Prior to nationalization in 1879 onwards, three lines served Duisburg. Their stations lay in the region of the present-day main station, this latter station being built after nationalization. Despite being built by private companies, the development of railways in Prussia appears to have been less of a 'free for all' than Britain.

Köln-Minden Railway

The first major railway in Western Germany was the Köln-Mindener Eisenbahn, built in the 1840s - completed in 1847. Strictly speaking, the railway ran from Deutz - it would a few more years before a bridge was built across the Rhein to connect Deutz with Köln. It ran across the district via the Emscher valley to Dortmund.

In 1848 a branch lines were built to Duisburg harbor and to Ruhrort, connecting the latter with Oberhausen.

A so-called 'Trajektanstalt' was used to connect Ruhrort with Homberg on the left bank of the Rhein. This involved lowering goods carriages hydraulically onto boats to transport them across the river. Until 1907, a ferry was used to transport passengers.

Bergisch-Märkisches Railway

The railway was founded in 1843 and was contracted to connect Düsseldorf with Dortmund via Hagen and Witten.

In 1862, it reached Duisburg via a line from Mülheim and Essen.

Rheinische Railway

Founded in 1835, it was originally confined to the left bank of the Rhein. It origianlly connected to Duisburg-Hochfeld via a 'Trajektanstalt' (186) which was later replaced by a bridge in 1874.

An attempt to connect to central Duisburg via a branch from its line to Essen failed after opposition from other two railways. Finally it reached Duisburg via another route in 1879.