A Nature Park in an Abandoned Railway Yard in Berlin
For more than a century, the Anhalter Bahnhof was the most important railway station in Berlin. Located at the heart of the German capital, this beautiful station with a hundred meter wide façade was covered with exquisite sculptures cast in zinc, and had lavish and spacious interiors with waiting rooms and other facilities for passengers that came all the way from Leipzig, Frankfurt, Munich and beyond. The roof was a huge iron and glass structure that rose to more than thirty meters and underneath which forty thousand people could stand at the same time. The Anhalter Bahnhof was Berlin's biggest and finest station.
But Hitler had other plans for Berlin. He wanted to transform the city into the Welthauptstadt or “World Capital” Germania, to be realized by his favorite architect Albert Speer, and Anhalter Bahnhof stood in the way of his grand plans. But before the wrecking ball could come crashing down on the 1840-era building, the Allied bombs did. The railway station was damaged beyond repairs with large sections of its roof missing, and the rest unsafe and tottering. The German rail infrastructure suffered so much damage from bombing and artillery attack that the country’s entire rail service was paralyzed.
After the war ended, the Anhalter Bahnhof station was closed for good and all railway traffic between Berlin and places in the GDR was rerouted to avoid the West Berlin area where the station stood. The building was demolished in 1960, but a portion of the façade was allowed to remain standing. It still stands at its original location, now surrounded by office buildings, hotels, supermarkets, a playing ground and a new concert venue.
Remains of Anhalter Bahnhof.
Further south lies a more interesting site—the Tempelhof marshalling yard, located in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. After the closure of the Anhalter Bahnhof station in 1952, the western section of the marshalling yard was closed but the eastern half remained in use for nearly four decades for limited shunting operation. Rarely disturbed, the disused section was overgrown by nature and over the space of sixty years it turned into a species-rich natural oasis in the heart of an urban metropolis. There is rich dry grassland, jungle-like woodland and herbaceous vegetation. Thanks to the efforts of many concerned citizens and the backing of the city authorities, this magical place was converted into a public park now known as Natur-Park Südgelände. The park contains 366 different species of ferns and Spermatophytes, 49 mushroom species, 49 species of birds, 14 grasshopper and cricket species, 57 spider species and 95 bee species, of which more than 60 are endangered.
Several buildings and construction from the site’s previous life as a switching yard remain, including kilometers of tracks, a steam engine, a few light poles, the administrative building and a 50 meter high steel tower water.