Hitler’s Monster Railway

Feb 27, 2021 0 comments

Hitler’s megalomaniac plans for Germany included a monumental new railway. This railway was supposed to connect the most important cities in Greater Germany with trains 7 meters high, carrying up to 4,000 passengers, at speeds of 200 kilometers per hour.

Breitspurbahn, or broad-gauge railway in German, was typical of every project the small-mustached sociopath had ever dreamed of—massive in scope and cost. The origin of this dream can be traced back to the 1930s when Adolf Hitler asked the young and dashing architect Albert Speer to lead the design and rebuilding of his new capital city. The fiercely ambitious architect impressed Hitler with a grandiose plan for the Reich Capital—a huge domed assembly hall over two hundred meters high, a great triumphal arch large enough to fit the Arc de Triomphe inside its opening, and a 350,000-square-meter plaza surrounded by the grandest buildings of all.

The idea of a new railway, however, was not of Speer’s, although the architect did propose two new grand terminals for Berlin that were larger in size than New York’s Grand Central Station. The plan to modernize the rail network and increase transport capacity was put forward by German engineer Fritz Todt. Todt believed that the standard gauge of 1,435 mm was limiting the construction of bigger trains with more capacity, and should be replaced by a broader variety. Railway experts sharply criticized the idea on the grounds that it would leave the German rail network incompatible with the rest of Europe, but Hitler quipped that the rest of Europe was going to become a part of Germany anyway.

So ignoring the voices of reason, Hitler asked his engineers to design a new high-capacity railway with an increased gauge. A gauge of 4,000 mm was proposed, but the width was quickly cut back to a more practical 3,000 mm, which was still more than twice as large as the standard gauge.

Comparison of Breitspurbahn gauge with Russian gauge and Standard gauge. Image by Dmitry Sutyagin/Wikimedia Commons

Several wide-gauge railway lines would have started from Berlin networking across Europe and going far beyond into India and Russia’s far east. Hitler saw Ukraine and the Volga Basin as important targets, as these areas were viewed as the future granaries of the Nazi empire. Eventually, this plan was also cut back and Hitler agreed to focus only on Europe.

Proposed route map of the Breitspurbahn. Image by Ralf Roletschek/Wikimedia Commons 

From the beginning, the broad-gauge railway was considered a personal "toy of the Führer". Hitler wanted his mega railway to rival ocean liners in amenities and comfort. He wanted the trains to be spacious and lavish, fitted with restaurants, cinema, swimming pool, barbershop and sauna. Industry partners submitted dozens of designs ranging from steam locomotives to gas turbine to diesel-electric. Their power ranged from 11,400 to 18,400 kW. By comparison, a typical diesel-electric locomotive in use today generates about 2,200 kW. Each carriage were to have a length of 42 meters, would have been 6 meters wide, and 7 meters high with two floors. The whole train would have been half a kilometer long, allowing a capacity of between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers.

But then, everything fell through. The war diverted funds and other resources away to the front lines, and all development projects, other than military constructions, were shelved. Any hopes of reviving the Breitspurbahn dashed when the Allied invaded Europe.

A model of a Breitspurbahn carriage at the Nuremberg Transport Museum. Photo: Ralf Roletschek/Wikimedia Commons


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