Not only children’s eyes shine when the small trains chug through the Wuhlheide – on special days they are even pulled by rustic steam locomotives. The Park Railway Wuhlheide is a real railway that is operated by children from 9 years of age and young people under the guidance of volunteer adults. They take on many important tasks and functions, from conductors to local supervisors and train drivers to traffic controllers. In a training programme, children can acquire new qualifications as they get older. As a result, the Park Railway is not only a fantastic offer in the sense of technical leisure education, but also a measure of vocational training. For day care centres and schools, the Park Railway offers a practical opportunity to explain theoretically acquired knowledge with age-appropriate project instruction.
In addition to the “usual” approximate half-hour tours through the Wuhlheide, at weekends and during the school holidays, the Park Railway organises special themed tours all year round. These mirror festivals such as Easter or Christmas, commemorative days such as Children’s Day or seasonal events such as the first day of school. Depending on the occasion, the rides are combined with highlights such as the appearance of a Santa Claus, Nikolaus, an Easter egg hunt or a delicious snack. Visitors can experience the park at these events at different times of the year as well as during the day and sometimes even at night.
In addition, the Park Railway offers many possibilities to arrange unforgettable private celebrations or corporate events. For example, visitors can book special trips with catering or rent premises and historic trains.
With a colourful calendar of events, the Wuhlheide Park Railway attracts visitors to the park all year round – even during the off-season. There are winter rides in February, travel days for families and children’s groups at Easter and Children’s Day, sugar cone rides in August, special steam locomotive rides, Halloween rides or Santa Claus rides in December. A look at the event calendar of the Park Railway is always worthwhile. The event dates can be found on the website of the Park Railway.
The Wuhlheide Park Railway was originally one of 11 Pioneer railways in the GDR. It was opened on 10 June 1956 after only six months of construction with a length of 6.9 km. Like all Pioneer railways, it was initially a municipal institution. In 1978, it was the only one to be taken over by the management of the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR), which used it primarily for training purposes. It was therefore important to have a modern railway, which meant that historical rolling stock was not preserved. It was not until the second half of the 1980s that a rethink began.
With the construction of the Pioneer Palace (now FEZ) in 1979, the line south of the Bathing Lake had to be relocated and the former “Badesee” station abandoned. In the course of this, a new station called the Pioneer Palace (today’s “Eichgestell”) was built. After reunification, the Pioneer railway was renamed the Berlin Park Railway, but remained in the hands of the DR. When the end of the sponsorship was announced in 1991, the Wuhlheide Park Railway was more or less on the verge of extinction. This prompted the people of Berlin and Brandenburg to come forward. Several supporting organisations were established, and it was also decided to connect the Park Railway to Wuhlheide S-Bahn station. After several extensions of its sponsorship, the DR finally handed over the Berlin Park Railway to the newly founded BPE Berlin Park Railway (BPE Berliner Parkeisenbahn Gesellschaft mbH) in 1993. The shareholders were several railway associations and private individuals. Shortly afterwards, the new line, which is 0.6 km long and financed by the Berlin Senate, was opened from Badesee station to Wuhlheide S-Bahn station. The following years were good years: the fleet grew steadily, the depot was given a new workshop hall and a so-called self-adjusting operation was set up in the Badesee signal box.
In 2006, in the 50th year of its existence, the Berlin Park Railway was renamed Park Railway Wuhlheide (“Parkeisenbahn Wuhlheide”). In 2010, the discovery of several cases of sexual abuse shook the image of the Park Railway. The persons concerned were immediately suspended from duty and dismissed. In order to come to terms with the events and to reorient the Park Railway, a round table was set up at the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Science, which initiated a variety of preventative measures and a new educational concept.
Thanks to several sponsors and the tireless efforts of the volunteers, the Park Railway Wuhlheide is still an important crowd-puller in Wuhlheide. In 2018, it carried 70,000 passengers.