Nahaufnahme von großen, rot gestrichenen Rädern einer historischen Lokomotive.

Rail Transport

Railroads perfectly embody the inextricable link between the history of technology and the history of everyday life. In its exhibition “Trains, Locomotives, and People,” the Deutsches Technikmuseum focuses on the history of important rail vehicles and the people whose lives were touched by the railroad.

Next Stop: Anhalter Bahnhof

Anhalter Bahnhof was the largest of prewar Berlin’s legendary terminus stations. Its monumental head house was demolished after suffering damage in World War II – all except for a small fragment on Askanischer Platz. Other elements of the structure are now preserved in the Deutsches Technikmuseum, such as the so-called Fürstenportal. This “princely portal” led into the waiting room for “gentlemen of the very highest class and quality.” Today the portal leads into two historic roundhouses from 1874, where the Museum presents 150 years of railroad history over 6,000 square meters of exhibition space. Along with their outdoor turntables, the roundhouses themselves are the largest exhibit, standing as a monument to the complex infrastructure that was necessary to operate the railway system.

Zwei große, grün angelaufene Bronze Figuren stehen links und rechts vor den gelben Backsteinsäulen der historischen Lokschuppen. Zwischen Ihnen steht eine schwarze Lokomotive.
Die Skulpturen „Tag“ und „Nacht“ des Bildhauers Ludwig Brunow (1843-1913) befanden sich einst über dem Haupteingang des Anhalter Bahnhofs. Heute begrüßen die restaurierten Galvanoplastiken die Besucherinnen und Besucher am Eingang zu den Lokschuppen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

The Smell of Soot and Oil

Forty original railway vehicles, some of which still exude the smell of soot and oil, make up the heart of the exhibition. In addition, there are many unique, highly detailed models of railroad cars and locomotives on display. These models, built to a scale of 1:5, were made around 1900 by apprentices aiming to qualify as journeymen. The vehicles – both models and originals – are displayed alongside a variety of objects illustrating what it was like to work and travel on trains, as well as the place of trains in the popular imagination: train compartments, souvenirs, uniforms, dining car tableware, suitcases, tickets, and toy trains.

The exhibition moves chronologically, from the 18th-century predecessors to the railroad, to an open passenger car from 1843 – one of the oldest of its kind still in existence – down to the locomotives and cars of the West German economic miracle and of East Germany. Visitors can walk underneath a locomotive and climb up into the cab and play engineer.

Blick in die Schienenverkehrs-Ausstellung: Eine historische schwarzrote Lokomotive, und mehrere Abteilwagen stehen auf Schienen nebeneinander aufgereiht.
Zahlreiche historische Loks und Waggons stehen in den Lokschuppen bereit. Mehr als 40 originale Schienenfahrzeuge erzählen die Geschichte der Eisenbahn.
SDTB / H. Hattendorf

Wilhelm II, the “Traveling Emperor”

The history of the German railroad system was closely linked to social and political developments. Thus the exhibition highlights the connection specific people had to trains. For example, Wilhelm II’s parlor car provides insight into his derisive nickname Reisekaiser, or “the traveling emperor.” Otto von Bismarck, on the other hand, symbolizes the fierce debate over the unification of the Reichseisenbahn (German Imperial Railway) that took place in the 1870s.

Holocaust Trains

Blick auf einen alten braunen Güterwagen mit Holzaufbau. Auf den Seiten sind Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahmen aus Konzentrationslagern zu sehen.
Ein Güterwagen in der Ausstellung erinnert an die Beteiligung der Deutschen Reichsbahn am Holocaust.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

The exhibition also shines a light on the darkest chapter of German railroad history: the decisive role the Reichsbahn played in the murder of European Jews during the Second World War. An exhibit called “Deportation of the Jews” relates the fate of 12 people from Berlin, telling their stories by means of  photographs, maps, and train schedules.

“Next Stop: 1900!”

A boy looking into the window of a train model. In the foreground you can see the wooden benches of the 3rd class compartment.
1st to 3rd class corridor train coach, "Danzig 0674", 1:5 scale model. A size comparison with a boy makes the dimensions of the model clear.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

The museum has a unique collection of historical railway models on a scale of 1:5, which were produced around the turn of the 19th century. Every door lock, every rivet, every sink is faithfully reproduced – from the steam locomotive to the funeral train. The interiors have been digitized with 360-degree cameras. From now on, users can take a virtual journey through time in the world of railways around 1900 – in 360-degree tours with a literary soundtrack.

Discover the digital story “Next stop: 1900!” on the platform Google Arts & Culture!

Highlights

Der offene Personenwagen aus Holz fährt auf Schienen und ähnelt einer Kutsche. Der Wagen besitzt kein Dach. Er ist grün gestrichen und trägt vorn die Nummer 41. Auf der Seite steht der Schriftzug B.F.E.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Open passenger car, 3rd class

This original passenger car from the private railroad company Breslau-Schweidnitz-Freiburger Eisenbahn dates to 1843.  It is one of only a few such vehicles still in existence from the early days of the railroad – a truly special part of the collection. It shows how quickly German manufacturers departed from the model of horse-drawn carriages, developing designs specifically suited to the rails. It’s open construction, without any weather protection at all, is a sign of the highly stratified class structure of the time.

1843

Seitenansicht einer preußische Dampflok S10, Dampfmaschine, Fahrwerk mit Rädern und Gestänge sind im Detail zu erkennen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Prussian S 10 steam locomotive

This Prussian S 10 steam locomotive is one of the truly spectacular exhibits in the railroad collection.  Between 1910 and 1914, a total of 202 locomotives of this class were built. Down to the 1930s, these robust locomotives were a mainstay of the rail network emanating from Berlin and crisscrossing the North German Plain. Retired from service in 1934, our S 10 has had its boiler, cylinders, and cab cut open to show how a steam locomotive works.

Berliner Maschinen AG, 1911

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SDTB / C. Kirchner

E 19 streamlined electric locomotive

The increasing use of automobiles and airplanes in the 1930s put pressure on the railroads in Europe and the USA. In response, rail vehicles capable of traveling at higher speeds were developed. They were often given streamlined panels to improve their aerodynamics, which gave them a modern look in addition to greater speed. The E 19 01 streamlined locomotive could go 180 km/h (the top speed allowed), making it the fastest electric locomotive on German rails. Just as in the 1930s, the front bears the emblem of an eagle with a swastika, thus illustrating the way in which outstanding technological innovations were instrumentalized by the Nazi regime.

AEG, 1938

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SDTB / C. Kirchner

Prussian P 8 passenger locomotive

At the end of Roundhouse I stands an oily, cannibalized steam engine of the P 8 class dating to 1919. The P 8 had a wide variety of uses. It could haul all but heavy express and freight trains. It was indispensable to rail traffic in Germany for a very long time. The last P 8 locomotives weren’t retired until 1972 (in East Germany) and 1974 (in West Germany).

Schichau-Werke, 1919