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“Helmut” is back in Düsseldorf

Back in Düsseldorf | © Christian Marquordt

One of the classic Düwag articulated trams returned from Poznan in Poland to its old home in Düsseldorf.

A bit of history

In 1964, the Neuss public transport operators purchased its last new last tramcars. Among them was the 6-axle articulated railcar 43, which was also the last tram ever delivered to Neuss.

In 1971 Neuss ceased its tramway operations. Together with its immediate neighbour, Düsseldorf‘s Rheinbahn, Neuss had always operated the circular line 16 (Düsseldorf – Neuss – Düsseldorf), and the Rheinbahn now took over several of the Neuss tram vehicles. This was also the case with no. 43, which was initially repainted to the Düsseldorf colours, but otherwise remained unchanged it became Rheinbahn no. 2623. Major adaptations were not necessary, because the car was equipped from the beginning so that it could be used in the Rheinbahn network without any problems.

As early as 1974, however, the Rheinbahn had big plans for the former Neuss tramcar. It was taken to its manufacturer, Düwag on Königsberger Straße in the Lierenfeld industrial estate. Here the tram “grew”, because an eight-metre-long middle section was inserted and another bogie added, converting the vehicle into a new eight-axle tram – being renumbered 2768, and finally 2968 in 1984.

Stadtwerke Neuss no. 43 is today’s historical vehicle ex Poznan, here on 8 November 1967 | © Dieter Waltking
As 8-axle tram 2968 at Bahnhof Benrath in February 1985 | © Rheinbahn

A “Neusser” in Poznan

In 2010, the Rheinbahn sold the tram, which had served North Rhine-Westphalia’s capital city for 46 years. But that was far from being close to the end of its career: like 117 other trams, Rheinbahn was able to sell it to Poland. It is one of 58 tramways that were taken over by MPK (Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Komunikacyjne) in Poland’s fifth largest city, Poznan (approx. 540,000 inhabitants).

Here, it was renumbered 697 and painted in the colours of MPK Poznan in green with yellow elements.

No. 697 in Poznan | © Dirk Pohl
In Poznań at Rondo Kopaniecka | © Dirk Pohl

The return to Düsseldorf

„Helmut” was in daily service in Poznan until November 2019 when was stored out of service. Fortunately, three people from Düsseldorf had heard about it. They decided that the tramcar should become part of the collection of historical trams of the Rheinbahn at its depot “Am Steinberg”. The three – Gerhard Martin Grittner and Dirk Pohl and Mrs. Pia Pilz – immediately started collecting donations to buy back the tram, and within only four and a half months the proud sum of 13,500 euros was raised.

Tw 697 / 2968 made its way home on a long low-loader truck in September 2020, and was now officially presented at the “Am Steinberg” depot and handed over to Rheinbahn by MPK. The CEOs of both companies were present: Krzysztof Dostatni from MPK and Klaus Klar from Rheinbahn.

Back in Düsseldorf, depot Heerdt, in September 2020 | © Rheinbahn Presse

And now it stands in the hall “Am Steinberg”. In the target plate box you can read “Poznan greets Düsseldorf”. But there is a very special reason for this: to mark the retirement of the Düsseldorf trains, the MPK organised a parade through the city with all the Düsseldorf eight-axle trains that were still in service.

We reported about the project here:

A kind of solidarity

As a sign of the friendly ties between the two cities, the homecoming train is to remain in its last Poznan livery. The MPK’s ownership inscription will not be removed either.

And what task will the homecoming train have in the future? Well, first of all, it will become part of the Rheinbahn’s collection of historic vehicles. This can be viewed at the “historic” depot Am Steinberg on certain dates to be announced. It will also be used for special historical trips.

CEO Dostatni (MPK) and Klar (Rheinbahn) | © Christian Marquordt
“Poznań grüßt Düsseldorf” | © Christian Marquordt
© Christian Marquordt
The initiators of the “coming home” operation: Dirk Pohl, Pia Pilz, and Gerhard Martin Grittner | © Christian Marquordt