Ghost station

Ghost station

Ghost stations is the usual English translation for the German word "Geisterbahnhöfe". This term was used to describe certain stations on Berlin's U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro networks that were closed during the period of Berlin's division during the Cold War. Since then, the term has come to be used to describe any disused station on an underground railway line.



In August 1961 the East German government built the Berlin Wall, ending freedom of movement between East and West Berlin. As a result, the Berlin public transit network, which had formerly spanned both halves of the city, was also divided into two. Some U- and S-Bahn lines fell entirely into one half of the city or the other; other lines were divided between the two jurisdictions, with trains running only to the border and then turning back. However, there were three lines—the U-Bahn lines now designated U6 and U8, and the Nord-Süd Bahn on the S-Bahn—that ran for the most part through West Berlin but passed through a relatively short stretch of East German territory in the city centre. These lines continued to be open to West Berliners; however, trains did not stop at most of the stations located within East Berlin, though for technical reasons they did need to slow down significantly while passing through. (Trains did stop at Friedrichstraße, more on which below.) The name "Geisterbahnhof" was soon understandably applied to these dimly lit, heavily guarded stations by the westerners who watched them pass by out the windows. However, the term was never official; West Berlin subway maps of the period simply labeled these stations "Bahnhöfe, auf denen die Züge nicht halten"—"stations at which the trains do not stop." East Berlin subway maps did not depict Western lines or ghost stations at all.

The situation described was obviously less than ideal. The lines were a vital part of the West Berlin transit network, but because part of their length lay in East German territory, it was difficult for western support staff to do needed maintenance work on the tracks and tunnels. If a western train broke down in East German territory, then passengers would need to wait for East German border police to appear and escort them out. The East German government occasionally hinted that it might someday block access to the tunnels at the border and run its own service on the East Berlin sections of these lines. However, this awkward status quo persisted for the entire 28-year period of the division of Berlin.

Particular stations

Friedrichstraße station, though served by western lines and located in East German territory, was not a "Geisterbahnhof". Instead, it served as a transfer point between U6 and several S-Bahn lines. Western passengers could walk from one platform to another without ever leaving the station or needing to show papers, much like air travellers changing planes at an international airport. Westerners with appropriate papers (visas) could also enter East Berlin here.

The Bornholmer Straße S-Bahn station was the only ghost station not located in a tunnel. It was situated close to the wall nearby the Bornholmer Straße border crossing. West Berlin trains passed through it without stopping. East Berlin S-Bahn trains passed the same station close by on different tracks. The tracks used by western and eastern trains were sealed off from each other by a tall fence.

Another oddity was Wollankstraße station. Like Bornholmer Straße, it was an S-Bahn stop served by West Berlin trains but located on East Berlin territory just behind the border. However, Wollankstraße was in use and accessible for West Berliners, as one of its exits was open to a West Berlin street; this exit was exactly on the border line, a warning sign next to it informing passengers about the situation. Its other exits towards East Berlin streets were locked.


The first people to enter the ghost stations after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 found that they lived up to their name, with the ads and signage on the walls being unchanged since 1961. None of these have been preserved.

The first ghost station to reopen to passenger traffic was Jannowitzbrücke (U8) on November 11 1989, two days after the fall of the wall. It was equipped with a checkpoint within the station akin to Friedrichstraße, where East German customs and border control were provisionally installed. Hand-drawn destination signs were hung up covering the old ones from pre-1961; these signs were both crumbling from age and obviously missing the terminuses of post-1961 line extensions. On December 22 1989, Rosenthaler Platz (U8) was reopened with a similar provisional checkpoint.

On April 12, 1990, the third station to reopen was Bernauer Straße (U8). As its northern exit was directly on the border, it could be opened with direct access to West Berlin without the need of a checkpoint. Its southern exit towards East Berlin was not reopened until July 1 1990, the same date all the other stations on U6 and U8 were opened without checkpoints, as on this day East Germany adopted the West German currency, allowing all border controls between the two states to be abandoned.

On July 2 1990, Oranienburger Straße was the first ghost station on the Nord-Süd-S-Bahn to reopen. On September 1 1990, Unter den Linden and Nordbahnhof were opened following reconstruction works. On December 12 1990, Bornholmer Straße was reopened for West Berlin trains; a second platform for East Berlin trains allowing interchange followed on August 5 1991. The very last ghost station to reopen was Potsdamer Platz, which opened on March 3 1992, following an extensive restoration of the entire North-South tunnel.

In the following years, the city and German government put a great deal of effort into restoring and reunifying the S- and U-Bahn networks in Berlin. The U-Bahn system reached its pre-wall status in 1995 with the reopening of Warschauer Straße on U1. The S-Bahn system reached a preliminary completion in 2002 (with the reopening of the ring), even though there are still disused sections of lines closed in the aftermath of the wall. Decisions on reopening of some of these sections are still to be made.

List of all ghost stations

Please note that this list only includes those stations in East German territory that western trains passed through without stopping; there were other stations on both sides of the wall that were closed during the division because sections of track were not in use.

Nord-Süd S-Bahn
*Bornholmer Straße
*Oranienburger Straße
*Unter den Linden
*Potsdamer Platz

*Nordbahnhof (today named Zinnowitzer Straße)
*Oranienburger Tor
*Französische Straße
*Stadtmitte (only U6 station closed; East German U2 trains continued to stop here)From approximately 1951 - 1971, the Schwartzkopffstraße station bore the name "Walter-Ulbricht-Stadion" after a nearby stadium named in honor of Walter Ulbricht, then the First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and de facto leader of East Germany. In 1971, when Ulbricht was deposed and replaced by Erich Honecker, the stadium and station were renamed Stadion der Weltjugend (Stadium of World Youth). This was despite the fact that the only trains that passed through the station were western and did not stop there. The original name was restored in 1991.

*Bernauer Straße
*Rosenthaler Platz
*Alexanderplatz (only U8 station closed; East German U2, U5, and S-Bahn trains continued to stop here)
*Jannowitzbrücke (only U8 station closed; East German S-Bahn trains continued to stop here)

Other cities

* Admiralteyskaya in Saint Petersburg Metro
* Closed London Underground stations
* Haxo (Paris Métro)
* Kymlinge in Stockholm Metro
* Lvivska Brama in Kiev Metro
* Lower Bay in Toronto
* Chamberí in Madrid Metro
* Valkyrie plass and Volvat in Oslo
* Franklin Square in Philadelphia
* Woodleigh MRT Station on the Singapore MRT
* Bicentennial Park Station part of the Miami-Dade Metromover
* Merkland Street on the Glasgow Subway.
*City Hall Station on the New York City Subway System.

External links

* [ Metro map, 1961]
* [ Historic Berlin metro maps] languageicon|de|German
* [ Ghost stations U-Bahn early 1990, starts 08:00] U8 southbound, Rosenthaler Platz already open
* [ Ghost stations S-Bahn early 1990] S2 southbound, Friedrichstr. station, S3 westbound

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