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Merkurbergbahn

From Stadtwiki Baden-Baden

Advertising for the Merkurbergbahn from 1913

The Merkurbergbahn (Merkur funicular) is a funicular in Baden-Baden. It takes the passengers in 4 minutes to the peak of Baden-Baden's local mountain Merkur and turns the peak area and its look-out into a popular tourist destination. With a length of 1,192 meters and a maximum gradient of 54 % the Merkurbergbahn is one of the longest and steepest funiculars in Germany.

Usage[edit]

The Merkurbergbahn is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm, and by appointment. The Merkurbergbahn runs without a driver. The departure is on request or automatically. Tickets are available at the kiosk at the valley station or at the vending machines in the mountain or valley station. There are one way tickets (adult: 2 €, child: 1,30 €) or two way tickets (adult: 4 €, child: 2 €). In addition there are also family tickets and other fares. The Merkurbergbahn is not suitable for wheelchairs. Small dogs can ride for free in an enclosed container, for larger dogs the children fare will be charged.[1]

If you are coming by car, you may enter the target Markgrafenstraße in Baden-Baden into your navigation device. The valley station is located at the eastern end of the Markgrafenstraße. The way to the Merkurbergbahn valley station is also well signposted. Ample parking space is available next to the valley station. Alternatively you can take the bus lines 204 or 205. There is a combo-card available that covers the ride with the bus and with the Merkurbergbahn.

Especially nice is the ride in April and May, when the large rhododendron bushes along the railway are blooming. In winter, the forest paths around the Merkur become a toboggan run and you can take the toboggan back to the valley.[2]

After hurricane Lothar had overturned numerous trees at the Merkur peak, it became possible to establish a starting area for paragliders there. The Merkurbergbahn offers a comfortable way for the paraglider pilots to transport their equipment to the starting area. They are paying therefore a special paraglider fare. The landing area is close to the valley station. With a webcam[3] the paraglider enthusiasts can check the conditions at the Merkur before the visit.

History[edit]

Early Hiking Destination Merkur Summit[edit]

For a long time the Merkur summit had been the goal of hikers. The strenuous climb however prevented that many people could enjoy the view. Alois Schreiber wrote in 1811, the excursion to Merkur was exhausting and discouraged the reader to go there.[4] In contrast to Schreiber the author Johann Ludwig Klüber spent 1810 several pages of his book on the description of the Merkur. He mentioned the Roman consecration stone, which had been found there, and praised the view.[5] With the construction of the first look-out at the Merkur summit in 1837 the attractiveness as a destination rose.

Initial Plans for the Merkurbergbahn[edit]

As a 19th century spa town of international renown Baden-Baden was in a fierce competition with other important spas in Europe and was therefore very keen to offer its guests the most beautiful and modern attractions. When the casino ban came into force in 1872 the town lost its main attraction and the most important source of income. Probably it was very open to new ideas at that time.

The Dutchman van Baalen was the first to propose the construction of a railway to the Merkur summit and initiated the dialog with a Swiss mountain railway company. In 1874 he published a brochure about the "project of a railway construction to the Merkur". In 1875 van Baalen was able to present the plans of the Swiss company to the city council. They included the construction of a railway line from the Sophienstraße to Ebersteinburg and to the Merkur summit with a total length of 3,900 m. A steam train should run on this line. At the Merkur summit he planned a climatic health resort hotel. In 1876 van Baalen was able to gain the acceptance of the grand ducal government in Karlsruhe and the citizens' committee in Baden-Baden but after that the project fizzled out. Presumably there was no funding for the construction. Van Baalen had almost sacrificed his entire fortune during the planning phase. As a result other cities got ahead of Baden-Baden. In Ems the Malberg funicular started operations in 1887 and in Wiesbaden the Nerobergbahn was inaugurated in 1888.[6] Also Karlsruhe operated a funicular to the Turmberg summit in Durlach.

Planning and Construction of the Funicular[edit]

It took another 36 years before the idea of a railway to the Merkur became reality. This idea had settled in the minds of the Baden-Baden inhabitants since the construction preparations of van Baalen. In the course of planning the Baden-Baden cable car the idea was resumed. On 25 April 1907 R. Holzapfel submitted his planning for the route of the cable car to the Merkur and the funicular to the city of Baden-Baden. In his opinion the construction of the cable car was an important prerequisite for the construction of the funicular. With the electric energy of the cable car it became possible to electrify the Merkurbergbahn which was the only possibility to ensure its profitable operation. On 16 December 1910 the citizens' committee approved the construction of the cable car line from the Leopoldsplatz to the Merkur forest. In June 1911 it approved a loan over 451,000 marks and therefore the construction of the Merkurbergbahn. The groundbreaking ceremony for the funicular took place in May 1912. After 15 months of construction, the Merkurbergbahn was completed. On 16 August 1913 it started operations with a large opening ceremony.

Operations from 1913 to 1967[edit]

The Merkurbergbahn enjoyed great popularity and the revenue could cover the operating costs. In the years 1913 to 1967 the Merkurbergbahn transported 5.6 million people. During World War II the funicular was used exclusively by soldiers. At the Merkur summit an air traffic control station was run. One air attack failed. In April 1945 French artillery fired at the summit and damaged the engine room, the hotel and the tower. In 1955 first aging damages to the tracks and bridges were discovered. With renovations in the winter months from 1956 to 1959 it was possible to win some time, but already in 1959 it was clear that further renovations would still be necessary. The wagons were overhauled, although buying new would have been necessary. The problem was that there were no funds available.

From the Closing in 1967 to the Re-Opening in 1979[edit]

The financial situation deteriorated further until 1967. When it became clear that a further investment of 2 million marks would be necessary, the council decided the cessation of operations after the 1 November 1967. In the following years the Merkurbergbahn and the Merkur summit were abandoned. Many Baden-Baden inhabitants campaigned for a re-opening and also many spa guests inquired about the whereabouts of this attraction.

On 4 December 1974 a concept for the reactivation of the Merkurbergbahn and the Merkur summit was submitted to the municipal council. It included the construction of a gondola on the route of the former Merkurbergbahn. This concept would have implicated the transformation of the existing infrastructure. Finally the concept was rejected. In June 1975 it was decided to change the plan. The Merkurbergbahn should be reactivated using the existing railway facilities as far as possible and focusing on an operation with low staffing level and little maintenance needs. On 14 September 1977 the municipal council decided to implement the new concept. On 5 October 1977 the company Roll, Frankfurt/Bern, became the general contractor for the renewal of the funicular. After 18 months of construction it was reopened on 27 April 1979.

Operation From 1979 Until Today[edit]

Since the reopening the Merkurbergbahn runs significantly faster and without a driver. In 1997 a first New Year's Eve event was held at the Merkur summit. It attracts lots of people and therefore repeated. In addition, new events were introduced, such as the easter egg hunt or the St Nicholas celebration. Since 2002, the paragliding association Gleitschirmverein Baden e.V. owns a starting area at the Merkur and more and more paragliders take the Merkurbergbahn to reach the summit. In January 2002 the wagons were overhauled at the factory in Switzerland and received a new design. In 2011 the wagons were sent for another maintenance to the factory in Switzerland. Due to new security requirements this will be repeated every 10 years in the future besides other checks that are done regularly in Baden-Baden.

Technical Specifics[edit]

The Merkurbergbahn is a funicular with a track width of 1 m. From the valley station at 287 m above sea level to the mountain station at 657 m above sea level it overcomes a difference in altitude of 370 m and slopes from 23% to 54%. The route length is 1,192 m. The two cars are connected by a wire rope, which runs over a sheave at the mountain station. Since the weight of the cars is about the same, only little energy must be expended to move them. The downwardly moving car pulls up the upwardly moving car. The additional needed impulsion is provided by a 125 kW / 170 hp engine in the mountain station. In the middle of the track that is mostly a single track there is a short double track section with an Abt switch. There the two cars pass each other. In each car there are 18 seats and 12 stances. Depending on the needs the passengers can determine the departure of the Merkurbergbahn on their own, like in a lift, or the funicular runs on a predetermined schedule. The journey time is 4 minutes. The speed can be adjusted according to the passenger volume. The top speed is 6 m/s.

References[edit]

Footnotes:

  1. Tickets and opening times (de) on stadtwerke-baden-baden.de (visited 28.12.2013)
  2. toboggan run Merkur (de) advise at kvv.de (visited 28.12.2013)
  3. Merkur Webcam (de) provided by the Gleitschirmverein Baden e.V.
  4. Baaden in der Marggraffschaft mit seinen Bädern by Alois Wilhelm Schreiber p.140 (online)
  5. Beschreibung von Baden bei Rastatt und seiner Umgebung by Johann Ludwig Klüber 1810 Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Tübingen p. 91 - 95 (online)
  6. Ulrich Coenen Von Aquae bis Baden-Baden - die Baugeschichte der Stadt und ihr Beitrag zur Entwicklung der Kurarchitektur Aachen, Mainz 2008, ISBN 3-8107-0023-1 p. 551