Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
On May 12th, 1881 the fast developing company originally registered under the name of Telegraphenbau Anstalt Siemens & Halske presented its latest and, for many one of their most important, invention to the public.
In Berlin-Lichterfelde (then still just Lichterfelde) the first electric street-tram in history set off on its maiden voyage. It covered the distance of 2.4 km – the length of railway tracks built between Bahnhof Lichterfelde and the Hauptkadettenanstalt (Main Cadet School) for the construction of the latter – with a (then) mind-bending speed of up to 40km/h.
In fact, Werner Siemens wrote later that what surprised and impressed the onlookers the most was the fact that the tram almost immediately reached the speed of 30km/h. From May 16, 1881 the trains on the new line would be running 12 times per day in each direction (albeit a bit slower, at 20 km/h) – something that a brand new time-schedule regulated with typically Prussian precision. Each of the street-cars could take 12 sitting passengers or up to 25 if also standing and well squeezed. The trains were powered through electrically charged tracks, which made touching them – especially both at once – a rather disturbing experience. Something that many pedestrians and horses in the streets of Berlin were to discover first-hand soon.
This was a revolution: May 12, 1881 marked the beginning of the truly modern city transportation system as we know it – in Berlin but also in many other big and small cities worldwide.
At the time when their brand new electric tram took its first passengers, Firma Siemens & Halske still had its main seat in today´s Berlin-Kreuzberg: in Markgrafenstrasse 94. They moved there from their original address in Schöneberger Strasse 19. In Kreuzberg as well. You can read more about it in the following post.
The original electric train engine constructed by Siemens and Halske in 1879 has been on display at the German Museum in Munich since 1905. A replica of the first electric tram can also be admired – one can even sit on its benches – at Berlin’s Technikmuseum in Kreuzberg, onyl several hundreds metres away from the place where Siemens & Halske´s legend was born.
You will find the story of the first tram and many other interesting tales from the history of Berlin´s public transport in my book, “Notmsparker´s Berlin Companion”.