Halle–Bebra railway

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Halle–Bebra railway
Other name(s) Thuringian Railway
Native name Thüringer Bahn
Locale Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Hesse, Germany
Termini Halle
Line number 6340, 3800
Line length 210.36 km (130.71 mi)
Number of tracks 2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 15 kV/16.7 Hz AC catenary
Operating speed 160 km/h (99 mph) (maximum)
Route number 581, 580, 605
Route map
To Berlin and Magdeburg
0.00 Halle
To Leipzig
To Kassel
5.86 Halle-Ammendorf
to HSL
Weiße Elster
Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle HSL
9.95 Schkopau
From Schafstädt and Halle-Nietleben
13.5 Merseburg
to Leipzig-Leutzsch
To Querfurt
17.54 Leunawerke Nord
19.29 Leunawerke Süd
from Leipzig
23.80 Großkorbetha
to Hohenmölsen
32.00 Weißenfels
34.84 To Zeitz
37.35 Leißling
Saale bridge at Goseck (65+82+62 m)
Saale bridge at Henne (75+74+113+40 m)
From Teuchern
45.62 Naumburg (Saale)
To Artern
Saale bridge 8, Bad Kösen (128 m)
52.64 Bad Kösen
Saale bridge 9, Saaleck (111 m)
Saale bridge, Saaleck junction (81 m)
55.90 Saaleck junctionto Jena
Saxony-AnhaltThuringia border
From Jena
58.48 Großheringen
To Straußfurt
60.66 Bad Sulza
66.11 Niedertrebra
71.68 Apolda
Apolda viaduct (103 m)
Ilm bridge at Oberrossla (90 m)
79.07 Oßmannstedt
From Jena
87.13 Weimar
To Kranichfeld
94.82 Hopfgarten
100.88 Vieselbach
From Halle/Leipzig
From Nordhausen/Sangerhausen
108.35 Erfurt Hbf
To Nuremberg
114.17 Erfurt-Bischleben
Nuremberg-Erfurt HSL
33.4 Apfelstädt Viaduct (A 71)
120.89 Neudietendorf
To Schweinfurt/Saalfeld/Ilmenau
125.51 Wandersleben
130.46 Seebergen
To Gotha Ost
Gotha viaduct (122 m)
136.37 Gotha
To Gräfenroda
141.38 Leina canal
Leina Canal (aqueduct)
From Friedrichroda
146.92 Fröttstädttriangular
150.90 Mechterstädt
152.22 Mechterstädt-Sättelstädt
153.80 Sättelstädt
157.49 Schönau (Hörsel)
160.20 Wuthatriangular
To Ruhla
165.27 Eisenach
Werra Railway to Meiningen
167.30 Eisenach West
168.80 Eisenach Opelwerk
168.88 Eisenach-Stedtfeld Hörsel VR and Opel
173.95 Hörschel
Werra bridge at Hörschel (182 m)
From Treffurt
175.62 Wartha
176.70 Thüringia–Hesse border
178.36 Herleshausen
182.70 Wommen
183.82 Thüringia–Hesse border
From Förtha
189.32 Gerstungen
Weiha bridge, Untersuhl
To Heimboldshausen
191.34 Thüringia–Hesse border
191.62 Wildeck-Obersuhl
194.10 Wildeck-Bosserode
Suhl bridge, Raßdorf
196.24 Thüringia–Hesse border
197.96 Thüringia–Hesse border
198.79 Wildeck-Hönebach
199.34 Hönebach tunnel (983 m)
205.15 Ronshausen
206.39 Berlin curve to Fulda
209.00 Weiterode junction
(to Bebra goods station)
210.36 Bebra
To Göttingen and Kassel

Source: German railway atlas[1]

The Halle–Bebra railway, also known in German as the Thüringer Bahn ("Thuringian Railway"), is a 210 kilometre-long railway line from Halle (Saale) via Erfurt and Gerstungen to Bebra, mainly in Thuringia. As far as Gerstungen the line originally belonged to the Thuringian Railway Company (Thüringische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft). From Gerstungen to Bebra, it was owned by the Frederick William Northern Railway (Friedrich-Wilhelms-Nordbahn), named after the Prussian king, Frederick William IV. It is now a two-track, electrified, standard gauge mainline operated by DB Netze. It was built between 1846 and 1849 and was the first railway line in Thuringia (apart from a small piece of the Leipzig–Hof line of the Saxon-Bavarian Railway CompanySächsisch-Bayerische Eisenbahn-Compagnie— near Altenburg). All types of trains from Regionalbahn to ICE currently run on the line except Interregio-Express. Four of the six largest cities in Thuringia are located on the line.


The Thuringian Railway is part of the southern east-west line between Halle and Kassel. It follows an old trade route, the Via Regia between Leipzig and Frankfurt. Its construction was agreed to under a treaty signed on 20 December 1841 between the Kingdom of Prussia, the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The first section from Halle to Weissenfels was opened by the Thuringian Railway Company on 20 June 1846. Six months later, on 19 December, it was opened to Weimar and on 1 April 1847, it was opened to Erfurt. The Erfurt–Eisenach section opened on 24 June 1847 and the rest on 25 September 1849.



The Thuringian Railway starts in Halle (Saale) Hauptbahnhof, which it leaves in a southerly direction. It is the most important railway line in southern Saxony-Anhalt. Immediately south of the station the line to Leipzig branches to the east. Further south in the city of Halle, the Halle–Kassel line leaves the Thuringian Railway running to the west. Shortly before Ammendorf station, a 3.614 km-long line branches off the Thuringian Railway to connect it with the Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway. The Thuringian Railway runs through Halle-Ammendorf station and then crosses the Weisse Elster. This is followed by the crossing of the Saale and Schkopau station. Here the Buna-Werke plastics factory is connected via the Thuringian railway to the railway network of the Middle German Chemical Triangle. South of Schkopau the line runs through Merseburg, the first middle-sized city on the line. Here a line branches to the west through the Geisel valley to Querfurt and the largely decommissioned Merseburg–Leipzig line branches off to the east. Immediately south of Merseburg the line runs through the Leuna-Werke (where IG Farben produced synthetic oil during World War II and which is now a location of a Total oil refinery and numerous chemical factories) to Großkorbetha, where it meets the main line from Leipzig. The section to Weißenfels was electrified in 1959. During the existence of the German Democratic Republic, this section of the line had great importance, especially for commuting from Halle-Neustadt to the chemical works in Leuna and Buna. From 1967 to 1990 passenger trains operated on this route with up to twelve double-deck carriages. These trains had the largest seating capacity in Germany.

Großkorbetha–Saaleck junction[edit]

Naumburg Hbf
Bad Kösen station 2007

The 32-kilometer Großkorbetha–Saaleck junction section in central Germany (Mitteldeutschland) is very busy as it combines east-west traffic (DresdenFrankfurt) with north–south traffic (BerlinMunich). Already in 1937, 30 long distance trains ran on this section each day, in 1989, there were as many as 37 long-distance trains and there were 35 pairs of trains in 2004. South of Großkorbetha station the line runs near the Saale, crossing it eight times before Saaleck. Next, the line reaches the city of Weißenfels, where a main line branches off to Gera via Zeitz. Until Die Wende there was also a large freight yard with 252 sets of points in Weissenfels; today there are still 12 sets of points and five tracks. The importance of Weissenfels as a railway junction has been reduced with passenger operations based in Naumburg and freight operations based in Großkorbetha. Naumburg is the first town on the line with a stop for long-distance traffic. Southwest of Naumburg, the line passes through the scenic Saale-Unstrut-Triasland nature park, where the Saale valley is lined with vineyards. After the spa town of Bad Kösen, the Saal Railway branches to the south towards Jena, Saalfeld and Munich. Above the Saale valley here are the castles of Saaleck and Rudelsburg. Electric traction was possible on this section for the first time in 1941, but five years later, in 1946, all components of the electrical equipment were removed as reparations to the Soviet Union. In 1965, the line was re-electrified, this time to Neudietendorf.


Intercity-Express near Saaleck

The line continues to the southwest past Saaleck, through a series of bends in the valley of the Ilm, which it crosses four times. The area around the town of Bad Sulza is also known as Thuringian Tuscany because its gently rolling hills with their vineyards and mild climate recalls Tuscany. The next major town on the Thuringian Railway is Apolda. Until 150 years ago it was still a small farming town with about 2,500 inhabitants, but the construction of the railway line and the growth of the textile industry gave an enormous boost to the town and by 1900 it had nearly 25,000 residents. Further southwest, the next Intercity-Express stop is reached at Weimar. The station, from which the Woodland Railway branches off to the east towards Jena and Gera, is relatively far from the inner city. In Weimar, the Thuringian Railway leaves the valley of the Ilm and initially runs west along the foot of the Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) and then through the flat Thuringian Basin, where, about 20 kilometres from Weimar, the line reaches Erfurt, the state capital of Thuringia. From Weimar the line is also part of the Mid-Germany Connection. In the Erfurt suburb of Vieselbach there is a rail freight centre on the line and east of Erfurt Hauptbahnhof there is a large marshalling yard and a freight yard. Just before the Hauptbahnhof, the new line from Halle/Leipzig, the Nordhausen–Erfurt railway and the Nordhausen-Erfurt railway connect to the Thuringian Railway from the north. Erfurt Hauptbahnhof was extensively remodelled from 2003 to 2008 as part of the building of a high-speed line from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Halle/Leipzig (see Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway and Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed railway). The northern section between Erfurt and Halle/Leipzig was put into operation on 13 December 2015.[2] The southern section to Nuremberg is expected to open at the timetable change in December 2017.


This section is one of the busiest lines in Thuringia. The line here runs in the valleys of the Gera and the Apfelstädt. The 12 kilometre-long section was equipped with two additional tracks in 1910–1912 for freight traffic and a flying junction was built at Neudietendorf station towards Arnstadt on the Erfurt–Schweinfurt line. These tracks were dismantled in 1945 for reparations.

In 1967, the line was electrified and in 1975 part of a third track along with the flying junction were restored. Since 2005, the Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed line has been under construction next to the line for the first few kilometres between Erfurt and the district of Bischleben.


Leina Canal aqueduct in 1993
Current state of the aqueduct

West of Neudietendorf station, the line passes the Drei Gleichen (“three like”) castles on its way towards Gotha, which is reached after passing through the Großen Seeberg hills. The western and central part of Gotha station were destroyed during the Second World War by bombing and were only partially rebuilt, so that the station building is now much smaller. On the forecourt of the station is the beginning of route of the Thuringian Forest Railway (Thüringerwaldbahn), an overland interurban tramway to Tabarz via Waltershausen and Friedrichroda. In Gotha station, the Ohra Valley Railway branches off to Gräfenroda to the south and the Gotha–Leinefelde railway branches off to Göttingen in the north. The line reached the watershed between the Weser and Elbe rivers shortly after Gotha, at the 141.8 km mark. The line is 324.4 metres above sea level at its highest point. At the 142 km mark the line used to run under the Leina Canal aqueduct. Since this technical monument represented an obstacle to electrifying the line, it has been bypassed since 1994 by a new northerly route. This also increased the radius of curvature and the highest point was raised a few metres higher.

From 1912 there was an operations depot at the Leina Canal. Passenger trains stopped there on race days at the nearby Boxberg race course (an early English-style horse racing course) from sometime before 1945 until 1950. The Friedrichroda Railway branches off from Fröttstädt station to Friedrichroda and is the oldest branch line of Thuringia. The Thuringian Railway here runs in the valley of the Hörsel, until it reaches the Werra, which it follows past Eisenach. The line runs along the charming Hörsel valley between the Hörselberge range to the north and the Thuringian Forest to the south. Mechterstädt-Sättelstädt station emerged in the 1930s as a railway siding for the construction of the nearby A 4 autobahn. After the war, the Red Army used the northern part of the station to load and unload tanks for the nearby Kindel firing range until 1990.[3] The line crosses the A 4, passes through the community of Wutha-Farnroda, where formerly the Ruhla Railway branched off, and finally reaches the city of Eisenach, which is the first Intercity-Express stop since Erfurt.


Reopening line at internal border in 1990, replacing detour

The Thuringian Railway leaves Eisenach to the west and reaches the Werra, which it crosses in Hörschel. At Herleshausen the line passes through Hessian territory for seven km, before returning to Thuringia and continuing to Gerstungen. The fact that the line crossed the Inner German border five-times during the division of Germany created security problems for the GDR. Until 1978, freight trains ran to Herleshausen, then the line was closed between Wartha and Gerstungen. For this reason, in the years 1961/1962, after the establishment of the Berlin Wall, a single-track detour line was built in East Germany, the Förtha–Gerstungen railway. At Förtha the line branched off the Werra Railway and ran to the east to connect with the Thuringian Railway in Gerstungen, bypassing the Herleshausen–Wommen section. In July 1988, the old line was made impassable at the border by the dismantling of approximately 100 m of the track immediately next to the border.[4] It was not until 1991, after reunification, that the old Thuringian Railway main line was rebuilt; it was put back into operation on 25 May 1991. Subsequently, the bypass line was shut down and dismantled.


Water tower in Bebra

After the inauguration of the railway in 1849, Gerstungen was an interchange station between the Thuringian Railway and the Frederick William Northern Railway (Friedrich-Wilhelms-Nordbahn). From 1946, it was the border station between the Reichsbahndirektion (railway division, Rbd) Erfurt and the Rbd Kassel as well as between East Germany and West Germany. Also in Gerstungen a branch line branches off through the Werra valley via Heringen and Vacha to Bad Salzungen (today the line is only open to Heimboldhausen, where it connects to Unterbreizbach). It is particularly important for the potash industry (K+S). In Gerstungen the Thuringian railway leaves the valley of the Werra and rises to the Hönebach Tunnel, which is on the watershed between the Werra and Fulda. The maximum speed is 90 km/h because of the narrow width of the tunnel. West of the tunnel, the line runs through Ronshausen in the valley between the Seulingswald Forest in the south and the Richelsdorf Mountains in the north to Bebra where it ends at the lines to Frankfurt, Göttingen and Kassel.

Berlin curve[edit]

Since 1914, there has been a connecting curve from the former Faßdorf junction (206.39 km) to the North–South railway from Bebra to Bad Hersfeld, which removed reversal in Bebra for trains from Erfurt to Frankfurt. Until 1952 there was an additional third track from Faßdorf up to Hönebach Tunnel because of the 1.1 percent grade. After 1945, the connecting curve was no longer used because it was normally required for locomotives to be changed in Bebra. In 1989, a bridge on the curve was closed as it had fallen into disrepair. With the modernisation of the line after 1990, this section was repaired and put back into operation.

Modernisation since 1990[edit]

The section between Erfurt and Bebra was modernised as part of a German Unity Transport Project (German: Verkehrsprojekt Deutsche Einheit, a project launched after German reunification) No. 7 at a total cost of 913 million euros.[5] Since May 1995 the route has been electrified throughout, and the speed limit generally raised to 160 km / h, with the exception of the stations of Erfurt and Bebra and the Hönebach Tunnel (983 metres long, with a 90 km / h limit). Electronic signal boxes were built in Eisenach and Neudietendorf, and one was later installed at Erfurt station. The electronic interlocking in Neudietendorf manages all signals and switches on the Erfurt-Bischleben–Wandersleben section; the Eisenach interlocking controls the Wandersleben–Gerstungen section. The section west of Gerstungen is monitored from Bebra.

The Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway has been built in parallel with the eastern section of the line between Halle and Erfurt and was opened in December 2015. Its route runs north of the Halle–Bebra railway through sparsely populated areas and is intended mainly for long-distance passenger and fast freight trains, thereby relieving the congested old line and providing shorter journey times. Under the current plan completed in 1997, the section of the Halle–Bebra railway between the junction of the high-speed line at Schkopau and Halle is scheduled to be upgraded to 200 km/h.[6] The planning permission for the high-speed line also provides as an option the extension of section of the line between Erfurt and Eisenach that is cleared for a maximum speed of 200 km/h. In particular, level crossings would be eliminated.

Passenger services[edit]

ICE trains run hourly between Dresden and Frankfurt (Main) on this line via Naumburg, Weimar, Erfurt, Gotha (every 2 hours) and Eisenach.

Every two hours, Intercity trains run between Stralsund, Berlin and Düsseldorf via Halle, Weissenfels, Naumburg, Weimar, Erfurt, Gotha, Eisenach and Bebra.

The following services run in 2010 on the Thüringer Railway or part of it:

Train type Line Frequency
InterCityExpress   DresdenLeipzigWeimarErfurtEisenachFrankfurt - Wiesbaden 60 minute intervals
InterCityExpress   HamburgBerlin – Leipzig – NaumburgJenaNurembergMunich 60 minute intervals
InterCity   Stralsund – Berlin – Halle – Naumburg – Weimar – Erfurt – Eisenach – KasselDortmundDüsseldorf 120 minute intervals
RegionalExpress 1   GöttingenGotha – Erfurt – Weimar – Jena WestGeraZwickau / Chemnitz 120 minute intervals
RegionalExpress 3   Erfurt – Weimar – Jena – Gera – Altenburg 120 minute intervals
RegionalBahn 20   Eisenach – Gotha – Erfurt – Weimar – Apolda – Naumburg – Weißenfels – Merseburg – Halle 60 minute intervals
RegionalBahn R6
(cantus Verkehrsgesellschaft)
  Bebra – Wildeck – Gerstungen – Herleshausen – Eisenach 60/120 minute intervals
RegionalBahn 125   Leipzig – Weißenfels 60 minute intervals


Major freight stations are located in Halle, Großkorbetha, Vieselbach (freight transport centre), Erfurt, Eisenach (automotive, wood), Gerstungen and Bebra.


  1. ^ Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland (German railway atlas). Schweers + Wall. 2009. ISBN 978-3-89494-139-0. 
  2. ^ "Mit dem ICE viel schneller zwischen Erfurt und Halle/Leipzig" (in German). Deutsche Bahn. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Günter Walter (2008). Heimatkreis Gotha Stadt und Land, ed. Lok 01 142 kontra Wagengruppe. Die Hintergründe des Eisenbahnunfalls von 1962 in Mechterstädt. Gothaer Heimatbrief (in German). 53. Gotha. pp. 83–87. 
  4. ^ Bernd Troll (1989). "Hier läuft so schnell nichts mehr. Ende einer deutsch-deutschen Besonderheit". Hessischer Gebirgsbote (in German). Melsungen: Hessisch-Waldeckische Gebirgs- und Wanderverein e. V. 90 (1): 8–9. 
  5. ^ "Sachstandsbericht Verkehrsprojekte Deutsche Einheit (Progress report German Unity Transport Projects)" (PDF) (in German). Federal Ministry of Transport, Construction and Urban Affairs. May 2009. 
  6. ^ Verkehrsprojekte Deutsche Einheit. Sachstand: 1997 (German Unity Transport Projects. Assessment: 1997). Bonn: Federal Transport Ministry. 1997. p. 20. 


  • Hager, Bernhard (December 2007 – January 2008). "Spuren einer anderen Zeit. Die Magistrale Eisenach - Bebra im Spiegel der Geschichte (Traces of another time - the Eisenach - Bebra line in the mirror of history)". Eisenbahn Geschichte (Railway History) (in German) (25): 10–25. 
  • Hager, Bernhard (February–March 2008). "Die Magistrale Eisenach - Bebra im Spiegel der Geschichte. Teil 2: Entspannungspolitik und Wiedervereinigung (The Eisenach - Bebra line in the mirror of history, part 2: policy during detente and reunification)". Eisenbahn Geschichte (Railway History) (in German) (26): 14–29. 
  • Schuster-Wald, Dieter (1996). Interzonenverkehr Bebra-Eisenach (Bebra-Eisenach Interzone Transport) (in German). Freiburg: EK-Verlag. ISBN 3-88255-420-7. 
  • Thielmann, Georg; Pabst, Roland (2006). Die Thüringer Stammbahn (The Thuringian trunk line) (in German). Arnstadt: Wachsenburgverlag. ISBN 3-935795-00-9. 
  • Walter, Günter (2005). Aquädukt und Bahnhof Leinakanal (Leina canal aqueducts and stations) (in German). Bad Langensalza: Verlag Rockstuhl. ISBN 3-937135-50-2. 
  • Walter, Günter (December 2006). "Herleshausen im Westen, aber die Eisenbahn im Osten". Der Eisenbahningenieur (The railway Engineer) (in German) (57): 56–60. 

External links[edit]