Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway

The Grand Duchy of Baden was an independent state in what is now southwestern Germany until the creation of the German Empire in 1871. It had its own state-owned railway company, the Grand Duchy of Baden State Railways (Großherzoglich Badische Staatseisenbahnen or G.Bad.St.E.), which was founded in 1840. At the time when it was integrated into the Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1920, its network had an overall length of about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi).



Baden was the second German state after the Duchy of Brunswick to build and operate railways at state expense. In 1833 a proposal for the construction of a railway from Mannheim to Basle was put forward for the first time by Mannheim businessman, Ludwig Newhouse, but initially received no support from the Baden state government. Other proposals too by, for example Friedrich List, were unsuccessful at first. Not until the foundation of a railway company in the neighbouring French province of Alsace, for the construction of a line from Basle to Strasbourg in 1837, did any serious planning begin for the building of a railway in Baden in order to avoid the loss of trade routes to Alsace. At an extraordinary meeting of the state parliament, the Baden legislature passed three laws on 29 March 1838 for the construction of the first route between Mannheim and the Swiss border at Basle, as well as a stub line to Baden-Baden and a branch to Strasbourg. The construction of the railway line was to be funded by the state, something that had been championed especially by Karl Friedrich Nebenius. In September 1838 work started.

The Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the construction of the railway, setting up for that purpose its own authority, the 'Railway Construction Division'. Later the railway construction authorities were incorporated into the 'Water and Road Construction Division'. Responsibility for the operation of the railway was, by contrast, given to the Foreign Ministry because it took over the running of the Postal Division, that from then on became the 'Post and Railway Division'. Not until the merger of the Baden Post Office into the Reichspost in 1872 did a separate railway administration emerge in Baden: the Grand Duchy of Baden State Railways.

Development of the main lines

The first route, called the Baden Mainline (Badische Hauptbahn), was built in sections between 1840 and 1863. The first, 18.5 km long, section between Mannheim and Heidelberg was taken into service on 12 September 1840. Other sections followed: to Karlsruhe in 1843, Offenburg in 1844, Freiburg im Breisgau in 1845, Schliengen in 1847, Efringen-Kirchen in 1848 and Haltingen in 1851. The branches to Kehl and Baden-Baden were opened as early as 1844 and 1845 respectively. The extension of the main line through Basle territory required negotiations with the Swiss Confederation, during which differences of opinion over the best place for the junction of the Baden line to the Swiss network – Basle or Waldshut – led to delays.

In the state treaty of 27 July 1852 an accommodation was reached which enabled the construction and operation of a line on Swiss sovereign territory by the Baden State Railways.

The Baden railway lines were initially laid to the 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in). After it turned out that all her neighbouring states had opted for 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge rail, the Baden State Railways rebuilt all their existing routes and rolling stock to standard gauge within just one year during 1854/55.

The line reached Basle in 1855, Waldshut in 1856 and Konstanz in 1863. With that the 414.3 km long Baden main line was completed. After the all-important north-south axis as well as links to the Lake Constance region had been established by the Baden Mainline, the remaining network expansion plans concentrated on opening up the area of Pforzheim with the KarlsruhePforzheimMühlacker route (opened 1859–1863), linking up the Odenwald and Tauberfrankens with the Baden Odenwald Railway (HeidelbergMosbachWürzburg, opened 1862–1866) and forging a direct link from Karlsruhe to Konstanz, without the diversion via Basle, in the shape of the Black Forest Railway (opened 1866–1873).

Even when the Baden Mainline was being built, plans were already being formulated to link up with the Swiss railway network. This was not achieved until the bridge at Waldshut over the river Rhine, built by Robert Gerwig, was completed on 18 August 1859. Other links were made in 1863 at Schaffhausen, in 1871 at Konstanz and in 1875 at Singen. The Basle link line, which connected Baden station on the east of the Rhine with the Central station west of the Rhine, was opened in 1873. Today it is the most important railway connexion between Germany and Switzerland.

The connexion to the north towards Weinheim-DarmstadtFrankfurt (Main) had been established since 1846 by the Main-Neckar Line, in which the Grand Duchy of Baden participated. In 1879 the Ried Railway (Riedbahn) followed, although Baden did not own any section of it.

From 1861 there had also been a direct route to France after the completion of the Rhine bridge between Kehl and Strasbourg. The opening up of the Palatinate (Pfalz) was first realised in 1865 with a pontoon bridge from Karlsruhe–Maxau as well as a link between Mannheim and Ludwigshafen in 1867. A connexion with Bavaria followed the opening of the Baden Odenwald Railway (Baden Odenwaldbahn) in 1866.

Negotiations for a route to Württemberg were particularly difficult because both states were competing for traffic between Germany and the Alpine passes. While Baden favoured a line via Pforzheim, Württemberg was interested in a more direct connexion at Bruchsal. An agreement was finally reached in the state treaty of the 4 December 1850, whereby Württemberg was granted the right to build the direct StuttgartMühlackerBrettenBruchsal route (Württemberg Western Railway) even on Baden territory, while Baden was permitted to build and operate the Karlsruhe–Mühlacker line, which ran partly in Württemberg. The connexion with Bruchsal was taken into service in 1853.

Further expansion

The subsequent expansion of Baden’s railway network was either aimed at opening up the regions or carried out from a military perspective. Worth mentioning are:

Around 1895, Baden’s railway network was more or less finished bar a few small sections. In 1900 it had a track length of 1996 km, of which 1521 km was owned by the State Railways. In the succeeding years the main effort was the expansion of stations which formed railway hubs. The most important conversions were:

  • New marshalling yard at Karlsruhe, 1895
  • New station at Rastatt, 1895
  • New goods relief line at Freiburg im Breisgau, 1905
  • New goods station at Basle, 1905
  • New goods relief line at Bruchsal, 1906
  • New marshalling yard in Mannheim, 1906–1907
  • New station at Offenburg with a marshalling yard, 1911
  • New Baden station in Basle with new adjoining marshalling yard to the north at Weil am Rhein, 1913
  • New central station at Karlsruhe, 1913
  • New marshalling yard and goods station at Heidelberg, 1914

The newly built Heidelberg central station could not be completed due to the start of the First World War. Its completion had to be delayed until 1955.

State-run private railways

Several routes in Baden were built by private concerns, but operated by the State Railways and, in most cases, subsequently taken over. These were not just branch lines of purely local significance like the Wiese Valley Railway (Wiesentalbahn) (BasleSchopfheimZell im Wiesental), opened in 1862, but also main lines. In addition to attempts by towns, that still had no railway connexion and wanted better access to the railway network, the large cities in the state also got involved in railway line construction, in order to open up their environs and to strengthen their position as transport hubs. For example, the city of Mannheim built a direct railway line to Karlsruhe without having to go via Heidelberg, in order to step out of the shadows into which they had fallen when the Badische Haupt Railway was married up at Friedrichsfeld and Heidelberg with the Main-Neckar Line that ran on northwards. In a countermove the city of Heidelberg pressed for the construction of the Heidelberg–SchwetzingenSpeyer route, in order to secure its importance as a transport hub.

The most important of the privately built lines operated by the State Railways were:

Merger into the Reichsbahn

On the formation of the Deutsche Reichsbahn on 1 April 1920 the Baden State Railways were merged into it. The head office in Karlsruhe became the Karlsruhe Reichsbahn Division. The foundation of the Reichsbahn meant that a wish list of routes in Baden was cancelled and only four new lines were built:

Construction work on a railway connexion from Bretten to Kürnbach (with a planned junction to the Zabergäu Railway (Zabergäubahn) at Leonbronn) was begun, but the line was never completed.

Electric operations

The Baden State Railways began electric railway operations on 13 September 1913 with opening of the 15 KV AC, 1623 Hz Wiese Valley Railway, BaselZell im Wiesental, and on its SchopfheimBad Säckingen branch. In addition to an experimental Class A¹ locomotive, eleven Class A² and A³ (DRG Class E 61) electric locomotives were procured. All had side-rods driving three axles. The electrification of the Wiesen valley line was mainly done in order to trial electric traction; it had no great significance in terms of traffic. No further expansion of electric services was carried out after the First World War due to the serious economic situation and it was not until 1952 that the electrification of Baden’s railway network was begun in earnest.

The network

The railway lines in Baden State Railway network were opened as follows:

Section As part of the route: Opened on
MannheimHeidelbergRhine Valley Railway12 September 1840
HeidelbergKarlsruheRhine Valley Railway10 April 1843
KarlsruheEttlingenRastattRhine Valley Railway1 May 1844
RastattBaden-OosRhine Valley Railway6 May 1844
Baden-OosOffenburgRhine Valley Railway1 June 1844
AppenweierKehlAppenweier–Strasbourg railway1 June 1844
Baden-OosBaden-Baden27 July 1845
OffenburgFreiburg im BreisgauRhine Valley Railway1 August 1845
Freiburg im BreisgauMüllheim (Baden)Rhine Valley Railway1 June 1847
Müllheim (Baden)SchliengenRhine Valley Railway15 June 1847
SchliengenEfringen-KirchenRhine Valley Railway8 November 1848
Efringen-KirchenHaltingenRhine Valley Railway22 January 1851
Port line Mannheim9 November 1854
HaltingenBasel Baden stationRhine Valley Railway20 February 1855
Basle Baden stationBad SäckingenUpper Rhine Railway4 February 1856
Bad SäckingenWaldshutUpper Rhine Railway30 October 1856
DurlachWilferdingen-SingenKarlsruhe–Mühlacker10 August 1859
WaldshutKoblenz ¹Waldshut–Turgi18 August 1859
KehlStraßburg ¹Appenweier–Strasbourg railway11 May 1861
Wilferdingen-SingenPforzheimKarlsruhe–Mühlacker4 July 1861
HeidelbergMeckesheimMosbachBaden Odenwald Railway23 October 1862
PforzheimMühlackerKarlsruhe–Mühlacker1 June 1863
WaldshutSchaffhausenSingenKonstanzUpper Rhine Railway13 June 1863
OffenburgHausachBlack Forest Railway (Baden)2 July 1866
MosbachOsterburkenLaudaHeidingsfeldBaden Odenwald Railway25 August 1866
SingenEngenBlack Forest Railway6 September 1866
RadolfzellStockachHegau-Ablachtal Railway20 July 1867
MannheimLudwigshafen am Rhein ¹Mannheim–Ludwigshafen10 August 1867
Lauda–HochhausenTauber Valley Railway10 October 1867
Engen–DonaueschingenBlack Forest Railway15 June 1868
MeckesheimBad RappenauElsenz Valley Railway25 June 1868
Hochhausen–WertheimTauber Valley Railway15 October 1868
Bad RappenauJagstfeldElsenz Valley Railway5 August 1869
DonaueschingenVillingenBlack Forest Railway16 August 1869
KönigshofenBad MergentheimTauber Valley Railway23 October 1869
StockachMeßkirchHegau-Ablachtal Railway3 February 1870
Weil am RheinSaint-Louis ¹11 February 1872
Schwackenreute–PfullendorfAltshausen–Schwackenreute railway11 August 1873
MeßkirchMengenHegau-Ablachtal Railway6 September 1873
KrauchenwiesSigmaringenSigmaringen–Krauchenwies railway6 September 1873
HausachVillingenBlack Forest Railway1 November 1873
BruchsalGraben-Neudorf–RheinsheimBruchsal–Germersheim23 November 1874
LauchringenStühlingenWutach Valley Railway22 April 1875
Stühlingen–Weizen (bei Stühlingen)Wutach Valley Railway15 October 1876
Rheinsheim–Germersheim ¹Bruchsal–Germersheim15 May 1877
MüllheimNeuenburg am RheinMülhausen ¹Müllheim–Mulhouse railway6 February 1878
HausachWolfachKinzig Valley Railway15 July 1878
NeckargemündEberbachJagstfeldNeckar Valley Railway24 May 1879
Mannheim-FriedrichsfeldSchwetzingen1 June 1880
WolfachSchiltachKinzig Valley Railway4 November 1886
Freiburg im BreisgauNeustadt (Black Forest)Höllental Railway23 May 1887
Weil am RheinLörrach20 May 1890
SchopfheimBad SäckingenWehra Valley Railway20 May 1890
Weizen (near Stühlingen)–ImmendingenWutach Valley Railway20 May 1890
SeckachWalldürnSeckach–Miltenberg1 December 1887
DurmersheimRastattRoppenheim (Alsace)¹
Rhine Railway1 May 1895
New Karlsruhe marshalling yard1 May 1895
Karlsruhe marshalling yard–Karlsruhe West–Knielingen1 May 1895
StahringenÜberlingenBodenseegürtel Railway18 August 1895
WalldürnAmorbach ¹Seckach–Miltenberg20 September 1899
SteinsfurtEppingen15 November 1900
WaldkirchElzachElz Valley Railway20 August 1901
Neustadt (Black Forest)DonaueschingenHöllental Railway20 August 1901
ÜberlingenFriedrichshafen ¹Bodenseegürtel Railway1 October 1901
OberuhldingenUnteruhldingen2 October 1901
Marbach (near Villingen)–Bad Dürrheim31 July 1904
Freiburg im Breisgau goods relief line4 September 1905
Mannheim-RheinauBrühl (Baden)Rheinau–Ketsch1 October 1905
Mimmenhausen-Neufrach–Frickingen1 December 1905
New Basel goods station15 December 1905
Bruchsal goods relief line29 January 1906
New Mannheim marshalling yard, southern section1 October 1906
New Mannheim marshalling yard, northern section1 May 1907
Kappel-Gutachbrücke – Lenzkirch – Bonndorf24 September 1907
WeisenbachForbachMurg Valley Railway15 June 1910
New Offenburg station and Windschläg–Offenburg goods line6 November 1911
WalldürnHardheimWalldürnHardheim23 November 1911
Brühl (Baden)KetschRheinau–Ketsch1 July 1912
New Basle Baden station13 September 1913
New Karlsruhe central station23 October 1913
Singen–Beuren-Büßlingen21 November 1913
New Heidelberg goods station2 March 1914
TauberbischofsheimKönigheimTauberbischofsheimKönigheim1 December 1914
Forbach–RaumünzachMurg Valley Railway4 June 1915

On the cross-border lines marked with ¹ only the section as far as the border belonged to the Baden State Railways. The Basle link line was built by the Swiss Central Railway and co-financed by the Baden State Railway. The state railway had a special role for the only narrow gauge line, from MosbachMudau, that opened on 3 June 1905. The firm of Vering & Waechter were contracted to build and run this line.

State-operated private lines:

Section As part of the route Opened on Built by
Basel Baden stationSchopfheimWiese Valley Railway7 June 1862Wiesental Railway Company
KarlsruheMaxauMaxau Railway5 August 1862City of Karlsruhe
MaxauMaximiliansau ¹Maxau Railway8 May 1865City of Karlsruhe
Dinglingen–Lahr (Black Forest)15 November 1865Lahr Railway Company
RastattGernsbachMurg Valley Railway1 June 1869Murgthal Railway Company
Rhine Railway4 August 1870City of Mannheim
Freiburg im BreisgauBreisach6 February 1871City of Freiburg, Town of Breisach
HeidelbergSchwetzingenHeidelberg–Speyer17 July 1873N.N.
SchwetzingenSpeyerHeidelberg–Speyer10 December 1873N.N.
DenzlingenWaldkirchElz Valley Railway1 January 1875Town of Waldkirch
SchopfheimZell im WiesentalWiese Valley Railway5 February 1876Schopfheim-Zeller Railway Company
AppenweierOppenauRench Valley Railway1 June 1876Renchtal Railway Company
BreisachColmar ¹Freiburg–Colmar5 January 1878City of Freiburg, Breisach, Baden
GrötzingenBrettenEppingenKraichgau Railway15 October 1879Town of Karlsruhe
Ettlingen West–Ettlingen ErbprinzAlb Valley Railway25 August 1885Town of Ettlingen
Ettlingen Erbprinz–Ettlingen StadtAlb Valley Railway15 July 1887Town of Ettlingen
GernsbachWeisenbachMurg Valley Railway1 May 1894Murgthal Railway Company

Apart from the Ettlingen West–Ettlingen Stadt line, taken over by the B.L.E.A.G. (Baden Branch Lines) on 1 January 1899, all state-operated private lines went into state ownership over the course of time. In addition to those lines run by the Baden State Railways there were also fully private lines after 1889 that are not listed.

The Deutsche Reichs Railway completed the following routes within the Baden railway network by 1945:

Section As part of the route Opened on
OppenauBad PeterstalRench Valley Railway28 November 1926
Titisee–SeebruggThree Lakes Line1 December 1926
Raumünzach–KlosterreichenbachMurg Valley Railway13 April 1928
NeckarsteinachSchönau (Odenwald)Neckarsteinach–Schönau21 October 1928
Bad PeterstalBad GriesbachRench Valley Railway25 May 1933
Tuttlingen–Hattingen (Baden)Gäu Railway (Stuttgart–Singen)15 May 1934
Freiburg im BreisgauFreiburg-WiehreHöllental Railway8 November 1934

In addition several routes were built by foreign state railways that ran through Baden territory. The section from Bretten to Bruchsal was transferred in 1878 to the ownership of the Baden State Railways.

Section As part of the route Opened on Operator
HeidelbergWeinheimFrankfurt (Main)Main-Neckar Line1 August 1846Main-Neckar Line
MühlackerBrettenBruchsalWürttemberg Western Railway1 December 1853K.W.St.E.
PforzheimBad WildbadEnz Valley Railway11 June 1868K.W.St.E.
RottweilVillingen26 August 1869K.W.St.E.
JagstfeldOsterburken27 September 1869K.W.St.E.
TuttlingenImmendingenDanube Valley Railway26 July 1870K.W.St.E.
KonstanzKreuzlingen Hafen–RomanshornSeelinie1 July 1871Swiss Northeast Railway
Basel Baden station–Basel Central stationBasel Link Line3 November 1873Swiss Central Railway
PforzheimCalwNagold Valley Railway1 June 1874K.W.St.E.
Singen–Etzwilen–Winterthur17 July 1875Swiss National Railway
KonstanzKreuzlingen–Etzwilen17 July 1875Swiss National Railway
PfullendorfAulendorf14 August 1875K.W.St.E.
Mannheim Neckarstadt–BiblisRied Railway15 October 1879Hessian Ludwig Railway
Mannheim-WaldhofKäfertal–Mannheim Haupt stationRied Railway1 May 1880Hessian Ludwig Railway
SchwaigernEppingenKraichgau Railway18 August 1880K.W.St.E.
LohrWertheimMain Valley Railway1 October 1881K.Bay.Sts.B
ErbachEberbachOdenwald Railway27 May 1882Hessian Ludwig Railway
FreudenstadtSchiltachKinzig Valley Railway4 November 1886K.W.St.E.
TuttlingenSigmaringenDanube Valley Railway27 November 1890K.W.St.E.
SchrambergSchiltach9 November 1892K.W.St.E.
WeinheimFürth (Odenwald)Weschnitz Valley Railway1895Prussian-Hessian Railway Company
SchaffhausenJestettenEglisau1 June 1897Swiss Northeast Railway
WeinheimLampertheimWeinheim–Worms railway1905Prussian-Hessian Railway Company
MiltenbergWertheimMain Valley Railway1 October 1912K.Bay.Sts.B

Running and rolling stock

The first two steam locomotives for the Baden State Railways were built by the English locomotive works of Sharp, Roberts and Company and delivered in 1839. They were given the names Löwe and Greif (Lion and Griffin). As the railway network expanded the size of the fleet grew rapidly. When the railways were converted from broad to standard gauge in 1854/55 there were already 66 locomotives, 65 tenders and 1133 wagons in the fleet. At the end of the First World War the vehicle inventory included 915 locomotives, 27,600 goods wagons and 2,500 passenger coaches, of which 106 locomotives, 7,307 goods wagons and 400 passenger coaches had to be given to the victorious powers as reparations in accordance with the Versailles Treaty. An overview of Baden's locomotive classes may be found in the List of Baden locomotives and railbuses.

The Baden State Railways fostered the growth of an indigenous railway vehicle industry in Baden, because they preferred to buy from local firms such as the engineering works of Kessler and Martiensen in Karlsruhe, which later became the Maschinengesellschaft Karlsruhe ('Karlsruhe Engineering Company'). And two coach manufacturers emerged in Baden in the shape of Waggonfabrik Fuchs founded in Heidelberg in 1862 and Waggonfabrik Rastatt in 1897.

See also


  • Karl Müller, Die badischen Eisenbahnen in historisch-statistischer Darstellung. Heidelberger Verlagsanstalt und Druckerei, Heidelberg 1904 (Online-Version)
  • Albert Kuntzemüller, Die Badischen Eisenbahnen. Verlag G. Braun, Karlsruhe 1953
  • Wolfgang von Hippel, Joachim Stephan, Peter Gleiber, Hans-Jürgen Enzweiler, Eisenbahn-Fieber: Badens Aufbruch ins Eisenbahnzeitalter. Verlag Regionalkultur, 1990
  • Fridolin Schell, 110 Jahre Eisenbahndirektion Karlsruhe. Eisenbahn-Kurier Verlag, 1982
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