09
Apr

2010

The Wuppertal Schwebebahn

Post by Steven Dale

The Wuppertal Schwebebahn in Central Germany. Image by JuergenG.

In the central German city of Wuppertal is a piece of transit infrastructure completely unique in the world.

Translated directly, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn means “floating railway” and it’s easy to see how it received it’s name. Built in 1900, the Shwebebahn in the oldest monorail on the planet and an elegant piece of transit history and infrastructure. (FYI – It’s not cable propelled.)

Even 110 years ago, civil engineers understood the problems of public transit co-mingling with other private modes of transportation. But unlike today where we try and work around the problem of mixed traffic with dubious Transit Signal Priority Schemes, these engineers decided to forget about the band-aid approach and just get out of traffic’s way completely. And in doing so, they arrived upon the solution of creating the world’s first “hanging monorail.”

While the age of the system gives its infrastructure considerable heft, it’s not at the expense of the urban environment. The green support structures arch gracefully and their conspicuously large steel rivets conjure images of turn-of-the-century skyscrapers and the Eiffel Tower.

Much of the Wuppertal’s route lies overtop of the local river. Whereas some might have thought such a scheme would only be useful for crossing rivers, Wuppertal planners were wise in recognizing the other more intrinsic value of river corridors: Running along a river instead of across a river opens up wide areas of public space and provides an attractive view for riders.

The Wuppertal Schwebebahn shows how aerial transit systems are not only possible, but elegant, practical, safe and efficient. The Schwebebahn has an excellent safety record, and is still an essential part of that city’s transit infrastructure; not just a toy for tourists. It also suggests how an aerial gondola system might be similarly configured/integrated into the urban environment.

Check it out:

Special thanks to Christian for suggesting I discuss this unique and amazing system.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Comments

  1. Excellent safety record, appart from the 1999 accident in which 5 people died... still, I guess that's a decent record for something over 100 years old.
  2. there's a dresden schwebebahn too. but this one is cable propelled, electric assisted. http://www.flickr.com/photos/39028849@N06/4808482376/ i wonder if schwebebahn will ever make a come-back...