History of S-Bahn Berlin

100 years of emotional history

Driving Trailer of the Series ET/EB 167

S-Bahn trains are an important part of Berlin’s public transportation system, which has become a true Berlin institution over the decades. Since end of the 1920s, the red and yellow colored trains have become paramount in lining the cityscape.


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.


Berlin's Rail Traffic: 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

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“.


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.

S-Bahnzug Bauart "Stadtbahn" BR ET/EB 165 der S-Bahn Berlin, Baujahr 1924; 05.07.1956

A Classic is on the Move

The S-bahn railway put the “City Train” design into operation. This was the first time they took on the red-yellow color theme. This type of vehicle shaped the image of the S-Bahn railway for nearly seven decades. In 1997, the trains operated their last courses into well-deserved retirement.

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.

From 1933

Rapid Development and propaganda

The S-Bahn experienced a rapid development and heyday, it is considered a symbol of modern mobility. At the same time, the influence of the Nazi dictatorship began to make itself felt from 1933 onwards. The construction of the north-south tunnel, for example, was used for propaganda purposes.


Expansion of Electrical Operating Service

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

April 15, 1939

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.


Highest Number of Vehicles

With 1140 quarter trains, the S-Bahn Berlin has the highest number of vehicles to date and reaches a passenger record with 737 million passengers.

April 25, 1945

Consequences of War

On April 25th, the S-Bahn operations come to a complete standstill due to the fighting in Berlin; there is no power supply due to lack of coal. At the end of the war, about 90 percent of the trains are destroyed or not operational.

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.


Berlin Divided

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

The 40s and 50s

Construction Boom

In the late 1940s and in the 1950s numerous Berlin S-Bahn lines were extended and lengthened. The first section was Mahlsdorf-Hoppegarten, the construction boom ended in 1956 with the connection from Strausberg to Strausberg Nord.

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. The Friedrichstraße railway station was turned into a strictly secured border crossing. Two independent S-Bahn systems were created, both operated by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (state railway of the GDR).

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.


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.


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.

January 9, 1984

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

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.


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
Der S-Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, 2010

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 limited liability company.

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.


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.

May 2009

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.


"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
Unterzeichnung Verkehrsvertrag

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.

October 2016

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 (timeline).

January 2021
Passing the baton

First new trains in regular passenger service

Initial field testing of the new S-Bahn trains commenced on 1 January. The first ten pre-production trains were trialled in regular passenger service on the S47 line between Spindlersfeld and Hermannstraße. In August, the field test was completed successfully and regular operation began.

December 2022
Zwei S-Bahnen der Baureihe nebeneinander mit Ringbahn-Beschilderung

New S-Bahn series proves itself

After the new S-Bahn had already been in service on lines S46 (since 27 June 2022) and S8 (since 14 October 2022), it was put into service on the S41 and S42 Ringbahn lines ahead of schedule on 11 December 2022, as the manufacturers Stadler and Siemens Mobiliy made faster progress with production than planned.

August 2024

The Berlin S-Bahn turns 100!

This year is a very special one in the history of the S-Bahn. We are celebrating 100 years of the Berlin S-Bahn! To kick off the big anniversary year, rapper Romano presented us with a really catchy birthday song.