Laying the Tracks
All images are author's unless otherwise noted
The sounds of trains echo through the park, rivaled in intensity only by the loud chirping of birds, a fitting tribute to the site's ever-present past. Originally a switchyard, built in the late 1800s, Schöneberger Südegelände is a protected nature site with more than 30 species of bird, 95 species of bees, and 350 species of plants.
The train ground was completed in 1889, but after the second world war was gradually shut down, completely taken out of service in 1952. Without any human influence over the next decades, nature retook the site and the tracks were covered in vegetation. When plans were discovered in the 1970s to reactivate the train station, preservationists and others entranced by the site fought for its preservation. In 1999 large parts of the land were designated protected areas and the modern era of the park began.
The 44-acre park is supported by Deutsche Bahn and the Allianz Umweltstiftung and features everything from a 50-meter tall water tower built in 1927 to a steam-engine train built in Kassel in 1940. The bridge master's building houses a cafe and the nearly 100 year old locomotive hall, all 4000 square meters of it, is to be a key part of future park plans. (The source for all above information, unless otherwise cited, is from Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände and Grün Berlin GmbH, provided in a brochure). A stage featuring regular events stands in front of the hall amidst various scrap metals and old train equipment. Train tracks and train switching devices can be found across the park, covered with vegetation that has reclaimed the land in the last 60 years. Today artists, hikers, photographers, musicians, train-enthusiasts, urban explorers, birdwatchers, historians, and general nature-lovers alike frequent the park. A story of revitalization and the reexamination of space, Schöneberger Südgelände is a successful example of the repurposing of space towards more sustainable purposes. It is safe to say, a new set of tracks is being laid at this sustainable space.