Vehicles – From the prototype to the modern suspension railway

The Wuppertal Suspension Railway has also always been an innovative pioneer in the development of rolling stock. It was the first to design its vehicles made entirely from steel. The motors were also unique in their day. The continuous operation of the railway kept on resulting in changes and improvements over time, both from a technical and from an operational perspective.

Energy-efficient new design: The Generation 15

On 14 November 2015, the first Suspension Train 01 of the new generation was presented to a crowd of 5,000. This was preceded since 2010 by the development of a new design and a tender process for vehicle manufacturers around Europe, for 31 new vehicles. The Generation 15 is taking the traditional suspension train into entirely new territory: from a technical perspective, the designers of the new generation of vehicles have focussed on energy efficiency and maximum safety. Through the use of three-phase asynchronous motors, this is the first time that the possibility of energy recovery during braking has been exploited. The operating voltage has been increased from 600 to 750 volts. In terms of safety, an entirely new train safety system has been installed: the ETCS. In order to facilitate a reduction in the minimum cycle time from three minutes to two minutes in future, the maximum speed has been increased to 65 km/h. The limiting factor is no longer the trains themselves, but the speed permitted on the line, at 60 km/h. The suspension trains have not just been significantly changed in terms of technology. The colour scheme of the interior of the trains has likewise been modernised. While the seating distribution of the passenger compartment has remained the same, the colour scheme now has more variation. Three different colour variants have been developed here, in green, red and yellow. The floors and seat cushions represent the coloured aspects, while the white side walls and grey handrails have a more subtle design. From the outside, by contrast, the suspension trains have changed relatively little compared to the articulated trains of Generation GTW 72. The new trains are painted pale blue, and will differ from the previous ones in that they will no longer have advertising over the entire vehicle body.


New trains from 2015

In November 2011, WSW mobil announced that it will be purchasing 31 new vehicles from manufacturer Vossloh Kiepe, starting in 2015. The new carriages are visibly more modern, and offer improved passenger comfort. The seats will now be cushioned for the first time, and the aisle down the middle of the vehicle will be wider. Also new will be the so-called "multifunctional zone" at both ends of the vehicle. This will provide more space for pushchairs or wheelchairs. In total, the new cars will have capacity for 45 seated and 96 standing passengers. Specially for wheelchair users, the door behind the driver will be fitted with a ramp for easier access. Newly developed electric motors will drive the trains, and the carriage interior will be equipped with LED lighting, air-conditioning systems, and information displays. All vehicles will be fitted with energy regeneration brakes. In order to achieve a higher frequency of service, the motorisation will be increased. While the four longitudinal DC motors of the current models each have a capacity of 50 kilowatts, there will in future be four longitudinal three-phase asynchronous motors with a capacity of 60 kilowatts. These would be capable of accelerating the trains to 65km/h. However, this power will only be used for acceleration – speeds above 60km/h are not permitted on the suspension railway.


The 1972 Series

Todays carriages come from the 1972 Series, model GTW 72. Of the original 28 three-part railcars supplied between the years 1972 and 1975, there are currently still 25 trains operational. Car 4 was scrapped after an accident in 1999, and cars 19 and 21 were prematurely decommissioned in June and July 2012 on account of their overall condition. Car 24 was damaged in an accident in 2008, was repaired, and has been operational again since December 2009.


1962

In 1962, the signals in Wuppertal said “new”. The train pool was seriously outdated, some of the vehicles were more than 50 years old, and breakdowns were becoming increasingly common. Because articulated vehicles had been proving effective in trams since 1956, a plan was formulated to procure articulated train carriages for the suspension vehicles as well. The special challenge for the designers was the small curvature radius of the turning circles at the terminals in Vohwinkel and Oberbarmen. Carriages 65 and 66 from the 1950 series were therefore converted into the prototype articulated train of the Wuppertal Suspension Railway, at the Vohwinkel suspension railway workshop. In order to pass around the narrow bends, the suspension trains were designed with two joints and a central component. In December 1962, the finished articulated train made its first public appearance. To make the train more visually impressive, it was painted blue. Wuppertalers affectionately called it the “Blauer Enzian” (“Blue Gentian”).


1950

After Wuppertal had finally put the dark years of the 2nd World War behind it, the new vehicles that had been postponed so many times were finally ordered in 1950. The original order of 60 new trains had been delayed since 1941, and even now, only 20 carriages could be purchased. It was therefore still not possible to take the old suspension trains out of service. The new series no longer had main and secondary carriages, and the continuous single carriages had three sliding entry doors. The 20 single carriages delivered were composed into ten trains. The new design made it possible to reduce the weight of the empty carriage by almost 2.5 tonnes. This was a real advantage, because now a single vehicle could hold up to 80 passengers. In this design, the drivers also got a seat for the first time. Because the first and second carriages were not connected together, there was a train attendant in addition to the driver. The vehicles had a significantly shorter lifetime than their predecessors. For economic reasons, lower quality materials were used, as a result of which the 20 carriages all had to be taken out of service in the 1970s


The 1900 Series

These vehicles consisted of primary and secondary carriages. When the service commenced on 1 March 1901, there existed a total of 26 vehicles, of which 21 were primary and five secondary carriages. From 1902 already, only the rear wheel of each chassis was driven. The transmission took place by means of double-headed bevel gears, each connected to one wheel. All carriages were fitted with primary carriage equipment, with light roller driving switches and the newly developed chassis. The motors were located on the roofs of the carriages. These received their traction current through current collectors. While initially there were still both one-carriage and two-carriage trains, a decision was made in 1912 to use only two-carriage trains, even during off-peak hours. The weight of each was 13 tonnes, and there was no spring suspension. Each of the carriages had two doors, and each had a capacity of 65 passengers. Each train could thus transport 130 passengers. Naturally, the suspension railway was not immune to rationalisation. Starting in 1964, the rear carriage was operated without a conductor for the first time. The trains of the 1900 Series were taken out of service and sold between 1973 and 1975.


The "Imperial Carriage"

One vehicle from the 1900 Series has been retained to this day. Known as the "Imperial Carriage", it is used exclusively for special events, and is available for hire. This vehicle got its name after Kaiser Wilhelm II, together with his consort Auguste Viktoria and his entourage, travelled from Döppersberg to Vohwinkel on 24 October 1900.


The prototypes in 1898

The two prototype carriages I and II were set on the tracks in September 1898. The first test line in Sonnborn was 440m long, and permitted test runs with a maximum speed of 16km/h.