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Trams in Gotha and the Thüringen Forest Railway 1.

I owe many thanks to the Thüringerwaldbahn und Strassenbahn Gotha GmbH to make this site

Our next stop of our tour around Thüringen was Gotha. They have been planning a horsetram system here since 1880 but in 1893 they suddenly decided on an electric tram system instead. Next year the tram is yet in traffic (well, well, another town after Jena which haven't used any horsetram). An interesting line belongs to the Gotha tramways, today's line 4: an interurban line between Gotha and some neighbouring settlements like Waltershausen, Friedrichroda, Tabarz etc. The line which was opened in 1929, and has a length including the Gotha city sections and the branchlines, of 24,1 kilometres, is running through the forests of the state Thüringen, that's where its name came from: Thüringerwaldbahn (Forest Railway of Thüringen). Yes, that's right, it's really a railway, it's inside the domestic railway timetable, field no. 608!

What difference can be felt by a simple user between the Gotha tram and the forest railway anyway? Nothing really, the railway uses the same tariff system inside Gotha and the same tramcars as the Gotha city lines. There are some minor differences, as the seat arrangements: the interurban coaches have more seats and less standing area in theory, or the tariff outside Gotha is kilometre-based. The reason why there are only a few differences: both are maintained by the same company: the Thüringerwaldbahn und Strassenbahn Gotha GmbH.

The first sight of the tourist coming out of the railway station is not so cheering: an empty, abandoned building, formerly hotel with broken windows, and a cross-sign drawing up the attention to the railway (tramway) crossing. I can't understand why the leaders are not able to put these signs at the tramlines in Hungary when this would be the cheapest way to secure the trams' advantage ahead of the car traffic.

We suddenly saw two trams on the end station at the railway station. On the left you can see a modernized KT4D tram on line 4, namely the Thüringerwaldbahn, on the right is a DÜWAG tram heading to the Ostbahnhof on the local line 2. The first was built by CKD in 1981 and was modernized in the own workshop of the TWSB company a few years ago. The other one had its previous homes of course outside the late East-Germany, was built in 1960, runned in Ludwigshafen first on no. 103 then it moved to Mannheim on no. 324 which has been used in Gotha since 1993. At that time 10 DÜWAG cars came here to make the fleet younger.

The clouds are getting thinner fortunately. Meanwhile the KT4D departed (you can see on the right, coming out of the loop), and another DÜWAG car on line 1 went to the previous place. No. 395 was built in 1962 for Mannheim and joined the Gotha fleet also in 1993. The car has the own advertisement of the Thüringerwaldbahn (70 years Forest Railway of Thüringen 1929-1999) and the traditional white-yellow painting with black stripe (quite familiar paint scheme for a Hungarian tramway fan, this used to be also a scheme of the Budapest trams).

The bogie of the DÜWAG car 401. Of course this is a meter-gauge bogie, this means that the wheels have to be inside the bogie frames, the axle-bearings are here on the outside. Otherwise there wouldn't be enough place for the motor and the gear between the two longitudinal beams of the bogie frame.

It's about time to say some words about the colors in Gotha. They had two color schemes traditionally what you can see quite clearly on the picture below, taken in 1963:
Source: Strassenbahnen zu Ulbrichts Zeiten *
On the left: a car of the local livery in the white-blue color scheme, and on the right you can see some coaches of the interurban livery in white-yellow. The two cars at the back were both made for the opening of the forest line in 1929, the blue car is a type ET55, the direct predecessor of the so called Gothaer trams. The traditional color schemes started to disappear when the Gothaer trams showed up, most of them got the "uniformized" ivory painting on "central command". Now I understand why they paint their cars back to the traditional blue and yellow colors, even if it's mixed up a little bit. The picture was taken also at the main station (Hauptbahnhof), at this time there haven't been any loops, the end station was a head station.

Two DÜWAG's again. 401 was built in 1963 for Mannheim, but came here yet in 1991, while no. 320 at the back runned in Heidelberg between 1960-1969 on no. 203 and came here in 1993. All six cars in 1991 and four others in 1993 have been sold by Mannheim, keeping their former serial numbers. These cars are six-axle one-directional cars made by DÜWAG. They have an additional, third headlight which provides a better view in foggy weather, they had been fitted yet in Mannheim.

We get up the next car, no. 408. We buy our tourist ticket which allows us to travel both in the city and on the forest railway sections of the tramway for one day... and it also functions as a pass in some of the region's attractions.

You can see the track layout of the Gotha tram and Forest Railway of Thüringen above, pretty much deformed (see the description "Massstab: Ohne" which means "no scale"). It would be quite interesting anyway to have a tramway depot half as big as the town itself! :-) The serial order of the switches (no. 1 to 4) at the main station is not a mistake: the passing direction around the loop had been the opposite until the Spring of 1988.

A tour of 55 minutes is ahead of us until the end station of Tabarz. First we go towards the inner city along the Bahnhofstrasse and its continuing streets together with the car traffic, then we turn left on the switch no. 5 to the independent tracks of Gartenstrasse (Garden street), this is how we go round the city core.
Source: Strassenbahnen zu Ulbrichts Zeiten *
But this was not always: the one way track towards the main station had been laid inside until 1968 when they built the second track on the Gartenstrasse. The line turns southwards then to the West where we go together with the car traffic again. After the station of the TWSB depot (also workshop) the track is closed with a single track, with passing possibilities on a few places. For example at the stop Schöne Aussicht (Nice Lookout) the trams pass the only platform from the left in both directions. We get out of the town among the suburban gardens, this is where a new branchline leads to the hospital (Kreiskrankenhaus). Not all of the trams go there, we also pass along this branchline without stopping. The allowed speed from now on is 65 kph (the same fast as we travelled on the closed, independent tracks of Jena). Growing fields, then a forest with loop tracks at Boxberg. Then growing fields again, a motorway, growing fields, then we arrive at the station Waltershausen-Gleisdreieck (~railway triangle). The forest railway has another branchline here to Waltershausen (actually you can change the tram from line 4 to another line 4 :-) ). At the same place we meet the normal railway line Fröttstädt-Friedrichroda with which we go together on the next section.

We have our only street crossing with gates at the stop Schnepfenthal together with the above mentioned railway line.

The number of users changed very well through the journey, of course the most people was in Gotha, and only a few was here in the forest sections (we was here around noon). But we have loads of handrails at least :-)

In contrast with the usual tourists we don't stay at the bath center of Tabarz, we catch the KT4 ahead of us which brings us back towards Gotha (you have to know the trams follow each other on a half-hour regular basis at least). This is where I make a photo about our previous DÜWAG tram (it's dark blue because of a fullsize advertisment).

Interior of the KT4D.

We travel "only" one stop (2,4 km), to make some photos about the forest section, too.

The modernized car no. 302 in the stop Marienglashöhle. Does this picture need any comments anyway?!?

A turn with a lift on the outer side, supported by rails digged into the ground.

But seriously: does a usual tramway line look like this?!? :-)

The discreet hiding of the counterweight in the queen-post.

A crossing in the middle of the forest.

* The photo is from the book entitled Strassenbahnen zu Ulbrichts Zeiten / Trams in der DDR: Die 60er Jahre in Farbe, published by GeraMond (C) 2002

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

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