Since April 1977, steam locomotive 01 1063 has been on display in front of the main railroad station in Braunschweig.
This locomotive was in active use on the German railways for thirty-five years, from 1940 to 1975. After that, it was the last steam locomotive to be repaired, overhauled and painted at the steam engine repair plant in Braunschweig, which was closed shortly thereafter.
Since the last steam locomotives were phased out in the 1970s, most of the main lines on the German railways have been electrified, and the non-electrified branch lines are served by diesel traction.
This monumental building served as the main railroad station in Braunschweig for 115 years, from 1845 to 1960. It was a terminal station, meaning all the tracks ended here, so the trains had to go out the same way they came in.
Since at that time it was not yet possible to drive the trains from both ends, this meant uncoupling the locomotive at the front of the train and attaching a new one at the back. This seems not to have been a big issue in the nineteenth century, but started getting on people’s nerves in the twentieth.
In 1960 the old station was replaced by the current main station on Berliner Platz, which is a through station. The old station building has since been modernized and is now used as a bank headquarters.
The current main railroad station on Berliner Platz in Braunschweig was opened in 1960, replacing the old station that had been in use since 1845.
Braunschweig is a stop on one of the InterCityExpress (ICE) routes from Frankfurt am Main to Berlin, with sixteen or seventeen direct trains per day in each direction. The journey from Frankfurt to Braunschweig takes two hours and forty-five minutes (if the train happens to be on time), with stops in Hanau, Fulda, Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Göttingen and Hildesheim.
The first thing you see when you come out of the station is a vast expanse of asphalt, with multi-lane motorway-like streets coming in from three directions. No wonder, since this whole area was designed in the late 1950s, when the prevailing ideology was to make cities fit for automobiles.
If you look more closely, though, you will see that there are also tram tracks, bicycle paths and even sidewalks going off in all directions as well. So your best bet is to rent a bicycle and make a swift departure from this sterile and inhospitable part of the city, just as this lady is doing.
In the basement of the main railroad station there is a bicycle station with storage facilities for up to 471 bicycles. You can also rent a bicycle here, which is what I did, or you can have your bike cleaned or repaired.
Parking costs one Euro for one day, ten Euros for a month or 100 Euros for a year. The customers are typically commuters who ride their bicycles to the station and then take the train to work, for instance to Hannover. The sign in the window on the right advertises “rust-free bicycle parking”.
The rental fee for a city-bike is six Euros for a day, € 15 for a three-day weekend or € 25 for a week. (Prices as of 2018.) Unlike most other rental places, they did not want a deposit, though they did ask to see my passport.
Their opening hours are Monday through Friday 5.30 to 22.30, Saturday 6.00 to 21.00 and Sunday 8.00 to 21.00. The bicycle station is run by the Braunschweig chapter of AWO, the Workers’ Welfare Organization.
This is Berliner Platz with the bicycle station in the center, the railroad station on the right and the roofed-over tram and bus stops on the left.
Like many other German cities, Braunschweig was radically redesigned in the 1950s and 60s during the darkest ages of auto mania, so to this day the city is disfigured by numerous oversized streets for automobiles.
In the meantime, however, they have also managed to build an extensive network of cycling lanes (using of course only a small fraction of the land taken up by motor vehicles), and for the past couple of decades the city council has been actively promoting bicycle travel as a sensible alternative to the ubiquitous heart-attack machines.
On one of my visits to Braunschweig in the 1990s I was very impressed with an advertising campaign that the council was running, urging cyclists to keep a distance of one meter from parked cars, to avoid getting doored. I can’t recall having seen such a campaign in any other city.
So yes, you can and should cycle in Braunschweig. Lots of people do it.
Recreational cycling is also very popular in Braunschweig. These folks are on one of the paths by the Oker River just south of the city center.
Braunschweig has had electric trams since 1897 (they were horse-drawn before that), and today there is an extensive system of trams and buses going all over the city and the surrounding area.
Actually I think it would be rather depressing just to sit in a tram or bus and vegetate when you could be out cycling, but for non-cyclists the trams are of course a much better option than stinking up the city with automobiles.
My photos in this post are from 2007. I revised the text in 2018.
See more posts on the city of Braunschweig, Germany.