History of S-Bahn Berlin

Over 90 Years of emotional History

S-Bahn trains are an important part of Berlin’s public transportation system, which has become a true Berlin institution over the decades. Since 1927, the red and yellow colored trains have become paramount in lining the cityscape.

Looking back at our moving history:

1838

The Beginning: the Prussian Railway

The first Prussian railway line, which connected Berlin over Zehlendorf with Potsdam, was built. Over the following years, more and more districts of the city connected to this network.

1894

Berlin's rail traffic developed into a success story: by the end of the century, the network of railways in Berlin comprised 412 km, 114 stations, with up to 1,142 trains operating on weekdays.

April 1900
Installation of a conductor rail, ca. 1928

The Electric Train Operation Begins

In April 1900, the Prussian Railway launched its first electrical trial operations with 750 volts DC on the Wannsee railway during night breaks. On August 1, 1900, the time had come: the electric train operation between the Wannsee station and Zehlendorf station was in operation.

August 8, 1924
S-Bahn Bauart Bernau BR 169

The Birth of the S-Bahn Berlin

Shortly after the end of World War I, plans to expand the rail network continued in Berlin. The goal was to power new lines. A total of six experimental railcars of AEG rolled along the route from Stettin suburban railway station to Bernau. The date became the "official birth of the S-Bahn Railway". The end station was later named after the production series, „Bernau“.

1925

The Unit Train Rolls Down the Tracks

Introduction of the unit train vehicle concept (which is still in use to this day): eight equal-length cars form a complete train.

1928
December 1, 1930

Timeless and Beautiful: the Introduction of the S-Bahn Logo

The Reichsbahn Director introduced the S-Bahn logo for the Fast-City-train. It is still debated whether the "S" stands for Schnellbahn (fast train) or Stadtbahn (city train). The mystery remains unsolved.

The 1930s

The S-Bahn Network Continues to Grow

In the early 1930s, the S-Bahn network developed rapidly: in 1933, electrification was  completed with the Wannseebahn, and 1934 began with the construction of the north-south suburban railway tunnel. In September 1936, the Humboldthain to Unter den Linden route opened.

Mid-1939

Expansion of Electrical Operating Service

Approximately 262 kilometers of route network are converted into modern and environmentally friendly electrical operations.

April 15, 1939
Station 4: Sechserbrücke

World War ll

On April 15, 1939, a few months before World War ll broke out, the second route of the north-south suburban railway was put into operation. Further routes were installed until September 1943. However, as the war progressed, the operation of the S-Bahn suffered. At the beginning of April 1945, traffic was suspended on more and more sections of the line. At the end of April, service came to a complete standstill. The S-Bahn ring was now the front line.

May 2, 1945

The Demolition of the North-South Tunnel

On the morning of May 2, 1945, the National Socialists blew up the reinforced concrete tunnel ceiling of the north-south S-Bahn tunnel below the Landwehr Canal, destroying a length of almost one hundred meters. The waterline burst and spilled from the Anhalter station, over Potsdamer Platz up to the stations Unter den Linden, Oranienburger Straße, and Stettiner station (today's Nordbahnhof). At Friedrichstrasse station, the water flood also reached the subway system. Many people who had sought shelter in the stations from the atrocities of the war had drowned.

July 1945

The S-Bahn in the Turmoil of the Postwar Period

The S-Bahn irregularly began service again on the first route section between Wannsee and Schöneberg. Soon, the red and yellow trains carried around 420 million passengers a year, which comprised one third of public transportation in Berlin.

1948

Berlin Divided

Despite the divide in East and West Berlin, the S-Bahn continues to travel beyond the sector borders.

August 13, 1961

The Construction of the Wall Separates Berlin

The construction of the wall begins. Berlin and its public transportation systems were massively affected by the divide. S-Bahn and U-Bahn traffic were interrupted due to the border closings.

August 17, 1961

The S-Bahn Boycott in West Berlin

Politicians and unions called in response to the S-Bahn boycott in West Berlin. Back then, the operator of the S-Bahn was the Deutsche Reichsbahn, which was located in the east of the city but responsible for both jurisdictions. The solidarity gesture was to prevent the "Western money" of the fare revenues from being used to finance the construction of the Wall. The boycott was well received: Within a very short time, the number of S-Bahn passengers in West Berlin's public transportation system no longer played a significant role.

1973

Rise in the East

While the S-Bahn lost importance in the West Berlin, it remained an important means of transportation in the Eastern part of the city. Passenger numbers reached up to 1.2 million passengers for the Tenth World Festival, a new high point.

1980

Strike in the West

In 1980, the West Berlin employees of the German Reichsbahn went on strike. The reason: A wave of lay-offs were carried out by the Deutsche Reichsbahn against employees based in West Berlin. Afterwards, many strikers were denounced, others did not voluntarily return to work. Due to the shortage of staff, the Deutsche Reichsbahn in West Berlin could only offer limited S-Bahn traffic covering up to 73 kilometers. Routes such as the Ringbahn, the Wannsee train and the connection to Spandau were sent into hibernation.

December 30, 1983

The BVG Takes Control

An agreement was settled between the German Reichsbahn and the Berlin Senate for the hand-over of operating rights from the West Berlin S-Bahn to the BVG. This was in effect by January 9, 1984. At this time, only 8,000 to 10,000 people daily used the red and yellow trains in the Western part of the city.

November 9, 1989
S-Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse Novemver 1989

Triumph and Voluntary Overtime During the Fall of the Berlin Wall

On the night of November 9th to 10th, the fall of the Berlin Wall sent Germany into a collective celebration. Especially in Berlin, people flocked to the crossing points of the border, where the mass transit system was literally overrun. Many train drivers volunteered for additional services and put in countless overtime hours allowing the trains to run all night.

July 2, 1990

Continuous Operation on the City Train

On July 2, 1990 S-Bahn City Trains were back in service. Starting on September 1st, they also stopped at the underground "ghost stations" of the North-South Railway with the exception of Potsdamer Platz, which would later go into service on March 1, 1992.

August 31,1990
Platzhalter

The Unification Agreement: a Clear Requirement for the Berlin S-Bahn

According to the unification agreement, the decision was made after the reunification of Germany to rebuild the rail network of the S-Bahn back to as it was in 1961. With this clear specification, the S-Bahners went to work actively: Gaps in the network, especially in the Brandenburg region, were quickly closed to meet the growing demand for public transportation.

1992

The Year of Track Closings

The Berlin S-Bahn put three routes back into service: Wannsee to Potsdam City, Frohnau to Hohen Neuendorf, and Lichtenrade to Blankenfelde. A few years later the routes Schönholz-Tegel-Hennigsdorf and Priesterweg-Lichterfelde-Süd as well as Westkreuz-Pichelsberg-Spandau were reactivated.

January 1, 1994

The Industrial Expansion

A further merger took place with the fusion of the German Federal Railways (Deutscher Bundesbahn) and German Reichsbahn to Deutsche Bahn AG. With the founding of the new company, the operating rights for the West Berlin routes of the S-Bahn were handed over from the BVG to the Deutsche Bahn AG.

January 1, 1995

Happy Birthday, S-Bahn Berlin GmbH

The S-Bahn Berlin was created as a Ltd.

June 15, 2002

Wedding Day at the S-Bahn Berlin

The last section of the Ringbahn has been completed and celebrated with a big Wedding Day in the Wedding district. With the commissioning of the route from Westhafen to the Schönhauser Allee, the Ring was now fully in service after almost 41 years.

2006

Train Fleet Makeover

Within ten years, many S-Bahn trains up to 70 years old were replaced by 500 new 481 series trains. If the average life of a train was 43 years in 1995, and only 8 years in 2006. The acquisition of the new trains of the 481 series cost about 1.2 billion euros. (Link to the presentation of production series 481)

May 2009
Sandgrube im Berliner Grundewald

Time of vehicle crisis

Manufacturer-related vehicle defects and management errors in the company led the S-Bahn Berlin into a crisis that resulted in performance restrictions. A new management which worked with additional staff and extended workshop capacities to repair defects was put into effect. Other divisions of Deutsche Bahn supported this change by providing more employees and benefits. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, in an effort to restore passenger satisfaction, the S-Bahn Berlin spent over 140 million euros. In total, Deutsche Bahn invested 400 million euros in the new vehicle fleet.

March 2010

Alliance with DB Regio

The S-Bahn Berlin and its trains become part of DB Regio AG.

2014
We connect. For 90 years.

"90 Years Uniting Berlin"

The anniversary is inspired by the motto "90 Years Uniting Berlin". The S-Bahn Berlin launched christening campaigns to express its commitment to the region, the population, and to its passengers.

January 26, 2016
Das Ostkreuz 1996

Transportation Contract Signing

Railway and political representatives signed the transportation contract for the Ring/South-East subnetwork and ordered 382 new S-Bahn production series 483/484 trains from the manufacturer consortium Siemens/Stadler.

Click here for more information regarding the new train series click

October 2016
Photomontage of production series 483/484

Investment in the Future: Presentation of the New 483/484 Series

Investments of 900 million euros in the train fleet of the S-Bahn Berlin take shape. In October 2016 with the series 483/484 was presented as a genuine highlight. It will be put into service on the subnet ring Ring/Southeast starting 2021.