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The Breitspurbahn (German pronunciation: [ˈbʁaɪtʃpuːɐ̯baːn], translation: broad-gauge railway) was a planned 3 m (9 ft 10 1⁄8 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.
Since reparations due after World War I had to be paid, Deutsche Reichsbahn, Germany's railway company lacked money for appropriate expansion and sufficient maintenance of their track network and rolling stock.
After the Machtergreifung (seizure of power) of Hitler and the NSDAP, plans for war were laid out and secret preparations started. As commercial and civilian traffic had increased due to economic stimulation by the NSDAP, Deutsche Reichsbahn was now faced with a serious capacity problem. As a result, in part driven by their military objectives, Hitler and the NSDAP 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. The massive scale of the new railway was, in part, to match the monumental architecture Hitler planned for Berlin (see Welthauptstadt Germania). Also, as Hitler envisioned the future German empire of being especially 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.
Hitler enthusiastically embraced a suggestion from Fritz Todt to build a new high-capacity Reichsspurbahn (Imperial Gauge Railway) with notably increased gauge, and made this one of his pet projects. Objections from railway experts — who foresaw difficulties in introducing an 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, 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.
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 1⁄8 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.
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). 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).
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. Ukraine and the Volga Basin were seen as especially important targets, as these areas were viewed as the future granaries of the Nazi empire, 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.
- East-West: Rostov - Stalino - Poltava - Kiev - Lviv - Kraków - Katowice - Wrocław - Cottbus - Welthauptstadt Germania (Berlin) - Hanover - Bielefeld - Ruhrgebiet - Aachen - Liège - St. Quentin - Paris
- North-Southeast: Hamburg - Wittenberge - Welthauptstadt Germania (Berlin) - Leipzig - Gotha - Bamberg - Nuremberg - Munich - Simbach am Inn - Linz - Vienna - Bratislava - Budapest - Belgrade - Bucharest - Varna/Burgas - Istanbul
- North-South-Parallel: Welthauptstadt Germania (Berlin) - Dresden - Aussig - Prague - Jihlava - Znojmo - Vienna - Trieste - Rome
- East-West 2: Munich - Augsburg - Stuttgart - Karlsruhe - Metz - Reims - Paris - Marseille - Spain
- 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
- "Google Translate". Translate.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-10.[dead link]
- Housden, K. (2000). Hitler : Biography of a Revolutionary. Routledge. p. 156 ISBN 0-415-16358-7
- "Nazi Super Trains". Nazidieselpunk.devhub.com. 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- 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
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