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Ghost stations is the usual English translation for the German word Geisterbahnhöfe. This term was used to describe certain stations on Berlin's U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro networks that were closed during the period of Berlin's division during the Cold War. Since then, the term has come to be used to describe any disused station on an underground railway line, especially those actively passed through by passenger trains.
In August 1961 the East German government built the Berlin Wall, ending freedom of movement between East and West Berlin. As a result, the Berlin public transit network, which had formerly spanned both halves of the city, was also divided into two. Some U- and S-Bahn lines fell entirely into one half of the city or the other; other lines were divided between the two jurisdictions, with trains running only to the border and then turning back. However, there were three lines—the U-Bahn lines now designated U6 and U8, and the Nord-Süd Tunnel on the S-Bahn—that ran for the most part through West Berlin but passed through a relatively short stretch of East Berlin territory in the city centre. These lines continued to be open to West Berliners; however, trains did not stop at most of the stations located within East Berlin, though for technical reasons they did need to slow down significantly while passing through. (Trains did stop at Friedrichstraße, more on which below.) The name Geisterbahnhof was soon understandably applied to these dimly lit, heavily guarded stations by the westerners who watched them pass by through the carriage windows. However, the term was never official; West Berlin subway maps of the period simply labelled these stations "Bahnhöfe, auf denen die Züge nicht halten" ("stations at which the trains do not stop"). East Berlin subway maps did not depict Western lines or ghost stations at all. U-bahn maps in the Friedrichstraße transfer station were unique: They depicted all the Western lines, but not the Geisterbahnhöfe, and showed the city divided into "Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR" ("Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic") and "Westberlin."
The situation was obviously less than ideal. The lines were a vital part of the West Berlin transit network, but because part of their length lay in East Berlin territory, it was difficult for western support staff to perform maintenance work on the tracks and tunnels. If a western train broke down in East Berlin territory, then passengers would need to wait for Eastern border police to appear and escort them out. The East German government occasionally hinted that it might someday block access to the tunnels at the border and run its own service on the East Berlin sections of these lines. However, this awkward status quo persisted for the entire 28-year period of the division of Berlin.
At the closed stations, barbed wire fences were installed to prevent any would-be escapees from running into the track bed, and the electrically live third rail served as an additional and potentially lethal deterrent. If someone were to breach one or two barriers, the alarm would be triggered. As for the entrances, the signage was removed, walkways were walled up and stairways were sealed with concrete slabs. Behind the windows, police stations were built, from which the whole area could be overlooked from the platform.
A wide white line on the wall marked the exact location of the border. Later, rolling gates were even installed at some stations, rolled into place at night while the guards were off-duty. Guard posts at other stations were staffed continuously to create additional employment positions with the transport police. In the platform area, the guards would always work in pairs, and care was taken that there would be no personal ties between them. In addition, superior officers could conduct surprise inspections at any time, thus, maintaining maximum security. Other stations were secured by the border guards.
Certain things had been misused, and originally there is railroad board at Alexanderplatz whereas it was replaced by closed rooms.[clarification needed] These rooms were used by a railroad board. The "Mäusetunnel" ("mice tunnel") that connected the two platforms in the city center railway station was used as a storeroom. Even years after the opening of the tunnel, the imprints of the containers in the asphalt floor could also be seen.
Friedrichstraße station, though served by western lines and located in East Berlin territory, was not a Geisterbahnhof. Instead, it served as a transfer point between U6 and several S-Bahn lines. Western passengers could walk from one platform to another without ever leaving the station or needing to show papers, much like air travellers changing planes at an international airport. Westerners with appropriate visas could also enter East Berlin here.
The Bornholmer Straße S-Bahn station was the only ghost station not located in a tunnel. It was situated close to the wall near the Bornholmer Straße border crossing. West Berlin trains passed through it without stopping. East Berlin S-Bahn trains passed the same station close by on different tracks. The tracks used by western and eastern trains were sealed off from each other by a tall fence.
Another oddity was Wollankstraße station. Like Bornholmer Straße, it was an S-Bahn stop served by West Berlin trains, but located on East Berlin territory just behind the border. However, Wollankstraße was in use and accessible for West Berliners, as one of its exits was open to a West Berlin street; This exit was exactly on the border line, a warning sign next to it informing passengers about the situation. Its other exits towards East Berlin streets were blocked.
The first people to enter the ghost stations after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 found that they lived up to their name, with the ads and signage on the walls being unchanged since 1961. None of these have been preserved.
The first ghost station to reopen to passenger traffic was Jannowitzbrücke (U8) on 11 November 1989, two days after the fall of the wall. It was equipped with a checkpoint within the station akin to Friedrichstraße, where East German customs and border control were provisionally installed to facilitate passengers heading to or coming from East Berlin. Hand-drawn destination signs were hung up covering the old ones from pre-1961; these signs were both crumbling from age and obviously missing the termini of post-1961 line extensions. On 22 December 1989, Rosenthaler Platz (U8) was reopened with a similar provisional checkpoint.
On 12 April 1990, the third station to reopen was Bernauer Straße (U8). As its northern exit was directly on the border, it could be opened with direct access to West Berlin without the need of a checkpoint. Its southern exit towards East Berlin was not reopened until 1 July 1990.
Discussions on reopening all the U6 and U8 stations including the S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße, Unter den Linden and Nordbahnhof had begun in 13 April 1990 without border controls. These took two months to clean up, removing all the dirt and refurbishing the interiors; all stations had been reopened on 1 July 1990 at 11 a.m., as East Berlin and East Germany had adopted the West German currency (DM), leaving the border checkpoints abandoned.
On 2 July 1990, Oranienburger Straße was the first ghost station on the Nord-Süd-S-Bahn to reopen. On 1 September 1990, Unter den Linden and Nordbahnhof were opened following reconstruction works. On 12 December 1990, Bornholmer Straße was reopened for West Berlin trains; a second platform for East Berlin trains allowing interchange followed on 5 August 1991. The very last ghost station to reopen was Potsdamer Platz, which opened on 3 March 1992, following an extensive restoration of the entire North-South tunnel.
In the following years, the city and German government put a great deal of effort into restoring and reunifying the S-Bahn and U-Bahn networks in Berlin. The U-Bahn system reached its pre-wall status in 1995 with the reopening of Warschauer Straße on U1. The S-Bahn system reached a preliminary completion in 2002 (with the reopening of the ring), even though there are still disused sections of lines closed in the aftermath of the wall. Decisions on reopening of some of these sections are still to be made.
This list only includes those stations in East Berlin territory that western trains passed through without stopping. There were other stations on both sides of the wall that were closed during the division because sections of track were not in use.
Temporary checkpoints were set up for stations with access to East Berlin, which were reopened before 1 July 1990. Checkpoints were no longer necessary for those reopened after that date when border checks were eliminated with the currency union between East and West Germany.
|List of Berlin's ghost stations as a result of the Cold War|
|Nord-Süd S-Bahn (S1 and S25)|
|No||Station||Date reopened||Remarks||Order of reopening|
|1||Bornholmer Straße||12 December 1990||7|
|2||Nordbahnhof||1 September 1990||6|
|3||Oranienburger Straße||2 July 1990||First S-Bahn ghost station to reopen||5|
|4||Unter den Linden||1 September 1990||Renamed Brandenburger Tor station||6|
|5||Potsdamer Platz||3 March 1992||8|
|1||Schwartzkopffstraße||1 July 1990||From approximately 1951 to 1971, the Schwartzkopffstraße station bore the name Walter-Ulbricht-Stadion after a nearby stadium named in honour of Walter Ulbricht, then the First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and de facto leader of East Germany. In 1971, when Ulbricht was deposed and replaced by Erich Honecker, the stadium and station were renamed Stadion der Weltjugend (Stadium of World Youth). This was despite the fact that the only trains that passed through the station were western and did not stop there. The original name was restored in 1991.||4|
|2||Nordbahnhof||1 July 1990||Renamed Zinnowitzer Straße (1991–2009), then Naturkundemuseum (from 2009)||4|
|3||Oranienburger Tor||1 July 1990||4|
|4||Französische Straße||1 July 1990||4|
|5||Stadtmitte||1 July 1990||Only the U6 station was closed. East Berlin Underground line A (part of today's U2) trains continued to stop here.||4|
|1||Bernauer Straße||12 April 1990||Only direct access to West Berlin was opened on this date (without the need for a checkpoint). Southern exit to East Berlin was not reopened until 1 July 1990.||3|
|2||Rosenthaler Platz||22 December 1989||Temporary checkpoint set up for border crossing into East Berlin.||2|
|3||Weinmeisterstraße||1 July 1990||4|
|4||Alexanderplatz||1 July 1990||Only the U8 station was closed. East Berlin Underground lines A (part of today's U2, and line E (today numbered U5, and S-Bahn trains continued to stop here.||4|
|5||Jannowitzbrücke||11 November 1989||Only the U8 station was closed. East Berlin S-Bahn trains continued to stop here. After reopening, checkpoints were set up for border crossing into East Berlin.||1|
|6||Heinrich-Heine-Straße||1 July 1990||4|
Apart from Berlin:
The article on German Wikipedia contains several unused surface stations, or unused underground stations without traffic.
All three are real ghost stations, underground stations with trains passing through.
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