Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof (usually translated from German as Frankfurt (Main) Central Station, short form: Frankfurt (Main) Hbf) is the central station for Frankfurt am Main. In terms of railway traffic, it is the busiest railway station in Germany. With about 350,000 passengers per day the station is the second most frequented railway station in Germany and one of the most frequented in Europe.


In the late 19th century, three stations connected Frankfurt to the west, north and south, the

  • Taunus station for the Taunusbahn (opened 1839), connecting Frankfurt to Wiesbaden
  • Main-Neckar-station for the Main-Neckar-Eisenbahn to Darmstadt, Heidelberg and Mannheim (1848))
  • Main-Weser station for the Main-Weser-Bahn to Kassel (1852) and from 1860 on also used by the Frankfurt-Bad Homburger Eisenbahn.

Those three stations were placed beside each other on the then Gallustor (today: Willy-Brandt-Platz).

Building the new station

This situation was considered impracticable due to rising passenger figures in the 19th century, so plans were laid out as early as 1866. At first, a large scale station with up to 34 platforms was considered, then the number got reduced to 18. Post and baggage handlings had their own underground facilities, and the city council demanded the station to be moved further away from the city. In the end, in 1881, the German architect Hermann Eggert won the design contest for the station hall, his runner-up in the contest, Johann Wilhelm Schwedler was made chief engineer for the steel-related works. The new station was placed about 1 km to the west of the first three stations. The platforms were covered by three iron-and-glass halls.

The station opens

On August 18, 1888, after five years of construction, the Central-Bahnhof Frankfurt was finally opened. Right on the evening of the opening day, a train ran over the buffer stop and the locomotive was damaged. Over the course of the next few years, the area eastward of the new station, the Bahnhofsviertel was built up, finishing around 1900. Until the completion of Leipzig Hauptbahnhof in 1915, Frankfurt station was the largest in Europe.

Later extensions

In 1924 two neoclassical halls were added on each side of the main hall, increasing the number of platforms to 24. During World War II, the building was partly damaged (most notably the windows in the halls covering the platforms). In 1956 the station was fully electrified. One year later, Europe's then-largest signal box was commissioned, which, having been built in a contemporary style of the time has now become a listed building.

Starting with the construction of the B-Tunnel for the Frankfurt U-Bahn facilities in 1971, a subterranean level was added in front of the main building, featuring the city's first public escalator and including a large shopping mall, one station each for the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains, an air raid shelter and a public car park. The subterranean stations were opened in 1978 and were built in the cut and cover method, which involved the demolition of the second northern hall and rebuilding it after the stations were completed.

Between 2002 and 2006, the roof construction, which is a listed building, was renovated. This involved the exchange of aged steel girders, reinstallation of windows that were replaced by panels after World War II and a general clean-up of the hall construction.

The operational part of the station is being remodeled as well; the old signal box has been recently replaced with an electronic signal box. This was vital to improve capacity of the station. The new signal box became operational in late 2005 and will allow faster speeds into the station (up to 60 km/h) after the remodelling of the tracks.

Wartime Damage

Young Norman Metzger, in describing ground combat in Frankfurt near the end of World War II, wrote:

The 5th Infantry Division of Patton's Third Army entered Frankfurt on March 26th, 1945. It wasn't easy. "In the memory of Fifth Division men," comments the writer of its history. "There are many rivers and bridges but to anyone who was there in Frankfurt on the night of the 26th and the day and night of 27th March, the bridge over the Main River into Frankfurt will be remembered as being the most heavily defended by German artillery." The crossing was finally made in the night of 26-27 March; heavy fighting (snipers, tanks) continued as the division moved into Frankfurt proper. A battalion moved toward the main railway station, reaching it after three blocks of intense sniper fire. Going in through the front door was too tough, so the troops entered the station through the "rear," presumably where the trains came and went. "Civilian observers directed self-propelled fire, 88-millimeter and heavy mortar fire on the station, also under fire from small arms and machine guns." The station was of course held. And "at the close of the 30th day of March all Frankfurt with its suburbs was clear of the enemy."

The city didn't work. "Neither trains nor streetcars were running; it took two months after the city was occupied before even two streetcar lines were back in service. Most electric lines and water and gas mains were so damaged that they would take months to repair....After twenty air raids; the business district was a wilderness of rubble. In the railroad yards, Germans and so-called DPs (Displaced Persons), those now-liberated forced laborers and Allied prisoners of war, raided stranded Wehrmacht supply trains; seventy Soviet DPs died as a result of drinking methyl alcohol taken in such raid.


The appearance of the station is divided into perron (track hall) and vestibule (reception hall). Dominant in those parts built in 1888 are neorenaissance features, the outer two halls, added in 1924 follow the style of neoclassicism. The eastern façade of the vestibule features a large clock with two symbolic statues for day and night. Above the clock, the word Hauptbahnhof and the Deutsche Bahn logo are situated.

The roof of the front hall carries a monumental statue of Atlas supporting the World on his shoulder, in this case assisted by two allegorical figures representing Iron and Steam.

Operational usage

The station's terminal layout has posed some unique problems ever since the late 20th century, since all trains have to change directions and reverse out of the station to continue on to their destination. This causes long turn-around times and places the passengers in the opposite direction of where they had been sitting. There have been several attempts to change this. The last project, called Frankfurt 21, was to put the whole station underground, connect it with tunnels also to the east, and so avoid the disadvantages of the terminal layout. This would be financed by selling the air rights over the area now used for tracks as building ground for skyscraper, but this soon proved unrealistic, and the project was abandoned.

Frankfurt is the third-busiest railway station outside of Japan and the busiest in Germany.

Long distance trains

As for long-distance traffic, the station profits greatly from its location in the heart of Europe; 13 of the 24 ICE lines call at the station, as well as 2 of the 3 ICE Sprinter lines. To ease the strain on the central station, some ICE lines now call at Frankfurt Airport station and at Frankfurt (Main) Süd instead at the central station.

Regional trains

With regard to regional traffic, Frankfurt Hbf is the main hub in the RMV network, offering connections to Koblenz, Limburg an der Lahn, Kassel, Nidda, Stockheim, Siegen, Fulda, Gießen, Aschaffenburg, Würzburg, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Dieburg, Eberbach, Worms and Saarbrücken with fifteen regional lines calling at the main station.


The subterranean S-Bahn station is the most important station in the S-Bahn Rhein-Main network, with all nine S-Bahn lines calling at the station.

Local services

Tram connections are offered by TraffiQ, with tram lines 11 and 12 (station Hauptbahnhof/Münchner Straße), 16, 17, 20, 21 and the Ebbelwei-Expreß. The lines U4 and U5 call at the subterranean Stadtbahn stop.

  • Bundesbahndirektion Frankfurt am Main: Abfahrt 1888, Ankunft 1988: 100 Jahre Hauptbahnhof Frankfurt am Main, HESTRA-Verlag, Darmstadt 1988, ISBN 3-7771-0215-6
  • Volker Rödel, Der Hauptbahnhof zu Frankfurt am Main. Aufstieg, Fall und Wiedergeburt eines Großstadtbahnhofs = Arbeitshefte des Landesamtes für Denkmalpflege Hessen 8, Stuttgart 2006.
  • Wolf-Christian Setzepfandt: Architekturführer Frankfurt am Main. 3. Auflage. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin August 2002, ISBN 3-496-01236-6, S. 33.
  • Heinz Schomann: Der Frankfurter Hauptbahnhof. Ein Beitrag zur Architektur- und Eisenbahngeschichte der Gründerzeit, 1983, ISBN 3-421-02801-X