15th May 2016 – Maybach MD870 power on the main line

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15th May 2016 saw “Lollo” V160 002 (DB 216 002) work a mainline railtour from Treysa to Klein Mahner and back, to the delight of a large contingent of British enthusiasts on board.

British modern traction enthusiasts began travelling to foreign shores in significant numbers to feed their interest for over 40 years.  Although – as I hope this website will show you – the decision to make this first trip can be the gateway to an almost infinite number of different railway experiences, the first time that many ventured overseas was in search of things that reminded them of home; exported ex-BR “EM2” electrics in the Netherlands, for example, or Vulcan Foundry-built 8 and 16-cylinder English Electrics in Portugal.  But one of the oldest and most enduring subjects of our attention have been the Maybach-powered diesel-hydraulic locomotives of the former West Germany.

The “Western” class diesel-hydraulics of British Rail were the first modern traction type to gain a significant following, and after D1013 and D1023 drew to a halt at London’s Paddington station at 23:41 on Saturday 26th February 1977, it was assumed that the glorious sound of Maybachs would never again be heard on the front of a train on the main line in the UK (that assumption, by the way, was wrong!).  That was an experience now to be found only overseas, predominantly in West Germany with the Deutsche Bundesbahn V200.0 class of locomotives, which were built with twin MD650 power units and Voith transmissions and were the forerunners of our own “Warship” locos.  These lasted in main line passenger service until 1984; you can still rely on a sizeable British booking on most railtours hauled by preserved machine V200 033 even now.

The V200.0s may have been almost identical to BR’s Swindon-built D800s, not least visually, but they were certainly not the only Maybachs that Deutsche Bundesbahn had had.

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V160 002 at Salzgitter Bad, 15/05/16 (JW)

It’s a commonly-repeated misconception that the Vorserienloks (prototype batch) of Class 216 – the first ten machines of the “V160 family” that eventually totalled 800 locos, some of which are still in use on front-line passenger work today – were the same as BR’s D7000 “Hymeks”.  This is not strictly true – the German machines were indeed built with Maybach MD870 power units, as were as the “Hymeks”, but they had Voith as opposed to Mekydro transmissions, and this does make an appreciable audible difference.

The last of this small batch of 10 machines, nicknamed “Lollos”, worked its last train for DB in 1981.  This was not the end of the story, though, as five examples escaped the cutter’s torch – one for preservation (V160 003, although this has now sadly lost its MD870), and four for private non-passenger use – three of these ended up in Italy, and one, V160 002, in Spain.

This article is not a history of Maybach traction in Germany, however (that will come at a later date).  This is a review of a railtour hauled by a truly hellfire locomotive.

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V160 002 worksplate detail (JW)

A bit of historical scene-setting first, though: V160 002, later numbered 216 002, was repatriated from Spain by a private individual in 2010 and restored in the works at Neustrelitz.  It emerged in 2015 in almost-original condition, and as well as some work on main line freights for RailSystems RP, worked passenger trains at a special event on the Kurhessenbahn in the September 2015, a trip paired with V200 033 in April 2016, and some heritage-themed shuttles between Coesfeld and Dorsten in May 2016. Its first proper solo railtour, however, was scheduled for 15th May 2016, and this was immensely popular with British enthusiasts.  A fair few, like me, had never even had the chance to ride behind a “Hymek” on the main line, so it was a totally new experience.

This was a trip starting at Treysa and running via Kassel, Göttingen, Hildesheim, Oker and Vienenburg to Braunschweig.  The run between Hildesheim and Oker was with the express intention of commemorating the reign of the DB class 218 “rabbit” locos, which had been withdrawn from service on the much-loved Hannover to Bad Harzburg route which used this section of line, at the end of 2014.

The “Lollo” ran round at Braunschweig and headed south the short distance to Salzgitter Bad where, after another reversal, it gained the route to the tour’s nominal destination of Klein Mahner, home and operating base of the Dampflok-Gemeinschaft 41 096 e.V.

Klein Mahner was a familiar destination to those of us who had travelled on the “Stahlstadtexpress” railtour in May 2014, which itself had been operated as a farewell to Braunschweig’s 218 447.

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323479 at a brief photo stop at Werlaburgdorf, 15/05/16 (JW)

However, on that occasion, the 218 had not been permitted to traverse the full line, and it had been the only motive power of the day.  This visit was to prove different.  One of the railtour coaches was uncoupled, and taken forward to the end of the line at the junction of Börßum and back by diminutive class 323 (Köf) diesel shunter, 323 479.  It was perhaps hard to believe that this loco was 82 years old at the time, its entry to traffic having been on 12th October 1933!

Back at Klein Mahner, we regained the V160 and set forth on a brief tour of the freight-only lines threading through the sprawling steelworks complex that sits between Salzgitter and Peine.  Some of us, again, were no strangers to this route – it also having featured on the 218 447 railtour in 2014 – but it was an interesting way to spend an hour or so, nonetheless.  The noise levels were ramped up a notch or several when we regained the main line, however, which was well-received by all!  Although there were to be two further reversals, that was the branch lines dispensed with for the day, and thrash and speed were sustained all the way back to Treysa.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that everybody who travelled on this railtour was very impressed with the loco.  The atmosphere on the train was brilliant, and apart from those with D1015 at the helm, it eclipsed every railtour I’ve travelled on in the UK in recent memory in just about every aspect.

I made a video of the day and uploaded it to YouTube, and it can be seen below.  It’s 24 minutes long, but it gives a good overview of the day, with plenty of MD870 thrash for you to enjoy!

V160 002 has recently re-entered traffic after a period out of service, and is advertised for a sensibly-priced and timed railtour from Piesberg (near Osnabrück) to the Christmas market at Goslar on Saturday 9th December 2017.

If you like your diesel-hydraulics, you will certainly not regret ensuring you are there!

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