<<< Previously: Erfurt: Where have all KT4's gone...?

Dresden: the long, the longer, the longest and the blue 1.

The ex-GDR towns remind me the times when the Eastern Block was choked full of Eastern Block productions, for example GDR-made westernfilms starring the Yugoslav Goiko Mitic. So please apologise me for this "westernfilmish" title :-)

On the end of our third day we rushed across the East German territories along the renewed railway tracks, sometimes with speeds up to 200 kph. Arriving at Dresden, we took our first tram at the brand new track at the main railway station. Yet this time, in the opposite direction, a T4 type service car ran along, so this means this town has many things for us to offer! And how right am I, last year I have already been here and made some interesting photos which you will se here also.

Day 4, morning. Let's take a tram quickly, we still have some time before we take a short trip to the near Bad Schandau where we're going to see another tramway, of course. Well, what is it: it's in Dresden, it runs on rails, it's yellow but it's not a tram? Yes, it's a heavy working machine on tyres. It means we have to catch a bus substituting the trams (Schienenersatzverkehr)...

...by which we arrive at Postplatz, a junction of eight tramway lines. A local speciality: you can see a unique order number above the left headlight. Mass transit vehicles in Dresden usually have a railway-like numbering system: three numerals indicate the type (or class) of the vehicle, the second three is a serial number and there is a numeral after a dash which is a control number. It looks the same as at the German Railways but the way of calculating the control numbers is different to those at the railways. But let's see the trams!

Here is a train consisting of two T4D motor cars, actually this is a motor car and a powered trailer which has no driver's cabin, only a few hidden buttons so you can move it inside the depot. All these old Tatras have been modernized, many have chopper control, but they won't be here for long: this year the delivery of the newest generation of low-floor trams began, type NGTD12DD (quite easy to remember, huh? :-) ). If those arrive in large numbers, the Tatras have to leave. Am I right, have we found a normal gauge (1435 mm) tramway system at last? No way! The track gauge is 1450 mm.

This is a six-axle version of the low floor trams made by the STram consortium (Siemens, ABB, DUEWAG, DWA, later Bombardier Transportation Bautzen), number 2516, type NGT6DD...

...and this is its longer brother, the 41 metres long NGT8DD, around 11 metres longer than the previous one. It was also made at the same place in Bautzen but on the name Bombardier Transportation. Although there cannot be seen any railway-like serial numbers on the low floor tramcars from the outside, they are always described inside the driver's cabins.

Other Tatras at the same place. These have also chopper control. The fact that not all of the motor cars are the same, some of them are only powered trailers without driver's cabin, came to my mind only after I had come back home. Nevertheless the class numbers tell the truth: class 224 is the normal motor car on the left while class 244 is a powered trailer on the right. All of the powered trailers used to be normal motor cars but they dismounted the driver's cabins to make a larger room for passengers. You can see a custom made cover plate on the Scharfenberg couplers as a local speciality.

A shorter low-floor car again, coming from Theaterplatz, turning beside the Zwinger palace.

We take an identical tramcar, no. 2525 (as I counted it: 232 525-5). The floor is higher at the powered wheels, but it has low floor without steps at the running wheels where you can only see the wheel covering boxes. The motors are very loud, the car has different noises in addition to that. For example there are interesting "puffing" sounds, I think it is something like an active air spring which balances the car body. Or at the back, annoying clackings of the index indicators. Sometimes the air compressor runs also. We take this tram to Gorbitz, not surprisingly, because we heard that the newest low floor car is there at the depot, and they already test it on the tramway lines.

And we were right, two test trains passed us by in the opposite direction, one of them was the new car. So we thought we're going to wait for it at the Gorbitz end station, hoping it would be back shortly. Many cars wait for their return back in town on the wide, roomy loop tracks. On the picture you can see the six axle, five section 2516 of line 2, the eight axle, seven section 2702 of line 7 in a purple fullsize advertisement and no. 2585 of line 47 which is a short, temporary line because of various track closures.

Our previous car no. 2525 which has the own advertisement of the company regarding the 130th anniversary of the local tram system: "From the horse pulled tram to the Light Rail Transit". Oh yes, nearby they demolished a few block houses, too, just like in Gera or Erfurt, built together with this tramline in the mid-eighties...

And another jubilee car: the sixtieth low floor car in Dresden, no. 2593 which is a bi-directional car with doors on each side. We started back towards the city because we waited for long. Before we arrived at the next stop, one of the test trains (a low floor car with dismounted roof cover plates) have passed us by again. We choosed to take off, and in that moment...

...the first NGTD12DD no. 2801 passed slowly. In the Dresden class-system: low floor (Niederflur-), articulated (Gelenk-) motor car (Triebwagen) with bogies (Drehgestell) with 12 axles. The letters DD, surprisingly, stand for the car is a vehicle permitted in Dresden, the registration number plates on all cars, buses, trucks etc. start usually with DD. So I don't get the logic, nevermind. Well, if the previous low floor tramcars are the long (L) and the longer (XL), then this new one is the longest (XXL) with its 45,09 metres length (the length of a three car Tatra train), at this moment the longest monospace tramcar of the World (well at least until the 53 metre long Combinos arrive at Budapest). The biggest difference to the others is that it has bogies, it increases travel comfort mostly in curves (the others with their short section car bodies don't run so smooth in curves, just like the Combinos, they're jerking themselves from left to right). The car looks a bit thinner than the others, this is because of the bogie-design: the ends of the car body has to be made narrower otherwise the nose would reach over the safety area in curves. Even the headlights are below each other, this makes the car look even narrower. The front and rear of the car reminds me a death's-head, okay, we shall rather call it a skull :-). Just like the previous types, it is only partly-low floor tram, the covering of the bogies which turn underneath the car body needs large space. The low-floor ratio fell to 68 percent despite the 69 percent of the two other types. Advantages and disadvantages could be told for long, anyway it's quite interesting that the new car has only five doors instead of nine on a three-car Tatra train with the same length, it will be quite uncomfortable for the passengers in heavy duty stations to take on and off. Looking at the description on the rear table, they had brake tests on the car.

"Real" tramways again after the Light Rail Transit (Stadtbahn) with separated tracks: we're in the city again. This is a motor car + trailer train (type T4D + type B4D) at Carolaplatz.

We take another tram just like the one before, to the Dresden-Neustadt railway station, aboard the trailer no. 274 061-3. Then we get on a train to go down to the Saxon Switzerland, namely to Bad Schandau, where we take a closer look at a small forest tramway line, the hard-to-spell Kirnitzschtalbahn.

After our short trip, Dresden again, but for a change, we didn't go inside the city by train but we took off before, at Niedersedlitz where we transferred the tram.

In order to make place for both directions in tight curves, the two tracks are pulled away from each other. This is typical, a problem can be solved easily if they want, not in my hometown Budapest, where in some places two trams must not pass by each other because of the risk of collision! The route where we go, has single track sections, too. It's fantastic how perfectly the timetable of the passing trams is calculated despite there are two tramway lines at the same place! But it's about time to see some lost rails, places where tramlines used to be. Knowing this is a large tramway system, there are a lot of lost rails, too. Now let's go to Schillerplatz!

To Be Continued >>>

Text and photos by András Báti, except where otherwise mentioned (C) 2003

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