Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tram Tuesday - Frankfurt, Germany

Trams have been operating in Frankfurt since 1872.  The tram system is alive and well and integrated with light rail (U-Bahn), suburban rail (S-Bahn) and the bus system. According to Wikipedia,  two new sections have been added to the streetcar system in the past few years and additional service will be added to serve neighborhoods with medium transit needs. The reason cited is that "trams are more attractive to the traveling public than buses and cheaper to build than underground railways." It's interesting to see trams replacing bus service, a reversal of trends in the mid 20th century.

Here are some postcards showing early views of Frankfurt with streetcars. The first two are both from about 1910, showing the same church from different angles.

The next two cards both show views of Zeil, Frankfurt's vibrant shopping street. The first one was sent in 1898, at a time when there were still horse-drawn trams, as well as steam-powered and electric ones. I can't tell which kind this one is, because it's tiny and there are some carriage horses in front of it.

On the next one, sent in 1903, you can see the overhead wires.

The last card shows an electric tram in front of the magnificent Circus Schumann, which was destroyed by Allied bombs in World War II. According to Circopedia, the U.S. Army used what was left of the building (the facade, foyer, and restaurants right behind it) until 1958.  The remains of the building were demolished in 1960.

That white object in the sky to the right of the building is a highly-stylized cloud, probably the strangest one I've seen, added by the person who tinted the card. This tinting process was also used to obscure unsightly things like overhead streetcar wires.

I love it when people write dates and document other happenings on the back of cards.  If we had been around 100 years ago, we too could have celebrated Otto's birthday at Circus Schumann.

The back of the first card looks just like the one above, but with no writing, so I won't post it. Here are the backs of cards 2, 3, and 4.


  1. Nice to see a city that has maintained its sanity and kept its tram system intact- and growing- for so long, rather than tearing it up and replacing it with the next best thing.

  2. I hadn't heard of Circus Schumann, what a fantastic building! I would have loved to have been a guest at Otto's birthday celebrations :)

  3. It is heartaching to see how beautiful Frankfurt used to be in the early 20th century.
    Today it is almost just skyscapers and modern monstrousitys.
    After WW 2 the did not rebuild the the old town core.
    What a pity!

  4. I'm in awe of the German U-Bahn, S-Bahn and tram system, all connected with each other. In Holland this is very problematic. In Groningen the city council has resigned over a failed tram system. In Utrecht after 30 years of discussion there still is no tram line between the railway station and the university. In The Hague they drilled metro tunnels but these were flooded with water, and in Amsterdam they are drilling a new metro tunnel underneath the city center causing several old buildings to sag.

    1. I agree. I'm sure people in Frankfurt would tell you that their system is not perfect, but the concept of coordinating a variety of transportation services is what we should all be striving for. I have been very impressed traveling in Germany and being able to board a train to another city at the airport or take an S-Bahn to more local destinations and then easily transfer to the U-Bahn or a streetcar.

      I didn't know about the metro tunnel in The Hague or the new one in Amsterdam. Yikes. My experience riding the trams in Amsterdam was good though.

    2. I'm glad you approved of the Amsterdam trams. Personally I wait for the return of the 'trekschuit', although they require a lot of travel time.



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