Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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May 1996

Smoke, Soot, and Steel

The history of Munich's railroad system and the development of the Eisenbahn.

Impatient, and slightly apprehensive, the townspeople peer down the tracks. Excited murmurs ripple through the crowd at the sight of smoky clouds tumbling up in thick swells. A rhythmic gasping punctuates the back and forth movement of the connecting wheel rods. Drawing in to the station, the clamoring steam locomotive slows to a halt, its wheels screeching on the steel tracks. There it stands, still hissing noisily. The train's wagon doors swing open, and people step out, most of them with cinder flecks on their clothing and a fine black powder dusting their hair. Women lift their long skirts, trying to keep the hems out of the mud; gingerly, they step along wooden planks. These are the first passengers on the Munich railway line arriving from Augsburg in 1839. For a few people, this new "self-moving" machine was threatening. More often, it was greeted with excitement. In A Haze of Beer, Smoke and Simple Folk: Living and Working in Munich from 1840 to 1945, by Bauer, Gerstenberg and Peschel, the authors state that, "with the arrival of the smoldering iron horses in 1839, the expansion of rail networks and construction of train stations, new industry settled in Munich. Despite some resistance to rail construction in the population, the triumphant march into a new age could no longer be stopped." In the middle of the last century, many people in Munich had never seen a steam locomotive. It was still a novelty in agricultural Bavaria, which lagged behind the rest of the German regions industrially. But within a generation, Munich had two train factories and became a hub of locomotive production in Europe. The steam engines manufactured here counted among some of the best in the world, breaking speed records of the day and winning international acclaim. In the middle of the last century, many people in Munich had never seen a steam locomotive. It was still a novelty in agricultural Bavaria, which lagged behind the rest of the German regions industrially. But within a generation, Munich had two train factories and became a hub of locomotive production in Europe. The steam engines manufactured here counted among some of the best in the world, breaking speed records of the day and winning international acclaim. The same enthusiastic spirit that ushered in the "iron horse" continued to power change in the second half of the century. Ideas transformed into inventions, and technology moved on steadily. Now, steam locomotives have again become rare, even a novelty; many of us have never seen a steam locomotive pulling into a station. Their glory days have not gone forever, though; their history lives on in train museums around the state, and their legend is kept alive by train buffs who restore them for nostalgic rail journeys, letting us relive the excitement of generations past. HUMBLE BEGINNINGS The birthplace of the steam locomotive was England at the first part of the 19th century. By 1825, the first public railway towed over 30 wagons traveling along iron tracks near London. This new "locomotion," as it was originally called, puffed along at approximately 20 km/hour, nearly three times faster than a horse and buggy. And it could haul more people and greater loads at lower costs. Investors on the continent and America followed England's lead and began planning train lines in their countries. With much pomp and circumstance, Germany's first train line, a private venture, began operation in 1835. Pulled by the Adler steam locomotive imported from England, the train traveled the 6 km stretch from Nuremberg-Furth in less than 15 minutes. Shuttling back and forth on one of the most frequently traveled roads in Bavaria, the Ludwigsbahn-named for King Ludwig I of Bavaria- enjoyed great popularity and soon proved to be an enormous success. Distance could be overcome in a fraction of the time. Despite the sensational premiere in Nuremberg, King Ludwig I, although intrigued by the new technology, remained relatively indifferent to building up a railway system in Bavaria. Yet this ground breaking technology inflamed competition among entrepreneurs across Europe and America who realized the potential riches to be made in the young railroad industry. MUNICH'S FIRST EISENBAHN Inspired by the financial success of the Ludwigsbahn in Nuremberg, Hugo Ritter von Maffei chartered a holding company with other industrialists to finance the building of a Munich-Augsburg line. Born in 1790 to a rich Italian immigrant, Maffei was instrumental in forging Munich's train history. As one of the city's richest and most influential citizens, he co-founded the Bayerische Hypobank and established the "Bayerischer Hof" hotel. Moreover, contrary to his king, he realized the potential fortune to be made with trains and railways. Requiring a nine-hour coach ride, it took just 2 1/2 hours to ride the 59 km from Augsburg to Munich by train. The railway's locomotives came from England. Hoping that the monarch would promise to purchase locally produced locomotives for further railway lines, Maffei stated in a letter to King Ludwig I that it was "imperative to produce all materials necessary for the train in our own country, so as not to be dependent on foreign sources." To this end, he purchased an "ironworks" in the Hirschau in the English Garden, and established a company for locomotive manufacturing, the first in Bavaria. Maffei's industrial foresight failed him in his choice of the site, however, because there was no rail connection between Schwabing and his own principal train route. The Munich-Augsburg line ended on the western edge of town, where Hackerbrücke is now. At the completion of his first locomotive in 1841, Maffei again wrote to King Ludwig, requesting he accept the honor of naming it. Ludwig's reply read, "I was pleased to hear of the construction of the steam car in Munich and to fulfill your wish that I give it a name, it should be called der Münchner." For its test run, the locomotive was ceremoniously loaded onto a flat wagon and pulled by a team of nearly 30 horses into the wooden train station. As the first locally produced engine passed through the city, crowds of onlookers lined the streets to gape at this shining product of Munich industry. The newly created Royal Bavarian State Railroad began purchasing Maffei's locomotives in 1844 and he subsequently concentrated on building heavy, strong, fast locomotives. Although sometimes hindered by state borders and land disputes in a Europe still ruled by monarchs, railroad networks spread throughout Europe. In 1860, the Munich-Salzburg line was personally opened by Kaiser Franz Josef I of Austria and Bavarian successor King Maximilian II. Thus, the important Paris-Vienna route was now fully connected by rail. LOTS OF LOCOMOTIVES Much to Maffei's dismay, a mechanic who had trained at the J.A. Maffei manufacturing plant, Georg Krauss, founded a second locomotive factory in Munich in 1866. Krauss was an outstanding technician with brilliant design ideas, and able to meet changing demands. In the service of the Royal Bavarian State Railroad and in Switzerland, he had gained such a good reputation in locomotive building that he had orders for locomotives even before the construction halls of his factory were complete. His very first Munich-manufactured locomotive, the Landwührden, was awarded a gold medal at the 1867 Paris World Expo. Krauss & Comp. began to specialize in building simpler, smaller locomotives and turning them out at an extraordinary pace. By 1888, he delivered his 2,000th locomotive, and in 1904, his 5,000th. DAWN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY In the ensuing decades, steam locomotives in Europe and America continued to get bigger, stronger and faster. In 1906, Maffei's B2/6 model set a speed record of 154 km/h, which remained unbroken for 30 years. With the introduction of electric power near the end of the century, the slow exit of steam power began. During World War I, much of the capacity of Munich's railroad factories was diverted to weapons, and post-war efforts were directed to repairing, not constructing railroads. By the late 1920s, both electric and diesel power had made their breakthroughs. Krauss & Comp. took over the financially strapped Maffei factory in 1931. At their present location in Munich-Allach, the company Krauss Maffei now builds, in addition to industrial and military products, engines for high speed ICEs and magnetic-powered monorail trains. PRESERVING THE PAST Today's high-tech trains are silent, sterile, streamlined and ecologically sound; rail travel in Germany has become commonplace. We cannot move forward, however, without at least occasionally looking back. An escape from electronic, digital and sometimes surreal inventions, the completely mechanical workings of steam engines fascinate us, perhaps now more than ever. Rare historical originals and history-making steam locomotives recapture the past: a copy of the Adler, the first train of the Nuremberg-Furth line, is now proudly on display at the Nuremberg Transportation Museum. Krauss' prize-winning Landwührden was one of the first exhibits in the Deutsches Museum at its founding in 1905. Maffei's 1,000th manufactured locomotive, an S3/6, lauded in the German Handbook of Steam Locomotives for its technology, strength and beauty, has also found a final resting place in Munich's famous museum. NOSTALGIA PURE On some railways off the beaten track, you can take a trip back in time. The Deutsche Bahn AG and Transport Museum in Nuremberg sponsor tours year-round, with season highlights from May-December. Additionally, over 70 German organizations, including 12 Bavarian "Friends of Railroads" clubs, restore and maintain steam locomotives. The Nördlingen Eisenbahnfreunde e.V. is the largest train club in Bavaria, with approximately 400 members, including some from as far away the U.S. and Japan. Breathing life into the steel monsters requires years of dedication and work. Virtually all restoration is done by hand; in painstaking replication-sometimes aided by original construction drawings and old photographs-the club members rejuvenate the historic machines. Adding to a proud stall of 46 different locomotives, members are currently working on their "queen." Due to be finished in May, the club is currently restoring an S3/6 with support from Bahn Extra, a magazine for railroad enthusiasts published in Munich. Mr. Jaster, editor of the magazine, agrees it's probably "the greatest Bavarian steam locomotive of all time." He pauses and reflects. "Members of the Eisenbahnfreunde come from all walks of life. Some are retired train workers or engineers, many are professionals who do it for a hobby, but for some, it's pure infatuation. They just want to get to know a certain type of locomotive from the inside out." TRAIN OF THOUGHT In explaining the fascination of the iron horse, Jaster, a member of the Eisenbahnfreunde for 10 years and a trained steam locomotive engineer, explains: "It's love. I love everything about them: you can see the valves open and close, the gauges flutter, feel the heat of the fire and feel penned up power of highly pressurized steam. And they are powered only by natural elements: coal, oil, wood, water." "When I was a kid, I would watch them switching trains in the yard near my grandparents' home," Jaster continued. "Later, these locomotives, their romantic lore, so much a part of history, became so cold and dead in a museum. I decided to bring the past to life." Dedicated train-loving hobbyists have resurrected steam locomotives to travel the tracks again. A century and a half after their arrival in Munich, you may find yourself in a Bahnhof in Bavaria waiting impatiently to catch a glimpse of billowing clouds of smoke and soot emerging from a steam locomotive coming round the bend. Like wisps of vapor left hanging in the air after their passing, their ghosts linger on.

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