Catenary - Fahrleitung

Contact line as a flexible overhead line to supply a vehicle with electrical energy.
Contact line system as an overhead conductor rail (rigid overhead line) in the Leipzig City Tunnel
Busbar of the S-Bahn Berlin painted from below

An overhead contact line is a line system for supplying vehicles with electrical energy ( traction current ). Contact lines for railways ( railway , subway , light rail , tram ) can be designed above the track as an overhead line or next to and / or in the track as a conductor rail , also referred to as a third rail. In halls, workshops or tunnels, instead of a flexible overhead line, a rigid overhead line can be installed as an overhead conductor rail.

Trams and light rail vehicles are usually supplied with electricity via an overhead line. For aesthetic reasons previously and again today - especially in inner cities - and between the rails laid Headed used as a catenary such. B. on the Bordeaux tram .

Completely independently run subways in large cities (in Germany in Berlin , Hamburg , Munich and Nuremberg ) have a laterally arranged power rail for clearance reasons, which must be interrupted at switches and crossings . The oldest system in Germany, the small-profile subway in Berlin (lines U1 to U4), uses busbars that are coated from above, while the other systems use busbars that are coated from below. The London Underground uses both a side busbar and a busbar in the middle of the track, both of which are painted from above.

The S-Bahn Berlin also uses busbars coated from above as contact lines, while the S-Bahn Hamburg uses busbars coated from the side.

Trolleybuses use contact lines, which consist of an overhead contact line laid over the lane with two electrically separated contact wires .

Individual railways such as the Jungfrau Railway also use overhead lines with two electrically separated contact wires, for example to enable a three-pole power supply for three-phase motors with the running rails as the third pole ; In mainline railways , this principle has not proven itself due to the overly complicated contact wire arrangements in the area of railway switches . In order to guarantee a seamless traction current supply in turnouts, it is necessary under two-pole three-phase contact lines to bridge the interruptions at turnouts with two pairs of pantographs (front and rear on the locomotive).

Adequate safety clearances must be maintained for overhead lines that are operated with high voltage . [1] See overhead line: Safety, Accidents .

In Switzerland , the term contact line is used instead of the term overhead line . The Deutsche Reichsbahn did the same during its entire existence.


  • Friedrich Kießling, Rainer Puschmann, Axel Schmieder: Contact Lines for Electrical Railways. Planning, Design, Implementation. Third, completely revised and enlarged ed. Publicis Publishing, Erlangen, 2018, ISBN 978-3-89578-961-8
  • Friedrich Kießling, Rainer Puschmann, Axel Schmieder: Contact lines for electric railways planning, calculation, execution, operation . 3., substantially revised. and exp. Publicis Publishing, Erlangen 2014, ISBN 978-3-89578-407-1


Wiktionary: catenary - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Kögler / Cimolino: Standard rules of use: Electric current in use . ecomed-Storck GmbH, 2014, ISBN 978-3-609-69719-2 ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed on September 8, 2016]).