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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Gleisdreieck - a railway site in Berlin

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


The donation contains six locations:

B/W-photo: On the left the slender chimney, right the water tower with steel frame. They have the same tallness.

Water tower with chimney on the former railway site Anhalter freight yard, 1978

B/W-photo: The buildings fall into ruins, the roofs are broken. In the middle a junk car.

View from the water tower to the engine house of the former carriage washing facilities, to the left the building of today's blacksmith's shop, 1982

B/W-photo: A tree is growing on a cross-sill.

Wilderness on the open grounds, 1982 (detail)

B/W-photo: In the foreground ruins, up to the freight yard 500 m waste land with trees.

View from the water tower across the former Anhalter freight yard, 1978 (detail)

Gleisdreieck - a railway site in Berlin

Photographs by Hans W. Mende
Special exhibition in the gallery of our section "History of Photo Technology"

19 November 2013 to 2 February 2014

B/W-photo: No more walls, no roof  - only some supporting beams left.

Progressive deterioration of engine shed 1, 1982

The former railway site Gleisdreieck is an area steeped in history in the middle of Berlin and has undergone many changes over the years. A major part of the land with its buildings now belongs to the German Museum of Technology which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, the exploratory walks of the photographer, Hans W. Mende, kept taking him to this railway site between the Anhalter and Potsdamer freight yards. Calmly and with an exacting eye, he documented the progressive deterioration of the signal boxes, turntables and engine sheds, as well as the way nature was reclaiming the whole area. Only after large sections of the grounds and the ruins became inaccessible when they were fenced off for the further expansion of the current German Museum of Technology from 1983, did he stop making his visits.

In the current exhibition, a selection of 40 original prints from the museum is exhibited, which predominantly served as a basis for the 1982 photo book of the same name.

B/W-photo: In the foreground the elevated train. On the current site of the museum are only some garages.

View from the Postscheckamt across the Landwehrkanal to Trebbiner Straße, 1980

From a "magnificent open-air temple of technology" to an ex-territorial no-man's land

The writer Joseph Roth described the railway site between the Anhalter and Potsdamer freight yards as an "iron landscape" and a "magnificent open-air temple of technology" in his "Commitment to Gleisdreieck" in 1924. Here at the intersection of long-distance and suburban trains, as well as overground and underground trains, one of the busiest railway junctions of the German Reich had developed. Some twenty years later, most of the platforms and railway facilities lay in ruins as a result of the Second World War. Railway operations had come to a complete standstill. After the division of the city put a stop to all long-distance traffic in 1952, the site that was once in the centre of the city was edged out to perimeter of the wall in the district of Kreuzberg. The remaining platforms, signal boxes and water towers stayed in the possession of the East Berlin German Reich Railways until the reunification, although the site itself still belonged to West Berlin.

Over the course of almost forty years, an ex-territorial no-man's land emerged during which all the derelict land became completely overgrown. The peace was occasionally disturbed by car enthusiasts tinkering with their cars, by young artists who had parties there or by squatters who operated their illegal radio transmitters from the water tower. The East Berlin transport police rarely patrolled the area to chase out any unwanted guests from the overgrown park.

Hans W. Mende was born in 1948 in Brake/Unterweser and currently lives in Berlin and the Westerwald. After finishing his studies as a master class student at the University of the Arts in Berlin 1975, and his appointment to the German Society for Photography, he worked as a freelance photographer. He is one of the most renowned Berlin photographers from before and after the reunification and his work can be seen in many collections and museums.

Header photo: Shunting work at engine shed 2, 1970
All photographs: SDTB, Historical archive / © Hans W. Mende