Who still knows about Berlin's very first railway tunnel?
Admittedly, it's difficult to find and not really open to the public. The tunnel is located on the former territory of the AEG company between Brunnenstraße and Ackerstraße. It has a length of almost 300 metres and is still in a good condition. A few cables and other pieces of equipment bear testimony to the fact that, from 1897 until about 1914, an electric tunnel railway was in operation there. The tunnel came into being as part of the preparations for Berlin's first real railway. Two large companies, AEG and Siemens, competed for this prestigious project. The former already forwarded a concept for a subterranean railway in 1891, based on the system operational in London, and the construction of this test tunnel was one of the steps which followed.
It was important for the AEG to demonstrate this way that it really was possible to drill tunnels into Berlin's sandy soil – thereby tackling all the numerous doubts which existed in that context head on. Construction work started in 1895, the completed tunnel having a length of 295 metres and being 6,50 metres deep.
It was shaped elliptically, 2,60 metres wide and 3,15 metres high. One of the AEG's employees remembers the railway´s noisy service: “With 30 kilometres per hour, we dashed through the cellar... The service also required a chief of staff who operated the tracks and the signals. The signals, though, merely consisted of thick boards being laid across the tracks – this meant ‘red’and the train had to stop.
Later on, this system was modernised. Every train driver who had a free passage granted, was given a red stick which practically meant ‘green’. The system worked in its own way.” Unfortunately, the tunnel brought the AEG company little gain. Siemens´s concept of an elevated railway was simply cheaper and thus Berlin's first metro, nowadays called the U 1, was constructed in 1902 between Warschauer Brücke and Gleisdreieck.
The AEG subsequently used the tunnel to transport its workers and material from one part of the factory to another. Major modifications were carried out in 1910 and during World War two, it was used as an air raid shelter. Nowadays, the tunnel is not in use anymore.
Size: Length 295 metres, width 2.60 metres, height 3.15 metres
Purpose: Test tunnel for metro system between 1895 and 1910 in-house tunnel course during the Second World War used as air-raid shelter
condition: Intact, under preservation order, not open to the public