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Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway

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Title: Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway  
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Subject: Steglitz-Zehlendorf, History of rail transport in Germany, Electromote, 1881 in science, Rail transport
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Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway

Lichterfelde tram, 1882
Track map

The Gross Lichterfelde Tramway was the world's first electric tramway. It was built by the Siemens & Halske company in Lichterfelde, a suburb of Berlin, and went in service on 16 May 1881.


Werner von Siemens had presented the first electric passenger train at the Berlin industrial exhibition two years before. In order to develop the concept, he received the official approval to run an electric tramway line on already existing tracks that had been used for building the Prussian military academy (Hauptkadettenanstalt) at Lichterfelde West.

The 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long line started at Berlin-Lichterfelde Ost station on the Anhalt Railway line. Each car was originally equipped with a 180 Volt DC 4 kW electric motor, the current supplied via the running rails in a manner similar to that used by most present-day model railways. Therefore the metre gauge tracks were generally separated from driveways and trespassing was prohibited.

At railroad crossings the rails were dead or switched on only briefly before the approach of the tramcar. Nevertheless persons and horses frequently received electrical shocks. It is also believed that young persons caused short circuits which shut down the operation by putting wire mesh on the tracks, in order to enjoy the sight of glowing metal.

In 1891 the track was equipped with an overhead wire and the line was extended to Berlin-Lichterfelde West station. After several extensions, operation finally discontinued in 1931.

See also

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