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Light Rail operations in Karlsruhe and the Saarbahn

A video presentation by Alan Snowdon, 21st March 2005

Alan explained that he shot the first material in 1998 as driver’s eye views. He had returned to the area in 2003 to take some ground shots, to make for a more comprehensive presentation.

Our visit started at Bad Herrenalb in the Black Forest on the former Albtalbahn, which is electrified at 750 volts d.c. The line had started life as a metre gauge railway with steam traction, was electrified and subsequently converted to standard gauge from 1957 and linked to the Karlsruhe city tramway system. We passed the junction where the branch from Ittersbach joins, and then on to Ettlingen Stadt, where there is a depot. As we approached the suburbs of Karlsruhe it was interesting to note traction poles disguised by a prolific growth of creeper. We passed through the impressive Albtalbahnhof before travelling on the street to the Hauptbahnhof.

After a change to one of the dual voltage sets on service S4, we returned to the Abtalbahnhof, and then took the connecting curve onto DB tracks where we passed the voltage change over point, which automatically switches the car’s systems to 15kv a.c. The first dual voltage car, or tram/train was delivered in 1991. On DB tracks the car sustained a steady 90 kilometres per hour. At Rastatt we were treated to scenes of heavy electric hauled freights using the same tracks as the tram/train. After several stops we reached Baden-Baden where work was in hand to divert through trains away from the town station.

On our return to Karlsruhe we passed several freight, regional passenger and inter-city trains as well as another tram/train. We passed the Hauptbahnhof once more and proceeded to the city centre. The on board shots showed several of the city articulated trams dating from the 1960’s, but Alan pointed out that on his second visit they had all been displaced by the new low floor cars we saw. These are of a distinctive design only seen in Karlsruhe.

At Marktplatz, the hub of the system, we saw a rail groove cleaning vehicle in operation. We continued past the main depot towards Durlach, before branching of once more onto DB tracks for a journey to Bretten and Eppingen, which at the time was the end of the line. The S4 service has since been extended to Heilbronn.

After the interval we were taken to Sarreguemines in France, filmed in June 1998. The tram/train line had been opened in October 1997, linking the town to Saarbrucken in Germany. After a short distance in France the line crosses the river Saar into Germany. A fast run over DB tracks with a few intermediate stops brought us to Klein Bittersdorf where the station had been rebuilt between the 1998 and 2003 visits. This is a short working point for tram/trains from Saarbrucken, and there is interchange with local buses. As the line approaches the city it switches to 750volts d.c before commencing street running through the centre of Saarbrucken. After passing the Hauptbahnhof with its four-track tram station, built with future expansion in mind, we continued to the temporary terminus at Ludwigstrasse. The line has since been extended to Siedlerheim and Riegelsberg Sud.

The presentation was accompanied by a recorded commentary narrated by Helen Snowdon. This was a well-filmed and edited presentation, which was much appreciated by the audience. It was a good advert for light rail operation over mainline tracks.

John Laker, 22/3/05

London Area – 21st March 2005

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