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The Barmbek depot

The ring line not only included track systems, substations for the power supply and 23 stops. The technical heart of the subway beat at Hellbrookstrasse in Barmbek: Car sheds, the main subway workshop, a power plant and the administration building were built on the 46,000 square meter depot. To supply the coal-fired power plant, a branch canal was also built, which still connects the Barmbek canal system with the city park today.

When operations began in February 1912, two halls provided space for 160 cars. By the mid-1920s, two more halls had been built, increasing capacity to more than 250 cars. Attached to halls 1-3 was the main workshop so that all maintenance and repair work could be carried out efficiently.

Opposite the workshop, on the canal, was an open storage area for coal, which was brought directly to the power plant by means of a large gantry crane and burned there to generate electricity. The first administrative building of the HOCHBAHN stood directly on the street. Until 1920, it housed the offices of the board of directors and the administration as well as washrooms and dining rooms for the employees.

Northeast view of the power plant under construction at the Hellbrookstrasse subway depot, 1911.

View of some carriage sheds and the subway workshop of the Hellbrookstrasse subway depot, 1912.

The foundation of Hamburger Hochbahn AG

Shortly after construction work began, the search for an operator of the subway began. The consortium of Siemens & Halske and AEG finally submitted a bid in response to the public invitation to tender for the contract issued by the Senate and the Bürgerschaft in August 1907. Over the next two years, the consortium and a commission made up of five members of the Senate and ten members of the Bürgerschaft negotiated the operating contract, which was finally signed on January 25, 1909.

Shortly before the end of the construction work, Siemens & Halske and AEG finally founded the operating company, Hamburger Hochbahn AG, on May 27, 1911, as agreed in the operating contract.

The engineer Wilhelm Stein was appointed to the board of directors. Dr. Ing. Wilhelm Mattersdorff and

Charles Liez acted as authorized signatories. Hamburger Hochbahn AG was entered in the Hamburg Commercial Register on October 9, 1911.

Logo of Hamburg elevated and subway railroad from 1911

The T-Car

While construction work on the stops and tracks of Hamburg's first subway system began in 1906, it remained unclear for a long time what the subway cars would look like. After all, they are not available off the shelf; they have to be individually developed for the respective track profile. The almost 13 meter long and over 2.5 meter wide subway cars were built in a division of labor: The bodies of the first 20 cars were manufactured by SEG's wagon workshops at Falkenried, ten more each came from Linke-Hofmann in Breslau and MAN in Nuremberg, and five from Norddeutsche Waggonfabrik in Bremen. The technical equipment was supplied by Siemens & Schuckert from Nuremberg, AEG from Berlin, van der Zypen from Cologne and the Düsseldorfer Waggonfabrik.

All railcars had two bogies and 100 hp motors for 800 volts DC, which allowed a maximum speed of 60 km/h, as well as an air brake system. The T cars, as they were called from 1958, weighed 24 tons empty and offered 35 seats and about 50 standing places. The first cars were ordered in 1911, and a total of 180 cars were available by 1917.

The cars were divided into 2nd class with dark green leatherette seats and 3rd class with polished mahogany - 1st class would have been reserved for the Kaiser and was therefore not even counted.

From the outside, 3rd class could be identified by its yellow paint scheme and 2nd class by its red paint scheme. It was not until the end of 1920 that the class division was abolished.

T-car on the line between the stops Sierichstraße and Borgweg, 1912

Interior view of the 3rd class, 1913

The Circle Line - Modern Public Transport for Hamburg

On February 15, 1912, the time had come: The Ring Line was officially put into operation with the opening ride, which was attended by senators, members of parliament and representatives of the construction companies. Afterwards, thousands of Hamburg residents were able to ride the subway free of charge for two weeks. From March onwards, regular service started for everyone, at least on certain sections, because in fact the commissioning took place in sections:

February 15, 1912: Barmbek - Rathausmarkt

May 10, 1912: Barmbek - Kellinghusenstrasse

May 25, 1912: Kellinghusenstrasse - Millerntor (today St. Pauli)

June 29, 1912: Millerntor - Town Hall Market

By mid-1912, Hamburg had entered the age of the subway, and the ever-increasing distances between home and work could now be covered relatively quickly and comfortably. The speed of the subway, however, was completely new for most people, since very few had previously traveled by train or even by automobile. But the long walks were now a thing of the past, and passengers gained a little more time for themselves. Rides through tunnels and over viaducts also changed the view of the city, so in this respect the subway was more than just a technically advanced means of transportation. It helped to bring Hamburg closer together internally and to create a metropolitan feeling. This was also made clear by the development of passenger numbers: While more than 23 million passengers rode the Ring Line in 1912, the figure had risen to around 39 million by 1913, and the trend was still rising. However, the Ring Line was not to be the end of the story. It laid the foundation for the steady expansion of the subway system in Hamburg.

Picture gallery: The circle line in operation: