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November 30, 2018

Germany: Wuppertal Suspension Railway

A car approaches a station.

The Wuppertal Suspension Railway or in German “Wuppertaler Schwebebahn” is a suspension railway in Wuppertal, Germany. It is the oldest electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world. The railway is still in use today. After we happened on a video of this elevated train in action we had to experience it for ourselves. Thus we made a point of taking a day trip from Cologne to Wuppertal.

Along the banks of the River Wupper is the city of Wuppertal. With 300,000+ residents public transportation is needed but the valley’s hillsides and the flowing river complicate the construction of a normal surface-level tramways. The city planners had an idea: By elevating the “tracks” a railway could be constructed that takes advantage of the open space above the river. It’s a clever idea on paper and in practice it works well.

Overhead tracks

The stations are necessarily elevated also.

In person Wuppertal’s suspended railway looks like a creation made using a gigantic Erector Set. The tracks run a little more than 8 miles with all but two miles spectacularly suspended over the river. (One end of the railway runs for about 2 miles above a valley road). It takes about 30 minutes for the modern passenger cars to go from end to end.

We visited Wuppertal specifically to see and ride the suspension railway. Though for us it was an amusement and a curiosity we were very much in the minority. If there were other tourists on board they were much less conspicuous than we were. Indeed most of the 25 million passengers a year (as of 2008) use the elevated railway as a normal means of transit. As fantastical as the arrangement seems, the Wuppertal suspended railway serves an entirely practical purpose. It is remarkable that a transportation system, suspended or not, which started operation in 1901 is still relied on by 70,000 commuters a day.

Over the river…

…and over the road


We visited Wuppertal in October of 2017.

The trains sway when entering the stations.

Close-up of the suspension gear

Becky makes a new friend in Wurppetal.

Curiously we found this sticker in a river lock near Auxonne France.


1 Comment »

  1. […] it heads along the Wupper River the Wuppertal Suspension Railway passes by a large chemical plant owned by the pharmaceutical giant Bayer. It is in this area of […]

    Pingback by Germany: Wuppertal, Bayer | Another Header — November 30, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

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