8th October 2017: A Russian repatriate in East Germany

Important Note: This tour was cancelled on 13/09/17 due to engineering works on the route.

Sunday 8th October 2017 sees an opportunity to travel behind E77.10, a well-travelled machine that was ceded to the Russians as war reparations.

Following the end of World War 2, or specifically the Potsdam Conference that set out how the “spoils” would be distributed amongst the Allied nations, the orders of the Sowjetische Militäradministration in Deutschland (SMAD) dictated that much of the infrastructure in the Russian zone of occupation of Germany (later East Germany, the DDR) was dismantled by Spring 1946 and taken to the Soviet Union as war reparations.  Included in this was the vast majority of electrified railway – including rolling stock.  Some of these routes have remained unelectrified ever since.

Quite what the intention of this move was – apart from opportunistic cynicism on the part of the Russians – is not entirely clear.  Certainly, huge swathes of mother Russia had been devastated during the conflict – not only its railways, but much of its industrial capacity, housing and even whole towns had simply ceased to exist, and needed to be recreated almost entirely from scratch.  However, a high proportion of this German railway equipment was simply never used.  A major factor in this is that the Russian track gauge is 1520mm (as opposed to the “standard gauge” of 1435mm used in Germany) necessitating complex regauging; these machines were 15kV a.c. as opposed to the then Russian standard of 3kV d.c.; but above that, the locos and catenary simply were not suited to the harsh environment – certainly not where they wished to use it.

It had apparently been intended to use a portion of this “recovered” German equipment to build a freight-only line at Vorkuta, deep into the Arctic Circle, over 1000 miles north-east of Moscow.  The Soviets also wanted to electrify a route from Tobul to Akmolinsk in Kazakhstan with the German system.  However, it soon became apparent that there was no obvious way to generate electricity for a system in this location and/or then get it into the overheads.

In 1953, the USSR largely gave up and gave the Deutsche Reichsbahn of East Germany the opportunity to purchase much of this material back.  This they did, although a lot of it was simply no longer usable; in truth, after its thuggish dismantling in 1946 and conveyance across the continent in questionable conditions, it never would have been.  The first newly-(re)electrified route to open in the DDR was that from Halle (Saale) to Köthen, on 1st September 1955.  However, progress with re-electrification was slow until after the 1972/73 oil crisis; again, this policy had been born of Moscow, who had a vested interest in selling cheap oil to the DDR through the Družba pipeline.

It’s fair to say that there is not much detail out there on this whole story, as throughout the “DDR times” it remained something of a taboo subject; not wishing to rock the boat with the Soviets or indeed point out any flaws in their reasoning.  As such, a lot of this history has simply been lost.

What is known is that locomotives of classes E04, E44, E77 and E94 were taken to Russia, along with some class 52 “Kriegslok” steam locos and some rolling stock from the Berlin S-Bahn system.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user SuperJanH1 of E77.10 at work in 2011.

Although attempts are thought to have been made to operate the other classes in the Soviet Union, it is thought that the class E77s were simply housed in a facility at Babushkin in the Moscow area and were never used.  42 complete E77s, plus parts of 8 others, had survived the war and were taken away; 38 returned, although only 10 were returned to DR capital stock.  These were all scrapped by 1966, with the sole exception of E77.10, which survived in use as a train heating unit at Halle (Saale).  This machine – dating from 1924 – still makes occasional forays onto the mainline at the head of railtours.

The next of these is on Sunday 8th October 2017, when E77.10 hauls a short railtour from Leipzig-Plagwitz to Altenburg and return.  Operated by the Eisenbahnmuseum Leipzig, it departs from Leipzig-Plagwitz at 09:57 for an approximately 75-minute journey to Altenburg.  During the 3 hours there, participants are encouraged to visit the Altenburger Brauerei (brewery) where a beer tasting session and food are included in the tour ticket price of €62 second class/€78 first class.  The E77 departs back at 14:00, arriving back at Leipzig-Plagwitz at 15:15.

What can you combine it with?

There are not currently any other railtours of particular haulage interest in Germany advertised to run on that weekend, but do keep an eye on the Haulage Calendar section of this website for any new additions.  (Edit 25/06/17: a tour has now been advertised with 2,500hp diesel 118 770 (ex-DB 228 770) and 4-6-2 steam loco 01.0509 fairly nearby, the previous day).

Leipzig – or “Hypezig” as it is now known in some quarters – has recently rapidly gained a reputation as Germany’s creative capital.  Indeed, Plagwitz (the suburb from which this tour runs) has been transformed from run-down industrial wilderness to arty hotspot.  The city retains plenty of history, from 16th century Renaissance architecture to the sites widely recognised as the cradle of the 1989 revolution, and it definitely works as a destination for a “normals” holiday – as does the short, destination-focused nature of this tour.


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