What if there is no railroad
How it all started
In the past, as now, three things were needed for the railroad: the wheel, the rail and a drive. The wheel was developed early on and soon gave people the idea of the rails. Because as soon as the as yet unpaved ancient streets became damp, the wheels of the carts sank and left ruts.
What was more of a disadvantage in the quagmire was advantageous on stone. The wagons stayed on track and could not stray from the path.
Presumably, the ancient Greeks built the first roads with ruts. But these routes were only the exception and were only used to transport heavy equipment over a short distance.
It was only the Roman road builders who worked to a larger extent in paved streets with grooves to make it easier for horse-drawn carts to get around.
In the middle of the second millennium after Christ, this idea revived in mines. Usually wooden rails were laid on which carts transported the overburden, i.e. the rock that did not contain any raw materials.
However, since wood was not a suitable material for heavy weights, cast iron rails were used from 1750 onwards. However, these were too brittle and were replaced by rolled rails at the beginning of the 19th century. In principle, these are the rails that are still used today.
The first locomotives
In the late 18th century, engineers first thought about how to replace draft horses with a more powerful drive. At that time, only the steam engine came into question, as it was perfected by James Watt from 1769. However, Watt's low-pressure steam engines were too weak and large for a mobile machine.
It was not until the British inventor and engineer Richard Trevithick who succeeded in constructing a usable locomotive in 1804. He mounted a small and powerful high-pressure steam engine on a chassis.
This first locomotive always pulled five wagons with ten tons of iron and 70 workers in an ironworks in Wales. Even if Trevithick ultimately failed because of the then still quite fragile cast-iron rails and a lack of investors, he nevertheless paved the way for all subsequent developments.
For example, for George Stephenson, another British engineer. He got the steel horses out of the iron and mines and improved the rail technology.
On September 27, 1825, the world's first railway line was opened under his construction management. Stephenson had mainly rolled rails laid between the English cities of Stockton and Darlington, on which his locomotive "Locomotion" covered the first 40 kilometers of modern railway history.
For many people, the railway was still the work of the devil at that time. People were afraid of the high speeds and feared they would make them sick. The clouds of smoke from the locomotives would kill birds flying through, and cows near the stations would no longer give milk. But the protests subsided as quickly as the railroad moved on.
The railroad in Germany
The first German railroad ran between Nuremberg and Fürth on December 7, 1835. However, horse carts still drove on the six-kilometer route next to the "Adler", as the locomotive designed by Stephenson was called, in regular rail traffic. But soon the triumphant advance of the steam locomotives could no longer be stopped.
More and more rail connections were built, and these buildings were often privately financed. Only slowly did the small German states believe that railways should be state railways. Especially since the military recognized the importance of rail as a means of transport in the middle of the 19th century and the merciless competition had driven some private railways to ruin.
However, it would take a long time before a unified German state railway was established. It was not until 1920 that the state railways were combined to form the Deutsche Reichsbahn. It got off to a difficult start as, as a result of the loss of the First World War, it had to make substantial reparations payments to the winners of the war. In 1932, Germany was released from its reparations payments. This also eliminated all of the Deutsche Reichsbahn's financial obligations.
Destruction, reconstruction and red numbers
The Second World War also had a major impact on the Deutsche Reichsbahn and its route network. Already during the war many lines and railway junctions were destroyed by enemy bombers. In addition, many bridges and other structures were blown up during the German retreat on the orders of Adolf Hitler.
After the end of the war, it was difficult to build up a functioning rail network. After the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the West German route networks were subordinated to the new Deutsche Bundesbahn, which was in the red from the start.
The reconstruction of the destroyed facilities and the increasing car traffic gave her a lot of trouble, in the field of goods transport the freight forwarders overtook her. In the 1980s, the Deutsche Bundesbahn was already in debt with more than 30 billion D-Marks.
The GDR's Deutsche Reichsbahn was not doing any better either. After the Second World War, many tracks were dismantled and brought to the Soviet Union together with locomotives and wagons as reparations. Although the railway was more important as a means of transport in the following decades because of the lower car density in the GDR, the rail network was neglected for a long time.
A switch to concrete sleepers in the 1970s also turned out to be an economic disaster, as the concrete had been mixed incorrectly and fell apart after just a few years. The extremely low fares also ensured that the Reichsbahn was as heavily indebted as the Deutsche Bundesbahn.
Reunification, rationalization and IPO
With the reunification in 1990, the route networks of the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Reichsbahn were merged. Since both railways initially incurred enormous losses, the federal government transferred them in 1994 to an entrepreneurial stock corporation with the new name "Deutsche Bahn AG".
The federal government still held all the bonds, but the company itself was organized under private law from then on. In the period that followed, extensive reforms were carried out for the first time since World War II. The staff in particular felt the effects of this through a large number of downsizing.
Since then, money has been invested primarily in prestigious large-scale projects such as the new train stations in Berlin and Leipzig. The rail network, on the other hand, is often in poor condition, especially on some branch lines. Critics of the company attribute this to the forced IPO under the former CEO Hartmut Mehdorn. Expenses should be reduced in order to get a better overall balance.
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