Berlins rail based public transport network is huge. Combined, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn have over 477 Km worth of tracks, 25 lines and 339 stations – something very few cities can match. Dating back to 1838 – the network expanded with the rapidly growing city, though wars, economic depression and political divisions have caused several projects to be abandoned midway or lines to be closed altogether. One of these abandoned lines is the Friedhofsbahn (also known as the Stahnsdorfer Bahn) – which ran from Wannsee to Stahnsdorf.
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The beginnings of the Friedhofsbahn
At the beginning of the 20th Century Berlin was running out of space to bury its dead – so the city decided to move the cemeteries outside its city gates. However, the transportation of the dead and the relatives proved to be rather expensive – so a railway line from Berlin to the cemeteries was planned to ensure a cheap and efficient connection (hence the name Friedhofsbahn – Cemetery Train).
The Berlin city Synod and the Prussian Railway Administration worked out a contract where the church would provide the land and stem the costs of building the line (to the tune of 1.28 million Reichsmark) while the Railway Administration would take care of running the line – known as the Friedhofsbahn Stahnsdorf.
The 4,3 kilometer long railway line officially opened on the 2nd of June, 1913. While the coffins were loaded onto the train at a special “Leichenabfertigungshalle” at the Freightrain Depot in Halensee, the line officially began to the south of the Berlin-Wannsee Station and followed a southeasterly direction where it stopped at the Dreilinden station.
From there it crossed over the Teltowkanal and reached Stahnsdorf – which (still) is home to one of europes largest cemeteries. After the route was electrified, S-Bahn trains started servicing the line from the 10th of July, 1928.
The Friedhofsbahn – Cut off by the Berlin Wall
The bridge spanning the Teltowkanal was destroyed during the Second World War, putting a temporary end to the train service to Stahnsdorf – though the service from Wannsee to Dreilinden continued to operate. After the bridge was reconstructed in 1948, regular service resumed – that is until 1952 when the last cemetery train rolled into Stahnsdorf.
With the construction of the Berlin Wall on the 13th of August 1961, the entire train and S-Bahn service was stopped. Dreilinden was at this point known as Checkpoint Bravo, one of 3 allied control points leading into divided Berlin and Germany. In the 1970s, both East and West Germany slowly started dismantling the tracks. The station in Dreilinden was pulled down in 1970, while the Stahnsdorf station was demolished in 1976.
The Friedhofsbahn Stahnsdorf after German Unification
With the reunification of Germany, the Protestant Church of Berlin-Brandenburg pushed for the reopening of the line, something which the residents of Stahnsdorf wholly supported (their population had tippled to over 14000 by the end of 2009). After bringing the issue to court, the Administrative Court dismissed the action. And that was the end of that.
View The Friedhofsbahn in a larger map with the full route details
The route kicks off at the Wannsee S-Bahn Station. After a short walk along the Kronprinzesinnenweg and the Königstraße you’ll reach a “Private” woodland path which runs parallel to the S-Bahn Tracks. Just a few steps into the forest, you’ll immediately stumble across the leftover track ballast (the broken rocks) and some track remnants. The most telltale sign is the leftover milestone which still indicates the firs kilometer of the 4.3km long track.
The path along the former track line is relatively uncomfortable – especially if you are by bike – as cycling on the track ballast is like cycling through sand. Thankfully a woodland path opens up right next to the train tracks just a few meters further down – which makes the journey considerably more comfortable.
After following the route for a good 2km – you’ll reach the Königswegbrücke – which up until 1990 was part of the border to the DDR. I should note here that sections of this route can be individually explored by following the “Mauer Weg” – the hiking trail which follows the route of the Berlin Wall.
Theres a small portion of tracks left which lead up to a clearing where the death strip and the Berlin wall used to run along. Continuing straight on you’ll reach Dreilinden. Theres not terribly much to see in the “village” itself aside from the Abandoned S-Bahn Station Dreilinden.
Not much has remained as nature has reclaimed its space and trees have completely overgrown everything. You can still make out Platform, some floor tiles, and the large concrete staircase but that’s about it. Rather eery to think that an S-Bahn used to stop here. I somehow doubt this place was more lively 60 years ago.
The Original Checkpoint Bravo
Following along the track path you’ll find yourself standing in front of the now closed off Teltowkanal bridge. It used to be covered in wooden planks, but they have been either removed or rotted away. In addition, some local authority erected a double layer fence to stop people from climbing and crossing the bridge. That didn’t really stop 2 young lads who climbed to the top of it – and it didn’t stop me from cautiously joining them. Seeing as the bridge is closed and it’s not possible to cross over it – you have to take the scenic aka long way around.
Following the Teltowkanal you’ll easily spot an abandoned autobahn bridge. When you climb up on the hill you’ll soon realize that you’ve reached the original Checkpoint Bravo. The Autobahn now known as A1115 used to run outside of the city limits, but just over 3km of it encroached into the territory of the DDR, so a highway checkpoint was set up.
Seeing as the authorities wanted to prevent an uncontrollable entry point for western visitors, the DDR built a new section of the Autobahn which lead directly into West Berlin and closed off the old autobahn. This lead to the creation of the “new” Checkpoint Bravo and the closing of the old checkpoint.
Across the bridge is the abandoned Raststätte Dreilinden – the old border Service Station / Restaurant. Its been boarded up and a fence has been set up around it.
*Heres the Full post about the Original Abandoned Checkpoint Bravo*
The abandoned Stahnsdorf S-Bahn Station
To get back on the Friedhofsbahn trail you’ll need to walk back along the Teltowkanal until you reach the other end of the Teltowkanal Bridge. Youll need to cross under the autobahn bridge and then immediately turn right into a very small path which runs along next to the autobahn (if you think youve gone wrong, your on the right way).
At this point the tracks have been replaced by a paved road which leads through a former Military Training ground for East German Border Troops. The whole area is still littered with remnants such as concrete roadblocks and anti tank obstacles.
Soon after you’ll reach the edge of the small town of Stahnsdorf. Opposite of the entrance of the Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf – the impressive forest cemetery – lies what remains of the former S-Bahn station. The town has erected a small plaque commemorating 100 years of being connected to the S-Bahn.
A makeshift paper sign leads the way to the former platform – but there’s even less left than at the Dreilinden station. You can still spot a small patch of floor tiles but that’s about it when it comes to finding anything exciting. If you walk all the way to the end of the Platform you’ll find the last milestone marking the 4th kilometer of the track. The abandoned S-Bahn Station Stahnsdorf isn’t the most exciting of abandoned places, but it’s somewhat aesthetically pleasing.
While both of the abandoned S-Bahn Stations are somewhat “empty” – the whole journey is more than rewarding. It’s fascinating to see and discover over 150 years of German history, from Prussian railway lines to the visible scars of the cold war. I would highly recommend doing this tour with a bike as it will make the trip a lot quicker. It took me (one way) a good 4 hours including taking pictures and double checking maps to traverse the ca 6km. Ive created a Google Map highlighting the route and the interesting spots to discover – which should be helpful for anyone wanting to attempt this tour.
For more pictures of the Tour – check out the Flickr Album: The Friedhofsbahn
The Friedhofsbahn Address
14109 Berlin – Wannsee
Public Transport: For the full route take the S1 or S7 S-Bahn to the Wannsee Stationand follow the route on the map. To get directly to the abandoned Dreilinden Station Take the 620 Bus from Wannsee to Heinrich-Hertz-Str., and from there take the 628 Bus to Dreilinden. To get to the abandoned Stahnsdorf Station from take the 620 Bus from Wannsee to Waldschänke and from there take the 601 Bus to Bahnhofstraße.