Ferry service across the Baltic Sea
by Jørgen Bisbjerg
In Falster we got the first railway in 1871, which went from Nykoebing to Orehoved.
Paddle steamer Friedrich Franz IV with four chimneys and rails for wagons (1903).
Train and ferry services is almost inextricably linked - so when we got the first railway in Falster from Orehoved to Nykoebing in 1871, the Regional Director Flügge took the initiative to establish a sea route between Rostock and Nykøbing. The route was opened on May 19th 1873 - so it is only after this time, there is fairly regular traffic across the Baltic Sea. The voyage was carried out by paddle steamer "Rostock".
In 1886, however, things started to roll - the railway from Berlin to Neustrelitz was extended to Warnemünde and on the Danish side, the line from Orehoved to Nykøbing was extended to Gedser. Thus, there was now the possibility of a shorter and faster ferry connection - a connection that to the economic and industrial development had been necessary and desirable. The postal steam route between Gedser and Warnemünde was opened on June 26th 1886.
First and foremost, the business had great expectations of the new route and there was also the beginning inserted relatively large tonnage.
The Germans inserted wheel steamers "Kaiser Wilhelm", "Kong Christian" and "Grossherzog Friedrich Franz". These ships belonged to the newly established railway and steamship company "Deutsch-Nordischer Lloyd" for the Belgian owners to take charge of the operation of the railway from Neustrelitz to Warnemünde and steamship route Rostock - Gedser.
From the Danish side participated shipping company DFDS with the paddle steamer "Freya", which already in June 1894 was replaced with the paddle steamer "Edda". This Danish-German collaboration ended in 1901 and the "Edda" was chartered by the German company.
The route ran not infrequently into great difficulties. In 1892 Gedser was quarantined because of cholera and passengers had to be 24 hours on board before they could disembark. The quarantine was fortunately short-termed - from early September to November 20th of that year. Out on the center pier in Gedser there was incidentally built a house that was used for disinfection during the epidemic.
In 1893 the route was closet at the 11th January to 14th February because of ice. On 14th February the route was partially resumed, but only through the salvage steamer "Rügen", and only on 24 March was the traffic resumed in full.
Transfer of railway wagons
Already at the turn of the century there were ideas about the establishment of rail traffic with transfer of vehicles. The Danes were at the time probably more interested in a connection Copenhagen - Lolland - Fehmarn - Hamburg, but the houses wanted a different solution. For the creation of a rail ferry service the parliament lower house voted the 2nd April 1900 and the Parliament upper house on 25th April of that year.
It was now planned that the route would start in autumn 1904 with the insertion of 2 Danish and two German ships, but actually both ferries as ferry terminal and railway construction was ready a year before the scheduled time so that the route was opened already the 1st October 1903.
It was a festive inauguration attended by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz and King Christian the 9th. Gedser station was decorated with a sea of flowers that had been laid floor over the tracks in the hall and open ends of the hall was temporarily closed off with glass walls for the celebration.
The royal yacht was in the harbor and outside the harbour was a cruiser to salute when the opening ceremony began.
The evening was laid for dinner in the "glass porch". King Christian the 9th had his son on one side and Grand Duke Friedrich Franz on the other side. The day after the party an auction was held of the many flowers that had adorned the station.
Some days before the inauguration, the Danish ferry "Prince Christian" was presented to the press on a test drive. On the way back from Warnemunde the state railway served "a light dinner" for guests. It consisted of:
- Soup royal
- Fish fillet diplomale
- Beef tenderloin portugaise with asparagus
- Game birds with compot and salad
- Ice dessert
- Butter and cheese
- Lots of fruit
- And finally coffee.
Drinks consisted of red wine, Madeira, sauterne, appolinaris and Pommery.
Also passengers were well looked after beyond that. On the day trips were served dinner, consisting of 3 course meal and dessert for 2.50 DKK per. envelope or 3 ReichMarks. At that time the DKK in better rate of exchange than now.
The new route was a success
So it was weekday and the new route would have to prove its worth. The Germans started with the paddle steamer "Friedrich Franz IV on" and propeller ferry "Mecklenburg", and from the Danish side, the paddle steamer "Princess Alexandrine" and propeller ferry "Prince Christian", added to the route. Both steamers had only a track and was primarily designed to carry passengers, while the propeller ferries had 2 tracks and mainly meant to take care of the goods.
The new route was successful shows a comparison of statistics from 1902 and 1904. In 1902, the Postal steamer carried 4,000 tons of cargo and 49,000 passengers. In 1904, increased numbers to 80,000 tons of cargo and 79,000 passengers. It did not take long before it was decided to rebuild the wheel steamers. In 1905, "Princess Alexandrine" rebuilt and extended and now had 2 tracks. The same change occurred with "Friedrich Franz" in 1906.
Ferries to war service
In 1914, as you know first World War began and the route was discontinued. The German ships were in military service and was used for various transport between German cities. The Danish ferries were - after a short stay in the naval harbor in Copenhagen and after negotiations in the ministry of traffic - again deployed on the route, provided that the ship's sides were painted with the Danish flag and the word "Denmark".
It was incidentally also at this time established a quarantine station on Kroghagen, west of Gedser for the sake of any epidemics.
The most popular ferry
There was a significant increase in traffic on the route ields first World War and in 1922 the DSB deployed D/F "Denmark". It was one of the DSB's most popular ferries through the ages - it drew its wake stripes across the Baltic Sea all the way to 1968, when it was decommissioned and sold for scrap - I still recall the sad day when tugs pulled the proud ship out of Gedser port.
The Germans replaced "Friedrich Franz IV" in 1926 with the steam ferry "Schwerin", that before second World War II was the most modern ferry on the Baltic Sea and because of the white color was nicknamed "Baltic Swan".
"Princess Alexandrine" got the final blow in May 1933 when she was in dense fog was rammed by a German steamer. The heavily damaged ferry was for a time at the East Pier in Gedser, later to be dragged to Copenhagen and scrapped by the firm of Petersen & Albeck in 1935.
Thus, there was up to second World War four screw ferries to manage traffic between Gedser and Warnemunde, namely
- "Prince Christian"
- "Schwerin" and
and with these ferries reached new highs in traffic figures was reached in 1939 with more than 200,000 passengers.
Also travel times became significantly improved. While in 1871 you had to count on a journey from Berlin to Copenhagen at 17 hours, the travel time in 1888 was shortened down to 11 hours and 55 minutes, in 1903 to 10 hours after the building of Storstroems bridge and deployment of faster trains, the traveling time has now come down to approx. 7 hours.
Problems on the crossing
Second World War II gave the crossing quite serious problems. "Schwerin" was when staying at Neptun Shipyard in Rostock hit by bombs from British aircrafts and the ferry burned out in February 1943.
The crossing was pretty much closed from the autumn of 1943, and when the occupying power decided that "Denmark" at 18th March 1945 was to sail with war materiel, Danish freedom fighters took affair and that morning sank the ferry in Gedser eastern ferry berth. A few days later, "Denmark" was raised and towed to Copenhagen and ferry traffic was officially shut down on May 1st 1945.
First, in May 1947, traffic resumed and only with the only available ferry, namely "Denmark". "Prince Christian" sailed on the copenhage to Sweden, "Mecklenburg" was rebuilt and moved to voyages between Odra Port and Trelleborg. In the beginning "Denmark" made only one trip a day, but later extended up to four double daily trips a day.
Gedser - Grossenbrode
In 1951 opened Gedser - Grossenbrode and it was "Denmark", alongside the ailing traffic to Warnemünde (which was now under Communist domination) also in the beginning did traffic to Grossenbrode.
In 1953, the west Germans deployed M / F "Deutschland" to the crossing to Grossenbrode and the year after, M / F "King Frederik 9th" was in November inserted in Gedser-Warnemünde crossing.
In the later 50es there was significant increases in both passenger and freight traffic on the crossing to East Germany, and the East German railways chartered in 1960 and 1961 the coastal vessels "Seebad Ahlbeck" and "Seebad Warnemünde". The ships landed and took up passengers at the pier by "The old station".
These ships was connected with the dramatic "defections" where east german citizens jumped out into the harbor and the daily calls at Gedsergathered together a total of several hundred curious onlookers on the quay below the stationmaster home.
Transit traffic between the Nordic countries and DDR necessitated an expansion of ferry capacity and in May 1963 the ferry "Warnemünde" was deployed on the route.
Fall of Berlin Wall
Throughout the '70s and '80s, there were very large freight traffic on the route, while passenger traffic stagnated and actually left much to be desired, and it indeed caused that route in the latter part of the '80s to stagnate.
In November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell in the gravel, the communist system crackled and the Gedser-Warnemunde crossing had for some years a great revival, which first and foremost - it turned out - was of the spontaneous character.
The account was unfortunately nothing to write home about and in autumn 1995 the danish DSB decided, together with the german DB, to discontinue train service Copenhagen-Gedser-Berlin, close the Gedser - Warnemunde crossing and move it to the newly created route Rostock Überseehafen - Gedser.
Railway ferry service Gedser-Warnemunde reached then the advanced age of 92 years and traffic has been maintained during the world wars and also during bad weather - which is primarily due to good seamanship and ferries size and construction.
For example led "Denmark" in the harsh winter 1928-29 despite the comlete ice covered Baltic Sea, King Christian the 10th and Queen Alexandrine from Warnemunde to Gedser, after the royal couple's trip to Cannes. It was a risky process, but the king insisted very strongly and "Denmark" therefore made full steam on the boilers. The crossing lasted 18 hours and ended up costing the ferry a large dent in the side. King Christian stood himself on the command calm during most of the voyage.
Also the winter 1962-63 was hard to get through with long delays for ferry traffic - so "Denmark" used 24 hours on one of the crossings.