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The Gothaer and others: trams from the GDR

If you have any comments or I may missed something, please contact me!

Let's tie the knots out! What are we talking about when we say Gothaer, REKO, LOWA etc. type of trams? They are the mostly known two-axle tramcars from the former GDR or East-Germany. I had very good luck to make photos about all of them. First, I had to buy a magazine about tramways just in the right time, second, then my friend Mestska had to borrow it to read it, then there had to be an article saying there would be a tramway-festival two days later in Halberstadt of the hundred years old tramway. Then we had to decide on mixing up our schedule, missing Chemnitz and Zwickau to go to Halberstadt instead. Then we had to find an internet cafe to see the online timetable of the German Railways if we can go there from Dresden, early in the morning. Then I had to buy another book with more interesting informations about these trams. With good luck all of these conditions fulfilled, so this page would become complete, fortunately :-)))

Let's go back in time to the second half of the 1940's. A part of the rolling stock of the German tramway companies damaged or annihilated in the second World War, they needed new vehicles. In the eastern block, in the first round, the rebuilt coaches (Aufbauwagen) showed up, from 1948. They were cars built up with new steel chassis on the useable undercarriages of older, damaged cars. This meant no technological improvement, the most important was to bring as many useable cars on the streets again as possible. These cars were built mainly by the waggon builder companies in Werdau and Gotha, but some companies built their own cars for themselves, too. The last of these kind of trams was built in 1955 or in 1956/57 according to various sources, for Naumburg am Saale. Meanwhile the giant leap forward was developing a new type.

Many prototypes were built in these years but one of them was outstanding: a two-axle motor car and a fitting trailer. They have developed a unified tramcar type which can be used in all of the GDR's tramway networks, and can be fitted into trains including pre-war cars. What can we say? Well, it's quite an economical and reasonable decision despite the socialist system, but it also determined that the new cars have to be short, two-axle cars (many systems could only be operated by these kinds of trams). The prototype train was built in 1951, without type number for a while, in the VEB Lokomotiv- und Waggonbau Werdau (LOWA) factory in Werdau. The factory's name stuck on them as a nickname: they became the LOWA cars, the first of the Unified Motor Cars (Einheitstriebwagen) and the Unified Trailer Cars (Einheitsbeiwagen). The electrics were built by the VEB Lokomotivbau Elektrotechnische Werke (LEW) Henningsdorf nearby Berlin (they built later the suburban trains type MX and MXA for the Budapest Traffic Company BKV). Of course, this prototype train remained conserved in the historic depot in Leipzig.

You can find pictures of the motor car as well as the non-powered trailer on the homepage of the museum.

The prototype train was displayed at the Leipzig trade fair in 1951 to the public, then they put it into operation afterwards. The serial production has started and they got a type number too, namely ET50 for the motor cars (Einheitstriebwagen for Unified motor car, developed in 1950) and EB50 for the Unified trailers (Einheitsbeiwagen).

They built trailers in 1952 yet in two other waggon factories too, in Gotha in the VEB Waggonbau Gotha factory and the VEB Waggonbau Ammendorf nearby Halle. Gotha built 9 pcs. trailers for Erfurt between 1952-57, they were three-entry, two-axle cars type "Erfurt 52" while Ammendorf built 50 pcs. trailers similar to the LOWA cars for Berlin type B2-53. They could not have been proud for long that they were building tramcars in three different places: the Plan-Economy of the GDR moved the building of the LOWA cars in the Gotha factory, the LOWA factory started to build street vehicles like lorries or electric trolley buses while Ammendorf built couchette train waggons for "the big brother", the Soviet Union - nearly exclusively.

Number 36 of the Halberstadt tramways is a LOWA car built yet in Gotha in 1956 type ET54, it's one of the lasts of this kind

In Gotha, which remained the only tramcar builder from 1954, they built a newer version of the LOWA cars with their hexagonal shaped car body (looking from the front), with their four side-windows and double-wing central opening sliding doors, in the previous logical order, type ET54 and EB54 (these were only bi-directional cars). I don't really see any difference between the LOWA cars built in Werdau and Gotha, I can only guess: maybe the lower edge of the windscreens, at the joint of the wiper. I believe there is a typical Gothaer character, the lower edge of the windscreen is a V-shape, looking down, where the axis of the windscreen-wiper is at the pitch of the V-shape - but that's only my theory.

If we look at an older car built in Gotha (by Bothmann) we can see the characteristic V-shape at the lower edge of the windscreen, although it's true that this is not the originally built look

The interior of the LOWA cars kept the traditional 2+1 cross seating:

Interior of a Gothaer made ET54

A few characteristics of the Unified tramcars which can be seen in the Gothaer cars, too: wooden inner cladding, 2+1 cross seats with leatherette coating, three-shaped driver's cabin wall from which the two wings on the right can be opened outwards, or the wheel-covering drums which intrude the floor because of the floor height. Or on the older vehicles, on the outside, the egg-shaped casing of the brake-, the back- and the direction indicator lights which reminds me those on the Wartburg 311 or Trabant 500 cars. Well, the LOWA car above doesn't have these kinds of lights, it has a newer, small, round casing. This LOWA car has its own sheathing for the junction setting pole beside the right front door.

Main data of the LOWA motor cars
Type
 
ET50 (Werdau, 1951-54)
ET54 (Gotha, 1954-56)
Livery
 
ER* only in 1951, for
Leipzig, the others ZR*
Seats
22
Standing area
47 (ER), 37 or 51 (ZR)**
Length
10 500 mm
Width
2 180 mm
Height
3 033 mm
Axle distance
3 000 mm
Motor performance
2 x 60 kW
Motor type
EM 60/600
Controller type
 
StNFB 1, cranck***
(18 course-, 13 brake steps)
Max. allowed speed
40 km/h
Operational brakes
Electric brake
Fixing brakes
 
Stump brakes
(operated by crancks)
Additional brakes
1 pair of rail brakes

* ER = one-directional cars (Einrichtungswagen), ZR = bi-directional cars (Zweirichtungswagen)
** according to various sources
*** all two-axle motor cars between 1951 and 1961 were built with these equipment

Of course, Gotha wanted to develope the unified tramcars further according to their own plans. They built five unique, bi-directional motor cars in 1955, some kind of prototypes, which represented a transition between the LOWA and the Gothaer types. Because developing and manufacturing a brand new type should have been permitted by the Socialist Authorities of the Plan-Economy of the GDR, and the cars built without a permission like this, became only an unofficial type number: ET55. The five special cars have never left the Gotha region, they became the cars no. 38 - 42 of the local tramways (and of the Thüringen Forest Railways).

The ET55 no. 38 is a service car today while no. 39 has been taking part of the nostalgic fleet since March 2002

The remaining ET55 cars have their egg-shaped, Wartburg-alike casing for the lights (let me call these simply Wartburg-lights from now on :-)) ).

Interior of the ET55 no. 39

Despite the LOWA cars the ET55 has only three side-windows, and the side walls are vertical and flush. The flush walls make cleaning the cars easier. The front of the car, the side windows of the driver's cabin and the handbrake cranck reminds me yet the LOWA's.

Of course, the development went on, the prototype of the Gothaer motor cars and trailers were ready in 1956. But, to be permitted by the Authorities of the Plan-Economy, they cheated: the official type of the new cars became "ST 2 m SU" and "SB 2 m SU", this meant two-axle, meter-gauge motor car and trailer built for the Soviet Union! This was not so surprising, there had been LOWA cars already made for the Soviet Union and Poland.

The prototypes of the Gothaer cars made in 1956 are also historic cars in Gotha since 1993

You can see the prototype Gothaer motor car no. 43 on the picture above. This had been a bi-directional car with doors on each side, they modified it later in 1972 at the main workshop of the railways, in Berlin Schöneweide to be one-directional with doors only on the right side. It has been conserved in this condition. You can see on the picture on the right that it had been bi-directional: the lower edge of the windscreen is the same, V-shaped, looking downwards, just like at front, even the place of the windscreen-wiper is still there. The prototype trailer is also conserved in its condition after its modification in 1974 as a one-directional car. The serial production of the Gothaer cars started in 1957 so they became ET57 as well as EB57 at the first time.

The Gothaer cars in the serial production reached their usual look, I mean first of all the windows and windscreens of the driver's cabin. Car no. 47 of the Gotha tramway company is one of these and it's also a historic car, you can see it below:

A little lesson: one end of no. 47 (left) is equipped with a non-automatic coupler (Albert-kupplung), that's why there are electric couplings on the front, in addition. The other end (right) is equipped with an automatic central coupler type Scharfenberg which has the electric contacts in itself. There are "Wartburg-lights" at both ends, while these had been modified to the small round casings on the prototype seen before.

Main data of the Gothaer motor cars until 1961
Type
 
ET55, ST 2 m SU, ET57, Erfurt57*,
Halle57*, ET59, T2-60**, T2-61**
Seats
15...22 in various liveries
Standing area
52...75 in various liveries
Length
10 900 mm
Width
2 200 mm
Axle distance
3 200 mm
Motor performance
2 x 60 kW
Motor type
EM 60/600
Controller type
 
StNFB 1, cranck
(18 course-, 13 brake steps)
Max. allowed speed
40...50 km/h
Operational brakes
Electric brake
Fixing brakes
Stump brakes
Fixing brake is operated by
Lever (ET55: cranck)
Additional brakes
1 pair of rail brakes

* Cars built according to special local demands, for example with special seat arrangements
** Type numbers of the Gotha made cars contained the number of axles from around 1960 on, after the letter of motor cars (T) and trailers (B)

 

Changes from 1962
Type
T2-62, T2-62/65
 
Controller type
 
StNFB 4, regulator wheel,
under floor switch (Unterflurschalter)
(22 course-, 18 brake steps)

The biggest need for vehicles was in Berlin at the end of the fifties. They built a four-axle prototype motor car with bogies, and a passing trailer for Berlin in 1958 at the Gotha factory (EDT58 for the motor car where D=Drehgestell, bogie, and EDB58 for the trailer), although these East-German Grossraumwagen's (large room waggons) were only built in serial production between 1961 and 1964 (type T4-62 and B4-61 of the motor cars and trailers respectively). 66 motor cars and 122 trailers were made in total for the networks of Berlin, Magdeburg and Dresden, then the cars of Dresden were sent to Berlin also, after decreasing the number of types of the rolling stock around 1968.

A train of these types is reserved in the nostalgic depot of Dresden.

The year is 1959 when a new prototype showed up in the Gotha factory again. It was a four axle, articulated motor car with a short, suspended middle part. The technology: coupling together a motor car and a trailer and to open up the rear and front parts between, by a middle part, making a long, monospace interior. They built only one-directional cars of this kind, because it is not desirable to push a lighter waggon by a heavier motor car, the risk of derailing is higher.

The sightseeing nostalgic car in Erfurt

A novelty of the articulated cars: the doors were not the usual sliding doors, but folding doors, two-wing folding door at front and four-wing folding doors in the middle part and at the rear. Sometimes they used it in the following manner: the front door was reserved for the ones to get on with time passes, the rear was used by those who payed at the conductor and getting off was at the middle door.

Another novelty is the Unterflurschalter, the under floor switch, which was also built in the forthcoming types of the two-axle Gothaer trams. You can operate it by the regulator wheel which reminds me the steering wheels of late East-German cars.

The first prototype of the articulated Gothaer trams was built for Erfurt, then another for Dresden in 1960 (these were the type EGT59). The serial production was between 1961 and 1967, they built 216 more cars type G4-61 and G4-65, the most of them for Leipzig where they usually coupled one more trailer behind them because of the heavy traffic (the sight of a motor car+trailer+trailer train was not unusual in the GDR before). The advantage of the articulated trams was decreasing the number of personnel until introducing the OS system (Ohne Schaffner = without conductor) and to have more passenger room at the same train length.

Main data of the articulated Gothaer motor cars
Type
EGT59*
EGT59**
G4-61
G4-65
Built in
1959
1960
1961-64
1965-67
Livery
only ER
Seats
35
38
35
36
Standing area
144
130
143
145
Length
20 938 mm
Width
2 200 mm
Axle distance
2 x 3 200 mm
Motor performance
2 x 60 kW
Motor type
EM 60/600
Controller type
(course- and brake steps)
StNFB 4***
(20/20)
ZFB**
(16/15)
StNFB 4***
(22/18)
StNFB 4***
(22/18)
Max. allowed speed
50 km/h
Operational brakes
Electric brake
Fixing brakes
Stump brakes
Fixing brake is operated by
Lever
Additional brakes
2 pairs of rail brakes

* Prototype for Erfurt, closing the spaces between sections by rubber rings
** Prototype for Dresden, operating the controller by regulator pushbuttons (to follow the heritage of the large number Hecht (Pike) motor cars), closing the spaces between sections by wrinkled rubber curtains (used on the later cars)
*** Operating the controller by regulator wheel, with under floor switch (Unterflurschalter)

We're still in 1959 and we still could not ease the gigantic hunger for new tramcars of the capitol Berlin. At the same time the Gotha factory didn't have the manufacturing capacity to build enough cars. What can we do? Well, the socialist governing body of East-Germany told the answer: Walter Ulbricht, the government leader had already given voice for that East-Germany makes World Hi-tech - despite the disappointing truth :-) -, came up with a new idea: the old tramcars made before the World War have to be rebuilt to the quality level of the socialist industry. The slogan: in a "Socialist Reconstruction" they have to rebuild "Reconstructed cars", short: REKO-cars to the face of the cars of the socialist era, the Gothaer cars. These old cars with their new look were also equipped with the electric components of the Gothaers (LEW Henningsdorf).

The REKO motor cars and trailers between 1959 and 1969 were solely built for the BVG company in Berlin, all in the Berlin-Schöneweide Workshop of the German Empire Railways (Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk Berlin-Schöneweide, short: Raw Sw). Between 1970 and 1975 other tramway companies became REKO cars, too. Even happened, that Berlin received completely newly built cars, looking like the rebuilt ones, but because the Council for the Mutual Economical Aid between the socialist countries had decided to ban the tramway manufacturing in East-Germany, they were also named as REKO cars.

Before...... after

You can easily imagine the difference how an old car became a REKO car, looking at the two photos above. Both cars are from Halberstadt, on the left you can see "the last original Halberstadt car" built in 1939 in the Lindner waggon factory in Ammendorf near Halle, in its original livery as a historic car, while on the right there is another one made in 1933 which was reconstructed (REKO-ed) in 1975 in Raw Sw, that car is already out of service.
People usually said that although the REKO cars have a similar look to the Gothaer cars (the biggest difference that the REKO's usually have four side windows and only single-wing doors, this is maybe because the quick passenger-flow was not a big demand before the World War), they also meant a giant leap backwards technically and mechanically to the quality level of the Aufbauwagen (rebuilt coaches just after the World War II.). People called them "Bone breakers" because the running gear remained the same so the running quality was also the same as before the War.

Gotha has finished the planning of a new prototype again in 1965: a three section, six axle articulated motor car type G6, based upon the bogie motor car T4 and the articulated G4. But they couldn't build it: the Council for the Mutual Economical Aid had other plans.

Why is this little no. 30 from Halberstadt so cheerful???

You can see on the picture above a T2 type tram looking deceptively the same as a Gothaer. According to the will of the Council for the Mutual Economical Aid between the socialist countries, the Gothaer factory had to give the licence to the Czechoslovakian CKD (Ceskomoravska Kolben-Danek, Praha-Smichow) which built a prototype according to the plans of the type T2-62/65 in 1966, then between 1967 and 1968 75 more cars were made for Halle on types T2D and B2D. Many of these went further later to other towns like Brandenburg, Naumburg or - as seen above - Halberstadt.

As the interior design as the electrical equipment by LEW Henningsdorf with underfloor switch are the same as at the Gothaer cars. There were solely one-directional cars with doors on only one side and they were meter-gauge cars. They have been sent to small tramway networks where the new, large Tatra cars with bogies couldn't run because of the track parameters (in 1967 the first T4D Tatra motor car appeared, in 1968 the first T3D Tatra motor car and the B4D trailer, then in 1973 the first B3D trailer, too). Some say that the Czech T2D-s were less demanding, simplier in details than the Gothaers.

CKD itself couldn't have built the licence-Gothaers for long, the factory halls had to be set up to the mass manufacturing of the new Tatra cars (there haven't been enough room) so the manufacturing of the two-axle cars have been shut down. In 1969 the first mass production Tatra cars rolled out which have been sent to large networks like Dresden, Halle, Leipzig or Magdeburg as well as the wider T3's to Schwerin and the former Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz). Those small and middle size networks where they couldn't accomodate these large Tatra cars because of the track geometry, received a specially designed, short, articulated motor car. The first of this kind was made in 1973, they are the type KT4D.

In 1969 Gotha built cars again, however this time only trailers. These were the last cars in history with the logo with the stylish letters "W" and "G" on. The Plan-Economy of the GDR shut down the tramway manufacturing, and closed the great Gothaer Waggon Factory forever. With this - if we don't count those newly built REKO cars in Berlin in the seventies - the tramway manufacturing in the GDR has been officially finished.

At the site of the former Gothaer tramcar factory which can be found near Gotha Ostbahnhof railway station at 77. Kindleber Strasse, later the VEB Lufttechnik Gotha had been functioned, they had built air-ventilation machines of buildings-engineering. In the second half of the eighties it has become the property of the IFA-Kombinat where they have manufactured the running gears of the Eisenach-made Wartburg cars, named VEB Fahrzeugwerk Gotha. The site has been hired by various companies since 1990.

New tramcars built in the GDR (not fully complete)
Livery
Type
Built by
Pieces
2-axle motor car (LOWA)
ET50, ET54
Werdau, Gotha
146
2-axle trailer (LOWA)
EB50, EB54
Werdau, Gotha
316
2-axle trailer (ca. LOWA)
 
Ammendorf
50
2-axle trailer
"Erfurt 52"
Gotha
9
2-axle motor car (Gothaer)
ET55 ... T2D
Gotha, CKD
463
2-axle trailer (Gothaer)
EB57 ... B2D
Gotha, CKD
760
4-axle bogie motor car*
 
Werdau
1
4-axle bogie trailer*
 
Werdau
1
3-axle trailer*
 
Werdau
1
4-axle bogie motor car
EDT58, T4-62
Gotha
66
4-axle bogie motor car
EDB58, B4-61
Gotha
122
4-axle articulated motor car
EGT59 ... G4-65
Gotha
218
2 axle REKO motor car
 
TE59,63,64,70**
TZ69,70
Raw Sw
 
371
 
2 axle REKO trailer
 
BE59,64,69,70**
BZ70
Raw Sw
 
555
 
motor cars total:
 
 
1265
trailers total:
 
 
1814

* Only one for Berlin
** TE, BE = one-directional, TZ, BZ = bi-directional

Rounded up from different sources by: Andras Bati and photos by the same (C) 2003

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