Vorsicht Bahnverkehr – Jack

It’s amazing how fast my second week of interning at the SSB went by.  On Monday, I was once again working in the general assembly area, this time rebuilding a pneumatic suspension system that automatically compensates for the weight of extra passengers.  Tuesday was spent in the wheels and transmissions area, where there wasn’t a whole lot that I could do, but it was worth it just to talk with the guys there in German.  On Tuesday I also met Jens, a kid my age who had already been working in the workshop for 6 months, full-time.  He had gone through a Realschule, one of the types of German secondary education, and then completed a three-year apprenticeship/technical training program at the SSB, some of which looked similar to the things I’ll be doing in college next year. For Wednesday morning, I was assigned to the special vehicles department, and ended up turning the brakes on an electric locomotive on and off for two hours as they tried to discover a pressure leak.  Tons of fun.  The afternoon though, I spent in the deconstruction/demolition area, which I though was great fun.  My task was this: unbolt old chairs from rusty old subway cars, and pitch them into a dumpster.

On Thursday, I was assigned to the body shop area, where the entire day’s workload consisted of swapping out one panel. “Easy,” Michael, the guy I was working with assured me.  As 11:00 am came and went, it was looking less and less easy.  After multiple cuts and measurements, we finally got it into place, and spent the rest of the day hanging around with the guys from the general repair area.  It felt really nice be so well-integrated with a group of guys who I had been working with for only two weeks.  Unfortunately, it was my last day in the main workshop, as the next day, I learned while talking with my internship coordinator, Christian, I would be in the driver training school for Friday, my final day.

On Friday, I arrived at the driver training school, not really knowing what to expect.  After listening to a brief lecture from the instructor on what to do about suspicious packages found in the U-bahn cars, we (myself and two actual trainees) headed out to a train.  As we walked to the cab, the instructor waved me forward to the seat, and gave me a short guide to how to drive an U-bahn.  I then got to drive around the complex for a little while, and then headed out on the active line.  It was pretty amazing, to say the least.  It was a fitting end to an awesome internship, actually experiencing what the people in the workshop have been working to produce.

I am very grateful to all of those who helped make this project a success, especially Christian, Marcella, Stephan, Valentin, and Franziska!  now off to Hamburg!

Life in Germany

Where to start? It’s been a full couple of days here.  On Friday, at the SSB, I was introduced to Willy, a big strong guy with a strong Swabisch accent.  “Hasch du noch net schon mal geschweisen?” (Have you welded before?) and then, “mm, egal,” (doesn’t matter)  I was a little worried, but as I started welding flat plates and then moved on to right angles, with Willy’s guidance, I began to feel more confident.  By the end of the day, I was doing reinforced welds with an electric arc welder.  I’m not sure If I’ll ever weld again, but it was certainly an experience learning.  On Friday, we got on the TGV to Paris, an experience that I have looked forward to since childhood.  Unfortunately, it was dark already, but the train back was during the day.

For me, the most interesting part of Paris was its Metro.  The trains were always packed, and the buskers plentiful, and it was interesting to see such a cross-section of Paris life, far from the tourist islands of the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame.  The food in Paris was also amazing, it seems like there is a Bistro on every corner, some more touristy than others.

After spending the weekend in Paris, we returned to Stuttgart, where I learned that I would be reporting early at 8 am to the general repair area, where I helped rebuild on of the air-ride suspension systems on one of the streetcars.  Afterwords, there were some air conditioning  units to be installed.  Today, I was in yet another department, where the wheels and transmissions are assembled.  There wasn’t a ton of work to do, and most of it involved using large cranes to lift heavy objects, so there was a lot of awkward standing around, but it was still cool to see how real things are built.  Tomorrow, I’ll be in the testing and special vehicles area, where they set the newly rebuilt trains up to run in the system, and make sure everything works, as well as maintain service vehicles and non-streetcar trains – Should be interesting!


I finally got the photo posting to work, so the first to are from the SSB shop (which an enormous drill press) and Paris

Day 3 in Germany

Today is day three in Germany (my project got off to a bit of a late start due to a stomach bug) and it’s awesome. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand anything, and even though I have to ask everyone to speak slowly,it’s going pretty well. I am constantly surprised at how well everything works here. Everything is on time, and everything is in order, especially at the SSB workshop. There, they take subway cars (which come in pairs), strip them down, and rebuild them completely. Here’s a little bit of what I’m doing (they have me doing something different everyday):

Day 1:
tour, general repair, rebuilt a pneumatic suspension system with guy named Andy, who thought I was from England

Day 2:
milling, turning, drilling
they have huge CNC mills (awesome)
huge computer controlled lathes (also awesome)
and a drill press taller than I am
In the afternoon, we drove to a park where there is a miniature railroad for tourists, scoped out a rebuild for one of the engines.
They all think I’m from england!
in the car one guy asked me if it was weird driving on the wrong side

Day 3:
spent in the machine shop, where they build custom parts for the subway cars, because the company that built them (165! sets) went out of business

Heading to Paris tomorrow for the weekend!

More to Come,

14 days.


I’m Jack, a senior from West Chester, PA.  For my senior project, I will be interning with an engineer at Stuttgart SSB in Stuttgart, Germany.  The SSB is the company that runs the subways, trams, and buses around Stuttgart.  I have no idea what I’ll be doing exactly, but that’s part of the fun.  I will be living with a German family, whose son I met through the German exchange program at Westtown.

I initially applied for an internship at Mercedes and Porsche, though unfortunately both had all of their available spots filled.  Both companies would have given me a chance to see what working as an engineer would actually be like.  Although working with car designers would have been really interesting, working in the subway is a great way to see the way a city works.  I’ll be able to tell you more about it when I actually get there!

Can’t wait