after bombing the Oberbarmen wagon hall; scrapped), twelve trains could be formed. The weight was 13 tons each. There was no suspension, one wheel per bogie was driven. The car bodies each had two doors and held 65 people each. So each train could transport 130 people. An extension of the trains was not possible because the stations were too short.

The trains of the 1900/1912 series were retired and sold between 1973 and 1975, only two of the 1900 series remained. They are used as imperial wagons for special trips and can be rented for other purposes. The team got its name because Kaiser Wilhelm II drove from Döppersberg to Vohwinkel in this type of car on October 24, 1900. Two more cars from the 1900 series (B 00, in service from 1901 to 1972) were given away. One went to the twin town of Saint-Étienne , the other came to the capital on the initiative of the Friends of the German Museum of Technology Berlin . Today it is there in the Monumentenstrasse depot.

1903 series

Six-car train being tested in 1903

The acquisition of these so-called “Barmer wagons” was decided in 1902 because they were necessary for the extension of the route between Kluse and Rittershausen. All 24 cars had main car equipment and new types of chassis. The doors lay between the two classes of car ; this asymmetrical door arrangement made three-car trains possible, even if they extended well beyond the end of the platforms. Although it was now possible to transport up to 225 people in a single train set during rush hour , damage to the scaffolding increased so that after the conversion of the wagons of this series between 1929 and 1934, three-car trains were no longer possible. The doors have been moved. Nevertheless, from 1936 the city administration successfully advocated the renewed use of three-car trains at the suspension railway company. From 1939 onwards, “threes” were used again in early morning traffic and at lunchtime, but the rear door of the third car had to be locked because it was outside the bus stop area. In order to reduce the noise, the power transmission was carried out from 1933 on, initially with two cars with a V-belt. Although this noise insulation worked very effectively, it was also very prone to failure. In 1954, cracks were found on the chassis of eight cars. 16 vehicles remained in service until 1966 before they were retired and scrapped.

1930 series

Due to the global economic crisis , the two vehicles from the 1930 series could not be delivered until late autumn 1931. There were a total of two vehicles, which always together formed a two-car train. The initially planned third door was dispensed with, however, instead the vehicles had contactor control , spur gear drive and (for the first time with the Wuppertal suspension railway) roller bearings . The roof had hinged skylights that greatly improved ventilation. The development of this series was not pursued, so that the only two vehicles of this series were sold on August 15, 1973. While car 57 was scrapped in the 1980s, car 58 still exists today as a gazebo.

Conversion car 1941

As early as 1941, the Wuppertal suspension railway was experimenting with quieter cars. The drives were completely welded and the carriages were driven by an axle. After there had been two preliminary tests with vehicles 52 and 54 of the 1912 series, the new chassis were finally installed in a main and an auxiliary car in 1942; it was vehicle 14 of the 1900 series and vehicle 53 of the 1912 series. The two vehicles were sold on June 20 and 25, 1974, respectively, car 53 was scrapped in 1992, the whereabouts of car 14 is unknown.

1950 series

After the positive experience with the conversion cars in 1941, the purchase of 60 new vehicles was commissioned as early as 1943. However, delivery was delayed due to the Second World War until 1950. In addition, only 20 vehicles could be purchased, so it was not (yet) possible to decommission the previous vehicles. The new vehicles had three automatic sliding doors and were sprung. In this series there were no main and side cars, only single cars. Ten trains could therefore be formed from the 20 individual wagons. The train wagons were given odd numbers, the second wagons even numbers. Because the empty weight of the wagon was reduced by up to 2½ tonnes, one vehicle could now carry 80 people. In addition, the driver was given a seat for the first time. In contrast to their predecessors, the wagons had a rounded front. However, for economic reasons, no high-quality materials were used to build these vehicles, so they were completely retired in the 1970s. Since the driver was excluded from the second car, a train attendant was still necessary.

Rebuild car 1962 (U62)

Articulated railcars have been running on the Wuppertal tram since 1956 , and since the suspension railway's fleet of cars , some of which was more than 50 years old, was becoming very outdated and consequently prone to failure, it was planned to purchase articulated trains for the suspension railway as well. In 1962, cars 65 and 66 of the 1950 series were converted in the Wuppertal-Vohwinkel suspension railway workshop into the first articulated railcar for the Wuppertal suspension railway. Due to the small radius of curvature of the end turns in Vohwinkel and Oberbarmen, the vehicles had to be equipped with two joints and a middle section. The rear of the front section and the forehead of the rear section of the new vehicle were removed and replaced by two joints including the middle section. In December 1962 an articulated railcar drove for the first time on the Wuppertal suspension railway; to emphasize the effect, it was painted blue. It was therefore popularly known as the blue gentian . It was given the car number 101.

Conversion car 1965 (U65)

Just three years later, the second articulated wagon, the U65, was hanging on the scaffolding of the suspension railway; This time, however, again in the classic red livery. U65 had a new drive switch, a fine control with 20 speed steps and was also equipped with new chassis. It was also equipped with a liquid brake with foot pedal operation. It was made up of the earlier single cars 77 and 78 from 1950 and was given the car number 102. Both U62 and U65 each had six doors, row seating and classless layout. Both vehicles were sold to the Motor Technica Museum Bad Oeynhausen on September 23, 1974 ; their whereabouts today are unknown.

Rebuild car 1970

The last modification before the arrival of the modern articulated railcars was carried out in 1970. The chassis of the articulated train U65 that were no longer needed were attached to car bodies of the 1900 and 1912 series. Further experiments could be omitted due to the order for the new articulated multiple units. It is therefore called "The Last Experiment".

Type 1972 / GTW 72

The type GTW 72 was in use from 1972 to 2018

The originally 28 three-part GTW 72 railcars from 1972 to 1975 have now been completely retired. The first car 4 was scrapped after an accident in 1999, car 19 and 21 were shut down prematurely in June and July 2012 because their poor general condition no longer justified a general inspection.

The remaining cars were replaced by the GTW 15 generation, 21 of which were sold and three were given free of charge to interested parties, with the condition that they should remain in the area of ​​the city of Wuppertal. A competition was announced for this purpose. The Wuppertaler Stadtwerke originally wanted to keep a car, but the last vehicle was taken down on July 11, 2019.

Generation 15 / GTW 15

Generation 15 in the Vohwinkler factory

In May 2010, WSW Mobil placed an order for the creation of a design concept for a new vehicle series with the Berlin designer office büro + staubach. At the same time as the design was published in September 2010, the specifications were published, on the basis of which vehicle manufacturers could apply to carry out the order, which cost 122 million euros. On November 10, 2011, a contract was signed with Vossloh Kiepe for 31 new vehicles. The first car body was completed in December 2013, and the first train was presented on November 14, 2015 near the Vohwinkel depot.

From a technical point of view, Generation 15 is a new development; a particular advance is the use of three-phase asynchronous motors with the option of energy recovery during braking. The electronic equipment of the suspension railway vehicles has been fundamentally changed, and the ETCS train control system is being installed. The exterior design of the new suspension railway cars is based on the GTW 72, but the interior design has been revised. The operating voltage was increased from 600 to 750 volts, the maximum speed of the vehicles is 65 km / h, with the Wuppertal suspension railway being approved for 60 km / h.

Generation 15 trains are painted light blue and, unlike before, should no longer have advertising over the entire car body . The layout of the passenger compartment has remained similar to that of the GTW 72; On the left side of the vehicle there are two seats next to each other in the direction of travel, on the right side there are the doors and a passage. For the color scheme, three different variants were developed, each of which is used on a third of the vehicles. The side walls are always white and the handrails are gray, but the non-slip floor and seat cushions have been given a green, red or yellow color, depending on the variant.

The cars 01-05 of the type GTW 15 went into passenger service on December 18, 2016. Car 01 has received a WSW self-promotion, only the middle part and the floor were pasted. Car 03 also received a “Barmenia” advertisement in the same way.

On May 19, 2017, there was an incident involving car 10. At 5:11 p.m., the vehicle brushed against the scaffolding at two points between the Pestalozzistraße and Westende stations at a distance of 21 meters. Car 10 was slightly damaged and the scaffolding was scratched. Nobody was injured in this incident. The car was then taken out of service and dismantled to find the cause of the incident. Furthermore, the delivery of further cars has been temporarily stopped. Two cars that had already been delivered were initially not put into operation. As a result of the accident, the GTW 15 may only be used at a maximum speed of 40 km / h.

On July 3, 2020, it was announced that after the summer holidays, suspension railway operations would only take place on weekends. The reason for this is damage to the wheels that have damaged the scaffolding. This measure should apply until summer 2021. The wheel tires themselves have a much shorter service life than expected. According to the WSW, the wheel tires only last 20,000 km instead of the 80,000 km expected. A lawsuit against the manufacturer is being planned. From Wednesday, August 12, 2020, the suspension railway will only run on weekends, the suspension railway express will replace the suspension railway operation with articulated buses from Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.


Operation begins shortly before 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and shortly before 7 a.m. on Sundays and public holidays. In the evening, operations generally end around 11:30 p.m. Different cycles are run, ranging from three to four minutes in rush hour to 15 minutes in off- peak hours . A maximum of 22 trains are in use at the same time, with a 15-minute cycle, however, only six round trips are required. After the introduction of ETCS, the travel time is to be reduced to 25 minutes over the entire route and a two-minute cycle introduced. In terms of system technology, even shorter train sequences would be possible. However, plans to shorten the cycle to 90 seconds were rejected because this would require driverless, computer-controlled vehicles .

As a special feature, the respective course number is displayed on a digital display on the front left below the windshield. Special trains and driving school trips are accordingly marked with a "0". A night traffic is not offered on weekends only in the New Year's Eve, there is a continuous operation.

The separation between first and second car classes that existed until 1962 and second and third car classes until the class reform in 1956 was abolished, as were the smoking compartments and ticket sales by conductors or at the counter . Today tickets can only be bought at the machines or in the customer centers of the Wuppertaler Stadtwerke. Ticket validators are only available on the platforms of the suspension railway; validation in the car is not possible.


Coupling rod at the front of a GTW 72
Coupling at the rear of a GTW 72

Until 1999, when one-off deaths occurred on April 12th, the Wuppertal suspension railway was considered the safest means of transport in the world.

In the event that a suspension railway car has a technical defect, there is a possibility that it will be pushed off by the following train. One then speaks of a push pull. The following train slowly approaches the defective train, the cars then couple automatically and can only be separated again in the depot.

There is the possibility of bringing passengers to safety via a specially developed salvage bridge. A train traveling in the opposite direction stops exactly at the level of the train to be evacuated. The drivers remove the pane in the middle section of the trains and the passengers can safely switch to the train opposite. This salvage bridge has only been used once, in 1989.

Train dispatch

Camera at the
Robert-Daum-Platz stop

When new articulated multiple units were purchased in the 1970s, a train attendant was still in every vehicle to handle it at the stations. But shortly afterwards he was given up. On the platforms there is a camera in each direction that transmits the train to a monitor in the driver's cab. This enables the driver to see for himself whether passengers are still getting on or off. This system is also known as one-man train dispatch. Contrary to the practice on other German rapid transit systems, the imminent closing of the doors is not indicated by an acoustic signal.

Train protection

All articulated railcars have a safety driving circuit . The driver has to keep a pedal pressed to indicate to the driving switch that he is ready for service. If the safety gear is not activated, the driver is assumed to be incapacitated and the vehicle brakes automatically. This means that there is no need for a co-worker who would intervene as a second person in the driver's compartment if the driver were unable to work. Only the imperial carriage has to be manned by a companion.

In order to prevent rear-end collisions, the trains are secured by a signal system . When it was built in 1898, it was already known that driving at sight is not always safe due to the cramped conditions. The so-called route block was therefore used , as can be found on railways. The route was divided into so-called block sections, at the beginning of which there were signals that automatically took the stopping position as soon as a train had passed them. A train was only allowed to enter a block section if the train in front had left it. The train protection system used until 2015 was installed in the early 1960s and worked with relays . In this way, minimum moves of three minutes were possible.

Between the end of 2016 and August 2018, the old articulated multiple units (GTW 72) were replaced by new generation 15 suspension railway trains.

Functional principle of ETCS Level 2, on which the train control system of the Wuppertal suspension railway is based. TETRA is used instead of GSM-R

In order to shorten train headways and to avoid having to fall back on the old, error-prone technology with the new generation of vehicles, WSW mobil launched a tender to modernize the train control system. Various applicants submitted proposals based on the punctual train control system (PZB) or the European Train Control System (ETCS). Alstom Transport Germany was ultimately chosen to equip vehicles and routes . Alstom applied with a system at ETCS Level 2+ . With this system, the line-side signaling equipment is reduced, instead of track vacancy detection systems , the position is determined by the vehicles: The trains record their position via 256 Eurobalises attached to the line in combination with odometry (wheel pulse generator, acceleration sensors and Doppler radar ). (An earlier source also mentions GPS location .) The position reports transmitted to the ETCS line control center by radio are also used for ongoing optimization and for customer information. In addition, a train completeness check is not carried out, since trains are only divided or connected in the event of a breakdown (recovery of broken-down vehicles).

As a radio system not at ETCS will gauge railways standard GSM-R , but Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA), since this system was already in place and was used for WSW internal voice communication. The existing system was expanded in the course of the ETCS project and, like the vehicle radios, set up redundantly. Axle counters are only used in switch areas.

The route is divided into 39 train sequence sections in each direction of travel, with around 100 meters long protective sections . In the meantime, it was planned to install train protection based on the moving blocks principle: Instead of fixed block sections , each suspension railway should be given a driving license up to the last secured position of the vehicle in front, minus a defined safety distance . In the end, however, it was decided to keep the previous block sections.

In addition to the generation 15 wagons, the Kaiserwagen also has ETCS equipment, which means that it can continue to be used for special trips.

As part of the installation of the ETCS system, the operations center for the Wuppertal suspension railway, which was previously located at the suspension railway station at Wuppertal main train station, was relocated with the existing control center for bus traffic in Wartburgstrasse near the Loher Brücke stop . The control center and suspension railway line are connected with a fiber optic cable. The ITCS scheduling system is used, which was developed by INIT Innovation in Traffic Systems from Karlsruhe and is already being used for the WSW mobile bus traffic. Via ITCS, employees in the control center can view the positions of the individual suspension railway cars and set routes . The relocation of the control center enables the joint coordination of suspension railway and bus traffic and is intended to improve access to connections. Two million euros will be invested in relocating and modernizing the operations center by 2017.

The start of construction was announced in March 2015. Laboratory tests began at the end of 2015, and the construction of the route components in mid-2016. Function tests and training for the driving staff began in spring 2017. The operating license for the entire system was issued on August 26, 2019, the changeover took place during a break in operation on the weekend of August 31/1. September 2019, operations resumed from September 2, 2019 with the new operating system and exclusively articulated railcars of generation 15. The cost was around 20 million euros. After commissioning, there were a total of eight hours of downtime due to a lack of radio contact.


Suspension railway accident on August 5, 2008, shortly before the Hammerstein stop
Support pillars at the Bruch stop
Information sign for the prevention of accidents
The accident site on April 12, 1999
Memorial plaque for 5 victims of the suspension railway accident in  1999
Suspension railway accident on October 17, 2013 between the Kluse and regional court stops
  • On January 23, 1903, a suspension railway in Sonnborn caught a carter who had climbed onto his heavily loaded wagon to secure his load. He was thrown to the ground and injured.
  • On April 11, 1908, a service trip at the Rathausbrücke stop led to a passenger trip. Five people were slightly injured. The two vehicles were damaged and the approaching train was lifted off the track with the front bogie, but without crashing.
  • On May 1, 1917, there was a rear-end collision at the Wupperfeld station. A train had stopped. The  dispatcher gave the following train permission to leave in return for a signal showing "stop" . After a narrow curve that obscured the view, this train ran into the broken-down train. The last car of the rammed double unit was lifted off the track and slowly lowered into the Wupper. One of the four inmates was injured.
  • On July 21, 1950, the Althoff circus had its teenage elephant Tuffi take the suspension railway between the Rathausbrücke and Adlerbrücke stops for advertising purposes. The animal, which had become nervous due to the unusual noises and vibrations, broke through a side wall of the train after just a few meters and landed barely injured in the Wupper. On the other hand, there were some injured among the reporters on board, caused by the panic that had broken out. The incident became so popular that there were later dozens of drivers who claimed to have driven the car at that moment. Today, on the Wuppertal side, a painted picture of a small elephant adorns a house wall at the scene of the accident. The Wuppertaler Milchverarbeitung - now owned by Dutch and German as Tuffi-Campina - registered the name of the elephant as a trademark. The postcards and photos of the accident available in Wuppertal are all post-processed images / photomontages of the time, as all reporters were in the car during the accident and no one was standing on the banks of the Wupper to photograph this incident.
  • On December 30, 1955 at around 1 p.m., a lever arm of an excavator brushed a passing suspension railway just below the Bruch station. As a precaution, passengers had to leave the train at Hammerstein station. Damage could not be seen at first glance.
  • On September 11, 1968, a skidding truck trailer tore a support pillar from its anchorage on Sonnborner Strasse, causing two bridges to collapse onto the street. The suspension railway traffic was idle for ten weeks. Thereafter, the ball-joint pillars on the streets were provided with concrete protection for protection.
  • On December 8, 1970, a suspension railway carriage derailed on a slow-moving section. It was put on the rails again with the help of a crane, and operations could be resumed the next day.
  • On March 3, 1984, a thirteen-year-old student was pushed by classmates in front of an incoming suspension railway train and hit by it. However, he was able to pull himself out from under the car on his own and then collapsed on the platform. He was hospitalized.
  • On January 24, 1989, railcar 22 collided over federal highway 7 with a tipper that was about to dump its cargo. The passengers were rescued with a rescue ladder, all were uninjured, but a woman had to be taken to hospital with a shock. The suspension railway was able to resume operation after just a few hours, and the road was quickly opened again.
  • On July 28, 1992, railcar 24 jumped off the track at the zoo / stadium turning facility. Since the processed steel expands in summer, the turning system had to be readjusted. After the adjustment, it was forgotten to remove the bolt, which serves as a stopper during a turning maneuver. The train had to be re-tracked with heavy equipment before it was pushed back into the Zoo / Stadion station by another train, where it was thoroughly examined before it was brought to the main Vohwinkel workshop.
  • On March 25, 1997, railcar 7 ran into the fully occupied Kaiserwagen, which was in the Oberbarmen Bf station, due to a technical defect. 14 passengers in the Kaiserwagens were injured, and both vehicles were seriously damaged. At times it was unclear whether the Kaiserwagen would drive again at all.
  • On November 14, 1998, railcar 23 ran into railcar 13 at the Alter Markt station. There were a total of 120 passengers in both vehicles, the driver and 13 passengers of the approaching train were injured. The reason for this was that the signal system was out of order at this point due to renovation work, so that it was driven on sight. The driver of the approaching car drove too fast and could no longer stop in time in front of a car in the station.
  • On April 12, 1999, the only accident in the history of the suspension railway that resulted in deaths occurred: When railcar 4 crashed into the Wupper, five passengers died and 47 were injured. During the renewal of the shoring, a component temporarily installed on the rail for auxiliary assembly purposes (“claw”) was accidentally not dismantled after the nightly work was finished. The first train of the following day hit this obstacle, with the force of the impact tearing the front bogie from the wagon roof and causing the wagon to fall into the Wupper. A careful test drive to prevent the accident in front of the first passenger train had not taken place and was not required by law. Only since this accident have test drives been carried out after such work, even if they are still not required by law. In the process that followed, it became clear that this serious accident occurred solely as a result of negligent work and controls when the construction work was completed that night.
  • On August 5, 2008 at 5:11 p.m., the floor of the front part of railcar 24 was slit open by the loading crane of a truck . The cause of the accident was unauthorized work in the travel profile of the suspension railway. The train could be evacuated without serious injuries to the passengers, the driver of the truck suffered several broken bones.
  • On February 7, 2012 at around 10:30 a.m., a railcar coming from the Völklinger Strasse station hit a railcar stopped at the Loher Brücke station. A woman in the stopped railcar injured herself from bruised ribs, and there was slight damage to property - a pull rod was bent. On the route, the signaling was switched off during construction work (new construction of the Völklinger Strasse station), which is why the drivers were instructed to drive on sight.
  • On Oct. 17, 2013 to 18:25 the highway had to be closed 7 because between stops district court and Kluse an approximately 260-meter-long power rail to the road, two parked cars, a moving car, and to a large extent in the Wupper fallen was. Railcar 22 was damaged in the process and was no longer ready to drive, which is why 76 passengers were stuck and could only be rescued by the fire brigade with the help of turntable ladders at around 7.45 p.m. At times there were up to 70 emergency services on site. Six people suffered a shock, and people had to be taken from suspension railway cars on other sections of the route. According to the investigation, a pantograph was incorrectly adjusted and therefore slipped under the conductor rail, tearing off some of the conductor rail's plastic brackets. As a result, it came off the scaffolding. In order to prevent further accidents of this kind, the WSW had all 52 pantographs of the 26 railcars removed and inserted a predetermined breaking point . Suspension railway operations were only allowed to resume on November 30, 2013 after approval by the district government's technical supervisory authority.
  • On May 19, 2017, a GTW 15 collided with the supporting structure while maintaining the speed limit of 60 km / h for the section concerned, in such a way that a brake cylinder weighing around ten kilograms tore off one of the drive bogies and fell onto the roof of the car. Because of this event, the responsible technical supervisory authority ordered a reduction of the maximum speed to 40 km / h as well as an investigation of the cause of the accident by the operator by order of May 22, 2017 (from the "decision according to § 62 (1) and (2) BOStrab : Commissioning authorization for the vehicle type Schwebebahn GTW 2014 ").
  • At the start of operations on February 8, 2018, the roller door above the rail of the Oberbarmen wagon hall was not open despite the signal system showing "green". As a result, GTW 72 number 26 drove against it and deformed the door. This had to be cut up completely, as it could not be moved either manually or electrically. Railcar 26 was driven to the Vohwinkel workshop for further inspection, and regular service resumed after more than three hours at around 8:30 a.m.
  • On November 18, 2018, an accident similar to that in October 2013 occurred. At around 12:30 p.m., a suspension railway driver reported a sagging conductor rail, whereupon suspension railway traffic was stopped at 12:38 p.m. Shortly after the on-call service arrived, a 350-meter-long piece of busbar fell from the scaffolding and severely damaged a car. However, there were no injuries. Operations were inactive until August 1, 2019.
  • On February 7, 2021, there was an unintentional emergency braking over the waterway because the busbar had frozen over from hours of freezing rain. After an hour, the six inmates could be freed by the fire brigade.

Replacement traffic

The SchwebebahnExpress in action

In the event of construction work or major operational disruptions, the so-called SchwebebahnExpress operates instead of the suspension railway , which today is a rail replacement service with buses with the line numbers 59 (internal designation) or E60, which show the pictogram of the suspension railway. Sometimes one speaks of suspension railway replacement traffic . The replacement buses run at rush hour every three to five minutes, outside of these times at most every 15 minutes. At 41 minutes, the travel time over the entire route is significantly longer than with rail operations, although bus stops that do not also function as suspension railway stations are not served. Only articulated buses are used, and WSW mobil often has to rent vehicles from other transport companies for the suspension railway express. Until 1987, the replacement bus service was to a large extent handled by tram , last under the line number 60. Because this but did not cover the total distance traveled between Elberfeld and Vohwinkel even before 1987 buses, ie for continuous trips consisted Umsteigezwang .


Plaque commemorating Eugen Langen in the Hauptbahnhof station

The reasons for the construction of the Wuppertal suspension railway lie in the combination of various local factors:

  • At the end of the 19th century, the cities in the Wuppertal area had grown together to form an agglomeration of almost 400,000 inhabitants. The result was an industrial region made up of several cities and villages, the industrialization of which, in contrast to the cities of the Ruhr area, had already started rapidly in the first half of the 19th century. Even before the middle of the century, the valley floor of the Wupper was completely built up, the traffic routes were built for carriages and pedestrians. The streets of the Wupper cities even offered little space for horse-drawn trams and trams. B. in Elberfeld (directional tram tour in downtown Elberfeld). Faster connections in the form of railways could only be built on the hillside. Therefore, with increasing traffic and higher speed demands, the question of a suitable means of transport arose, which above all had to solve the issue of space.
  • Neither Barmen nor Elberfeld were ever residential cities : therefore, there was never a superordinate urban planning (e.g. for reasons of representation). Instead, at the beginning of the 19th century, the open spaces in the valley axis began to be overbuilt more and more, and urban planning was not possible on its own. This development led, especially along the valley axis, to an unusually high volume of traffic for the time, which caused the two towns of Barmen and Elberfeld to relocate (mass) traffic at an early point in time - by German standards - in the 1880s. Traffic was investigated on a third level: The establishment of commissions to investigate an "elevated railway" in 1887, when there was no such facility anywhere in the world, is an indication of the magnitude of the traffic problems that existed at that time.
  • The topography of the Wuppertal resulted in a more than 15-kilometer-long ribbon town with height differences of up to 200 meters. Since all the important centers, companies and densely built-up residential areas were in the immediate vicinity of the Wupper, a complex to build and cost-intensive transport system along the river could be operated economically. Complicated intersections did not need to be planned, the trunk route realized later was sufficient.
  • Due to the geological conditions, it was not possible to build a subway . On the one hand, the subsoil is very rocky and contains a lot of groundwater ; on the other hand, due to the dense and now built overbuilding, the securing of the necessary terrain was only conceivable in or under the river Wupper as the only undeveloped area of ​​the sometimes only 500 meter wide valley. While other cities planned or built subways around this time, this variant was ruled out in the Wupper valley.


There was a forerunner for the Wuppertal suspension railway: In 1824, the Englishman Henry Robinson Palmer presented a railway system that differed considerably from the previously known designs. It was basically a small suspension railway where hanging transport containers were pulled by horses. The industrialist and politician Friedrich Harkort was enthusiastic about this railway. In 1826 he had his factory set up such a railway on a trial basis in Elberfeld on the site of today's tax office on Kasinostraße. Together with Bergrat Heintzmann, he tried to interest the public.

On September 9, 1826 ten citizens under the chairmanship of the district administrator Count von Seyssel d'Aix discussed such a Palmer railway from the Ruhr to the Wupper in the Elberfeld town hall . Harkort, Bergrat Heintzmann and the Markscheider Bohnert then inspected the planned route. It should lead from Elberfeld via Uellendahl-Horath-Herzkamp to Hinsbeck or from Elberfeld via Horath to Langenberg and further through the Deilbachtal . However, the plans were not implemented as various mine owners appealed. They felt disadvantaged because they were not included. The Oberbergamt thereupon ordered the provisional suspension of the planning.


Eugen Langen's principle vehicle in Cologne-Deutz in 1895
Eugen Langen's test vehicle in Cologne-Deutz in 1897

In 1887 commissions were formed "to examine the project of an elevated railway" (February 8: Elberfeld, March 15: Barmen, a little later the two were united). In order to solve the traffic problems in the narrow, densely built-up valley, it was initially thought of an elevated railway system similar to the Hamburg or Berlin projects realized much later , which should stand on pillars founded in the river. Critics feared that the massive construction in the river bed would impair the use of the land in terms of urban planning. In addition, the winding Wupper, which was not yet regulated at the time and the course of which the route should have followed, would have meant that very tight curve radii would have been to be expected, which traditional trams would only have been able to drive through at low speed.

Nonetheless, in 1889 the municipalities of Elberfeld and Barmen (resolutions of December 31, 1889) signed a contract with Siemens & Halske for an elevated railway between Rittershausen and Sonnborn railway bridge , following the course of the river, built at Siemens & Halske's expense and operated by the company . However, there was now a pause, because in fact such an elevated railway had never been built in the world (the first was the Chicago Elevated in 1892).

The suspension railway that was finally installed was designed by engineer Eugen Langen in Cologne in the early 1890s and tested in Deutz . He had previously experimented with hanging monorail systems on his factory premises. Initially only intended as a transport system for his production, he recognized the possibilities of using the system for the transport of loads and people in impassable areas, as the construction of a rolling tower could be adapted more flexibly to a given site than an expensive track bed with a substructure.

Initially, Langen planned a system in which the carriages did not hang on a single rail, but a system in which the wheels of each train, which were arranged in pairs next to each other, were guided in a rectangular profiled rail open at the bottom, so that, strictly speaking, it was a two-rail system (Note: The modern variants of the Wuppertal suspension railway, such as the H-Bahn , are based on this system today).

As early as 1893, Langen, whose electricity company Spiecker & Co., founded together with Franz Carl Guilleaume and Friedrich Albert Spiecker , had been sold to Schuckert & Co. in 1889 , succeeded in building the cities of Barmen and Elberfeld for his system, for which he invented the name “suspension railway” , to win. Between the cities and the Elektrizitäts-AG, formerly Schuckert & Co. (E.-AG) in Nuremberg , the contract for the construction of the elevated railway according to the Eugen Langen system was finally concluded. At Langen's instigation, Schuckert & Co. had attempted a purely single-rail version. The lightness of its construction and the high cornering speeds of the hanging and above all commuting monorail cars brought Eugen Langen the contract: on September 22, 1894, the Elevated Railway Commission finally decided in favor of the suspension railway.

On December 28, 1894, the city council assemblies of Barmen and von Elberfeld approved the treaties that were signed on December 31, 1894. In the spring of 1895 they were transferred to the subsidiary Continentale Gesellschaft für electrical companies , and on October 15, 1895, the municipality of Vohwinkel signed an additional contract with the manufacturer to extend the route into their municipality. The approval by the state authorities was finally granted on October 31, 1896.


Historic imperial carriage

Eugen Langen, E.-AG and van der Zypen & Charlier founded a suspension railway consortium to carry out the work and for later operation . In order to be able to complete the route construction as quickly as possible, four companies participated in the route construction. In addition to the MAN plant in Gustavsburg , these were the mechanical workshops Harkort & Co. from Duisburg , the Union, AG for mining, iron and steel industry from Dortmund and the Gutehoffnungshütte from Oberhausen . The general definition of the 13-kilometer-long Barmen-Elberfeld-Vohwinkel suspension railway and the difficult planning of its bridging girders, stations and return loops was in the hands of Max Carstanjen , a director and chief designer of the MAN plant in Gustavsburg .

It should be noted that at the time of the conclusion of the contract (1894), like that of its contractual approval (1896), this system was largely in a kind of "test condition", apart from the few meters in Langen's Deutzer property, there was no experience with such a system , especially not to the length of a good 13 kilometers. Suitable everyday constructions for transportation (e.g. wagons, they were only tested in Deutz from 1897), such as for construction (overcoming the height differences of the Wupper itself and the ascending route in Vohwinkel, special constructions of the steel girders from 1898) and for example There were never any series of tests carried out: The first “suspension railway” in the world had become a prestige project of the companies involved, to which the execution - unthinkable by today's standards - was subordinated. The Association of German Engineers was able to extensively document that it was ultimately successful as early as 1900; its publication suggests hundreds of individual decisions "on site" for the implementation.

100 years of the Wuppertal suspension railway , special stamp of the Deutsche Post 2001

Construction began in 1898. After a construction period of around three years under the direction of the engineer Wilhelm Feldmann , it was ceremoniously put into operation until 1901. Around 19,200 tons of steel were used for the supporting frame and bus stops. The construction costs amounted to 16 million marks . An enormous effort by planners and surveyors was necessary to plan every detail, every connection point of the construction. The route over the Sonnborn section was highly controversial, as the line was to be run directly in the street space between the houses. Critics called for a southern bypass but were overruled.


Inauguration of the suspension railway by the imperial couple on October 24, 1900
Ticket from the early days, at that time still called Schwebebahn Barmen-Elberfeld-Vohwinkel
Supplementary tickets for the suspension railway, in this case abbreviated as S-Bahn

Because of the still unregulated Wupper, the rolling scaffold had to be assembled during the low tide. First, wooden piles were driven into the river bed and a platform structure with two runways was built. It is moved as the work progresses in accordance with a falsework , was assembled from which the final steel structure.

On the overland route, the rails of the rolling falsework were laid directly on the road. As construction progressed, the assembly method was refined. There were also methodological differences between the executing companies that had received various sections of the route as construction lots .

The section between the Zoologischer Garten and Westende stops was completed first, but had no connection to any of the depots. The first test carriages first had to be pushed from the bank to the middle of the river with the help of a wooden structure. Then they were lifted onto the rail using pulley blocks. Only after the test drives ran smoothly did the construction of the route continue.

The route was opened in three sections as construction progressed.

date route length
March 1, 1901 Zoological garden - Kluse 4.59 kilometers
May 24, 1901 Zoological Garden - Vohwinkel 2.97 kilometers
June 27, 1903 Kluse - Rittershausen 5.74 kilometers

This meant that the entire route could only be operated in the course of 1903. During the construction phase, Kaiser Wilhelm II took a test drive on the suspension railway when he visited the Wupper cities on October 24, 1900.

Operation until 1945

Because initially numerous citizens wanted to test the new railway, there were short-term bottlenecks in the transport capacities, but afterwards operations normalized relatively quickly. On the morning of the first day of operation, March 1, 1901, the vehicles initially drove on the cleared section between Kluse and Zoological Garden every ten minutes. Due to the high number of passengers, this frequency had to be reduced to five minutes in the afternoon. Like other companies, strikes and minor business disruptions had to be dealt with.

During the First World War , the number of passengers dropped significantly, and the male personnel called up for war missions was supplemented by female conductors. The post-war period brought inflation with it, which also meant considerable economic problems for the suspension railway. In addition, the Vohwinkel stations were located in the French-occupied area, which severely impaired operations due to the entry and exit controls.

Gradually in the 1920s the number of passengers rose again to such an extent that the busiest station Döppersberg had to be rebuilt and more efficient in 1926. In 1925, 40 percent of all passengers got on or off here.

During the air raids on Wuppertal on May 30, 1943 on Barmen and on June 25, 1943 on Elberfeld, the suspension railway was also badly hit. During the attacks, two suspension railway stations burned out, and 19 bridges and eleven supports were so badly damaged that the service had to be temporarily stopped. A shuttle service was set up to maintain traffic. It was not until December 19, 1944 that the line was open to traffic again.

On January 1, 1945, the Vohwinkel terminus suffered severe damage to two bridges and supports, its workshop and the switch systems. In March 1945 the Oberbarmen terminus and nine other bridges were badly damaged. In Wupperfeld, three bridges and their supports were completely destroyed.

Reconstruction and post-war period

Due to the effects of the war, major repairs were necessary. After the Allied invasion, all traffic ceased on April 16, 1945. The operating resources and facilities were looked after by the remaining staff during this time. The resumption of traffic at the earlier level, which was sought by the management, however, proved difficult. The protective coating of the suspension railway framework was in places over ten years old, and all operating resources were badly run down due to poor maintenance during the war years.

Only a small group of permanent staff was available, so larger new hires were necessary to rebuild the company. The stock of uniforms had been lost in the chaos of war, so that no work clothes could be made available to the new hires. The situation was made even more difficult by poor nutrition, service in overcrowded and partly unglazed vehicles or in damaged and unheated workshops and car sheds. Nonetheless, a rapid, but partly improvised reconstruction of the suspension railway began.

50-pfennig postage stamp of the Deutsche Bundespost for the 75th anniversary in 1976
date Reconstructed section
May 26, 1945 Sonnborn - break
May 31, 1945 Bruch - Tannenbergstrasse
September 15, 1945 Tannenbergstrasse - Döppersberg
October 12, 1945 Döppersberg - Eagle Bridge
December 9, 1945 Adlerbrücke - Rathausbrücke
December 14, 1945 Bruch - Vohwinkel
February 23, 1946 Rathausbrücke - Werther Bridge
April 21, 1946 Werther Bridge - Oberbarmen

In 1946 the entire route was again passable. The Alexanderbrücke and Kluse stations were not rebuilt, however. The reason for this decision was not a lack of material, but an economic one. It was decided to abandon the stops, which are very close to the Döppersberg station, and to use the tram instead, in order to shorten the travel times of the suspension railway.

The construction of the Sonnborn Cross between 1968 and 1974 required the lifting of the suspension railway structure over a length of 485 meters by up to two meters. The Wuppertal public utilities only allowed a period of 16 days for the work, which was actually complied with.

In 1974 a turning system was installed at the Zoo / Stadium station.


Replacement of the Ohligsmühle superstructure, 2002
Kluse station , reopened in 1999
Retrofitted dynamic passenger information in the Sonnborner Straße station

With the increasing motorization and the changes in traffic flows by the 1960s at the latest, the Wuppertal public utilities, which had taken over the operation of the suspension railway after the war, realized that they had to adapt their local transport services in order not to incur excessive debts for the economically ailing city to produce. It was therefore started to gradually shut down the meter-gauge tram. At the beginning of the 1980s, it was decided to discontinue normal-gauge trams until 1987. On its routes in the valley floor, parallel traffic to the suspension railway, which could no longer be financed, operated. With the shutdown of the tram, the bus routes were also redesigned. The aim was to develop the suspension railway into an efficient valley connection, to which the bus lines should take over the feeder function.

Since the city center of Elberfeld was no longer accessible by tram, the two stations that were not rebuilt after the war were also needed again. The Ohligsmühle station was reopened on September 4, 1982, and the Kluse station on March 26, 1999 - all twenty of the original stations now exist again.

From 1979 to 1984 the bearings of the historical scaffolding were renewed. As the Ministry of Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia put it, “parts of the scaffolding structure were not replaced because of age-related signs of wear, but to make them more attractive”. State funds of 28 million euros flowed for this.

In 1995 a comprehensive renovation project for the supports, rails and stations began. In this maintenance project , the suspension railway was largely renewed and a large number of the stops were rebuilt and technically modernized. Only three of the original stations (Hauptbahnhof from the 1920s, Alter Markt from the 1960s and Ohligsmühle from 1982) were not dismantled, but modernized. The intermediate turning system at the Zoo / Stadion station, which opened in 1974 and was no longer required due to the increased volume of traffic, was also dismantled. The original goal of completing this work in 2001 could not be met due to considerable problems with suppliers and with financing (the costs developed from a planned 225 million to 394 million euros). Already when planning the new shoring, coordination problems arose between the operator's traffic-related requirements and the steelworkers who were involved in power plant construction. From December 15, 2009 to April 18, 2010, the suspension railway ceased operations for four months for safety reasons. According to an expert opinion, the parts of the scaffolding, some of which were over 100 years old, were in a critical condition, as a result of which critical elements were replaced. The serious accident of April 12, 1999 was (partly) caused by the construction work. The modernization was not completed until 2014. Nevertheless, operations had to be restricted for at least one year as early as 2020 because the wheels and supports were again damaged to an initially unclear extent. Meanwhile, the suspension railway only runs on weekends, while replacement traffic has to be used on weekdays.

Discarded plans

Occasionally, an extension of the route beyond the endpoints was considered. Further routes, however, never got beyond a planning stage.

A very specific project was examined by the Wuppertal public utilities in 1969. According to these plans, a 6.5-kilometer extension from Oberbarmen to Next Breck would have been provided, where a planned new suburb was to be connected. An alternative, around 2.7 kilometers long extension to Mählersbeck would have included the construction of two tunnels on the route. After heated discussions, both plans were rejected by the city administration.

In the course of the preliminary planning for the new construction of the rolling tower, an extension to Heckinghausen was considered as a follow-up project . In view of the seemingly too low future passenger numbers, which were determined in a study from 1983, the idea was rejected in 1996.


There is also the idea of ​​a suspension railway museum. Since 2007 there has been a small exhibition of the historical suspension railway support association in a private hall in Vohwinkeler Straße with exhibits and two original vehicles of the 1900/1912 series, but both without chassis. The hall was closed in summer 2019.


Logo of the city of Wuppertal, the Wupperwurm
The Wuppertal suspension railway as a synonym for a modern means of transport. Here on a contemporary postcard from Temesvár , around the turn of the century
Emoji on Twitter
  • Bicycles can be taken on the suspension railway all day on all days of the week.
  • In 2003, the monument preservation office found an original piece of the first test track in an empty hall of the former van der Zypen & Charlier factory in Cologne's Deutz- Mülheim industrial area . However, it is not certain whether the hall with this find will be preserved.
  • Over the years, the suspension railway contributed significantly to the formation of a common identification between the residents of the formerly competing sub-towns of Wuppertal. Last but not least, the logo used by the city administration consists of a stylized suspension railway and the letter W for Wuppertal.
  • In the 2006 broadcast ZDF telecast Our best - the favorite places of the Germans reached the Wuppertal suspension railway in an unrepresentative Questionnaire place. 6
  • In addition to the Wuppertal suspension railway, there are a few other suspension railways , including the suspension railway in Dresden , also built according to the Eugen Langens system, the suspension railway in Memphis in the United States and the two H-railways on the grounds of the Technical University of Dortmund and at Düsseldorf Airport . The Wuppertal system was originally intended for other cities. For example, there were plans for overhead trams in Hamburg , Berlin , London and the German colonial areas .
  • A computer simulation called Schwebebahn-Simulator 2013 was launched. However, it fell short of general expectations.
  • The shape and color of the emoji U + 1F69F suspension railway from Twitter Inc. is based on the 1972 / GTW 72 design.
  • In the summer of 2018, WSW entered into a suspension railway partnership with Shōnan Monorail in the city of Kamakura (Japan). Here the car 01 was provided with an advertisement in the middle part. The Shōnan Monorail train 5603/5604 was designed in the same way.
  • The confectionery manufacturer Haribo sells fruit gum replicas of the suspension railway under the name Wuppertaler Schwebis .
  • The Museum of Modern Art has a collection on the subject. A film is available under the title The Flying Train (1902) showing the course of the suspension railway from Vohwinkel to Elberfeld in 1902. The video was colored by the video artist Denis Shiryaev. In a television interview in 2020, the Wuppertal city archivist Thorsten Dette explains parts of the route.


Web links

Commons : Wuppertaler Schwebebahn  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Entry in: Wuppertal Monument List
  2. Uwe Ziegler: History and future of an unusual local transport system
  3. Jakob Strobel y Serra: An angel with rivets instead of wings , article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of August 2, 2017, online at faz.net, accessed on August 6, 2019
  4. a b c d The history of the Wuppertal suspension railway. (PDF; 1.1 MiB) Archived from the original on November 20, 2012 ; accessed on November 27, 2017 .
  5. Data & facts Technical figures & data
  6. a b c d Joachim Ebmeyer, Christoph Deiss: Swiss bogie know-how for new suspension railway wagons for the Wuppertal public utilities. In: Eisenbahntechnische Rundschau , issue 9/2014, pp. 177–181.
  7. ^ History of the Wuppertal power supply ( memento from September 27, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) at WSW Energie & Wasser
  8. The Wuppertal suspension railway: data & facts. In: WSW AG. Retrieved September 13, 2019 .
  9. SCHWEBEBAHN, GTW 2014 WUPPERTAL, GERMANY (PDF). In: Kiepe Electric. Retrieved September 13, 2019 .
  10. ↑ Suspension railway sale brings the municipal utilities 2.5 million a year , Westdeutsche Zeitung newsline from September 16, 2013
  11. Schwebebahnplan on www.wuppertal.de ( Memento from August 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF)
  12. a b c 50 years ago the first suspension railway articulated train ran on epilog.de , accessed on August 21, 2017
  13. In the zoo is the terminus for the suspension railway train number 21 wz-newsline.de from July 5th, 2012.
  14. a b Wuppertal gives away and sells suspension railway cars. Rheinische Post website , August 13, 2015, accessed on September 5, 2015.
  15. Wuppertal is giving away three suspension railways: the rest can be bought at t-online.de , August 13, 2015, accessed on September 5, 2015.
  16. Bargain: Suspension railway is in demand from Ludwigshafen to Bad Oeynhausen. Website of the Solinger Tagblatt , August 25, 2015, accessed on September 5, 2015.
  17. GTW 72. The last suspension railway car says goodbye. In: Westdeutsche Zeitung of July 10, 2019.
  18. a b timeline on neue-schwebebahn.de , accessed on November 2, 2014.
  19. Design Exterior and Interior at neue-schwebebahn.de , September 1, 2010, accessed on November 2, 2014.
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  30. The wheels of the new wagons are the problem. On wdr.de
  31. ↑ The Wuppertal suspension railway is apparently to be shut down again for a year. July 2, 2020, accessed July 3, 2020 .
  32. Wuppertal suspension railway is being replaced by articulated buses
  33. a b c d e f g h Christian Kindinger, Hans Kron, Dieter Wolff: ETCS in local traffic . In: Local transport . No. 4 , April 2017, ISSN  0722-8287 , ZDB -ID 46482-X , p. 33-38 .
  34. The safest means of transport in the world? In: DIE WELT of September 25, 2006
  35. Despite the misfortune: the safest means of transport in the world . In: DIE WELT of August 23, 2000
  36. ↑ Suspension railway: exchange until 2019. Accessed on September 6, 2019 .
  37. Until 2031, money will flow from the land for the suspension railway. Retrieved September 6, 2019 .
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  39. a b Mike Bent: First Schwebebahn Generation 15 Cars Delivered. In: Railvolution 6/2015 , pp. 68/69.
  40. Peer Jacobsen: The Wuppertal suspension railway with ETCS Level 3 and TETRA . In: Railway technical review . No. 6 , 2014, p. 54–57 (According to the following Alstom information, this is not "ETCS Level 3").
  41. Alstom signs a signaling system contract worth € 17 million with WSW mobil GmbH. In: alstom.com. Alstom, June 6, 2012, accessed February 7, 2016 .
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  48. General Gazette of December 31, 1955.
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  51. Wuppertal suspension railway stands still after an accident until at least Monday . On derwesten.de from October 18, 2013.
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  55. Import stop: Accident slows suspension railway plans from June 6, 2017.
  56. Roller shutter paralyzed suspension railway WSW press release from February 8, 2018.
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  62. Michael Malicke: The Wupper Valley - pacemaker in public transport . In: WSW (Ed.): The Wuppertaler Schwebebahn - History - Technology - Culture Wuppertal 1998, without ISBN, p. 16.
  63. a b Michael Malicke: The Wupper Valley - pacemaker in local public transport . In: WSW (Ed.): The Wuppertaler Schwebebahn - History - Technology - Culture Wuppertal 1998, without ISBN, p. 17.
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  74. Eike Birkmeier: Hako Event Arena closes in July. In: Solinger Tageblatt. May 15, 2019, accessed July 7, 2020 .
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  77. [1] "Wuppertaler Schwebis" by Haribo
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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 9, 2006 .