Today in Transportation History – 1835: A New Railway Opens in Bavaria

Photo by Magnus Gertkemper: The Adler replica from 1935 on its first trip after the reconstruction in 2008.

The Bavarian Ludwig Railway (Ludwigsbahn), the first steam-powered railway line in what is now Germany, began operations between the cities of Nuremberg and Fürth. (At the time, this region of present-day Germany was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria.) The momentum for launching this transportation enterprise took shape over the course of several years, and in 1833 a group of Bavarian businessmen and other prominent citizens finally organized a company for the establishment of a steam railway between Nuremberg and Fürth.

Within six months after the company was set up, two of its founders – merchant George Zaharias Platner and entrepreneur Johannes Scharrer – raised sufficient capital for financing construction of the new railway. Bavaria’s King Ludwig I did not readily share in this strong enthusiasm for a steam railway. His own top transportation priority involved having a canal built between the rivers Main and Danube.  Ultimately, however, Ludwig allowed the company to use his name for the railway. He also authorized the government to buy a token two shares in the company. In addition, Ludwig made noted engineer Paul Camille von Denis available for developing the railway.

A large crowd gathered in Nuremberg for the Bavarian Ludwig Railway’s first day of service, with the maiden run undertaken by a steam locomotive called the Adler (“Eagle”). For its debut on the new line, the Adler pulled nine passenger carriages that had been provided by local wagon-builders. Initially, the Adler ran twice on a daily basis and horse-drawn trains handled all the other runs each day. It would not be until 1863 that horses were phased out altogether from the Bavarian Ludwig Railway’s services.

King Ludwig finally checked out his namesake railway in person about nine months after it was inaugurated.  Incidentally, construction on Ludwig’s hoped-for canal (likewise named after him) began at around that same time and was completed in 1846. The pioneering Bavarian Ludwig Railway remained in service for more than eight decades, ceasing operations in the fall of 1922.

For more information on the Bavarian Ludwig Railway, please check out

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