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Steam in Germany

Some of the Steam Locomotives of Germany


GERMAN steam locomotives have always been among the most impressive in Europe. Yet German steam is basically the result of two quite recent decisions by the state railway authorities; during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the steam locomotives of Germany were as eccentric and mixed a bag as ever ran on a country’s railways.

Historically speaking, the first German steam locomotive was an oddity built by the Königlichen Eisengiesserei (Royal Ironworks) at Berlin in Prussia, in the year 1815, but it was only experimental and never came to anything. Certainly when the first true railway opened, in 1835, between Nuremburg and Fϋrth, in Bavaria, its locomotive, as so often with such lines, was a Stephenson design imported from England complete with top-hatted driver. That worthy, William Wilson, settled down with a German wife. The engine, Der Adler, settled down to haul Bavarian goods and people, and the various little kingdoms that then made up “Germany” settled down to build their own railways and motive power.

The early locomotives were much like others of their era, light four- and six-coupled machines for the most part and barely adequate for their jobs. It was not until the rise of Prussia and, eventually, the formation of the German Empire in 1871 that any real pattern emerged. Prussia had always believed in state railways and gradually the other major states acquired, from private companies, or built their own systems. They were the so-called Länderbahnen, the state railways of Baden, Bavaria, Oldenburg, Prussia-Hesse, Saxony, and Wϋrttemberg, whose only real private rival was the Friedrich-Franz Railway in Mecklenburg.

Oldenburg, Baden and Wϋrttemberg were always comparatively small and undistinguished systems but the others developed some distinctive locomotive types and styles. That too was the era of the big famous locomotive firms, such as the Saxon Locomotive Company of Chemnitz, Henschel of Kassel, Krauss-Maffei (an amalgamation) of Munich, Borsig and Schwartzkopff of Berlin, Orenstein & Koppel, and Hanomag (the Hannover Maschinenbau — which speaks for itself). All were innovators in their own right, producing such new ideas as the Krauss-Helmholtz truck for shortening a rigid wheelbase, and developing superheated boilers — to name only two examples.

Thus, during the first decade or so of the twentieth century, an increasing number of standard designs came into being; foremost were probably Prussia and her neighbour Saxony, with their carefully chosen classes to deal with all eventualities. The Saxon state railways administration was probably motivated almost entirely by a desire for internal efficiency; its locomotives were designed specifically for Saxon conditions. Prussia, on the other hand, had designs on other countries and its railways were from the start laid out to allow rapid and unimpeded movement of

troops to any point of the compass. Prussian locomotives, even at an early stage, were in keeping with that policy, being deliberately designed so as to be able to run within other people’s loading gauges.

The final flowering of that highly teutonic thoroughness can be seen in the magnificent — for their period — standard passenger and goods classes that appeared from 1910 on. They included the immortal P8 4-6-0, its goods counterparts, the 0-8-0s, 2-8-0s and 0-10-0s of classes G8-10 and the various corresponding tank engines; all took full advantage of the domestic loading gauge available, but the cab roofs were partly demountable and the tall chimneys were in two parts so that the top half could be unbolted to reduce overall height.

These Prussian machines, produced in large numbers for the German 1914-18 war effort, and later scattered over half Europe as war reparations, were the first really significant landmark in German locomotive design — designs that concentrated on simplicity and efficiency. True there were some very handsome

prestige locomotives on the other German state systems — high-wheeled Atlantics and, later, some really fine Pacifics — and some might argue that they have been slighted unjustly.

The fact is that apart from the prestige machines, some specialised rack locomotives for the 13 main-line rack sections around the country, and for a gaggle of rather jolly light railway locomotives in Bavaria, the designs of other states were not really significant in the long run. They certainly included some unusual machines, including Mallets, Meyers and, on the narrow gauge, even the odd Fairlie, and just as certainly contributed largely to the 350-odd classes taken over when the national railway company, the Deutsche Reichsbahn, was formed after the 1914-18 war, but the number in each individual class was rarely high and few were perpetuated.

Modern German steam power dates, in fact, from the formation of the Reichsbahn in 1921. The new national company found itself in dire straits, much of the best Landerbahnen equipment having been taken by others as war reparations and it therefore initiated an urgent programme of standard locomotive construction to make up the losses. It made sense to concentrate on a few efficient classes to help cut complexity and speed production and, inevitably, it was the newest Prussian standard designs that proved most suitable. Only a really powerful Pacific design was missing from the Prussian list and so the magnificent Bavarian locomotives of Class

S3/6 were chosen to fill the gap. Otherwise the T3 and T9 branch engines, the P8 4-6-0 and its 4-6-4T counterpart the T18, the G8 series of 0-8-0s and 2-8-0s, the P10 2-8-2 fast passenger locomotive, and the 2-10-0 heavy freight machine of Class G12 were adopted virtually unchanged and ordered in large numbers. They sealed the fate of the multitude of elderly Landerbahn designs still ambling about on their own systems, although in the short term the older machines still had to be catered for and the new numbering system had to take them into account.

The numbering business was studied with true Prussian thoroughness; not for them the slightly haphazard British plan of starting at number one and working up to 99,999 (with a duplicate list to take care

of the oddities). The DR plan was logical simplicity itself once one got to know it. First, a two-figure serial number was allocated to each particular traffic type, running from 01 -99. The serials were: 01 -19 Express tender locomotives 20-39 Slow train locomotives (our mixed-traffic type)

40-59 Freight locomotives

60-79 Passenger tank locomotives (including mixed traffic)

80-96 Freight tank locomotives

97 Rack locomotives

98 Light railway locomotives

99 Narrow - gauge locomotives (several states, notably Saxony and Wurttemberg had been very fond of narrow - gauge branch lines).

Both standard machines and locomotives


of similar size, shape and power from various Landerbahnen could well be grouped under the same type number (eg Type 89 (0-6-0T) included, besides

others, the 'standard' Prussian T8, the Saxon VT — itself in two varieties — the Wurttemberg T3 and Bavaria's D11, R3/3 classes). The system differentiated between them by allocating to each a batch of three- or four-figure running numbers, the individual number being separated from the type cipher by a gap, eg 89 001. For stock control purposes, the first figure of the number, or the first two figures of a four-figure number, were added to the type cypher as an index to form the Clas.s or Baureihe (BR). Thus 89° was the standard machine, 8981 the Bavarian Class DV numbered 89 8101 -10. Where a class was

big, the index showed inclusive batches; thus 8970 75 covered various batches of the ubiquitous Prussian T3 class.

Having more or less sorted out the bewildering variety of locomotive types, the original Deutsche Reichsbahn became virtually bankrupt in the 1923 depression, although not before it had initiated a much more detailed long-term study of possible future standard locomotive designs. Its successor, a wholly government-controlled concern also known as the Reichsbahn, picked up where the DR left off and developed the study into practical designs for a complete range of standard types (Einheitslokomotiven): it is these, in essence, which were intended to replace all earlier varieties, that still form the basis of DB steam power today.

The first fruits of the new Reichsbahn's policy came in 1925 with the superb Pacifies of Classes 01 (simple) and 02 (compound). They were built for purposes of direct comparison, the simple locomotive winning and subsequently being produced in large numbers; the ten 02s were later converted to simple expansion, as were the ten 04 light compound Pacifies built in 1930 as a comparison with the 03 class light (simple expansion) Pacific.

The standard locomotive policy took effect from 1925 onwards in two major 'plans'. The first one included, besides the basic Pacific designs, a heavy 2-10-0 goods locomotive built in two versions, the Baureihe 44 and 43, a light 2-6-0 (BR 24) for branch line work and a very fine mixed-traffic 2-8-2T (BR 86) which


was built in great numbers. Apart from BR 64 (520 built) and BR 80 (39), other classes were built only in small numbers— 20 or fewer—and were mainly for specialised purposes. They comprised BR 62, a 4-6-4T express tank engine design ; BR 64, a light 2-6-2T; BR 80, an 0-6-0T shunter; BR 81, an 0-8-0T for local goods work; BR 85 a massive 2-10-2T intended as a banker for the former rack sections which had been converted to adhesion; BR 87 a flexible - wheelbase 0-10-0T for sharp curved lines, and three designs for the narrow gauge under the BR 99 classification. It should be mentioned that Class 43 was a two-cylinder variant of the three-cylinder BR 44 and when the latter proved successful, was built only in small quantities.

This collection of classes left some very obvious gaps in the stud, which during the 1930s were gradually filled. The most significant designs were the 2-8-2 fast goods locomotives of BR 41, a very fine machine of which 366 were built, the light Pacifies of 03 for lightly laid routes, and the (soon to be ubiquitous) BR 50 'light' 2-10-0 goods locomotives for secondary routes.

Also of some importance but with their development cut short by the second world war, were the improved streamlined Pacifies of BR 0110 and O310 that hauled the prestige trains in the late 1930s. Otherwise classes were again in small numbers only for specialised jobs: they comprised the 06 4-8-4 express locomotives—in prototype form; the 28 BR 45

2-10-2 freight machines which were the heaviest locomotives to run over the DR, and a collection of tank locomotives of various shapes and sizes. Ironically one of the smallest classes, the 10 0-6-0T of BR 89, became one of the most famous through being chosen for a Marklin model in that company's cheapest sets. Most interesting of all, perhaps, was the original BR 23. It was a 2-6-2 version of the Class 50 goods, designed to replace the ageing Prussian P8s, now reclassed as BR 38. Its development was terminated by the war after only two examples had been built and the BR 38 reigned supreme for another thirty years.

There were also several experimental classes especially for express work including a most unusual prototype 2-8-2 in


which pairs of high-speed steam motors drove each coupled axle. Most experimental work, however, was brought to an end by the war and production was concentrated on simple and easily produced

types, notably the heavy and light 2-10-0s

which themselves were further simplified

and from 1942-on were built in huge numbers as the Kriegsloks (war locomotives) of Classes 42 and 52. They were the equivalent of our Austerity machines and penetrated into every corner of German - occupied territory. Some even acquired massive condensing tenders simi-

German - occupied territory. Some even acquired massive condensing tenders similar to those now in use on South African Railways, for travelling over the Russian wastes. More common was that peculiarly German device the tender with a guard's hut built into it, which with fully fitted stock obviated the need for guard's vans.

Once again Germany lost the war and, once again the railways found themselves in urgent need of motive power to replace war - damaged machines and those removed as reparations.

Fortunately the existing designs were both simple and highly competent machines so that production could quickly be resumed. The life of many Prussian veterans was prolonged, some of the more exotic streamliners, in particular the 0110 and O310, were rebuilt, and more 2-10-0s continued to come off the production lines. Although only one design, a new BR 23 2-6-2, was produced in significant numbers, experiments were continued with various types up to the late 1950s and the locomotive testing centre at Minden became famous for its work in the improvement of locomotive design. The BR 23, incidentally, was intended to replace the veteran P8 but a change of policy prevented

further steam locomotive development and when number 23 105 came off the production line, steam locomotive building for the West German railways came to an end. The new German Federal Railway (Deutsche Bundesbahn) decided on a very rational programme of electrification and dieselisation to meet its future motive power requirements and started slowly running down the stock of existing steam power.

In East Germany, the country having been split up after the war, the new state railways retained the name Reichsbahn. The post-war DR has until recent years also remained loyal to steam and has undertaken both development of existing designs and the production of some entirely new ones. In general, type development has paralleled that in West Germany and similar class designations are used—a fact that causes some confusion since locomotives are different; the DR BR 23 although a 2-6-2 is not the same animal as the DB class, for example.

The DB itself has adopted the very sensible policy of buying only as many diesels as it will require when electrification is complete. Meanwhile its declining but very efficient stud of standardised steam locomotives is kept in good order since its members still have a good many years'work left in them; indeed a recent increase in traffic has meant that some stored locomotives have had to be returned to traffic and steam is unlikely to disappear before 1974 at the earliest.

The survivors are mainly the efficient Einheitsloks of classes 01, 44 and 50, many of which have been converted to oil firing, but at the time of writing small numbers of many other classes survive. Almost incredibly even Prussian veterans of the ubiquitous P8 (BR 38) and G8 (BR 55) classes are still—just—soldiering on although they will not survive 1972. The

The main classes are grouped in specific areas and fortunately one of the best ones is very near to Britain. On many of the trains out of Rheine near the Dutch border and on the Rheine-Emden line steam is still very much in evidence, with 0110s, 41s and 44s in common use.

As a final fling, the DB has once more changed—or at least modified—its steam locomotive numbering system, to allow for computerisation of its stock-control organisation. Basically, old class numbers have a cypher added as a prefix (eg BR 38 becomes 038) and a computer-control digit is added as a suffix to the running number (eg 23 033 becomes 023 033-4). As the computer can only handle three-figure groups, the one class of over 1,000 locomotives—Class 50—now occupies two prefix serials, namely 050 and 051 (eg BR 50 1702 becomes 051 702). In

addition, variants within a class—for example coal and oil fired—now have separate class numbers. Thus 44 class engines are 044 if coal burners and 043 if oil burners. The locomotives remain just as efficient and impressive as they ever were.

You can read more on “Continental Locomotives”, “Germany and Holland” and

“Some German Achievements” on this website.