Three years ago, Berlin’s vital urban railway, the S-Bahn, had to shut down major parts of its routes. Due to technical issues lively stations such as Alexanderplatz or Friedrichstraße were nearly abandoned. For two weeks no trains ran into the train sheds, no passenger were seen on the platform. Berlin’s public transport was fallow. Happily, soon after the service continued at every station.
However, there are some S-Bahn stations that haven’t seen a train for more than thirty years now. Ghost stations. Some of them still exist and are easy to spot, others are decayed to such an extent that one hardly recognizes the platform. All of them tell stories from prosperous times long ago, when factories needed to transport thousands of workers or the Bohéme demanded for a better connection to the city center. Some of these stories recount the megalomania of the Nazi’s Germania project, others tell about King Friedrich Wilhelm III’s eager plans to build Prussia’s first railway line.
One of the lines best preserved is the former “Siemensbahn”, a roughly four kilometers long railway line in Reinickendorf. When Siemens’ factories continued to expand during the first decades of the last century, a whole city gradually arose from the soil: “Siemensstadt”, as it’s reverently called, provided labour for more than 90.000 workers, when the Siemensbahn started its service in 1929. Until then only a small and distant station served for this purpose, when eventually Siemens’ chief executive Carl Friedrich Siemens decided to build a new railway line. During its peak time, the three stations Gartenfeld, Siemensstadt and Wernerwerke were approached every five minutes and formed the infrastructural spine of Simensstadt.
The railway line was heavily damaged during Second World War and demounted by the Sowjets. Repairs were carried out soon after, so that the trains continued to run in 1956. However, Siemens’ business declined in Reinickendorf and the fate of the Siemensbahn was sealed. After a strike in 1980 the railway line was finally shut down.
Today, two of the stations are abandoned. The former station “Siemensstadt” still sits enthroned over the street and its cars beneath. Rusty iron plates and crumbling concrete remind of its older times, signs for the ticket office and the platforms grow more and more illegible under the thick layers of rust and dust. The ground is holey, the railway’s sleepers unsound and the roof lets the sunlight through. Graffiti and empty bottles bear witness to the guests who came long after the last train stopped here.
The rest of the railway fell victim to steady decay as well. The tracks are overrun with weeds and undergrowth; heavy cables lie around and fallen trees block the way. One stumbles over any kind of obstacles and, most of the time, can only see twenty meters afar. In this way, the train path channels its course alongside schools and residential buildings through the neighbourhood. It reaches Wernerwerk station which sits atop of a long bridge and continues from there until it reaches the Ringbahn.
However, it seems that live has carried on here. Parking lots were built beneath the bridge, small businesses settled in the former station building. Gartenfeld now – fittingly – houses a garden center. One might wonder what the fate of the Siemensbahn will be. However, when it comes to the the local residents, they somehow came to terms with their private railway line: At least, as they say, the noise has vanished. It’s easier now to lead a calm life here, in the shadow of the once busy Siemensbahn.
Disclaimer: We don’t advise anyone to trespass these or other premises. Please be aware that law, fences, barricades, barbed wire, heavily sprawling undergrowth and wood prevent anyone from doing so and that both rough and slippery ground, ramshackle, rusty and rotten floors may actually do anybody harm who disregards these obstacles. Don’t do anything stupid and leave everything as you found it.