"Kronprins Frederik" leaving Korsor, 1982 (WS)

Crossing the Belts
The Baltic Sea is the geographically most branched out inland sea, famed for its fissured shores, situated between Scandinavia in the north, the Danish peninsula of Jutland in the west, the German and the Polish coast in the south, the Baltics and Russia in the east, closed up by Finland in the north. The rapid extension of the railways in the 19th century encouraged their administrations to follow the British model to cross the sea with trains by means of special ferries. Pioneer of this system in the Baltic Sea was Denmark. The geographical situation of this kingdom consisting of 490 islands, of which 108 are inhabited, form the bridge between the Continent and the Scandinavian peninsula. 40 percent of the country's population of 5.4 million settle on the isle of Sealand (Sjaelland), where the capital Copenhagen is situated. It was an urgent matter of coherence and intercommunication and vital for the development of the island kingdom to establish internal and international through connections by train.

Via Jutland and Great Belt
The first railway ferry taking up operation was the 300-ton "Lillebelt", crossing the Little Belt from 1872 between Fredericia on the Jutland peninsula (Jylland) and Strib on the isle of Fyn. This paddle wheel vessel was built at Wigham, Richardson & Co. in Newcastle as a double-ender ferry, capable to carry 6 four-wheeled passenger or goods cars with their little tank engine at 8 knots (in 1883 she was relocated to the new Oddesund route). In the years 1877 to 1921 ten other ferry boats were put in service, only two of them with twin-screw drive. Their two funnels were positioned midships, either in front and aft, or parallel on each side, spanning above the single track. Common to all were the black funnels, sporting the red/white/red band presenting the Danish national colours. In 1935 the Little Belt bridge replaced the train ferries.

The majority of traffic ran over the Storebaelt or Great Belt between Nyborg and Korsor, connecting the isle of Fyn with the capital Copenhagen on the isle of Sealand. Train ferry operation started in 1883 with the pair "Korsor" and "Nyborg" of 971 tons, built at Kockums of Malmo. Each was wheel-driven and had a double track combined at the ends. In 1887 a third sister, the "Sjaelland", was delivered from Burmeister & Wain, which was modernized and enlarged in 1909. Additionally the paddle wheelers "Alexandra" and "Thyra (411 tons) followed in 1892. During winter months the ferries needed frequently the assistance of icebreakers. To cope with that problem, the icebreaker-ferry "Jylland" (760 tons) was put into operation in 1894. From December 1903 Prussian sleeping-cars connected Hamburg with Copenhagen via Jutland. Since 1929 also motorcars were transported across the Great Belt. In 1933 the new diesel-powered "Sjaelland" (II) replaced her namesake. In 1935 DSB or Danske Statsbaner introduced the very popular Lyntong diesel-railcar sets, which provided an internal express service between the capital and the most important regions of the kingdom. In 1939, the last peace year, eight railway ferry boats had been in operation: "Dronning Ingrid", "Fyn", "Storebelt", "Sjaelland", "Nyborg", "Korsoer" and "Christian IX", all diesel-powered except the last one. When the German army occupied in 1940 Denmark, the "Storebelt" and the "Mjolner" escaped to Sweden and the "Sjaelland", the "Heimdal" and the "Christian IX" were heavily damaged by Resistance actions. They were repaired by the Germans and transferred together with "Frya" to occupied Norway to be used for military services.

One of the remarkable train connections using the Great Belt route was the 'Englaenderen', temporarily a Lyntog diesel railcar set, running from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, where the passengers changed to a ship for Harwich. So they avoided the way through Germany. After World War II the famous 'Nord-Express', until 1939 the de-Luxe train Paris - Warsaw, changed to Scandinavia, using the Great Belt route. From 1946 its course was Paris - Hamburg - Flensburg - Copenhagen, soon extended with CIWL sleepers to Stockholm, from Oostende and from Switzerland, later Italy. Also a 'Scandinavie-Express' Amsterdam - Stockholm was started via the Great Belt route. To cope with the increasing traffic demand, DSB added in 1951 the new 3,046-ton "Dronning Ingrid" to the Great Belt fleet.

Lyntog MS-AA-MS set, used also as 'Englaenderen' (Jens Bruun-Petersen)

'Englaenderen', being shunted aboard the "Prins Joachim", Korsoer 1982 (WS)

Jutland - Norway Connection
Between Denmark and Norway existed an intense communication over centuries. In 1899 the Norwegian shipping company A/S Kristiansands Dampskipsselskab (KDS) opened a steamer service for passengers and cargo connecting Kristiansand with Frederikshavn. In 1937 the Danish terminal was transferred to the small port of Hirtshals to shorten the passage. As late as 1958 the KDS inaugurated a train ferry service on this route, carrying however only goods wagons and road vehicles.

Berlin - Copenhagen via Warnemuende
A ferry connection between the Danish islands Sealand and Falster had been established in 1884. This service started with vessels withdrawn from the Little Belt and formed an important link between Denmark and Germany. Its operation ended with completion of the 3,262 metre long Storstromsbroen or Storstrom bridge, which was opened in presence of King Christian on 26 September 1937. The bridge carries a single track railway line, a motorway and a pedestrian passage.

With the completion of the railway (Berlin -) Rostock - Warnemuende in 1886, the condition for a through traffic by rail between Germany and Denmark has been realized. The ferry service between Warnemuende and Gedser on Falster island replaced from October 1903 the longer mail steamer connection between Nykobing and Rostock. It had to stay firm against the competition by the steamer line between Kiel and Korsoer and later the German-Swedish ferry route Sassnitz - Trelleborg.The Friedrich-Franz-Eisenbahn of Mecklenburg put in service between Warnemuende and Gedser the single-tracked paddle wheel ferry "Friedrich Franz IV" (1,402 gt, 4 funnels in square arrangement) and the twin-screw ferry "Mecklenburg" (1,810 gt), the Danske Statsbaner DSB the "Prinsesse Alexandrine", corresponding to the first, and the "Prins Christian" to the latter. Both paddle wheelers were delivered from Schichau of Elbing, the "Mecklenburg" from the Schichau yard of Danzig and the "Prins Christian" from the Helsingor shipyard. The unexpected increase in passenger traffic required the lengthening of the ships to carry either six bogie passenger cars or 14 goods wagons (and the four funnels of the paddle wheelers were replaced by two). From the first operation year, 1903, until the outbreak of war in 1914 the number of transported persons had grown from 50,000 to 137,000. Through-cars allowed to travel from Berlin and Hamburg to Copenhagen, the trains being combined at Rostock. The sleeping-cars, operated as a CIWL service, had been ordered by the Friedrich-Franz-Eisenbahn. In 1907 the only exclusive CIWL sleeping-car train to a Scandinavian destination, the 'Daenemark-Express', was introduced between Berlin and Copenhagen. Running almost empty, it was cancelled in 1909 and an intended branch Copenhagen - Hamburg to connect with the 'Lloyd-Express' for Genoa was never realized.

Paddle wheeler ("Friedrich Franz IV"?), Warnemuende c.1903 (old card, coll. WS)

"Friedrich Franz", rebuilt, off Warnemuende (old card, coll. WS)

"Prins Christian", leaving Warnemuende, c.1904 (old card, coll. WS)

"Schwerin" of DR (old card, coll. WS)

The transfer of passenger trains was interrupted from 1914 to 1922 when the traffic had recovered after the war, the "Prins Christian" was replaced in 1922 by the 2,915-ton "Danmark", a twin-screw double-track ferry for an operating speed of 15 knots. The Deutsche Reichsbahn. DR, founded in 1920 to amalgamate the seven German state railways, followed with the two-funnel ferry "Schwerin" in 1926. This pleasant-styled front-gate vessel of 3,133 tons with 2 tracks operated at a speed of 15.5 knots and replaced the old "Friedrich Franz IV". In rotation with the "Danmark", the new vessel conveyed the trains Berlin - Copenhagen and Hamburg - Copenhagen, including Mitropa sleepers. In the 30s a CIWL sleeper Paris - Copenhagen was only temporarily transferred from the Nord-Express. After the completion of the 3.2 km long Storstrom bridge in 1937, the traveling time between Berlin/Hamburg and the Danish capital could be cut by one hour to 9 hours.

With the eruption of hostilities in September 1939 the ferry service was much reduced. In spite of the German occupation of Denmark in April 1940, still 130,000 persons had used the Warnemuende - Gedser ferry and still in 1943 passenger trains were ferried. The number of passengers decreased by 1944 to 33,000. The circulation was subdued to severe control. In March 1945 the Danish Resistance sunk the "Danmark" to block the port of Gedser. The "Schwerin", while on the dock yard of Rostock, was destroyed by Allied air attacks. The 42 year old "Mecklenburg" was captured. The project of a ferry connection between Rodby on the Danish island of Lolland and Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn had been concluded in 1940 during the war, but the facilities were not completed.

The "Danmark", raised and repaired, resumed her daily Gedser - Warnemuende (then in the Soviet occupation zone) service in 1946. A Copenhagen - Prague connection was started in 1948. During the difficult negotiations even the idea of a sleeping-car Copenhagen - Prague via West Germany had emerged. Years after Czechoslovakia definitely had become a communist dictatorship, the cars Copenhagen - Prague disappeared in 1952. A sleeping-car Stockholm - Copenhagen - Berlin was ferried in 1952/53, when the shorter route via Trelleborg - Sassnitz temporarily could not be used.

"Warnemuende" of DR (coll. HSch)

'Neptun' for Berlin, type Koeln of DR, Copenhagen 1964 (Lutz Irrgang)

In 1961 the (East-German) Deutsche Reichsbahn DR took delivery of its first new ferry "Warnemuende". This white-painted double-ender of 6,620 tons featured two wide funnels between two stumpy masts and was comfortably appointed. Her two diesel engines gave her a speed of 17.5 knots. Bow thruster and stabilizers completed the nautical equipment. On three tracks either 11 bogie passenger cars or 30 goods wagons could be stowed. With this new ship and introduction of the DR diesel railcar set 'Neptun' in 1964 (types Hamburg, Koeln, VT18.16 Goerlitz, then DSB Lyntogs) the travel between Berlin and Copenhagen could be covered in 7 hours and 44 minutes. From 1973 it was locomotive-hauled like the new Ostsee-Express, which provided connection to Munich and to the Eastern European capitals Prague, Warsaw and temporarily even with a Soviet sleeper Copenhagen - Moscow.

'Vogelflug' instead of Great Belt
Before World War II the railway traffic between Germany and Denmark has been led either over the above-mentioned Warnemuende route or via Jutland and the Great Belt. After World War II the route via Warnemuende, once the leading connection in international traffic, was hampered by the 'Iron Curtain'.

This was a fact in favour of a new link between Denmark and the German island of Fehmarn. A substantial acceleration of rail traffic between Western Europe and Scandinavia was achieved with opening of this 'Vogelflug-Linie', or 'Fugleflugtslinien', what means in English 'Bird Migration' route. It connected Hamburg via the new port Grossenbrode Kai to Gedser, thus avoiding Soviet-controlled territory. The shipping route was opened in 1951, but as there was only one ferry available, the old "Danmark" of DSB, only a regional VT33 railcar Hamburg - Grossenbrode connected with the ship, without being ferried. Temporarily the "Prins Christian" of 1903 was relocated from the Great Belt route. As the first German post-war ferry ship after the loss of the pre-war fleet, Germany took delivery in 1953 of the 3,863-ton diesel-powered double-ender ferry "Deutschland" (II). She carried either 10 passenger cars of 24 goods wagons on three tracks. Unoccupied space could be used for road vehicle transport.

With introduction of this modern ship by DB, international expresses could move in 1953 from the Jutland route to the 'Vogelfluglinie'. From that year the 'Skandinavien - Italien - Express' (the Rome branch of the Nord-Express), replaced in 1960 by the 'Italia-Express', and other international trains used it. Fastest train was the German VT 12.5 railcar set 'Kopenhagen-Express', covering from 1954 the itinerary Hamburg - Copenhagen in less than 7 hours. Occasionally it was reinforced even by the ex-'Fliegender Hamburger' of the 30s.

"Deutschland" (II) with the Kopenhagen-Express leaving Grossenbrode (DB Bildarchiv)

"Theodor Heuss" of 1957, between Rodby and Puttgarden 1982 (WS)

The success of the 'Vogelfluglinie' led in 1954 to a temporary relocation of the "Dronning Ingrid" from the Great Belt route. In late 1954 DSB introduced the 4,084-ton "Kong Frederik IX". As last addition on the Grossenbrode - Gedser service, the DB put in service the 5,583-ton diesel-electric "Theodor Heuss", named after the first president of the Federal Republic, in 1957. Her transport capacity was 14 express cars or 30 goods wagons on three tracks and 100 motor cars on an upper deck. For 1,500 passengers there were well-appointed facilities, including restaurant and shops. The "Theodor Heuss" was equipped with the last acquisitions of navigational equipment and sailed at 16 knots with a maximum of 18.1 knots.

Acceleration via Puttgarden-Rodby

"Deutschland" (III) between Rodby and Puttgarden, 1978 (WS)

Traffic over the 'Vogelflug' route experienced a remarkable acceleration with opening of the Fehmarnsund bridge between the German mainland and the isle of Fehmarn in spring 1963, shortening the ferry route by relocating the German port of departure from Grossenbrode to Puttgarden on Fehmarn island. The bridge replaced the local Fehmarnsund ferry service. On the Danish side, Rodby Faerge on the isle of Lolland became the port for the 'Vogelfluglinie'. From there the trains took the existing Storstrom bridge to terminate at Copenhagen.

In 1963, when the Fehmarn Belt itinerary was opened, the Grossenbrode passage was shut down. The operation on the 18.5 km long transition was executed with the "Deutschland", the "Theodor Heuss", the "Kong Frederic IX" and the 3,882-ton "Knudshoved" of 1961, relocated from the Warnemuende route. The increasing traffic required more tonnage. In 1969 a new DB ferry was commissioned with the Nobiskrug yard of Rendsburg, which was launched in February 1972 and christened on the name of "Deutschland" (the third carrying this name) by Mildred Scheel, wife of the Federal President. The ship measured 6,119 gt, was diesel-electric powered and made 19.5 knots. In 1981 the "Prins Henrik" of the Great Belt route and temporarily also the "Dronning Margrethe II" changed to Rodby, supplement by car ferries.

"Prins Henrik" between Rodby and Puttgarden, 1982 (WS)

Skandinavien-Holland-Express, Pacific E of DSB ex SJ, Copenhagen 1965 (Dr. Fritz Stoeckl)

Alpen-Express Copenhagen - Rome with DB 221 leaving the "Danmark" at Puttgarden, 1978 (WS)

"Dronning Ingrid" arriving with a freight train at Rodby, 1978 (WS)

TEE "Merkur" with DSB diesel Mx or My, Storstromsbroen, May 1978 (WS)

On the railways the last steam locomotives, 'E' Pacifics of DSB and 41-class Mikados of DB, were replaced in the 60s by diesels. For all the complicated international train runs on the 'Vogelfluglinie' see the publications by Jens Bruun-Petersen/John Poulsen, by Friedhelm Ernst and the Web site From 1974 the fastest connection was provided by the TEE 'Merkur' from Stuttgart, which covered the distance of 360 km between Hamburg and Copenhagen in 4 hours and 39 minutes, compared to 6 hours and 13 minutes over the abandoned Grossenbrode - Gedser route with a length of 375 km, including its longer sea passage. As the 'Merkur' was restricted to 1st class, it consisted north of Hamburg of only 2 cars, diesel locomotive-hauled. From 1969 until 1974 the number of travelers using the Rodby-Ruttgarden ferries increased from 2.4 to 4.2 million. Noticeable was the decline of the sleeping car clientele. On the one hand, the increasing share of young people could only travel at low price tickets using their own sleeping-bags, on the other hand more and more sleeping-car passengers changed to the airlines. The 1st-class TEE Merkur was downgraded in June 1978 to a two-class Intercity and the once-famous Nord-Express and Italia-Express abandoned Scandinavia. Then also the other long-distance trains, such as the Paris-Scandinavie-Express, Alpen-Express, Hispania-Express or the Danish tourist specials, disappeared one by one. Nevertheless, traffic demand on other sectors led the DB to introduce in 1986 the "Karl Carstens" of 12,829 gt, with a load capacity of 12 bogie cars. She was nice and her self-service restaurant was appreciated.

With more than 8 million travelers in 1992 was reached the peak. To cope with rising competition, the state railways of Germany, Denmark and Sweden worked out a common strategy. In 1994 German ferry services were integrated into a new company Deutsche Faehrgesellschaft Ostsee GmbH, the DFO. From 1995 Danish ferry services formed a company DSB Rederi A/S. Old train formations Hamburg - Copenhagen were replaced by Danish IC-3 triple diesel railcars (nicknamed rubber-noses), which cut the traveling time and proved best qualified for the Danish inland geography. More and more through connections were cancelled, train restaurants were cut out and destinations in Sweden and Norway could only get reached with change of trains. In 1935 the DFO closed down the traditional Warnemuende - Gedser link, the ferry ship "Warnemuende" was sold to Italy. In April 1997 also the "Theodor Heuss" made after 95,051 passages her last one (on her transfer to San Vincent for scrapping she ran aground and got lost). A new generation of diesel-powered double-ender ferry ships replaced the aging forerunners in 1997. The Danish "Prins Richard" and "Prinsesse Benedikte" of Scandlines A/S, as well as the German "Schleswig-Holstein" and "Deutschland" (IV) of the DFO, all standardized at 14,621 resp. 15,187 gt, making 18.5 knots, had taken over the operation. Save of the trains, they carried 40 trucks, 274 motor cars and 900 passengers. The new ships reduced the passage to 45 minutes. Apart from the old "Deutschland" also the "Karl Carstens" did quit the service. Only the "Dronning Margrethe II" was held for some time as a reserve. In 1997 DFO and Scandlines Denmark A/S merged under the label Scandlines Vogelfluglinie, Germany and Denmark holding a 50-percent share each. In 2007 the company was privatized and adopted the trade-mark Scandlines GmbH.

Danish IC-3 Copenhagen - Hamburg leaves the "Karl Carstens" of DFO at Puttgarden, 1993 (Friedhelm Ernst)

ICE-TD of DB Hamburg - Copenhagen at Puttgarden, 2008 (Friedhelm Ernst)

Great Belt Bridge and Tunnel
With opening of the 'Vogelfluglinie', mainly domestic traffic remained on the Great Belt or Storebaelt route. The Nord-Express to Paris had used it only until 1960. The most spectacular trains aboard the Great Belt ferries were the new 'Lyntog' diesel railcar sets, a derivative of the German TEE, running Copenhagen - Struer and Sonderborg. The 'Englaenderen' for Esbjerg, previously of a pre-war Lyntog series, has become diesel locomotive hauled. Eventually also the Great Belt ferries disappeared. The 1st June 1997 was a great day for the Danish nation. 100,000 enthusiastic visitors celebrated the completion of the bridge over the Great Belt. Regular rail traffic started with five coupled IC-3 railcar sets after the passage of "Dronning Ingrid". Opening of the suspension bridge for road traffic followed in 1998, finishing the ferry service. The project of bridging the Great Belt goes back to the year 1986. It comprised a complex of single constructions, most of them representing superlatives of their own. While the motorway runs over the roadbed 65 m above the sea on two 254 m high pylons, the railway is crossing the Belt after the bridge on an 8 km long tunnel 65 metres below seaground. With opening of this connection a modest Nord-Express Cologne - Copenhagen re-appeared on the Jutland route. Then the once-famous label gave way to a 'City Night Line' Amsterdam/ Basle/ Munich - Copenhagen, but the latter disappeared in 2009.

Lyntog derivative of German VT11.5, leaving Copenhagen for Struer and Sonderborg, 1978 (WS)

Fehmarnbelt Bridge or Tunnel
As effective as the new "dry" sea transition of the Great Belt ever may be for the internal Danish communication, it could not relocate the fast international traffic from the 'Bird Migration' route. Its passenger service was initially dominated by Danish IC-3 diesel railcars, the so-called rubber-noses. Then fast German ICE-TD diesel railcar sets were introduced, running Hamburg - Copenhagen, temporarily from Berlin. In 2008 the governments of Denmark and Germany anticipated a traffic acceleration by building the Fehmarnbelt Bridge, 19 km long, for a railway and motorway, intended for completion within a decade, reducing travelling time from 4 ½ to 3 ½ hours. It should replace the last ferry line Puttgarden - Rodby as a part of the 'Bird Migration' route. After 15 years of discussions, politics decided that Denmark would finance the 4.8 billion euro project, for it is expected to have the main profit. Though the railway line is to be electrified, environmentalism opposed the project. Then the tunnel project was published (once again criticized, now seeing the whales endangered, while in Hawaii the ferries were combated with this argument), but in 2011 the Danish government approved the railway tunnel, to be completed in 2020.

Oresund Transition to Sweden
In the 19th century, the successful ferry operation between Danish islands had brought about the idea to initiate connections to Sweden, too. The Danish port of Helsingor is separated from the Swedish Helsingborg by the only 5 km wide strait of the Oresund. The ferry services started in 1892 and were operated by DSB with small single-track double-enders of 390 tons. By the time they were gradually replaced by bigger vessels with rudders on each end, featuring an entirely symmetric appearance. They crossed the Oresund in 20 minutes. The last such vessel being put in service was the 2,000-ton diesel-powered "Najaden" of 1967. She carried either six passenger cars or 6 to 8 goods wagons and 16 road vehicles.

Ferry at Helsingor, before 1907 (old card, coll. WS)

"Holger Danske" arriving at Helsingborg, 1978 (WS)

A second link between the two countries was opened in 1895 to connect Copenhagen with Malmo over a distance of 30 km at a traveling time of 75 minutes. Operation started with the Danish paddle wheeler "Kjobenhavn" of 1,091 tons. In 1923 the "Prins Christian" of 2,500 tons, a well-proportioned yacht-like stern-loaded twin-screw diesel ship, took over. If out of operation, "Dronning Victoria" did her job. Swedish state railways SJ employed during decades the twin-funnel double-track "Malmo". In 1945 she was replaced by the twin-screw motor-ship "Malmohus" of 2,580 gt. She was of a pleasant appearance, but the two tightly curved tracks caused problems.

After WWII the Nord-Express with its branch Skandinavien-Italien-Express took that ferry route Copenhagen Frihavn - Malmo, ferried by the "Malmohus". In July 1973 the passenger train ferry service Copenhagen - Malmo was closed down. The Paris-Skandinavien-Express, Hamburg-Express and Italia-Express, the last long-distance trains on this route, changed to the northern Oresund passage Helsingor - Helsingborg, used already before by all trains bound for Oslo. At Helsingborg the electric locomotives of SJ took over. A new type of ferry was introduced there in 1997 with the 10,067-ton "Hamlet", exclusively for road vehicle transport, representing the new concept of Scandlines, the joint-venture of DSB and SJ subsidiary SweFerry. A Danlink service Copenhagen - Helsingborg was exclusively for freight trains, not a subject of this survey.

Nord-Express from Paris at Sodertalje near Stockholm (SJ)

"Malmohus" of SJ, no longer used for passenger trains, Malmo 1982 (WS)

Disappearance of 'Linx', becoming a movie (contemporary press, Linx files)

In July 2000 the most spectacular international bridge connection ever built, the Oresund Bridge, linking Denmark with Sweden, was inaugurated in presence of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and King Karl XVI of Sweden. The new line, which is an extension of the recently built section to Kastrup Airport, starts off in tunnel and then reaches Malmo by means of a bridge. With opening of the bridge, the last train Copenhagen - Oslo, ferried across the Oresund, disappeared. Then the only international intercity train service was provided by SJ with X2000 electric railcar sets running Copenhagen - Stockholm. In 2001 Linx AB was formed by SJ and NSB, which added in 2003 services Copenhagen - Oslo with the X2 derivative, but in late 2004 Linx was closed down. Passenger traffic to Norway had to change to airlines - a result of building the bridge? SJ saved at least the Stockholm - Copenhagen service and in 2009 Railway Gazette Intl. reported surprising considerations of restarting a Stockholm - Hamburg or Brussels night train.

"Prins Hamlet" of Scandlines, for motorcars, not for trains (Friedhelm Ernst)