U6 Tunneltag

Steps leading onto subway tracks of the U6 Tunneltag

Welcome to the Underground

Germans Love Tunnels. They simply go apeshit for them. Theres simply no other explanation as to why over 7000 people queued up on a Sunday Morning after the BVG invited 5000 enthusiasts to take part in a  “Tunneltag” and walk through 500 meters an old metro tunnel.

The BVG (the Berliner Verkerhs Gesellschaft – the Berlin Transport authority) is currently extending its U5 and U55 Metro Lines (you know the one referred to as the Kanzler Bahn) in an effort to have them merge together into the “U5″ line by the year 2019 (the U55 being the shortest and most expensive metro line in the world, as it currently only has 3 stations ). With this expansion The BVG is planning on creating a new Subway Station known as “Unter den Linden” (there was already a Station with that name but it had been renamed to “Brandenburger Tor” in 2009) to serve as a connection point and crossing between the U6 and the U5 metro lines. To achieve this, the Tunnel between Friedrichstraße and Französische straße needs to be torn down to make space for the new station. The U6 will be closed off between the 2 stations for the next 16 months – quite a considerable inconvenience for most commuters.

The BVG, in dire need of some good PR after a series of embarrassing mishaps, decided it would be a good move (which it was) to open up the 500 meters of Tunnel between the 2 Stations for the Tunneltag and let the Berliners get a rare glimpse of what the world under their feet looks like.

 

U6 Tunneltag –  “500 Steps for the new U5″

 

After hearing on the Radio that the BVG was hosting a Tunneltag on Sunday (1.7.2012)  I knew I had to take part. Apparently the free tickets were being handed out at the U-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße from 930 am onwards, truly an ungodly time to be out on a sunday morning but the chance to legally have a walk through one of Berlins Metro Tunnels was too tempting. According to the radio station, there were 5000 tickets available, and they would be handed out during 3 time slots. I thought to myself that showing up for the early time slot would probably be my best bet, as most people wont show up that early. Jesus Christ was I wrong. I arrived at the station at 930 sharp expecting maybe a handful of people – but I was totally unprepared for the masses of people rushing to get in line.

BVG U6 Tunneltag Schlange an der Friedrichstraße

So apparently all these people have nothing better to at 8am on a Sunday. The Tunneltag “entrance” was around the corner, behind the bridge.

Apparently people had been arriving since 8am. I would judge that by 930 there were around a thousand people already queuing up, and more people kept on coming.
I took a step back and briefly debated if I should even bother getting in line, but seeing as I had already made the effort of gettig up so early, I thought I might as well try my luck.

U6 Tunneltag Schlange am Cafe Madrid

The Tunneltag queue only seemed to get longer. At this point it stretched along the canal and went around the block again.

Pretzel Bike

This Pretzel vendor probably had the best day of the year

I walked around the block and joined the queue behind  3 generations of a German Family. Everybody seemed to be in good spirits, taking this longest of queues in good humor. I think the last time this many germans got in a line was when they were leaving East Berlin in 1989.  Dark clouds started hovering over us, the German Family started laughing and hoping that it would rain, as it would probably chase away the less hardcore tunnel fans. (Un)Luckily it didn’t rain.

Surprisingly the line moved relatively quickly and after standing around for a good hour we managed to move past the first block – at this rate it would only be another hour until we would get in. As I was standing there, the ZDF (the second german public channel) mooched on over to me and asked me if they could do a short interview and ask me a few questions about the Tunneltag. I hesitantly agreed and the lady proceeded to ask me a series of stupid questions, which I replied to with a series of even dumber answers. Not intentionally though, I just had no clue what to say to her. I prayed that they wouldn’t air it on TV as I could gladly pass on those 5 minutes of fame (I scoured the german news and there was no sign of me, a lucky escape.)

 

ZDF Kamera Team bereit für ein Interview

Apparently im famous now. Or not.

After a good 2 hours I finally got my ticket and reached the entrance of the U-Bahn, the Tunneltag could begin!

Ticket für die BVG U6 Tunnelwanderung

Mhhh I thought I was in line for the 930 slot?

BVG U6 Tunneltag Eingang an der Friedrichstraße

So no more standing in line now?

Or so I thought. We had reached the entrance only to be greeted by another long queue.

Schlange im U-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße

Well this day seems to be made up of queuing

A overfriendly BVG serviceman jumped out from a dark corner and greeted us. He briefly explained the rules and guidelines, that we should always watch our feet and move to the left or right of the tracks when we want to take pictures so we wouldn’t hold up the crowd.

Berlin BVG U6 Tunneltag bedingungen

The Rules

We shuffled along until we ended up above the platform where a plethora of young women staffed some tables. They informed us that we would need to sign a paper waiving our rights incase something happened to us in the tunnel. The BVG sure knew what it was doing when it decided to staff the tables with a group of 20-year-old blonde and brunette women. Signing away my rights was never more enjoyable.

Unterschriften Tisch im U-Bahnhof

I never did really read what I signed….

And there it was. 500 meters of a Subway Tunnel. Only at this point did it dawn on me that I just stood in line for 2 hours on a sunday morning to walk through an empty Tunnel.  A Tunnel with 0%  historical value. Undeterred by this sudden realization I marched on with the hordes of grandparents and children.

immer den gleisen nach

u-bahn tunnel markierungen

Kabel Beschriftungen

kabel im U-Bahn Tunnel

Markierungen im U-Bahn Tunnel

leere u-bahn gleise im U6 Tunnnel

warnschild im U-Bahn Tunnel

Tunnelwanderung in Berlin unter strenger BVG beobachtung

Bauarbeiter Kennzeichen im U-Bahn Tunnel

U6 U-Bahn Notausgang zu Unter den Linden

If you want to see more photos have a look at the Flickr Album  – U6 Tunneltag


I must say despite there not being much to see aside from some electrical cables, the tracks and some signs it was pretty interesting. every few meters there were some BVG staff ready to answer any questions. I had spotted this interesting little thing clamped to the tracks and had no clue what it was for…

Eine Erdungsklemme auf den U-Bahn gleisen

They explained to me that it was there to “ground” the tracks, so we wouldn’t get electrocuted. Good to know.

350 meters into the tunnel, the BVG had set up a stage and a video projector, where they explained the plans and construction details of the new U-Bahn Station “Unter Den Linden”. It was, lets say – informative.

Präsentation zum neuen U5 U-Bahnhof

3D Modell des neuen U5 U-Bahnhofs Unter den Linden

Ende des U6 U-Bahn Tunnels richtung Französische Straße

Nicht in Betrieb

After another 150 meters we reached the end of the tunnel and were greeted by another friendly BVG lady and handed a certificate for the successful completion of the Tunneltag. Awesome. Im going to have that framed at home.

Übergabe der Tunneltag Urkunden

The U-Bahn Station at Französische Straße was turned into a giant info station. A full length U-Bahn was parked on one of the tracks and fitted out with construction plans and other info material.

Betriebsfahrt U-Bahn an der Französische straße

Fotos der alten U-Bahn Station Unter den Linden

You truly had to be a hardcore Tunneltag / U-Bahn / Architecture freak to stare at multiple U-Bahn wagons stuffed with papers like these. Or maybe just German.

Unter den Linden Bauplan

Before leaving the friendly BVG staff reminded me to head over to Dussman (probably one of the best bookstores in Berlin) to get my Tunneltag certificate stamped and pick up my goodies. Somehow I wasnt surprised that this queue was just as long at the one from the morning. It seems like the only thing Germans liked more that day than Tunnels and standing in line was free stuff.

schlange vor dem dussmann kulturkaufhaus am Tunneltag

I was pleasantly surprised when a group of cheerleaders showed up flashing their panties while performing some sort of routine.

Some German Cheerleaders

I finally reached the table, got my certificate stamped, was served up a host of vouchers and was presented with this little guy:

BVG U6 Tunneltag Urkunde und Geschenke

BVG Harry Schotter Playmobil Figur

Mission accomplished I would say.

If you want to see more photos have a look at the Flickr Album  – U6 Tunneltag

 

Did you miss the Tunneltag? Would you like to explore more of Berlins Underground? Visit “Berliner Unterwelten e.V“. They are based at the U-Bahn / S-Bahn Station Gesundbrunnen and offer an amazing assortment of tours through Bunkers and old Subway Tunnels and Stations. Their site offers a nice breakdown off all the tours and times. Tickets can only be purchased  upfront (not online) but they offer Tours in English. Sadly Photography is not allowed on the tours.


4 Comments

  1. ebe says:

    So jealous! I would totally wait in line to take this tour – I didn’t even hear about it. Awesome pics & info. I love your take on the Germs: ” It seems like the only thing Germans liked more that day than Tunnels and standing in line was free stuff.”

  2. thanks! I heard about it by accident on the radio the day before. I was still on antibiotics and ill with a fever but I forced myself to take part. was totally worth it. Be sure to check out the Berliner Unterwelten, ive already taken several tours with them and they are pure gold.

  3. Luci says:

    Great photos. Glad I didn’t have to stand in line to see those – even though I’m a German. Now if only I could get a free Playmobil BVG tunnel worker…
    x Luci

    • haha thanks – I wish they would have been Lego BVG figures though :(
      I can have a ask if theres anyway that you could get one as well …….. ;)

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