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Modern two-directional tram cars of the type GT6NZ of the BVG
The Berlinmarker Straßenbahn (Berlin Tramway) is one of the oldest tram networks in the world and continues, to this day, to be one of the largest. It is operated by Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe marker (Berlin Transport Services) which was founded in 1929. Today the (standard gauge)-network has a route length of 191.6 km and 382 stops.


Early history

In 1865, a horse tramway was established in Berlin. In 1881, the world's first electric tram line opened. Numerous private and municipal operating companies constructed new routes. So at the end of the 19th century the network developed quite rapidly and the horse trams were changed into electric ones. By 1930, the network had a route-length of over 630 km with more than 90 lines. In 1929, all operating companies were unified into the BVG. After World War II, BVG was divided into an eastern and a western company, but was once again reunited in 1992, after the fall of the GDR. In West Berlin, by 1967 all tram lines had been shut down. With the exception of two lines constructed after the German reunion, the Berlin tram continues to be limited to the eastern portion of Berlin.

From horse bus to electric trams

Horse tram car of the Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn, built in 1885
The public transport system of Berlin is the oldest one in Germanymarker. In 1847, the first public line opened: The Concessionierte Berliner Omnibus Compagnie (Concessed Berlin Bus Company) operated the first horse-bus line of the city, beginning service on the 1st of January. The growing market experienced the launch of numerous additional companies, with 36 bus companies in Berlin by 1864.

On June 22, 1865, the opening of Berlin's first horse tramway marked the beginning of the age of trams in Germany, spanning from Brandenburger Tormarker along today's Straße des 17.marker Junimarker (17th of June-Road) to Charlottenburgmarker. Two months later, on the 28th of August, it was extended along Dorotheenstraße to Kupfergraben near today's Museumsinsel (Museum Islandmarker), a terminal stop which is still in service today. Like the horse-bus, many companies followed the new development and built horse-tram networks in all parts of the today's urban area. In 1873, a route from Rosenthaler Platz to the Gesundbrunnenmarker (Health well) was opened, to be operated by the new Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn (Great Berlin Horse Tram) which would later become the dominating company in Berlin under the name of Große Berliner Straßenbahn (GBS) (Great Berlin Tram).

Electric motor car of the GBS, built in 1901
On 16 May 1881, the region of Berlin again wrote transport history. In the village of Groß-Lichterfelde, which was incorporated into Berlin-Steglitzmarker 39 years later, Werner von Siemens opened the world's first electric tramway. Initially, the route was intended merely as a testing facility. Siemens named it an "elevated line taken down from its pillars and girders", because he wanted to build a network of electric elevated lines in Berlin. But the sceptical town council did not allow him to do this until 1902, when the first elevated line opened.

The electric tram in Groß-Lichterfelde was built in meter-gauge and ran from today's suburban station, East Lichterfelde, to the cadet school in the Zehlendorfer Straße (today Finckensteinallee). A single trip cost more than an average hourly wage. The route was refitted to standard gauge in October 1925.

The new development overran the old horse trams, causing the final horse tram to be shut down in 1910.

On 18 December 1899, it became possible to travel underground, even under the Spreemarker River, upon completion of the Spreetunnel between Stralau and Treptow. Due to structural problems, it was closed on 15 February 1932. From 1916 to 1951, the tram had a second tunnel, the Lindentunnel running under the well-known boulevard Unter den Lindenmarker.

Great Variety of Companies until the formation of the BVG

Motor car of type TD of the GBS, built in 1912; behind it a car of Eastern BVG, built in Werdau in 1950
The history of tramway companies of the Berlin Straßenbahn is very complicated. Besides the private companies, which often changed due to takeovers, mergers, and bankruptcies, the cities of Berlinmarker, Spandaumarker, Köpenickmarker, Rixdorfmarker, the villages Steglitzmarker, Mariendorfmarker, Britzmarker, Niederschönhausen, Friedrichshagen, Heiligenseemarker and Französisch Buchholz, and the Kreis Teltow (Teltow county) had municipal tramway companies.

The most important private operating company was the Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn (Great Berlin Horse Tramway), which called itself Große Berliner Straßenbahn (GBS) (Great Berlin Tramway) after starting the electrification. GBS acquired nearly all of the other companies throughout the years. In 1920, the GBS merged with the municipal companies BESTAG and SSB to become the Berliner Straßenbahn (Berlin Tramway), which was reorganized in 1929 into the newly-formed municipal Berliner Verkehrs-AG (BVGmarker) (Berlin Transport Company). Besides the tramway, the BVG also took over the elevated and underground rail lines and the bus routes which were previously operated primarily by the Allgemeine Berliner Omnibus-Actien-Gesellschaft (ABOAG) (General Berlin Bus Company).

The following table includes all companies that operated tramways in today's Berlin before the formation of the BVG. The background color of each line marks the drive method which the respective company used to serve their lines at the time of the formation (blue = horse tram, yellow = steam tram, white = electric tram, red = benzole tram).

First line opened Operating company Gauge (mm) Takeover date Taken over by Special remarks
1865/06/22 Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (BPfEG) 1435 1894/09/26 BChS first horse tram in Germany
1871/11/01 Westendmarker-Terrain-Gesellschaft H. Quistorp & Co. 1435 1878 BPfEG
1873/07/08 Große Berliner Pferde-Eisenbahn (GBPfE) 1435 1898/01/25 GBS
1877/01/01 Neue Berliner Pferdebahn-Gesellschaft (NBPfG) 1435 1900/01/01 GBS
1879/04/01 Große Internationale Pferde-Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (GIPfEG) 1435 1886 GBPfE founded already in March 1872
1881/05/16 Electrische Straßenbahn der Gemeinde Groß-Lichterfelde 1000 1895/03/04 ESGLSS world's first electric tramway
1882/10/18 Cöpenicker Pferde-Eisenbahn (CPE) 1435 1903 SSC
1885/06/13 Pferde-Eisenbahn der Gemeinde Rixdorf 1435 1887/01/01 GBPfE
1886/05/05 Davy, Donath & Co. 1435 1888/12/22 BDK
1887/08/06 Pferde-Eisenbahn der Gemeinde Mariendorf 1435 1888/01/01 GBPfE
1888/05/18 Wilmersdorfmarker-Schmargendorfer Dampfstraßenbahn Reymer & Masch (WSD) 1435 1888/12/22 BDK
1888/07/01 Dampfstraßenbahn Groß-Lichterfelde - Seehofmarker - Teltowmarker 1435 1891/05/31 DLSTS
1888/12/22 Berliner Dampfstraßenbahn-Konsortium (BDK) 1435 1898/10/01 WBV also operated some horse trams
1891/05/17 Straßenbahn Friedrichshagen 1000 1906/12/16 SSC in 1894 taken over by the village, electrificated and regauged to standard gauge as of the takeover by SSC
1891/05/31 Dampfstraßenbahn Groß-Lichterfelde - Seehof - Teltow - Stahnsdorfmarker 1435 1906/04/01 TKb
1891/06/04 Pferdebahn Tegeler Chaussee - Tegelmarker 1435 1891/06/04 GBPfE
1891/08/01 Pferde-Eisenbahn der Gemeinde Britz 1435 1891/08/01 GBPfE
1892/06/05 Spandauer Straßenbahn Simmel, Matzky & Müller (SpS) 1000 1920/12/08 Berliner Straßenbahn on 1894/09/01 management taken over by Allgemeine Deutsche Kleinbahn-Gesellschaft (ADKG), electrification finished on 1896/03/18, from 1899/03/04 management by AEG, regauged to standard gauge on 1907/10/26, bought by the city of Spandau on 1909/07/01
1892/07/01 Pferde-Eisenbahn der Gemeinde Niederschönhausen 1435 1892/07/01 GBS
1894/09/26 Berlin-Charlottenburger Straßenbahn (BChS) 1435 1919/05/15 GBS electrification finished on 1900/10/01
1895/03/04 Elektrische Straßenbahnen Groß-Lichterfelde - Lankwitz - Steglitz - Südende (ESGLSS) 1000 1906/04/01 TKb
1895/09/10 Siemens & Halske 1435 1899/07/01 BESTAG
1898/01/25 Große Berliner Straßenbahn (GBS) 1435 1920/10/01 Berliner Straßenbahn electrification finished on 1902/12/15, bought by the Zweckverband Groß-Berlin on 1909/09/20
1898/10/01 Westliche Berliner Vorortbahn (WBV) 1435 1919/05/15 GBS also operated some horse trams, electrification finished on 1900/06/19
1899/07/01 Berliner Elektrische Straßenbahn-AG (BESTAG) 1435 1920/12/01 Berliner Straßenbahn
1899/07/01 Südliche Berliner Vorortbahn 1435 1919/05/15 GBS
1899/10/21 Straßenbahn Berlin-Hohenschönhausen 1435 1906/12/10 NBSNO
1899/12/18 Gesellschaft für den Bau von Untergrundbahnen (Straßenbahn Schlesischer Bahnhofmarker - Treptow) (SST) 1435 1909/06/22 Berliner Ostbahnen opened the Spreetunnel
1901/08/15 Straßenbahn Niederschöneweide - Cöpenick (SNC) 1435 1909/06/22 Berliner Ostbahnen
1901/10/01 Gesellschaft für elektrische Hoch- und Untergrundbahnen in Berlin (tramway line Warschauer Brücke-Zentralviehhof) 1435 1928/04/01 BSBG on 1910/01/01 tram line was sold to SSB, instead of it opening of a new tram line from Warschauer Brücke to Scharnweber-/Gürtelstraße, later extended to Wagnerplatz (today Roedeliusplatz) in Lichtenbergmarker
1903 Städtische Straßenbahn Cöpenick (SSC) 1435 1920/10/01 GBS
July 1904 Pferde-Eisenbahn der Gemeinde Französisch-Buchholz 1435 1907/12/19 BESTAG electrification as of takeover by BESTAG
1905/12/03 Straßenbahn der Gemeinde Steglitz 1435 1921/04/16 Berliner Straßenbahn
1906/04/01 Teltower Kreisbahnen (TKb) 1000/1435 1921/04/16 Berliner Straßenbahn steam tram of DLSTS was electrificated on 1907/03/30
1906/12/10 Neue Berliner Straßenbahn Nordost (NBSNO) 1435 1910/05/03 NÖBV
1908/03/23 Elektrische Straßenbahn Spandau-Nonnendamm 1435 1914/10/01 SpS founded by Siemens & Halske
1908/07/01 Städtische Straßenbahnen Berlin (SSB) 1435 1920/10/01 Berliner Straßenbahn
1909/06/22 Berliner Ostbahnen 1435 1920/05/01 GBS
1910/05/03 Nordöstliche Berliner Vorortbahn (NÖBV) 1435 1919/05/15 GBS
1910/08/07 Straßenbahn des Flugplatzes Johannisthal 1435 October 1910 service suspended last horse tram in Berlin
1912/03/09 Schmöckwitz-Grünauer Uferbahn 1435 August 1924 Berliner Verkehrs-GmbH electrification finished on 1912/07/23
1913/05/29 Straßenbahn der Gemeinde Heiligensee an der Havel 1435 1920/10/01 Berliner Straßenbahn
1920/10/01 Berliner Straßenbahn 1000/1435 1923/09/10 BSBG meter gauge routes are of former TKb
1923/01/08 Kleinbahn Spandau-West - Hennigsdorfmarker 1435 1929/01/01 BVG electrification later by BVG
1923/09/10 Berliner Straßenbahn-Betriebs-GmbH (BSBG) 1000/1435 1929/01/01 BVG meter gauge routes are of former TKb
August 1924 Berliner Verkehrs-GmbH 1435 1925/03/01 BSBG

On the day of its formation, the BVG had 89 tramway lines, a network of 634 km in length, over 4,000 tramway cars, and more than 14,400 employees. An average tramway car ran over 42,500 kilometers per year. The Berlin tramway had more than 929 million passengers in 1929, at which point, the BVG already had increased its service 93 tramway lines.

In the early 1930s, the Berlin tramway network began to decline; after partial closing of the world's first electric tram in 1930, on 31 October 1934, the oldest tramway of Germany followed. The Charlottenburger Chaussee (today Straße des 17. Juni) was rebuilt by Nazi planners following a monumental East-West-Axis, and the tramway had to leave. In 1938, however, there were still 71 tramway lines, 2,800 tram cars and about 12,500 employees. Consequently, the bus network was extended during this time. Since 1933, Berlin also had trolley buses.

During World War II, some transport tasks were given back to the tramway to save oil. Thus an extensive transport of goods was established. Bombings (from March 1943 on) and the lack of personal and electricity caused the transport performance to decline. Due to the final fights for Berlin, the tramway system collapsed on 23 April 1945.

The Berlin Tramway since 1945

Motor car of type TWA2 of the BVG, built in 1927


General view

The Berlin tram network is today the largest one in Germany, and, in spite of many cutbacks, one of the largest in the world.

Around Berlin there are some additional tram systems that do not belong to the BVG:

The last three companies are located in the eastern suburbs at the eastern edge of Berlin. Each of them has only one line.


BVG tramway net has 22 urban lines :
M1 Mitte, Am Kupfergraben ↔ Niederschönhausen, Schillerstraße / Rosenthal Nord
M2 S+U-Bhf. Alexanderplatz/Dircksenstraße ↔ Am Steinberg (- Heinersdorf)
M4 S-Bhf. Hackescher Markt ↔ Hohenschönhausen, Zingster Straße / Falkenberg
M5 S-Bhf. Hackescher Markt ↔ Hohenschönhausen, Zingster Straße
M6 (U-Bahnhof Schwartzkopffstraße -) Landsberger Allee/Petersburger Straße ↔ Hellersdorf, Riesaer Straße
M8 (U-Bahnhof Schwartzkopffstraße -) Landsberger Allee/Petersburger Straße ↔ Ahrensfelde
M10 S-Bhf. Nordbahnhof ↔ S+U-Bhf. Warschauer Straße
12 Mitte, Am Kupfergraben ↔ Weißensee, Pasedagplatz
M13 Wedding, Virchow-Klinikum ↔ S-Bhf. Warschauer Straße
16 S+U-Bhf. Frankfurter Allee ↔ Ahrensfelde
M17 (Falkenberg -) Gehrenseestraße ↔ S-Bhf. Schöneweide
18 S+U-Bhf. Lichtenberg/Gudrunstraße ↔ Hellersdorf, Riesaer Straße
21 S+U-Bhf. Lichtenberg/Gudrunstraße ↔ S-Bhf. Schöneweide
27 Krankenhaus Köpenick ↔ Weißensee, Pasedagplatz
37 Betriebshof Lichtenberg ↔ S-Bhf. Schöneweide
50 (Wedding, Virchow-Klinikum -) Prenzlauer Berg, Björnsonstraße ↔ Französisch Buchholz, Guyotstraße
60 S-Bhf. Adlershof ↔ Friedrichshagen, Altes Wasserwerk
61 S-Bhf. Adlershof ↔ Rahnsdorf, Waldschänke
62 Wendenschloß ↔ S-Bhf. Mahlsdorf
63 S-Bhf. Köpenick ↔ Johannisthal, Haeckelstraße
67 Krankenhaus Köpenick ↔ S-Bhf. Schöneweide
68 S-Bhf. Köpenick ↔ Schmöckwitz

The two tram lines 87 and 88 are not BVG, which run in the municipalities of Woltersdorfmarker, Schöneichemarker and Rüdersdorfmarker (in the Land of Brandenburgmarker), due to the fact that are partly located in suburban areas of Berlin, i.e. Rahnsdorf and Friedrichshagen, are partly shown in BVG tramway maps and suddenly considered de facto part of Berliner Tramway Net.


This article contains information from the German-language Wikipedia article Straßenbahn Berlin.

Further reading

Literature (written parallel in English and German)

  • Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: Berliner Straßenbahnen. Die Geschichte der Berliner Straßenbahn-Gesellschaften seit 1865 (Archive No. 6), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1973, ISBN 3-85649-006-X
  • Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: Berliner Straßenbahngeschichte II. Ein Bericht über die Entwicklung der Straßenbahn in Berlin nach 1920 (Archive No. 31), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1977, ISBN 3-85649-031-0
  • Sigurd Hilkenbach, Wolfgang Kramer und Claude Jeanmaire: Die Straßenbahnlinien im westlichen Teil Berlins. Der Wiederaufbau ab 1945 und die Stillegung im Westteil der Stadt bis 1967. (2 Bände) (Archive Nos. 46/52), Verlag Eisenbahn, Villigen AG (Schweiz), 1986, ISBN 3-85649-046-9

Literature (in German)

  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Blickpunkt Straßenbahn e. V.: Straßenbahnatlas Deutschland 1996, Berlin, ISBN 3-926524-14-6
  • Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: Rekowagen - Die etwas härtere Art, Straßenbahn zu fahren, Verlag GVE, Berlin, 1996, ISBN 3-89218-045-8
  • Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: Historische Nahverkehrsfahrzeuge - Berlin und Brandenburg, Verlag GVE, Berlin, 2001, ISBN 3-89218-027-X
  • Denkmalpflege-Verein Nahverkehr Berlin e. V.: 100 Jahre »Elektrische« in Köpenick, Verlag GVE, Berlin, 2003, ISBN 3-89218-082-2
  • Sigurd Hilkenbach und Wolfgang Kramer: Die Straßenbahnen in Berlin, Alba, Duesseldorf, 1994, ISBN 3-87094-351-3
  • Sigurd Hilkenbach und Wolfgang Kramer: Die Straßenbahn der Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG-Ost/BVB) 1949-1991, Transpress, Stuttgart, 1997, ISBN 3-613-71063-3
  • Wolfgang Kramer und Heinz Jung: Linienchronik der Elektrischen Straßenbahn von Berlin. (2 volumes), Arbeitskreis Berliner Nahverkehr e. V., 1994 (Vol. 1), 2001 (Vol. 2)
  • Holger Orb und Tilo Schütz: Straßenbahn für ganz Berlin. Geschichte - Konzeption - Städtebau, Jaron Verlag, Berlin, 2000, ISBN 3-89773-024-3


Tram 68 was named by National Geographic Societymarker as one of the 10 Great Streetcar routes along with:

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