Friday 26 July 2013

Soligen and Wuppertal Part 1 by Roger Davies

 Soligen Van Hool 268 at the station.
It was an 80th birthday party. The subject was one Helmut Buser formerly of the Essen transport authority who had been instrumental in the adoption of low floor buses in the UK. The celebratory public transport jaunt was organised by Andrew Braddock, also a leading light in the introduction of low floor buses. In true Braddock style, the action packed day involved much leaping on and off various forms of public transport with minutes to spare, something which works alarmingly often. 

 UH III 59 at the station

 59 at Burg showing the trailer towing equipment.

Quite why an 80 year old German gentleman and his wife would enjoy such a thing you may query, but they said that had enormously as it was so good to speak and hear English spoken as she should be. Such a group has never had that accolade before.

For me there were two high spots. On being deposited by some older members of DB’s rolling stock at Soligen station, we were met by representatives of the Obus Museum Soligen with one of the museum’s stock, a 1959 Uerdingen-Henschel UH III trolleybus number 59. 

59 on the turntable at Burg with the birthday boy. 

The museum owns three trolleys and a trailer and is hoping to repatriate a Soligen built TS type from Argentina. The vehicles run hires and also operate once a month from April to October on line 683, the object of our visit. Full details are on Soligen is one of three German trolleybus systems, the other two being at Eberswalde (2 lines, 12 vehicles) and Esslingden (2 lines and 9 buses). 

 A Hess off wire heading for Burg centre.
Soligen, opened on June 19 1952, has 6 lines, 681 to 686 and a fleet of 50 made up of 15 Berkhofs, 20 Van Hools and 15 Hess dual modes, all artic and dating from 2001 to 2009. The station is quite away out of town so we had a run into the Stadmitte where the lines all meet to join the 683. 

 A Hess at Vohwinkel terminus
Throughout we were given a commentary by the driver’s daughter from whom we learned Soligen, population 163,500, is known as the city of blades owing to a knife industry, making it a sort of German Sheffield, and home to Haribo sweets. We then took the 683 to the adjoining town of Burg which involves a delightful descent through woods. The terminus at Burg is equipped with an electric turntable by the river. However, the current fleet of all artics are too long, so its use is restricted to preserved vehicles only, delightful. 
The modern kit on 683 is the Hess buses which now extend to Burg centre across the river using auxiliary diesels for this part of the run. 59 made a spirited uphill return, as indeed it performed throughout, testament to its construction and excellent overhead, no slowing down through junctions here. The other end of 683 is equally thrilling as the route terminates currently under the famous and unique Wuppertal Schweberbahn at its Vohwinkel terminus. In early 2014 it is hoped to extend 683 800 metres to Wuppertal station, again using auxiliary power for the new section.

Thanks to Roger Davies for this article and pictures.  All pictures © Roger Davies.
The second section of the article will include information and pictures about the Wuppertal Schweberbahn (Suspension Railway)