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Track gauges
By transport mode
Tram · Rapid transit
Miniature · Scale model
By size (list)
Graphic list of track gauges

  Fifteen inch 381 mm (15 in)

  Two foot and
600 mm
597 mm
600 mm
603 mm
610 mm
(1 ft 11 12 in)
(1 ft 11 58 in)
(1 ft 11 34 in)
(2 ft)
  750 mm,
Two foot six inch,
800 mm
750 mm
760 mm
762 mm
800 mm
(2 ft 5 12 in)
(2 ft 5 1516 in)
(2 ft 6 in)
(2 ft 7 12 in)
  Swedish three foot,
900 mm,
Three foot
891 mm
900 mm
914 mm
(2 ft11 332 in)
(2 ft 11 716)
(3 ft)
  Metre 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  Three foot six inch,
Cape, CAP, Kyōki
1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
  Four foot six inch 1,372 mm (4 ft 6 in)

  Standard 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

Five foot
1,520 mm
1,524 mm
(4 ft 11 2732 in)
(5 ft)
  Irish 1,600 mm 5 ft 3 in)
  Iberian 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in)
  Indian 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
  Brunel 2,140 mm (7 ft 14 in)
Change of gauge
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Conversion (list) · Bogie exchange · Variable gauge
By location
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World map, rail gauge by region

The Breitspurbahn (German pronunciation: [ˈbʁaɪtʃpuːɐ̯baːn], translation: broad-gauge railway) was a planned 3 m (9 ft 10 18 in) broad-gauge railway, proposed by Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich of Germany, supposed to run on 3-metre gauge track with double-deck coaches between major cities of Grossdeutschland, Hitler's expanded Germany.[1]


Proposed route map 1943.

Since reparations due after World War I had to be paid, the Germany railway company Deutsche Reichsbahn lacked money for appropriate expansion and sufficient maintenance of their track network and rolling stock.[2]

After the seizure of power of Hitler and the NSDAP, commercial and civilian traffic had increased due to economic stimulation. Deutsche Reichsbahn was now faced with a serious capacity problem. As a result, in part driven by their military objectives, the government began to prepare plans to modernize the railway network and increase transport capacity. Hitler believed that the standard Stephenson gauge was obsolete and was too narrow for the full development of railways.[1] Also, as Hitler envisioned the future German empire as being essentially a land-based Empire (as represented by the Heartland Theory of Halford Mackinder), the new German railways were imagined as a land-based equivalent of the cruise ships and freighters connecting the maritime British Empire.[1]

Hitler embraced a suggestion from Fritz Todt to build a new high-capacity Reichsspurbahn (Imperial Gauge Railway) with notably increased gauge. Objections from railway experts — who foresaw difficulties in introducing a new, incompatible gauge (and proposed 4-track standard gauge lines instead), and who could not imagine any use for the vast transport capacity of such a railway — were ignored, and Hitler ordered the Breitspurbahn to be built with initial lines between Hamburg, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, and Linz.

The project engaged commercial partners Krauss-Maffei, Henschel, Borsig, BBC, and Krupp, but did not develop beyond line planning and initial survey. Throughout World War II, 100 officials and 80 engineers continued to work on the project.[3]


Comparison with Standard and Russian gauge.

Originally proposed to run on a 4-metre (13 ft 1.5 in) track, the Breitspurbahn was ultimately developed with a track gauge of 3 m (9 ft 10 18 in), over double the width of the common standard gauge track, and three times the width of the common semi-narrow metre gauge track. Planning called for a ballastless track (much as was developed 30 years later for San Francisco BART and 40 years later for German high-speed lines) which consisted of two parallel pre-stressed concrete "walls" sunk into the ground, joined at the top by a flat transverse slab. The rails were fixed on top of the "walls", with an elastic material between rail and concrete. Because it did not have conventional railway sleepers, this track would also have formed an ideal road for maintenance and military purposes.


Models of double-deck wagons at the DB Museum, Nuremberg.

The proposal was that high-performance-locomotives should pull 8-axle double-floor carriages with a length of 42 metres (138 ft), width of 6 metres (19 ft 8 in) and height of 7 metres (23 ft 0 in).[1] The carriages would have Dutch doors. The trains would be fitted with a restaurant, cinema, swimming pool, barbershop and sauna. The whole train would have a length of about 500 metres (1,640 ft), allowing a capacity of between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers, travelling at speeds of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph). Various designs of locomotive were proposed, from steam to diesel, all requiring power of 24,000–40,000 PS (18–29 MW).[4]

Proposed routes[edit]

Early plans for routes considered India and Vladivostok as the ultimate goals of the railways, but by 1943 the planning was focused exclusively on European cities.[1] Ukraine and the Volga Basin were seen as especially important targets, as these areas were viewed as the future granaries of the Nazi empire,[1] potentially through the "settlement strings". or Siedlungsperlen of the proposed Wehrbauer settlements within the conquered Lebensraum territories, which would also be linked by the planned easternmost reaches of the Reichsautobahn freeway network.[5]

For further routes, see German version and Dutch version.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Puffert, Douglas J. (2009). Tracks across continents, paths through history: the economic dynamics of standardization in railway gauge. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226685090. p 182
  2. ^ "Google Translate". Retrieved 2011-12-10. [dead link]
  3. ^ Housden, K. (2000). Hitler : Biography of a Revolutionary. Routledge. p. 156 ISBN 0-415-16358-7
  4. ^ "Nazi Super Trains". 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  5. ^ Norman Rich, Hitler's War Aims Volume 2 The Establishment of the New Order, New York: Norton, 1974, ISBN 9780393055092, p. 356.
  • Die Breitspurbahn, Anton Joachimsthaler. Herbig, 1996. ISBN 3-7766-1352-1
  • Broader than Broad: Hitler's Great Dream: Three Meter Gauge Rails Across Europe, Barnes, Robin. Locomotives International. 1998. ISBN 1-900340-07-0

External links[edit]