Monday, 20 February 2023

Potsdamer Platz Persistence (1)

 Yesterday's Puzzle Picture

1925 marked the installation of a traffic light tower in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. The lights themselves were arranged in a horizontal line on the five faces of the pentagonal tower. There was a clock on each face and a glazed viewing cubicle accessed vis a rudimentary ladder, so presumably only used in an emergency.

Potsdamer Platz was, until WW2, very much the central crossroads of Berlin. It was a very busy intersection and photographs show a melee of trams, buses pedestrians and motor vehicles all making their way across the junction.
Quite how the tower worked in practice is unclear, but at busy times the Platz must have been terrifying.
The video is likely to have been made soon after the tower was installed; maybe to advertise its effectiveness at controlling the chaos. 

Yeah, right!

Note on the video, and below, the double deck bus ...
... and a selection of "stills" from a similar vintage.
Yep, it would have been fun!
There is a replica of the tower set in the new area (of which more anon) ...
So, back in the mid 1920s, we could enjoy a coffee and a dish of Berliner Weiss as we watched the traffic and these new fangled lights which controlled it.
Ah, the wonders old 1920s technology!

For those whose knowledge of Berlin's geography is as tenuous as fbb's, can we place Potsdamer Platz in today's city. With the help pf Google Earth, we can.

Most readers will have heard of the Brandenburg Gate, Brandenburger Tor in German.
Traffic used to pass through the pillars, as did a conquering Napoleon in the past! But now the area is pedestrianised and public transport and other traffic is diverted round the side.
In the 1700s Berlin, like many European cities, was surrounded by a defensive wall ...
... and the various gates led to neighbouring towns.  These defences were demolished and replaced with a customs wall a little further out from the centre.

So it was that the Potsdamer Tor, rebuilt in classical style in 1834, led to, guess where, Potsdam!
The gate lasted longer than the rest of the "ordinary" gates (Brandenburg was special!) but suffered badly in WW2 with the remains demolished in the early 1960s.

Brandenburg Platx began life as, yes, a busy crossroads, but early on was where many of the villa dwelling monied residents of Berlin had their home. By the 1920s the area had become much more commercialised. It is located about 1km due south of the Brandenburg Gate and you would not recognise the area today, compared with the photos above.
The road network has changed over the years but the modern equivalent of the traffic light tower controlled crossroads is shown above c/o Google Earth slightly off centre, The octagonal area to the right of the crossroads which is often called Potsdamer Platz in error is Leipziger Platz.

he square with the shape of an octagon, initially also officially called Octogon, was laid out  according to plans by Philipp Gerlach in 1734 and increasingly enclosed by representative residential, administrative and commercial buildings. It was named in 1814/1815 in memory of the wars of liberation. In 1814, the Octagon was given its name in memory of the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig (Völkerschlacht), aligned with Leipziger Straße, which had existed long before.
And just to confuse the unaware (and fbb!) one of the main entrances to Potsdamer Platz Underground station is in Leipziger Platz!
So why is fbb interested in this busy road junction in Berlin?

No 3 son has been working there for a week. His company does clever things with computers, editing and presenting film extracts on tablets, laptops and internet. So he, his boss and a "team" went here ...
... and tootled round various film companies' and/or their agents' hotel suites attempting to sell their skills and their software.
So, being the good lad that he is, he popped out from time to time to take piccies of the public transport at Potsdamer Platz.

And this ...
... isn't it

More tomorrow!

An Apology
Readers may remember that fbb's ARMD (eyesight problems) is being treated, BUT the strain of computer work does begin to affect the old man. (The strain of any work, ditto!) Fairly late on Saturday evening, fbb added the correction re the location of Woodbridge. He also added a bit more about Rendlesham.

For whatever reason (eyeball tiredness, incompetence etc) he failed to chuck his spilling carefully on the last sexion. It was done at 0730 yesterday whist waiting for the early morning brew to brew - but apologies if you were reading gibberish before them.

And thanks to correspondent Andrew for putting both Woodbridge and fbb in their respective places!

 Next Potsdamer Platz blog : Tuesday 21st February 


  1. I'm very intrigued by the double-deck bus as it looks like a dead ringer for a London NS-type bus. Did AEC export to Germany?

    1. Andrew, your thinking is exactly right. The same photo appears in the Alba Publikation book "Berliner Omnibusse" - albeit cropped on the right so that the control tower is not seen. The bus was, in fact, the first double decker in Berlin, and it is described as having been purchased from AEC in London in 1925. From a quick look, there doesn't seem to be much more detail about that vehicle - and the subsequent development of Berlin's double deckers quickly brought larger vehicles, with the engine in a "snout" protruding (partially) ahead of the front axle.

  2. The German language Wikipedia has a specific page on the "Verkehrsturm am Potsdamer Platz", on which the first picture is captioned as being shortly before completion in 1924.
    It goes on to say that the tower was staffed "initially only between 8:30am and noon and 3-6pm", with a picture of the tower staffed in 1925.
    The ladder definitely wasn't for emergencies only.