Siemensbahn: The ghost stations of Siemens' abandoned S-Bahn line

Don’t ever plan on getting the S-Bahn back from Siemensstadt. You’ll be left waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting….
No trains have trundled through the S-Bahnhöfe in this remarkable part of Berlin for a third of a century, not since they were deserted due to falling passenger numbers, a strike and an upstart U-Bahn line that opened the same year.
I was only expecting one abandoned S-Bahn station but followed the line and found two more, as well as an abandoned railway switch tower.
This was the Siemensbahn, which started from Jungfernheide, went on to S-Bahnhof Wernerwerk, continued to S-Bahnhof Siemensstadt and ended at S-Bahnhof Gartenfeld, with the switch tower, or signal-box, just before it.
To get this tale off on the right track I have to start with the story of Siemensstadt, or Siemens City, named after the industrial behemoth that gave rise to its creation since purchasing over 200 hectares of virtually uninhabited land to the north east of Berlin in 1897.
Siemens & Halske, as it was known at the time (the company was founded by Werner Siemens and Johann Georg Halske in Kreuzberg, Berlin in 1847), gradually moved most of its operations here, building new factories and employing renowned architects to construct innovative housing for its workers.
The residential development was one of six modernist housing estates in Berlin granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 2008.
Nonnenwiesen was officially renamed Siemensstadt on January 1, 1914, by which time the company had over 23,850 employees.
They didn’t all live in Siemensstadt and the company wanted to make sure they could make it to work! Siemens had helped finance S-Bahnhof Fürstenbrunn in 1905, and a six-carriage tram from Spandau three years later.
The S-Bahnhof was a good half-hour walk from Siemensstadt, however, despite efforts to bring it closer by renaming it Siemensstadt-Fürstenbrunn in 1925, and neither it nor the tram – which was running up to 65 times an hour! – could really cope with demand as Siemens’ employee numbers went through the roof.
Apparently there were over 55,000 workers employed by the firm in 1925, when Siemens and the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Imperial Railway) decided to go ahead with the construction of another line from Jungfernheide – the Siemensbahn.
No doubt the arrangement was facilitated through Siemens boss Carl Friedrich von Siemens, Werner’s son, who had been president of the Deutsche Reichsbahn’s administrative board since the year before. (The Siemenses had become von Siemenses through Werner in 1888.)
Construction of the elevated track on a steel viaduct over the river and across Siemensstadt itself began in 1927. It was a groundbreaking type of construction for its time, and the first S-Bahn rolled along the Siemensbahn on December 18, 1929.
It was an immediate hit, with trains running in both directions as often as every five minutes. S-Bahnhof Siemensstadt-Fürstenbrunn suffered as a result, with passenger numbers dropping drastically. I presume the poor aul’ tram suffered too. Though there was a tram from Prenzlauer Berg as well, so maybe they were needed.
Siemens and its city were booming. Construction continued into the 1930s and employee numbers grew accordingly. At one stage there were up to 67,000 workers (or 90,000 depending on your source), while “only” 15,000 at most were living in Siemensstadt at the end of the decade. The rest were commuters.
The war made life difficult, to say the least. Siemens, which played an important role in the German war effort, had to move factories and facilities to avoid having them bombed. Nevertheless, factories were hit and workers were killed. The company employed forced labor toward the end of the war too, though that’s another story and we better stay on track with this one…
Train services were restricted from 1943 but the Siemensbahn itself survived relatively unscathed. The bridge over the river was blown up alright. The Russians, kindly souls, replaced it with a wooden one shortly after war’s end so they could make off with machinery and whatever else they could find in the way of reparations. They even helped themselves to tracks and railway equipment before the arrival of British troops in July 1945 ended their further dismantling.
A very limited service resumed on the one remaining line from September 1945. In 1953 Siemens offered steel to replace the Russians’ ropey looking bridge and the new one was completed in 1954. That helped a bit.
The Deutsche Reichsbahn only started reconstructing the second line in 1955, however, so full services in both directions weren’t restored until December 1956.
Now, that Deutsche Reichsbahn wasn’t the same Deutsche Reichsbahn as the one mentioned before, the one that Werner Siemens’ son got himself involved in. Nothing was simple in post-war divided Berlin…
From 1949 the Deutsche Reichsbahn referred to the East German state railway, which simply kept the name of the pre-war German railway operator, and continued to run S-Bahn services across the whole city, even after relations became so frosty they led to the Cold War.
You couldn’t make it up. The East German state railway was running S-Bahn services in West Berlin as well. West Berlin was completely surrounded by East Germany but nobody really anticipated it would be cut-off completely when the border was sealed with the establishment of the Berlin Wall on August 13,1961.
Of course the West Berliners weren’t happy with that and they responded with a boycott of the GDR-run S-Bahns. They didn’t want to be subsidizing the regime in the East.
Signs with slogans like “Der S-Bahn Fahrer zahlt den Stacheldraht (The S-Bahn passenger is paying for the barbed wire)”, “Keinen Pfennig mehr für Ulbricht (Not a penny more for [East German party leader Walter] Ulbricht)” and “Trapos raus aus dem freien Berlin (Transport police out of free Berlin)” were held by supporters outside S-Bahn stations in West Berlin and this naturally had a dramatic effect on passenger numbers.
The BVG (West) brought in buses from West Germany and set up “solidarity” services running along the S-Bahn routes. The boycott continued (it never actually ended) as West Berliners simply turned their backs on the S-Bahn.
The Deutsche Reichsbahn lost millions operating mostly empty trains through western sectors. To tackle losses, it planned drastic cuts to services in 1980. Workers were already unhappy after a very modest pay rise, but cuts to their hours proved the final straw. They declared a strike on September 17, 1980 and Deutsche Reichsbahn seized the opportunity to close down almost half the S-Bahn services in operated in West Berlin. It was probably grateful for the excuse.
The Siemensbahn never ran again. Its fate was sealed with the opening of the U7 through Siemensstadt the same year.
Adding insult to injury, it was granted “Denkmalschutz” protection so it can’t be ripped down, destroyed or converted into apartments, but this is Berlin, where anything with Denkmalschutz is ripped down, destroyed or converted into apartments…
Some hopeless romantics still harbor dreams of the Siemensbahn being reopened some day, possibly even extended, but I have to say I’d be very surprised if it hasn’t already reached the end of the line.

What
Die Siemensbahn. Dec. 18, 1929 to Sept. 18, 1980. Abandoned railway line through Siemensstadt, formerly the epicenter for Siemens’ industrial activity, comprising of the S-Bahn stations Wernerwerk, Siemensstadt and Gartenfeld, with a dainty little switch tower (there’s wood paneling on some of the walls inside!) not far from the end station. Here it is on a nice little S-Bahn plan from 1931.
Theres now an abandoned garden center in the appropriately named Gartenfeld so you get two for the price of one. There are loads of flower pots there just waiting to be stolen.

Where
S-Bahnhof Wernerwerk, the first station on the line, is at Siemensdamm 54, 13629 Berlin, Germany.

How to get there
You can cycle, like I did, over the border into West Berlin, along Seestraße and then the Stadtring until you hit Siemensdamm and see the railway bridge overhead. There are more scenic routes to cycle.
Alternatively, if you’re lazy or enjoy the thrill of underground travel, you can get the U7 to U-Bahnhof Siemensdamm, which is just around the corner.
Just, if you do take the U-Bahn, know that you are contributing to the Siemensbahn’s demise. Maybe if there was a U-Bahn boycott we could get the S-Bahn line running again…

Heres S-Bahnhof Wernerwerk on a map to make it even easier.

Getting in
All three stations are very easy to get into. Just find the points at which the fence is lowest, hop over, climb the embankment and you’ll be there. At Wernerwerk you’ll need to slide yourself under the gate and walk back across the bridge spanning the busy Siemensdamm, so you’ll be pretty visible for any Polizei or nosy neighbors that happen to be passing. You could crawl along your belly if you’re determined not to be seen, but there are no “Betreten Verboten” signs so you can always claim you are merely out for your afternoon walk.
An open window on the ground floor provides easy access to the switch tower. Gartenfeld is accessible from the housing estate at the back. Again, you’ll need to keep an eye out for nosy neighbors and busybodies.

When to go
Any time really. Daytime is probably better from a safety point of view, for better photographs, and less likelihood of bumping into railway vampires. Maybe you want to meet railway vampires, in which case I would recommend going at night.

Difficulty rating
3/10. I’m awarding this one mark for each station. It’s all pretty damn easy.

Who to bring
A railway fanatic to explain what the switch tower did exactly. Apparently it could handle 12 trains at a time.

What to bring
Camera, torch, beer, decent shoes, some money for a bite to eat on the way home.

Dangers
Nothing especially dangerous. They do seem to be patching up the Siemensstadt S-Bahnhof a bit so perhaps there was some danger of stuff falling on your head, but all-in-all the stations are in pretty good nick. The biggest danger here is nosy neighbors and general busybodies with nothing to better to do than report you to the Polizei.

For photo freaks I’ve resurrected a long-forgotten Flickr account so you can check out these images and more in their shiny unabashed glory if you’re so inclined. Pictures from the Siemensbahn are displayed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abandonedberlin/sets/72157640090590463/
(Of course, you can always just click on the images on the website here to bring them up in Lightbox. That works as well.)


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13 comments

Brilliant write-up!

I found your blog while planning my own Berlin adventures back last year. When I got to Berlin, on my first night I was lead by my girlfriend's 13-year old brother to the one with the garden center (girlfriend, mother-in-law and shi-tzu in tow) and spent hours exploring the tracks in the pitch black (loads of fun).

I wanted to write to you and give you a heads up on this but I had no way of explaining to you where it was or even what it was called. But I'm glad you found it!

Keep up the good work and congrats on the recognition from The Guardian, it is well deserved!

Hey Tom,
Thanks very much for your kind words.
It sounds like you had the perfect introduction to Berlin! I met a fox when I was rummaging around there, but he/she didn't seem too perturbed. I suppose, I was on my own. ;)

Thanks for sharing, rlly :) I've been living here for a while and as it usually goes, I knew only my way to work and back. But I'll be off for good quite soon so I decided to go for walking instead of buying Umweltkarte in order to actually see the city and so far it's been amazing. I took the 2hr walk from Kreuzberg to Siemensstadt this morning, explored the railroad and then walked back home, so it pretty much made up a whole day out and I guess there is no better way to get to know a city than simply spending hours and hours walking around. Anyway, as I said, I was up there on Saturday morning/noon, when pretty much all the moms, dads and grandpas were out and about, and I am sure I was pretty visible, and nobody seemed to give a damn. So, really quite easy. Though there was no meat for the beast feeling as in Glasgow subway tunnels (a 'warm welcome' graffiti down there .. third pic here http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/underground-sites/36068-botanic-gardens-station-night-02-01-09-a.html ) but that's probably for the best as I was on my own only : ) Thanks again and keep it up : )

Thanks for the comment! Yep, walking certainly the best way to see a city. I'm not patient enough for that though so I use my bike. I mightn't see as much, but there's so much to see!

I love your site! I like abandoned places, I'm planning to go to Berlin and to see Bahnhof Siemensstadt. I read your description of how to get in but I've been looking on google streetview and I can't imagine how to get onto the platforms of S-Bahnhof Siemensstadt. If you see it on google streetview you'll see a bridge and I think it is hard to get up there! Could you please explain it?

It's pretty easy. For each station you need to go to the side to the point at which you can climb the fence and then embankment. At Wernerwerk you'll need to go under the bridge and walk back along the tracks on the bridge over the motorway. Just go there and you'll figure it out.

Thank you for the fast response! I'll figure it out and hope we won't get caught! :)

It's not necessary to walk over the bridge to get to Wernerwerk if you mean it this way. The stairway at the station seems blocked but there is a huge gap between the wall and the fence at one point, then if you run around the seemingly blocked stairway from the other side you can climb in with almost no effort. It's just a bit dusty and probably quite illegal. I was genuinely happy when I found this way in!

I visited this line about a month ago, we were a group
of 8-10 adventurous photographers, half of us german.
We simply wanted to take pictures and explore the
whole of the line west of Wernerwerk. There was a
big opening in the fence next to where the line meets
Jungfernheideweg str.

As we were entering through the fence an old german
lady passing by (more than 20m away) spotted us and
shouted that it's illegal to go in. Then one of the german
members of our group shouted back in german
"go tell that to your children!" :)

As I learned later from a friend who arrived at
the scene, only about ~10 min later the police
had arrived! and was looking for us. Apparently
that old lady had called them, what a huge surprise..
But, we had progressed west on the line and they
didn't find us. Also, they didn't bother a lot from
what I know. They probably had better things to
do than chase photographers on a railroad that
hasn't been used for 33+ years.

It was a great evening, and we took some nice
pictures. Luckily there was another opening at
Gartenfeld so we exited there and didn't have
to walk back.

Went on a saturday morning. At Popitzweg we could go up to the track. There was a closed gate but it had an opening so you could fit through. Then walked to the station above Siemensdamm. People saw us but they didn't care it seemed. Had a nice look around and took a lot of photo's :-)
Greeting form the Holland Urban Ex Club :-)

Just FYI: there is pretty much nothing to see at Siemensbahn :)
You can have a walk there but limited interest in terms of pictures and history :)

Well, I thought it was interesting! And there are loads of things to take photos of! :)
But I see how it might not be quite the same as some of Berlin's other treasures, places you need to get into, where you need to open a thousand doors to see what's hidden behind each one...

Thanks a million for all your comments Arlequin! You provided some very useful advice indeed and I'm sure others will benefit too.
I know I need to get back to Krampnitz and the Olympic village. So many places, so little time...

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