Urban-regional lines in Samland and Kaliningrad

The German city of Königsberg developed a small local rail network during the first half of the 20th century, extending into the region of Samland north of the city. Samland (Sambia) is roughly a rectangle bordered by the Baltic Sea, the river Pregel / Pregolya, and the small river Deime / Deyma. The railways served growing beach resorts on its northern coast.

Samland 1923

If Königsberg had stayed a German city, it would probably have an urban-regional S-Bahn network. However, the Second World War resulted in the partition of the former East Prussia or Ostpreussen, between Poland and the Soviet Union. Königsberg was largely destroyed, and rebuilt as the Soviet city of Kaliningrad. The northern half of East Prussia became Kaliningrad Oblast: the mainly German population was expelled and replaced, and everything was renamed in Russian.

Although many local lines in East Prussia were never rebuilt after their wartime destruction, most of the network in Samland is still in operation. The shortest line runs due north from Kaliningrad, to the coastal resort Zelenogradsk (formerly Cranz, population 12 000). The 28-km line was built by the Königsberg-Cranzer Eisenbahngesellschaft. It ends at a terminal station, very close to the beach. The line along the coast diverges just outside the station: the third line visible is a former branch, to a small harbour at Cranzbeek.

Cranz Bahnhof

A longer line runs north-west to the resorts of Pioniersky (formerly Neukuhren, population 12 000) and Svetlogorsk (formerly Rauschen, 11 000 inhabitants). The line was built in 1901 by the Samlandbahn AG. It passes through Pioniersky, 35 km from Kaliningrad, and continues 5 km along the coast to Svetlogorsk-1 station (Rauschen-Ort). It then turns in a semi-circle, terminating at Svetlogorsk-2 (Rauschen Dune), 43 km from Kaliningrad.

Rauschen Bahnhof

Both these lines start at the northern station, Kaliningrad Severny, formerly Nordbahnhof. It is now at the centre of the reconstructed city, on the main square. However, there is only a single-track connection to the main station.

From Cranz, a line runs along the coast, including the 5-km Pioniersky – Svetlogorsk section. It was originally built to Warnicken, 7 km from Rauschen-Ort. In the 1930’s, a line along the whole coast of the peninsula was planned, and it was completed in wartime. It ended at Pillau, now Baltiysk.

The other line north of Kaliningrad is the 124-km secondary line to Sovetsk (formerly Tilsit). The 47-km section to Polessk (Labiau, population 7600) also serves Guryevsk (Neuhausen, population 12 000), on the outskirts of Kaliningrad. This line also starts at Kaliningrad Severny, and could be incorporated in an urban-regional network.

The proposed high-speed line Berlin – Riga would use a new alignment from Kaliningrad to Sovetsk, although it might follow the old line in places. The old line beyond Polessk, which has an indirect route via Slavsk, would then lose its function as a Kaliningrad – Sovetsk link, and might be downgraded to a freight line.

Indicative HSL alignment…

Polessk routes HSL

The 46-km line westwards to Baltiysk (formerly Pillau, population 33 000) was built by the Ostpreussische Südbahn. An 18-km branch to Palmnicken (now Yantarny), later became part of the coastal route around the peninsula. The line had its own station in Königsberg (Pillauer Bahnhof), but it now runs to the main station. In Baltiysk, there is a terminal station, but also connections to the port – a naval base in transition to a freight/ferry port.

Pillau Bahnhof

Radial lines from Cranz, Svetlogorsk, and Polessk into Kaliningrad Severny are logical, and they can be upgraded. However, at the very least, a double-track connection to the main station is needed, with a new river crossing (bridge or tunnel).

South of the main station, trains could continue over the main lines, to Bagrationovsk and Gvardeysk. They could also continue to Mamonovo, on the Elbląg line, but not through the main station. These are logical end points for S-Bahn type services, all about 40-50 km from Kaliningrad. Unlike the lines to the coastal resorts, these are existing or former main lines, and they need extra track capacity for urban-regional services. Kaliningrad Severny would continue the function as a terminal station, for peak traffic to the coastal resorts summer. (The lines south and east of the main station have no tourist destinations, and only some villages).

The original version of this post proposed a new 6-km north-south tunnel, to replace the existing link between Kaliningrad Severny and the main station. It would follow main roads through the centre, and then cross the main station at right angles. It could then split, to access all three routes out of the main station: south-west, south and east. A central tunnel is typical of S-Bahn / RER projects in other cities. However, in this case the benefits are minimal, since Kaliningrad Severny is already well located in the central area. In fact the city centre is ‘hollow’ – the Altstadt was completely destroyed in the Second World War, and only partially rebuilt.

Finally, the line along the coast, from Baltiysk (Pillau) to Zelenogradsk (Cranz), should be reinstated, by reopening the section from Primorsk (Fischhausen) to Svetlogorsk (Rauschen) via Yantarny (Palmnicken). In comparison with the radial lines, it would carry less peak traffic, and it might be operated with lighter vehicles (‘light-train’ rather than light-rail).

See Regional lines around Kaliningrad, for more on the secondary lines in the Kaliningrad Oblast.

Urban-regional lines in Samland and Kaliningrad

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