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Łódź: Farewell to the classic Düwag trams

The operation of the classic Düwag GT8N (and GT6) trams in Łódź is now history I © KMST/ Michał Czechowicz

On Friday 3 November, the scheduled operation of the over 60-year-old classic Düwag GT8N ended at the MPK Łódź transport company in Poland. The eight-axle trams were delivered to MVV Verkehr in Mannheim in 1962-64 as GT6s, converted to eight-axle trams in 1992 by installing a low-floor centre section (hence the type designation GT8N) and finally sold to Łódź between 2007 and 2008. Several vehicles were used by the HKL transport company in Helsinki for a number of years and were later also delivered to Łódź.

Six of the trams in Łódź were originally operated by the interurban tramway company MKT (Międzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa) before MKT was taken over by the municipal transport company MPK in 2012. The GT8Ns were also transferred to the MPK fleet, which were very popular vehicles due to their low-floor centre sections and reliability, although they are significantly older than the existing Konstal 805Na high-floor vehicles. In 2014 – 2015, MPK acquired five more GT8Ns, including car 166, which was converted into a party car in Helsinki and stands out with its reflective exterior panelling.

Railcar 166 can continue its rounds through Łódź as a party car I © MPK Łódź

In connection with the delivery of the new Moderus-Gamma low-floor trams from Modertrans, it has now been decided to withdraw the GT8N from service. We reported on the new Modertrans trams here:

30 years of “Helmuts” in Łódź

The use of second-hand trams purchased from Germany, known as “Helmuts” (based on Helmut Kohl, former German chancellor during the 1990’s), has a long history in Łódź. Alongside Kraków, Łódź was one of the first Polish cities to receive second-hand vehicles from (West) Germany. In 1990, immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the first eight GT6s from Bielefeld arrived in the industrial city of Łódź to gradually replace the last two-axle vehicles from the 1950s and 60s. After the division into urban and interurban tramway operations in 1994, the eight GT6s were transferred to TP (Tramwaje Podmiesjkie), which from then on was responsible for operating interurban line 41 between Łódź and Lutomiersk. Due to a lack of spare parts and the limited technical possibilities, the GT6s were repeatedly withdrawn from service.

It all started in 1990 with six used Düwag GT6s taken over from Bielefeld, which were used on intercity line 43 to Lutomiersk I © Wikipedia licence CC BY-SA 2.0

In order to renew, rather than rejuvenate the fleet, as the Düwags were mostly significantly older than the existing Konstal trams, both MKT and TP took over numerous Düwag and Lohner used vehicles from Germany, Austria and Poland (from third parties) between 2007 and 2010, some of which were also taken over by MPK in 2012 and used in passenger transport.

With the progressive modernisation of the Konstal fleet and the purchase of a total of 18 Düwag M8C light rail vehicles from Bielefeld, which have been (and are still being) completely refurbished in the company’s own workshops and equipped with low-floor centre sections, the ageing Düwag trams have been gradually phased out. The last GT6s were taken out of service in January 2021.

Düwag trams continue to operate in Łódź, albeit in a modernised form. One of the 18 M8Cs acquired second-hand from Bielefeld, which looks quite modern with its low-floor centre section, new head shape and new interior fittings and electrical equipment I © MPK Łódź

Green frogs

Some of the GT8Ns taken over from Mannheim as well as some of the vehicles from Helsinki were in service for years in the green and white Mannheim livery and the green and beige Finnish livery in Łódź. This led to the vehicles being nicknamed “frogs” (Żabka in Polish) by passengers and staff. Gradually, all GT8Ns were repainted in the company colours of red and yellow. There are currently still a total of eight GT8Ns in Łódź. With the exception of party car 166, all GT8Ns are to be scrapped.

During the last day of operation on 3 November, the cars were used for the last time on line 9. At the weekend, the local tramway association KMST organised a special trip, during which the ex-Bielefeld ex-Innsbruck GT6 with the number 805 was also operated.

The ex-Mannheim GT8N in its’ original green-white MVV livery from Mannheim, seen in the city centre of Lodz in 2010, operated by MKT on the suburban line 46 I © Janusz Jakubowski/ Wikipedia Lizenz CC BY-SA 2.0

The number of classic Düwag railcars and corresponding licences in regular service in Poland is thus continuing to decline. Only the ex-Vienna E1 trams and U6 trams in modernised form (EU8N) in Kraków (Krakow) as well as ex-Düsseldorf GT8S (modernised) and GT8s from Krefeld in Grudziadz (Graudenz) and in Gorzów (Landsberg/ Warthe) are still in regular service.

Farewell plaque from 4 November 2023 – local tram enthusiasts and the transport company have organised several special farewell trips I © KMST