If you’re looking to visit one of Europe’s historical railroad stations, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof probably isn’t it. Opened in 2006, the city’s “main” or “central” station is a modern mix of rail and commercial space, encased in glass. There is, however, something to be said about the station’s upper floor, with a dome that evokes the train sheds of yesteryear (the glass is, however, thoroughly modern and contains 2700 square meters of solar paneling). While several tracks are located below ground, and there is a U-Bahn station further underground that will transport you to the Reichstag or Brandenburg Gate, the station’s most photogenic spot likely can be found under that dome.
Historically, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof was constructed on the former site of the Lehrter Bahnhof, which dated back to 1871. Unfortunately, that station was heavily damaged in World War II, and after the partition of Germany – which wreaked havoc on the city’s transportation systems – it was ultimately decided to demolish it. The last train departed the station in August of 1951, and by 1959 the station was completely gone, though the Stadtbahnhof viaducts which ran overhead were preserved.
The Lehrter Stadtbahnhof in 1998, photo by Röhrensee.
The adjacent Lehrter Stadtbahnhof station, opened in 1882, lasted longer than the Lehrter Bahnhof, but ultimately met the same fate. Carrying suburban traffic, these trains were electrified and were given the name S-Bahn in 1930. Although surviving World War II intact, the division of Germany similarly affected the station. After the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berliners boycotted the S-Bahn, as it was operated by the state railway of East Germany, which further took its toll. Although West Berlin assumed control of the station in the 1980s, and it was subsequently renovated for Berlin’s 750th anniversary, the Lehrter Stadtbahnhof finally met its end in 2002 to make way for the Hauptbahnhof.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, city planners were looking to create a new, central railway station for the city, and by 1992 the site of the former Lehrter Bahnhof was finally chosen. The slowly evolving station site was known as the “Berlin Hauptbahnhof – Lehrter Bahnhof,” a nod to that old station. Construction consisted of new tunnels for long distance and U-Bahn trains, and bridges for the S-Bahn. Finally opened on May 26, 2006, the station contains six upper level tracks and eight lower level tracks. The single tracked U55 line was added in 2009, and is currently orphaned from the rest of the U-Bahn network. It is hoped that the U55 will be merged into the U5 line by 2017.
Anyway, let’s take a quick visit to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, through a collection of photographs I took back in May. I’d hardly complain about the station, as there are many photogenic spots, and it is nothing but completely modern (right down to the solar panels!), but admittedly a tiny part of me wishes I could have been checking out the old Lehrter Bahnhof!