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The Gross Lichterfelde Tramway was the world's first electric tramway. It was built by the Siemens & Halske company in Lichterfelde, a suburb of Berlin, and went in service on 16 May 1881.
Werner von Siemens had presented the first electric passenger train at the Berlin industrial exhibition two years before. In order to develop the concept, he received the official approval to run an electric tramway line on already existing tracks that had been used for building the Prussian military academy (Hauptkadettenanstalt) at Lichterfelde West.
The 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long line started at Berlin-Lichterfelde Ost station on the Anhalt Railway line. Each car was originally equipped with a 180 Volt DC 4 kW (5.4 hp) traction motor, the current supplied via the running rails in a manner similar to that used by most present-day model railways. Therefore, the 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge tracks were generally separated from roads and trespassing was prohibited.
At railroad crossings the rails were dead or switched on only briefly before the approach of the tramcar. Nevertheless, persons and horses frequently received electrical shocks. It is also believed that young persons caused short circuits which shut down the operation by putting wire mesh on the tracks, in order to enjoy the sight of glowing metal.
- railserve.com, The First in Railroads and Trains
- The Railway News, Volume 56, Oct. 10, 1891, page 578
- engagetechnology.com, History of transportation
- germaniatours.net Germany