History of railroads in Germany

The Transportation Museum (Verkehrsmuseum) in Nürnberg is now officially called the DB-Museum because it belongs to the German Railway System (DB = Deutsche Bahn). It documents the history of the railroads in Germany from the beginning (which was right here, since the first line was between Nürnberg and Fürth in 1835) to the present day, or nearly so.

German railways during the Nazi dictatorship

The Transportation Museum documents all phases of German railway development, including the dark period from 1933-1945, when the Nazis moved quickly to install their own people in positions of power in the railway system, and then used it as a willing accomplice in the war and in the transport of Jews and other minorities to the extermination camps.

Tourism and genocide

Back in the doorway, contrasting with the cheerful tourist posters, is a photo of the tracks leading up to the extermination camp at Auschwitz.

The exhibits on the 1920s, 30s and 40s were all designed at the beginning of the 21st century and were opened in September 2002. Apart from railway history, they give a vivid impression of what was going on in Germany in those troubled decades.

Railways after the war

At the Transportation Museum you can also get an impression of the chaotic conditions after the Second World War, when many trains and railway facilities had been damaged or destroyed by the bombings.

Other exhibits document the early stages of railroad development in the nineteenth century and the separate histories of the railroads in East and West Germany from 1949 to 1990.

Central station in Frankfurt 1901

There is also an exhibit on the history of railway stations in Germany, which begins with a large photo of the central station in Frankfurt am Main, taken in 1901. The streetcars are bigger now, and the square in front of the station is more cluttered, but the basic form of the station is still the same, after numerous phases of rebuilding and restoration.

Track with signals

My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2022.

See more posts on Nürnberg, Germany.
See more posts on train travel in Europe and Vietnam.

7 thoughts on “History of railroads in Germany”

  1. I have always felt a connection to trains, and I’m not sure why. I would like that aspect of this museum. Also, I am intrigued by how you paint a scene of being able to imagine what it was like in Germany in those troubling years. It seems as though that crisis of society happening in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s is similar to what is happening in the United States in the 2020s. I just read “It Can’t Happen Here” (1935) by Sinclair Lewis and it so closely mimicked my world right now I actually laughed. Maybe to keep from being chilled.

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