The expansion of the long established Bielefeld metre-gauge tramway, which had survived all crises and had never been affected by closures, into a modern light rail system took concrete shape in the 1980s: In preparation for the commissioning of the future city centre tunnel (opened in 1991), Stadtwerke Bielefeld GmbH procured a series of 44 eight-axle light rail vehicles of the DÜWAG type M8C between 1982 and 1987. The first delivered tramcar, no. 516, started regular service in May 1982. The entire series was consecutively numbered 516-559.
All older tramcars were gradually replaced, including 39 Düwag single-ended articulated units and four M8S tramcars. All of them did not allow access to the elevated platforms that would be used exclusively in the tunnel and at various stops above ground, and almost all of them could be handed over to other companies. Some of the cars are still there today, one eight-axle car returned from Innsbruck in 2014 and is now in use as heritage tramcar no 814. The new M8Cs were all equipped with folding steps that allowed flexible boarding at elevated platforms and alternatively at the other stops, which were still low and often at street level.
In December 1986, the cars were also used in double traction for the first time – a form of operation that would later prove to be widespread on the network. Previously, in January 1986, there had been an attempt to extend the vehicles as ten-axle units – the test run, however, lasted barely two weeks.
The considerable extensions to the successful Bielefeld light rail network made it necessary to procure further, new types of light rail vehicles. Even before the delivery of the first of the VAMOS models manufactured by Heiterblick/Kiepe, the retirement of the first M8C began in 2010. Several cars were scrapped, others were sent to Lodz in Poland, where Bielefeld Düwag GT6s had already ended up in 1990.
The use of the M8C in its home town was reduced more and more, along with the progressive delivery of further VAMOS trains. Originally planned for the end of the year 2022, the use of the series by today’s transport company “mobiel” ended on 31 May 2023, two days after an official farewell trip took place on 29 May 2023 – after 41 years of reliable service.
Bielefeld tram enthusiasts intend to bring back the first built M8C No. 516 from Lodz – we already reported about it here: https://www.urban-transport-magazine.com/en/bielefeld-farewell-to-a-fleet-and-a-last-hope-for-m8c-516-544/ . Support for this interesting project is always welcome: https://www.vhag-bielefeld.de/01.06.2023