RTO - DUTY TRAIN
written by Reinhard v.Bronewski
||US Installations details - 8
RTO - DUTY TRAIN
edited for English by John Parmenter
At World War II's conclusion, it was determined that Germany would undergo military occupation by forces of France, Soviet Union,
United Kingdom, and United States, each power being responsible for an individual Zone. The Nazi capital, Berlin, sitting deep within
the Soviet Zone, was divided into four Sectors, each assigned to an occupying power. On September 10, 1945, the four
Victorious Powers enacted regulations for rail traffic (Protocol CONLIP  27) in the occupation areas. Those regulations
remained in effect until Germany was reunited in October, 1990.
Western Allies were allowed two railway connections, through the Soviet Occupation Zone, to the beleaguered City of West Berlin.
The tracks ran from Helmstedt via Marienborn, Magdeburg, and Postdam to West Berlin. The other route was via Potsdam, Stendal,
Magdeburg, and Oebisfelde to Hannover.
In 1945, American Forces used the West Berlin railway station Wannsee, later on the station -Lichterfelde-West- also called RTO,
near Drake Strasse. It was about a half mile away from the primary U.S. installations, including Headquarters, McNair, Andrews, Roosevelt, and Turner Barracks.
On December 1, 1947 (the month and year of my birth), the Americans activated RTO. The British and French Armies used
different stations for their railway traffic.
The railway route led from Lichterfelde/RTO via Steinstuecken (after 1961, next to the Berlin Wall). Public rail traffic already had to
stop at Griebnitzsee Station, the first East (communist controlled) Bahnhof (railway station) after Bahnhof Wannsee.
In November 1945, the very first U.S. Duty Train traveled from Frankfurt am Main (U.S. Zone of West Germany) via Helmstedt
(British Zone) to Berlin-Wannsee. From November 25, 1945 this Duty Train made three trips per week in each direction.
From December 13, round trips were made daily.
By 1946, all railroad tracks, damaged during World War II, had been repaired. This provided the Western Allies to make use of the
rails to transport troops and supplies.
On May 2, 1947 a second train was activated, providing daily connection between West Berlin and Frankfurt.
Allied railway traffic operated with no major problems through 1947 when disagreements among the Victorious Powers escalated
into the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949). On 24 June 1948 at 0600 Soviet forces suddenly severed all traffic between West Berlin and
West Germany. Following a successful -Luftbruecke- (Air Lift) by Allied Air Forces, on May 4, 1949 the "New York" or "Jessup-Malik"
contract (Order #56) allowed Allied rail traffic to roll again. The "old" practiced system from March 1, 1948 was active again.
An agreement gave permission for sixteen daily trains between Berlin-Magdeburg and Helmstedt to supply Allied troops.
During the mid 1980s, U.S. Duty Train couples ran three times a week from Frankfurt am Main and Bremerhaven via
Helmstedt/Marienborn-Potsdam to Berlin RTO.
Altogether there were twenty eight U.S. Duty Trains per week. British ran fourteen and the French ran six.
All Duty Trains changed from West locomotives because the Soviets allowed only Deutschen Reichbahn locomotives were allowed
to pull Allied Duty Trains across communist territory.
Locomotives were changed at Potsdam and Marienborn and was considered typical Red Army harassment; a waste of time and money.
At the borders of West Berlin and the West German Bundesrepublik, U.S. Train Commanders were required to dismount and present
"flag orders" prepared in three languages (English, French, Russian) to Soviet military authorities. Soviets were not allowed to enter Duty
Trains or to check its Allied passengers but insisted on inspecting travel documents - "stupid paper work." Similarly, Soviets authorities
looked over supply lists but were not authorized to inspect supplies on board. Military Police of the U.S. Army's 570th M.P.
Company (Railway Guard) and later 287th M.P. Company had responsibility to for Duty Train security.
All of them did a great job.
There was a special order that all Duty Trains had to be inspected and locked from outside to prevent escapes from the "Workers' and
Farmers' Paradise" of communist East Germany.
The RTO was the beginning and end of all military Duty Train rides from and to West Berlin. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and their
dependent family members used that connection to leave and enter the "Freedom Island" of West Berlin. The Duty Train was a fine
alternative to travel on the Autobahn or flight by aircraft.