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Jena: old trams and light rails 1.

The main path of my tour around Germany and Austria this year: to see the most interesting tramway networks. My friend who participates on the same internet forum as I do, nicknamed Mestska was my company. Why now? Well, the eastern part of Germany, after the fall of the iron curtain, went through a big change, it keeps changing its face to look like the western cities - set aside the look of the empty, ghostly, deserted houses with broken windows abandoned by those former Eastern German citizens who have moved west. The wind of change hit the tramways, too, all new kinds of tramcars are showing up, and the old ones, which determined that cityscape I was happy to see as a tourist when I was a child in the eighties, are dissappearing. The most usual type of the oldish, two axle tramcars were the Gotha trams (which have been built by the former tram builder factory in Gotha, that's where the nickname Gothawagen, Gothaer Wagen came from) which I wanted to see again. One of the last cities where the Gotha trams, built in the fifties and sixties, are still running in everyday service is Jena. And to see how right our timing was: the official farewell ceremony of the old Gotha trams in Jena is going to be held on 19th July, on this year's day of the opened gates.

To be honest, I didn't really hope that I would be able to ride a real Gotha tram here, I had heard that there were only two or three cars, and they only runned in lack of low floor lightrail vehicles. My fulcrum: the downloaded timetable of the line 3 where some of the trains were signed "kN" which stands for "keine Niederflur" in English: "no low floor trams". If you think about the rolling stock of Jena you'll see that they had to be the Gotha trams, the other type is the low floor car built by ADTranz (later Bombardier) type GT6M.

We catch one of these low floor cars no. 619 randomly, right after our arrival in the early morning hours. We travel to its end station in the city, Ernst Abbe Platz.

This end station is a good example to show the advantages of the bi-directional trams: the station consists only of a switch and two dead-end tracks (it connects to a single track, see the picture above). If you look at the surrounding place, the only possibility to turn a one-directional train is a delta track, but that needs to change the direction twice and also a reversing, too. It would cost too much time to fit in the short stay. A loop along the neighbouring streets would make the track length and travel time unneccessarily longer.

Then came the so called Philharmonie-Bahn no. 620. This is the first car of the second series of the low floor trams (the first series no. 601-619 were built in 1996-97), and it also carries a special advertisement of the Jena Philharmonics playing classical music inside, through the speakers. Of course this one didn't work when we were there :-(.

The arrangement of the car is assymmetric, this is mainly because of the propulsion system. There is a wheel frame works like a nearly fixed bogie under each of the three sections. As I remember well, two half axles have running wheels while the other two is powered. The engine is in the length of the car body, under the seats, here on the left side. There are the same kind of vehicles running on the streets of Berlin, Bremen, München (Munich), Nürnberg, Zwickau, etc. And there are also three of them in Sweden, the three prototypes from München went to Norrköping.

We arrived at the other end station Lobeda-Ost. We met car no. 617 which has a full body advertisment of the Jena glass.

This end station also has a good use of bi-directional coaches. The cars arrive at the track here on the right, after leaving the passengers they go to the only dead-end branch where they change direction. The cars on the line 5 go to the track on the left, the line 3 departs from the middle track.

The rush hour, the morning peak period begins, and I'm hoping to make a normal photo in light. No. 623 arrives from the depot, on the right. It waits for no. 632, the second youngest car of the Jena fleet on line 5, coming out of the dead-end track.

We get up. My hopes seem to be lost: I saw the Gotha trams asleep in the depot Burgau when we came here, and there were low floor trams on line 3, too. Right until...

...I noticed one of the oldies behind us. You have to know line 3 has three end stations, it connects the southern end stations of the lines 1, 4 and 5, namely Winzerla, Lobeda-West and Lobeda-Ost. It came behind us at the delta of the lines 4 and 5. Of course we changed the tram and we went to Winzerla with the Gotha tramcar no. 118.

Interior with the usual East-German 2+1 seating.

Winzerla has loops in contrast with the end stations above. It made possible to run the traditional motor car+trailer+trailer trains on the line 1. Now that was something for dramatization when the two cars on the picture (no. 629 and 118) turned beside each other on the loops at the same time! :-)

An idea to make getting on and off the non-low-floor tram more comfortable is a sign to ask the elderly and those who move uneasy to go to the first door where the driver can help if neccessary - or only to supervise them. We let this tram go, we wait for another Gothaer.

First, one of the GT6M came from Zwätzen (note that the tram displays already the new end station, it makes sense to display the right aim when it's arriving to the platform where the passengers get on). Then came the Gothaer no. 115 by which we're going further. Note: earlier another Gotha tram, no. 116 had had its ex-Stralsund no. 15 on itself, too, so it travelled with two different serial numbers. Now no. 116 is in Naumburg, strenghtening the fleet of the local museum-tramway, as no. 37.

Semi-automatic (hand opening, automatic closing) sliding door covered with wood-fibre plate from inside.

The back driver's cabin. Cranck controller on the left, windscreen with heating lines, handbrake on the right (at the handbrake the cutout is nice, demanding, while the rubber buffer is quite funny, I'm sure this prevents the windscreen of breaking when lifting off the handbrakes :-)) ).

Modern ticket automat is a must on the oldest cars also.

Gotha cars have a not-so-high floor, but the wheel-covering drums in the floor is a concomitant :-)

A bucket full of brakesand at the door portal. It's not the best place when it's raining. You know, brakesand should be dry.

An old woman closed the door behind her politely, but not firmly. This was enough for the electric sensors not to close the door automatically at departure.

Descriptions above the right front door: HU stands for the last main revision. I don't know what ZU means. The car was also painted in December 1998 (I think it's in a good condition). At last the car's weight is also mentioned, and it is in Megapond (hmmm... well, how long have they been using SI measurement around here? :-)) ).

We arrive at the third end station of the line 3, Lobeda-West. The track arrangement is the same as at Lobeda-Ost: in peak period the arriving trams from three directions (one of the line 4 and two others of the line 3) make a congestion at the platform where the passengers get off, see the picture above...

...while they wait for the previous tram to change direction, to come out to the platforms of departure. It's interesting that the driver of the tramcar no. 115 didn't go through both switches by experience, he stopped it between them.

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

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