|Locale||Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland|
|Line length||130.5 km (81.1 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||15 kV/16.7 Hz AC overhead|
|Operating speed||160 km/h (99 mph) (maximum)|
The Mannheim–Saarbrücken railway is a main line railway from Ludwigshafen am Rhein to Saarbrücken. It was opened by the Palatine Ludwig Railway Company in 1847 and 1848 and is one of the oldest railways in Germany. The section to Ludwigshafen to Homburg is now part of the network of the Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn.
An extension was opened in 1867 across the Rhine to Mannheim, which was not historically part of the Ludwig Railway, but since the building of a new Ludwigshafen Central Station in 1969 has effectively formed part of it.
From Ludwigshafen to Schifferstadt the line runs directly toward the southwest, it then turns right and runs in a straight line until just before Neustadt-Böbig; it then leaves the Upper Rhine Plain and begins to climb the Haardt range. From there, it has the character of a mountain railway line.
After Neustadt an der Weinstraße it passes through the Palatinate Forest, running through 12 tunnels. First, it passes through the Wolfsberg Tunnel. After Lambrecht is the branch of the Cuckoo Railway (Kuckucksbähnel), which is a preserved railway running to Elmstein. Then, the line passes through more tunnels on the way to Kaiserslautern (Lichtensteiner-Kopf, Retschbach, Schoenberg-Langeck, Mainzer Berg, Gipp, Köpfle, Eisenkehl, Kehre, Schlossberg, Franzosenwoog and Heiligenberg tunnels). In the 33.5 km long section between Neustadt and Kaiserslautern the line climbs 109 metres.
A few kilometres west of Kaiserslautern, the line leaves the Palatinate Forest behind and runs almost straight through the West Palatinate lowland moor (Westpfälzische Moorniederung) through Landstuhl to Homburg.
After Homburg the line divides into two branches: one runs as a branch over the original line of the Ludwig railway via Bexbach to Neunkirchen (now called the Homburg–Neunkirchen railway) and the other runs through Sankt Ingbert to Saarbrücken. A junction after Homburg connects to the Blies Valley Railway.
The line then passes the former Limbach-Altstadt station, which was a customs post on the 19th century border of Bavaria and Prussia. It then crosses the Blies river, winds through the St. Ingbert-Kirkel forest to the densely populated valley of Rohrbach and continues to its finish in Saarbrücken.
Planning and Construction (1835-1850)
On 10 January 1838 a provisional company was formed to build a line from Rheinschanze (renamed Ludwigshafen in 1865) to Bexbach. On 30 March 1838, the Bavarian railway company of the Palatinate-Rheinschanze-Bexbach Railway (Bayerische Eisenbahngesellschaft der Pfalz-Rheinschanz-Bexbacher Bahn) was formally established. In May 1844 the company was renamed the Palatine Ludwig Railway Company (Pfälzische Ludwigsbahn-Gesellschaft).
The company was directed by Paul Camille von Denis, an important German railway pioneer. Work started at the end of March 1845. The line was intended primarily for the transport of Saarland coal from the Bexbach area (then part of Bavaria) to the port and commercial centre of Rheinschanze. It was named after the Bavarian King Ludwig I. It was also agreed that a branch line would be built from Schifferstadt to Speyer, then the capital of Bavarian Palatinate.
On 11 June 1847 the 29.33 km long section from Rheinschanze to Neustadt opened; on 1 July 1848 the Kaiserslautern–Homburg section opened and on 6 June 1849 the line was extended from Homburg to Bexbach. The Kaiserslautern–Frankenstein section was opened on 2 December 1848. The line to Bexbach via Homburg was completed on 25 August 1849 with the closing of the Neustadt–Frankenstein gap. Bexbach station is the oldest surviving railway station in the Saarland. The Homburg–Bexbach section today forms part of the Homburg–Neunkirchen line.
Further development (1850–1945)
In July 1856, the line was duplicated for its whole length between Ludwigshafen and Neunkirchen. On 7 May 1857 the Blies Valley line was opened from Homburg to Zweibrücken via Schwarzenacker. In 1866 and 1867, the Palatine Ludwig Railway line was rerouted over this line to Schwarzenacker and extended via Bierbach to St. Ingbert. On 25 February 1867, the Rhine bridge between Ludwigshafen and Mannheim was opened for rail operations.
On 15 October 1879 the line was completed by the Saarbrücken Railway between St. Ingbert and Saarbrücken and a new Station was inaugurated in St. Ingbert. The new link to Saarbrücken was shorter than the line via Neunkirchen. Because of the acute danger of collapse of the Hasseler tunnel between Niederwürzbach and St. Ingbert, a new line via Rohrbach with a new station in Hassel was opened on 1 September 1895. The junction with the line from Landau to Biebermühle (now Pirmasens Nord station), Zweibrücken and Saarbrücken (the Queich Valley Railway) was moved from St. Ingbert to Rohrbach.
A further shortening of the Ludwig Railway occurred on 1 January 1904 with the opening of the new line from Homburg to Rohrbach, now a suburb of St. Ingbert.
On 1 January 1909 the Palatinate Railway became part of the Bavarian State Railways. After World War I, the Saar Basin was administrated by the League of Nations. As a result, in 1920 the Homburg–Saarbrücken section came under the administration of the Saar Railways. The rest of the line became part of Deutsche Reichsbahn. With the inclusion of the Saarland in Germany in 1935, the Saarland part of the line was taken over by Deutsche Reichsbahn.
Developments since 1945
After World War II the line between Homburg Saarbrücken returned to the administration of the Saar as part of the Railways of the Saarland (Eisenbahnen des Saarlandes, EdS). The section east of Homburg became part of the German Federal Railways (Deutsche Bundesbahn, DB). EdS was taken over by DB in 1957, following the inclusion of the Saarland in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Since the route had always been of great importance for long distance traffic, it was electrified in 1960. On 8 March 1960 the line could be run electrically between Saarbrücken and Homburg. The Homburg–Kaiserslautern section followed on 18 May 1961 and by 12 March 1964 the Palatine Ludwig Railway was electrified throughout. The electrification of the last section was delayed mainly because of the many tunnels between Kaiserslautern and Neustadt that had to be widened for it. The operation of trains was facilitated in May 1969 by the opening of the new Ludwigshafen Hauptbahnhof, which replaced the old terminus.
In December 2003, Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn trains began running between Kaiserslautern and Ludwigshafen. S-Bahn services were extended in 2006 to Homburg. With the introduction of S-Bahn operations the stations along the route were also upgraded and the platforms were raised to a height of 76 centimetres to provide level access to the class 425 railcars. The length of platforms between Ludwigshafen and Kaiserslautern was generally extended to 210 metres (140 metres at Neidenfels) and 140 metres west of Kaiserslautern. The former Weidenthal station was abandoned and a new station was built 800 metres closer to Frankenstein.
On 22 May 1992 the transport ministers of Germany and France agreed on the upgrading of the route from Paris to Eastern France to Southern Germany for high-speed trains (marketed as TGV POS trains, POS standing for Paris-Ostfrankreich-Süddeutschland).
In May 1998, the Federal Government and Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) signed a financial agreement on the improvement of the line between Mannheim and Saarbrücken at a cost of 351.4 million Deutsche Mark for completion by 2004. In a first stage the track was upgraded for a top speed of 160 km/h for tilting trains. The infrastructure in the sections between St. Ingbert and Kirkel and between Neustadt an der Weinstrasse and Ludwigshafen was upgraded for 200 km/h and a bypass was built around Schifferstadt. The whole Kirkel–Kaiserslautern section can now be operated at 200 km/h. The clearance of the line for 160 km/h required ETCS Level 2 signaling, control and train protection be operational by the end of 2008, although this was delayed. ETCS operations are now controlled remotely from the Karlsruhe operations centre. The route through the Palatinate Forest between Neustadt and Kaiserslautern, including its many tunnels, remains unchanged structurally.
Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn services (S1 and S2) operate from Ludwigshafen to Kaiserslautern every half-hour, with line S1 continuing hourly to Homburg. Regionalbahn (RB) trains to and from Kusel run between Landstuhl and Kaiserslautern. RB trains run every hour between Homburg and Saarbrücken and over the Saar Railway to Merzig and Trier. In addition Regional-Express (RE) run hourly between Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken. Most trains are electric multiple units of class 425 or 426. Intercity-Express (ICE) and TGV 2N2 trains run between Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim, Saarbrücken and Paris and Intercity and ICE trains to and from Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich. Two peak hour RE trains run between Mannheim and Saarbrücken.
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