Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin And Kreuzberg


Few inventions changed Berlin as much as the introduction of the railways did. And few people contributed to that process more than August Borsig, the owner of the leading iron and steel foundries in Prussia and a man who knew how to get his train rolling.


Borsig 1, the first Prussian steam locomotive designed and manufactured in Berlin by August Borsig makes its test run from the new terminus railway station built between Potsdamer Tor and Hallesches Tor – only some 600 hundred metres away from the oldest station in Prussia´s capital, Potsdamer Bahnhof.

The new train engine earned its steel spurs already a year earlier. On the 21st of July, 1840 it won Berlin-Jüterbog race against the then King of The Rails, Stephenson´s “Adler” steam engine. It was, by the way, the second time those two giants competed against each other: during the first race organised to prove the outstanding quality of Borsig´s design, his machine came to an unexpected halt somewhere mid-way between Berlin and the target station.

Stephenson´s Adler steam locomotive used in Germany since 1835

Stephenson´s Adler steam locomotive used in Germany since 1835

The engineer managed to convince the king´s representatives that this failure was a matter of sabotage and not a consequence of poor craftsmanship. After some consideration he was granted another go. In the second round of the race Borsig´s locomotive arrived at the end station 10 minutes ahead of the machine designed by his British colleague.

Borsig 1 was in fact a bastard daughter of Stephenson´s invention. August Borsig used the Brit´s model as a blueprint which he then cleverly combined with the best elements of another great steam locomotive of that day produced by William Norris of Philadelphia. Norris´ engines were pulling trains on Berlin-Potsdam line, known as Hofbahn (Royal Court Railway) since 1839, when Potsdamer Bahn bought two of his machines “The Prussia” and “The America”.

Norris´ steam locomotive The England built in 1840

Norris´ steam locomotive The England built in 1840

Berlin entrepreneur introduced enough necessary alterations to avoid a patent suit and provided his train engine with British way of controlling steam in the cylinders. As a result of those improvements, Borsig 1 was much better balanced, had a bigger boiler and, last but not least, was simply faster.

Borsig 1 in 1841

Borsig 1 in 1841

And so, when the new Berlin railway station – Anhalter Bahnhof in today´s Berlin-Kreuzberg – opened on July 1, 1841, along with the 11 pre-ordered Stephenson´s locomotives, the line was to be serviced by Prussia´s brand-new steam pride.



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