Potsdam Pirschheide railway station sits on the southeastern edge of the city of Potsdam, which itself lies just south-east of Berlin. It’s fairly remote, has only one platform in use, and is served by one train per hour on a minor branch line. All very unprepossessing on the face of it, and the picture on the ground is even worse: no facilities to speak of, just weeds, graffiti and dereliction. You could be forgiven for thinking the station is closed, and yet, 30 years ago, it was served by Intercity trains across Germany and beyond, and night trains to Paris, the Hoek of Holland (for London) and Warsaw. So what happened?

Potsdam Pirschheide station, as it is today

Well, as you probably know, Germany, and Berlin, were divided between east and west after World War II, and Potsdam, as the capital of Brandenburg – the state that surrounds Berlin – found itself in the communist east. West Berlin formed an enclave in the DDR, and for residents of the western part of East Germany, it provided an obstacle in reaching their capital, particularly after the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. Residents of towns such as Dessau, Magdeburg and Schwerin had to bypass West Berlin, and nowhere did this stand out more than  in Potsdam, which was adjacent to the walled-in West.

The Bezirk (district) of Potsdam in relation to West Berlin. The red dot within is the city of Potsdam

It was a particular issue for railways: while transit trains for westerners would cross borders, this wasn’t practical for routine traffic in the east, for reasons of both capacity and the risk of defection while the trains were passing through the west. So they came up with a solution: the Berlin Outer-Ring Railway (not to be confused with the ring line of the Berlin S-Bahn, which runs close to the city centre). This had been an aspiration long before the DDR existed – most large cities have a bypass line for freight trains – but under the East German authorities it took on a political edge, which determined its route.

The Berlin outer ring railway

The line – which is still fully in place – was built entirely within DDR territory, and consequently while the eastern half runs through the city’s outer suburbs, the western part is outside of the city altogether, keeping a few miles from the city boundary. It is a complete circle, with connections from all of Berlin’s radial lines, which allowed trains from all parts of the DDR to reach East Berlin’s two main termini, Lichtenberg or the Hauptbahnhof – which we now know as Berlin Ostbahnhof

This created a problem for Potsdam as its main station fell too close to Berlin, and thus found itself inside the outer ring. Trains from e.g. Magdeburg, which used to continue on the Potsdamer Bahn to Berlin’s Potsdamer Bahnhof (near Potsdamer Platz), now branched off to join the ring railway a few miles before Potsdam’s main station – or Hauptbahnhof, avoiding it altogether. The station had effectively become a terminus because the line west had been truncated, and was left with a limited service of local trains.

Enter Pirschheide, or Potsdam South as it was known when it opened in 1958. Located at the point where the ring railway crosses the still-served branch line, it was built as a bi-level station, with four platforms on the outer ring at the higher level, and two at the low level. These two platforms provided a service to Potsdam-Stadt – as the Hauptbahnhof had been renamed, with the south station taking on the title of Hauptbahnhof in 1961. For 30 years it lived up to its name, with frequent long distance and commuter services within the DDR, and was also a stop for Interzone trains from the west that continued beyond Berlin. A station building was constructed to fit the station’s importance, and it was served by an extension to Potsdam’s tramway, providing another connection to the city centre.

Pirschheide station in its heyday.

But of course, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and within two years the country had been reunified. Initially, this made Pirschheide even more important, with the addition of regular services to Cologne, Frankfurt, and even Zurich. Gradually, though, the broken connections between east and west were restored, and infrastructure was put in place to make the former east – particularly Berlin – an integral part of the German railway network. The Berlin Stadtbahn – the elevated route that runs through the city centre – was fully electrified, and its connection to Potsdam-Stadt was restored, so there was no longer any reason for long-distance trains from the west to serve the ring railway. The station took on its current name of Pirschheide in 1993, and has since only been used by trains serving the minor stations on or near the outer ring. Even that has diminished – 2009 saw the last trains serve the high level platforms, which are now inaccessible. These platforms are bypassed by a regional service, as well as heavy freight traffic, while the low level station – reduced from two platforms to one – retains its hourly service, used by around 500 passengers a day. Meanwhile Potsdam-Stadt was restored as the Hauptbahnhof in 1998, and is now a busy station, albeit without much in the way of long-distance traffic.

The disused high level of Pirschheide station

And so it remains, a strange curio: a ghost station that still has a train service. It sits at a nexus of German/railway/cold war history which is always going to appeal to me, and if you’re of a similar mind (and God help you), and feel safe in that sort of environment, it’s worth a visit. It should be said that the surrounding area is quite pleasant, situated on the edge of the lake, and the one train that does still stop there takes a very scenic route through the various lakes of the area.

The abandoned station building at Pirschheide


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Late goal for Gundogan at the AMEX

Manchester City retain Premier League title

May 13th, 2019
Rory Smith for the New York Times

While the term “one-man team” is overused, often pejoratively, football does occasionally produce players who make the description unavoidable: Maradona in 1986, Andy Hinchcliffe in England’s 1998 World Cup qualifiers and now, most definitively of all, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan. It’s often tempting to attempt to express these players’ contribution to their teams in numerical terms, and while it’s rarely that simple, Gundogan’s impact this season alone can be measured in points: 195 points to be precise.

Because before we consider his obvious importance in Manchester, we mustn’t forget that he has also been pivotal to Jürgen Klopp’s career – his arrival at Dortmund transformed the club, and in doing so set the hitherto journeyman coach on the path to the top of the game, and Klopp’s adoption of the Gundogan style at Anfield has put an ailing club back in touching distance of the title, with just one man standing in its way.*

Of course, it’s at City where Ilkay has been most influential. Many of us remember Man City as a joke club, synonymous with failure, even dropping to the third tier in recent memory. Since Gundogan has arrived, though, it’s grown into a genuine footballing superpowers – he has single-handedly changed the team from one that was desperately sticking goalkeepers up front to one that can bank on its participation in the Champions League. Even its training facilities and stadium have improved unrecognisably.

Having led City to it’s second Premier League title last summer, then carried his national team, Germany – previously an afterthought on the international scene – to within a point of the knockout stages of the World Cup, Gundogan could have been forgiven for resting on his laurels this season, but that’s not the Ilkay I know, and nor is it the Ilkay who’s become such an influential figure among other footballers. Indeed, he has become such an iconic figure that he’s known by just his initials, with many people, inside and outside of the game talking of “spending their whole time looking at IG on their phone” and asking people to “follow their IG stories”.

And so to the game, which served as a microcosm of City’s recent history. It started poorly, with Brighton taking a 1-0 lead which briefly put the title in Liverpool’s hands, before Ilkay took centre stage. He laid on three goals, cleverly using other players as intermediaries each time, before crowning his day with a solo goal. The title was won, and while Gundogan went to collect his trophy and medal, you could see evidence of the togetherness that he has fostered at the club that peripheral figures such as Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and David Silva were allowed to take part in the celebrations.

What next at the Etihad? It’s often said that clubs should renew their squads when they’re at the top, and City is in a strong position to do this- I would, however, caution it against being to hasty, and not throw out the core of the team, one player in particular being particularly indispensable**. It may be at a change at the top is appropriate: while the coach in any Gundogan team is largely a ceremonial figure, it never hurts to freshen things up, and I’ve been particularly impressed with the Belgium team in the past couple of years.

* the man here is Ilkay Gundogan

** this player being Ilkay Gundogan

(This was plainly not written by Rory Smith. It’s a dumb joke taken too far which only makes more sense if you listen to the excellent Set Piece Menu podcast)

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Come on you blues

Thanks to Denis Hurley at Museum of Jerseys I’ve written a short piece on how Liverpool’s aversion to the colour blue has gone too far, and imagined an away kit based on their original colours of white and blue. It’s also adidas of course.



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Liam Scott, 4, urgently needs your help

An appeal to anyone following this blog. My friend’s son, Liam, is 4, and has Neuroblastoma, a rare and potentially fatal form of cancer. The only cure is a vaccine available in the USA, and his family are desperately trying to raise the money to get him there.

Liam is an extremely brave boy, and his family and their friends have done amazing work in raising money and awareness, but there’s still a long way to go. Please donate here if you can https://www.solvingkidscancer.org.uk/Appeal/liam, and share the link. Any help would be hugely appreciated. You can follow Liam’s story at https://twitter.com/mamaslilwarrior.

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An extract from Jonathan Wilson’s latest book

Nowadays, the city is famous for its fierce rivalry between CF Municipal and Las Afueros, but before these clubs were established, local supremacy was contested between two clubs who have since disappeared into history. Zuid Amerikanse Boys were founded by a group of sailors from the Netherlands, while Bulingdon FC had their origins in an off-shoot of a cricket club comprised of merchants from Britain.

The latter club were unlikely pioneers of what we now understand to be the South American style. Named after a University society that its founders had been part of (with the spelling corrupted to fit local pronunciation), it was, under its first president, Oswald Easington-Collier, strictly for British expats only. In 1913, Oswald returned to England and passed the club on to his son Crispin, which proved a turning point in the club’s fortunes – Crispin had followed English football while studying back home, and decided that hiring an experienced coach would take the club to the next level. His choice proved to be inspired: Huddersfield-born Jack Warburton had played as an inside-forward for Woolwich Arsenal among others, but his managerial career had stalled due to his experimental ideas. He was seeking a new role having been laughed out of Workington Town for attempting to implement an unusually defensive 2-2-6 formation.

It didn’t take long after arriving in the country for Warburton to see the potential of native footballing  talent. While hailing a cab from the harbour, he spotted some youths kicking around an empty box of Chompos – a popular local confectionery similar to a Cadbury’s Curlywurly – with great skill. Warburton convinced the board to recruit local players, and by the end of the decade, they would outnumber Brits, earning the club its reputation for ingenuity and trickery, even if this meant bending the rules on occasion.

Warburton would leave the club before the 1921 Championship playoff, returning to England to take over a toffee shop from his brother who’d died of consumption. After struggling to find a replacement, Easington-Collier had the brainwave of recruiting a man he’d met on a trans-Atlantic ferry three years earlier. Janos Wilhelm was a former Ferencvaros and Triestina inside-forward who was by now working in Chicago as a lion tamer and roadsweeper’s assistant, and he jumped at the chance to make a name for himself in a new country.

Wilhelm took the team to new heights, introducing the asymmetrical half-back style he’d conceived during an argument about pastries in a Bratislava café. This, allied with the players’ natural skill, brought the club titles in 1922, 1922/23, 1924 (spring), 1925 (summer), 1926 (Apertura), 1927/28 and in the 1929-32 season, which was played over four years. From 1927, Wilhelm was combining this role with coaching the Norway Olympic team, and in 1931 he returned to Europe permanently, having spells in charge of AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Bohemians Prague, Pro Vercelli, MTK, FC Basel, Grazer AK, Partizan Belgrade, AC Milan again, Utrecht, Sevilla, Charleroi, Livorno, Milan for a third time, Lazio, Barcelona, Hertha Berlin, Bohemians Prague again, the Swedish national team, Rapid Vienna, Inter Milan, 1860 Munich and Inter Bratislava.

After this three year period, Wilhlem returned to Bulingdon, but local, more professional clubs had by now overtaken them, and in 1937 he left the club as they dropped out of the top flight. In 1951 the club withdrew its football section altogether, although various attempts have been made to resurrect the name, including a current club in the fourth tier Metropolitan Interior division, who wear the club’s original colours of pink and dark green. The name still lives on in local footballing terminology – if a player takes a corner which rebounds off the opposite corner flag and into the goal, this is still known as a Buligol.

Wilhelm went back to North America, returning to Europe after the end of WWII, where he managed several more clubs, the last of which was Fiorentina, with whom he reached the 1957 European Cup final. Having said all this, there is no official record of him at any of clubs listed, and when I interviewed his daughter, at her small apartment just around the corner from MTK’s stadium, she admitted she’d never been to any of these places.


Disclaimer: this pastiche is coming from a huge fan of Jonathan Wilson, who has bought all of his football books. If it’s intended to satirise anything it’s the bizzareness of pre-WW2 football.

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New – the CM 89/90 project

I’ve been working on a new project – to create a version of Championship Manager 01/02, dated back to the 89/90 season. You can see more details on the project site.

Liverpool squad

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The FIFA Club World Cup

A week ago, Bayern Munich won the Club World Cup, beating Raja Casablanca in the final. I really like this competition, although it struggles to earn the respect it deserves, perhaps because it’s new, but also, admittedly, because the quality of the final tournament isn’t always the highest. But while Bayern’s win last week won’t change anyone’s idea of whether they’re the best team in the world, it does give them a strong claim to be World Champions, because the competition is truly global in a way that its predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup, wasn’t.

To me, that’s what’s so appealing about the competition – that almost any team in any league pyramid in the world can plot their way to the final, that it’s a culmination of all the national and continental football played in the past couple of years. To show, this, I decided to make this graph. It’s pretty complex, so I hope it makes sense – basically any team’s route to the final moves upwards or to the left, until they are eliminated. Click to enlarge.


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Five things Ed Miliband must learn from Falkirk

  1. It is the 20th most populous settlment in Scotland
  2. It has two railway stations, Falkirk High and Falkirk Grahamston
  3. The Falkirk Wheel boat lift was opened in 2002, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal
  4. Falkirk FC are nicknamed “The Bairns” and, as of 2013, play in the Scottish First Division
  5. It is twinned with Créteil and Quimper in France
Posted in Ed Miliband, Falkirk, Labour Party, Politics | Leave a comment

The Wright Way

Inspiration comes in the oddest places, and watching this week’s episode of The Wright Way made me feel like I could have a go. Here it is…




Gerald comes downstairs, to where his daughter and her girlfriend are having breakfast. He looks slightly dishevelled.

GERALD: I don’t believe it! Once again, once of you has left the shower curtain outside of the shower, in direct contravention of this house’s bathroom code. It’s very simple: shower curtains stay inside the shower, so that any water will bounce off it back into the shower, and down the plughole. If you can’t obey simple rules-

DAUGHTER’s GIRLFRIEND: Rules? I aint playing by no rules bruv. Is it because I is black? Aiiiiiiiii. Wasuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup?

DAUGHTER: Yeah, dad, you shouldn’t get so stressy about these things, no wonder Mum left you for a sitcom cliché.

GERALD: She left me because she couldn’t follow simple rules to achieve the smooth running of a household bathroom. How many times do I have to tell you? Now the floor is wet, the bathmat is more water than mat, the clothes I left on the floor are ruined… (continues in this vein for another 5 minutes)… and now, I’m late. I’ll have to cook my breakfast at work.

Gerald grabs a packet of sausages and leaves.


GERALD (entering): Right, just time to cook these sausages under the hand dryer before our planning meeting.

Gerald attempts to do this.

GERALD: Unbelievable! When will they build hand dryers that actually blow hot air. I know in the next scene I’m going to be a caricatured health and safety zealot, but it’s just before 9am, so I want a dryer that will burn my hands off. Don’t get me started! Well, I’ll have to speed up the process.

For no clear reason, Gerald holds a sausage near his groin, moves under the hand dryer and starts rubbing it. After about 10 minutes of this, the camp man walks in.

CAMP MAN: Ooh, can I have some of that?

GERALD: You do know I’m cooking sausages, right?

CAMP MAN: Yes… of course I do. I’m fat as well, which is also inherently funny.

GERALD: OK, If you must. Come on, you’ll probably do a better job than this hand dryer. Come and breathe hot air on this sausage.

Gerald turns to face the camp man, who kneels and starts breathing on top of this sausage. We watch this scene play out for about 15 minutes, before the constantly shocked cleaning lady comes in.

CLEANING LADY: What are you doing?!

GERALD: It’s quite simple, I’m just rubbing my meat to give him something to get his mouth around

CLEANING LADY: What you get up to is your own business!


GERALD: Right team, we’ve got a big project on our hands. The council wants to install a new pond in the park, and as usual, it’s for us to consider all the imaginary health & safety implications. This will require us to be officious-

CONSTABLE HABIB: Officious?! I love being officious!

GERALD: …unreasonable…

CONSTABLE HABIB: Unreasonable?! I love being unreasonable!

GERALD: ..and petty.

CONSTABLE HABIB: Petty?! I love being Petty!

GERALD: It is our responsibility to ensure that no-one gets wet from this pond, even the ducks that reside in it. As with many of the scenarios we face, it is (starts writing on blackboard)


In other words, it is-

The Mayor walks in

MAYOR: This character unamusing particularly. People thought Yoda adverts who not Vodafone enough were for unfunny. To Jeeves think was Wooster in I.

The Mayor leaves

GERALD: Tch, a politician who can’t get his words in the right order. Who’d have thought it, eh? A bit like when Tony B. Liar got his words wrong and sent us to war in Iraq.

MIDDLE-AGED MAN: They never did find them weapons, did they?

CONSTABLE HABIB: Typical men! They can never find anything!


Gerald’s daughter and her girlfriend are doing the kind of thing that young people do. Texting on the Facebooks I shouldn’t wonder!

DAUGHTER: I’m really worried about the plumbing company that I run. One of the customers of the plumbing company doesn’t want to pay for the plumbing because they don’t think it’s good plumbing.

GIRLFRIEND: Oh My God? Like Totes Amazeballs?


The Health & Safety Team are wearing hard hats and high-vis jackets

GERALD: Right, now we have to simulate pond-based activity in order to conduct a health & safety assessment. Today we’ll be focusing on boating – we don’t have a boat, but we’ll have to make do. Camp Man, you be the boat, while Middle-aged Man, you be the rower.

CAMP MAN: Ooh, do I have to?

GERALD: Yes you do, now get on with it.

The camp man gets on the floor, and the middle-aged man sits astride him

MIDDLE-AGED MAN: Cor, this reminds me of singing Oops upside Your Head in the pub last night. Or that scene in Men Behaving Badly.

GERALD: It’s no good, it’s no good. You need someone shouting instructions at you.

Gerald gets onto the camp man as well

GERALD: Row! Row! No… we need some water. Habib?


Habib throws a bucket of water onto her colleagues. The permanently shocked cleaning lady walks in

CLEANING LADY: What are you doing?!

GERALD: It’s quite simple, we’re just simulating what it’s like to get our Cox wet in the park.

CLEANING LADY: What you get up to is your own business!

The cleaning lady leaves

GERALD: We’re just not going to find a solution to keeping pond users dry. We’ll have to come back to this tomorrow.


Gerald is walking home. He looks morose, before a look of inspiration appears across his face


An opening ceremony. Gerald looks pleased, while various members of the public, watching on, look confused

GERALD: It is my pleasure to reveal to you the latest innovation in pond-protection technology.

Pan out to reveal a pond with a shower curtain around it


Posted in Ben Elton, Comedy, Sitcom, The Thin Blue Line, The Wright Way | 7 Comments

Finally, a title for the blog

I’ve noticed that, quite by accident, both of my first two posts contain the phrase “an interminable chore”. I fear that this says more about me than any potted biography ever could.

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