DAS MAGAZIN FÜR URBANE SEILBAHNEN

A matter of inclination


Stuttgart funicular as an important shuttler
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The reason why a funicular was built in Stuttgart in 1929 was to connect a cemetery located in the outer district of Degerloch with the city. Even today, the railway is frequently used by mourners to comfortably overcome the 85-meter height difference between Heslach and the cemetery Waldfriedhof. In addition, many locals take it to enjoy the small but beautiful recreational area up on the hill .

What is special about this funicular, also called “Legacy-Hunters’ Express” or “Widows’ Express” with tongue in cheek, is that it was the world’s first automated cableway. And even today it still manages perfectly with a very limited number of personnel. This was the only way it could, and still can, operate economically. However, when the European cableway regulations were implemented in 2003, for a time the further existence of this attractive installation was jeopardized.

 

Despite the strict requirements, Stuttgart’s residents voiced their inclination to keep this “inclining” means of transport that everyone had grown very fond of. It was modernized and brought in compliance with EU standards in cooperation with the cultural heritage authorities.

Operations Manager Rüdiger Walz
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Between 2006 and 2013, Rüdiger Walz acted as deputy operations manager of the Stuttgart funicular railway; since 2013, he has been the operations manager. He knows the installation like the back of his hand and understands how important it is for Stuttgart’s residents. “Most passengers are local. They take the funicular to go to the cemetery. Others just want to take a walk up there in the woods and enjoy nature. But one definitely cannot say it’s a tourist magnet!” emphasizes Walz and adds: “The funicular has been integrated into the city transport network since the very beginning, it is an official line of the Stuttgart transport network. To take the funicular, one needs a short-distance ticket which costs 1.30 euros- the same price as all short-distance trips.”

Integrated transport network
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Even though the funicular never has been able to cover its cost completely, it is still the most efficient and economical means of local public transport. The funicular’s hilly, winding, very steep 536-meter-long route was selected quite deliberately. The reasons were as follows: the costs of the construction were to be kept low. The environmental requirement of sparing the woods as much as possible was to be taken into account.

 

 

And last but not least, the railway was to blend in harmoniously with the landscape. The funicular’s hilly, winding, very steep 536-meter-long route was selected quite deliberately. The reasons were as follows: the costs of the construction were to be kept low. The environmental requirement of sparing the woods as much as possible was to be taken into account. And last but not least, the railway was to blend in harmoniously with the landscape. The funicular is currently operated by the Stuttgarter Straßenbahn AG (SSB) and in the late 1990s it was integrated into the city railway network Stadtbahn Stuttgart (SSB) as line no. 20 under its line numbering system.

The cable-pulled vehicles are paneled with teakwood outside and mahogany wood inside . Photos: SSB AG

A Shuttle to the cemetery
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Unlike other comparable funiculars in Germany, this installation hardly serves any tourist purpose, it is mainly a means of local passenger transport. From the start, one could use it for a regular price under the SSB tariff. Travelling along 1,000-milimeter-wide tracks, the railway runs up and down daily between 9.10 a.m. and 5.50 p.m. with a 20-minute interval. Both vehicles are paneled with teakwood outside and mahogany wood inside, each offering 22 sitting and 52 standing places. And another interesting and special detail: this Stuttgart funicular’s utilization rate per operating hour is the highest among all funiculars in Baden-Würtemberg!

Another cableway in Stuttgart?
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If everything goes according to the plans of some of Stuttgart’s politicians, the funicular may get an addition in a few years. It is well known that the city of Stuttgart fights the “fine dust issue” and wants to solve it as quickly as possible. Calls for traffic to be moved from the street to the air are growing louder. An urban cableway could reduce car traffic – especially in the city district of Vaihingen with its large industrial areas – and thus improve air quality, too.