• Henrik Haupt

Katastrophenzug: Abandoned GDR hospital train

Updated: May 14

Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug

A few years ago, I had a trip to Germany, which had only military installations in focus. So here I got to visit a lot of really fascinating places. One of the last places I had to pass was an old railway workshop where I knew they had a very special hospital train that I wanted to see.

Besides the train I was looking for, they had a bunch of old locomotives and train carriages, but my focus was primarily to see the disaster train, or Katastrophenzug as it is called.

Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug beds

I stumbled upon the train by chance on a forum interested in old trains while researching other things. Here was a member who showed some historical pictures of the train and told that one of these trains should still exist somewhere in Germany. So the chase went in, and I ended up finding the owner of the train. Luckily, like many others I contacted through my interest in abandoned places, he wanted to lend me the key to both the train and the depot where they had other trains holding.

We tried to communicate with our best German / Danish, and he wanted to show me around his workshop, which, together with the depot, was built in the 1800s. Very fascinating to be allowed to see all the tool in use, but I had come for something particular.

Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug operating room
Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug intensive care unit

The history

In the 1950s, the Deutsche Reichsbahn began building a very special type of train. The train is what was called a disaster train.

The train project was top secret, as was all other military equipment in the DDR and under the Cold War.

In total, 14 disaster trains were built, the first 10 trains were built in the 1950s, and the last four were built in the 1970s. They should be used in case of natural disasters or in case of major accidents.

But one can probably imagine that in the event of a war, they would be well-functioning to transport the sick and wounded around efficiently.

While the trains were in use, there were constantly four people employed to keep the train fully operational and ready for doctors, nurses, kitchen staff and other assistant functions to come along and perform their tasks. The K-Zug trains were last operational in 1993 or 1994.

Map of DDR katastrophenzug
Operating room at DDR katastrophenzug

K-Zug could be assembled with different wagons for different tasks.

K9, as it was called, had two sleeping carriages, a less intensive area with four beds, an operating room, a large kitchen department, and a carriage for different techniques.

I have found some sketches of the train, which you can see below.

Drawing 1 of DDR katastrophenzug
Drawing 2 of DDR katastrophenzug
Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug kitchen wagon
Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug technical room

The whole train was fascinating to walk through, for everything was preserved. There was still a lot of medical equipment and a lot of details that have fortunately been allowed to be preserved.

Although all equipment today is obsolete, the train is fully functional and could be retaken into operation.

I hope the train is allowed to be preserved for posterity. Fortunately, the owner has good experience of keeping old trains running.

Abandoned DDR katastrophenzug beds