Zeppelin Car 144: A piece of history with a new lease of life

Written by 

Michele Martoccia

Vice President Market Manager Railway

Zeppelin Car 144 not only represents an important, historical milestone in the Nuremburg-Fürth Tram Friends Association (NTFA)’s collection of historic tramcars but also plays a key role in the relationship between the cities of Krakow and Nuremburg.
Having been built in Nuremburg in the year 1909, a series of so-called Zeppelin cars (No. 141-150) were sold secondhand to the city of Krakow in 1941, remaining in service until the end of the 1960s. Car 144 was the only car still in operation, but by the end of the 1970s its condition had deteriorated significantly.
At this point, the existence of Car 144 was discovered by the NTFA, which immediately expressed the wish for this to become part of a future tram museum within Nuremberg. These plans were hampered by the ongoing Cold War; Nuremberg was considered part of West Germany, and Poland was under communist rule at the time. Yet in 1979, the situation changed, and a partner-city contract was established between Krakow and Nuremberg. With support from both mayors and city councils, and with the donation of a German rail-bending machine not previously available in communist Poland, a plan to renovate, partially rebuild and return the car back to Nuremberg succeeded in 1984.
Since then, the car has been an important exhibit within the historic St. Peter tram depot in Nuremburg – but after two successful projects in which historical trailer cars within the Nuremburg collection were rebuilt within the guidelines of the Krakow Municipal Tramway Authority (MPK), another monumental partner-city project was forged, marking a new chapter in the car’s history. The existing Zeppelin car would be used for the construction of two new cars, both of which would have the operating license required to carry passengers. The people of Krakow and Nuremburg would each have their own Zeppelin car, opening up new tourism opportunities and highlighting the vital partnership shared and enjoyed between both cities.
In order to get an operating license which allowed the car to run with passengers, both cars had to be equipped with magnetic track brakes, alongside an auxiliary power supply for low voltage lighting. The Nuremberg car was also to have a newly built car body and refurbished trucks. As a result of these changes, there was a need for totally new electrical equipment, including the installation of completely new wiring. At the same time, it was essential that the design of the new car met historic aspects and coped with existing space to ensure it was a reproduction of the existing design. This brought various challenges during the building, assembly and commissioning of the partly used equipment.

Having played a crucial role in many restoration projects in the past – including the rebuilding of the two historic trailer cars – the expertise HUBER+SUHNER could bring to this project was invaluable.
For the Zeppelin 144 tramcar, HUBER+SUHNER supplied solutions from its innovative RADOX® product range including 3 GKW, 4 GKW and TENUIS cables to address the fact the routes and conduits had changed from the original design. The cabling is suitable for a 2V power supply – something which did not exist in the original car.
Work on the project has been ongoing since 2020, with a focus on the mechanical aspect of the refurbishment. The rebuilding of the trucks and bodywork is underway, with the electrical equipment developed by HUBER+SUHNER starting to be installed within the tramcars in the spring of 2023. Both the Nuremburg and the Krakow cars are scheduled to be finished in 2023.
Once the project has been completed, the two Zeppelin cars will be operated purely for historical and touristic purposes. The people who use the tramcars will not only get to experience a slice of living history but will bear witness to the special relationship between the two cities of Nuremburg and Krakow that has been built over decades. 

RADOX® Power Cables
Main characteristics of the cables include excellent resistance to heat, a high current capacity, a robust composition, a compact design, outstanding flexibility and a long service life. 

RADOX TENUIS-TW is smaller, lighter and more flexible than previous products on the railway market. As a thin-wall cable it is particularly suitable for the wiring of cable looms, control panels and electrical cabinets and meets the requirements of the most important European fire safety standards for railways.