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19th May 2018 – V200 007 “farewell” tour

Saturday 19th May 2018 sees the Historische Eisenbahnfahrzeuge Lübeck‘s V200 007 work its final planned railtour prior to its eight-yearly overhaul.

This won’t be the end for the loco, but there is currently no date for its return – so if you’re keen to ride behind it, I’d strongly recommend you try to do this one.

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V200 007 is seen on service train use at the seaside terminus of Dagebüll Mole, 04/08/12 (JW)

The loco is not a Maybach-powered machine and in recent years has been fitted with Caterpillar power units.  However, despite this, it still sounds pleasant and is well worth making the effort to ride behind.

The tour

Details for the tour and how to book on it can be found here.

Timings are very much provisional but the tour is expected to depart from Lübeck Hbf at 07:30, picking up at Bad Oldesloe, Ahrensburg, Hamburg-Rahlstedt and Hamburg-Harburg, then running via Uelzen, Gifhorn and Braunschweig to Goslar, arriving at approximately 12:00, with the return expected to set off around 17:30 and arriving in Lübeck at 22:10.  The second class fare for the day is €115 with first class being €135.

What you can combine it with

The other standout event in Germany that weekend involves a classic twin-engined diesel-hydraulic from the other side of the Berlin Wall – ex-Deutsche Reichsbahn class 228 no.228 721 which is making an exceptionally rare working on the steeply-graded Rübelandbahn not a million miles away from Goslar on both the Saturday and the Sunday of the weekend (details in an article here).

In fact – as long as the actual times match the planned ones – it should even be possible to cover the 228 during the layover at Goslar.  The 12:05 DMU from Goslar reaches Wernigerode at 12:39, connecting nicely into the 13:00 no.250 bus on to Blankenburg.  This gets you to Blankenburg approximately 20 minutes prior to the departure of the 228.  From Rübeland it is just 20 minutes by taxi back to Wernigerode (or, depending on the arrival time of the 228, you may even make the 15:21 no.260 bus) and then the 16:18 DMU from there reaches Goslar 36 minutes before the currently projected departure time of the V200.

Help save an NIR 80 Class DEMU

Although this site is predominantly concerned with locomotives and not multiple units, I do feel that there are a small number of the latter that are far more interesting and popular than many locos.  Prime examples are the English Electric-powered DEMUs used in Northern Ireland between 1966 and 2017.

Comparable to British Rail’s “Thumper” DEMUs in that they were powered by above-solebar English Electric 4SRKT power units, very few examples of the three classes of these units survive.  All of the 1966-built 70 Class power units were disposed of – due to asbestos, they were shrink-wrapped and submerged in Crosshill Quarry, County Antrim; their power equipment being reused in the initial batch of 450 (“Castle”) Class units built in the mid-1980s.  Just one unit of that class survives – no.458, at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, south-east of Belfast.

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A very recent photo of 80 Class driving trailer vehicle no.749 undergoing a repaint into its original livery at Belfast York Road (copyright and courtesy of Robert Gardiner)

The third class of NIR DEMU was the 80 Class, built from 1974 to the basic BREL Mark 2 carriage design.  Their final withdrawal from passenger service being in 2011, just four of the 22 power cars remain extant – one of them for spares recovery (only) at the East Lancashire Railway in England, and the other three which were granted a stay of execution by their use on sandite workings – duties that ended after Autumn 2017.

Time is therefore of the essence if a set is to be saved for future generations to enjoy.

The above is a link to the official video of the railway’s fundraising appeal, on the Downpatrick & County Down Railway‘s official YouTube page.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway have launched an appeal to raise funds by the end of April 2018 to secure two of the former sandite train vehicles – 69 and 749 – for passenger use on their heritage railway, as well as 90 and 752.  69 and 749 are already in the process of repainting into their handsome original maroon and blue livery (see photo) by Translink at Belfast York Road, but there is a need to raise more money in order to transport them – necessarily by road – to Downpatrick, and to make them fit for use there.

How you can help

I personally have no connection with the railway, but I have been an enthusiast of both these units and the railway for nearly 25 years, and I’d very much like to encourage you to donate to this very worthwhile project.  The railway have set up a crowdfunding/pledge-style donation scheme where rewards are available upon donation of particular amounts – please see here for more details on that.

Alternatively, of course, you could share this article – or one of the railway’s Facebook posts – on social media in order to spread the word.  This really does seem to be the last chance saloon to secure an 80 Class unit for operation into the future.

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Power car no.99 “Sir Myles Humphreys” returned to England in 2006 when it was acquired by the East Lancashire Railway for use for spares for its BR Class 207 DEMU.  Soon after arrival, it was fired up – as seen here – but it is very unlikely to run under its own power again.  If the Downpatrick appeal does not raise enough money, then that indeed may be ‘game over’ for the whole class.  (JW)

Monday 21st May 2018 – Railtour with German MaK hydraulic 800011

If, like me, you used to pass the scrapyard of the Galway Metal Co. at Oranmore, look at the remains of ex-GNR(I) diesel-hydraulic 800 (CIÉ K801) – used as a stationary generator there since 1976 – and wonder what it would have been like to have travelled behind it, then you have a chance to find out on Monday 21st May 2018.

The 800hp MaK-engined diesel-hydraulic K801, or what was left of it by that time (photo on page 4 here), was cut up in 1999 – but although it was unique in Ireland, it had been built by MaK in Kiel in 1954 to a design that was in fact sold to several countries.

Alongside this machine – works number 800028 – on the production line was a virtually identical machine with works number 800011, built for the Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen (OHE) based in Celle, not a million miles away from its birthplace.  Whereas K801 was withdrawn in 1967 and only returned to traffic for about an ill-fated month or so several years later, 800011 clocked up a 40-year career with the OHE and then passed into preservation, the only one to do so.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user seppl hochlader showing it at work during a brief period of hire from the museum to Delta Rail in 2006/2007 for use shunting at Geseke.

It is now in the collection of the Süddeutsches Eisenbahnmuseum in Heilbronn.  A very rare mainline passenger outing has been advertised for Pfingstmontag, Monday 21st May 2018, from Heilbronn to Schwäbisch Hall and return (details here).  It’s very sociably timed at 10:30 from Heilbronn, arriving back at 16:46, and the adult return fare is equally sociable at €39.

19 & 20 May 2018 – 228 power on the Rübelandbahn

A weekend in May 2018 sees a rare opportunity to experience classic East German diesel traction on the very steeply-graded “Rübelandbahn” in the Harz mountains.

The Rübelandbahn is a very steep adhesion-worked branch line from Blankenberg into the Harz mountains.  Notable for being electrified in the 1960s at 25kV ac 50Hz (and not the 15kV ac 16.7 Hz as used elsewhere in Germany), this route lost its remaining passenger service in 2005, but retains freight traffic operated by HVLE.

However, since May 2010, 2-10-2T class 95 steam loco no.95 027 has been homed at Blankenburg to work relatively frequent tourist specials on the route in the warmer months.  This loco now requires its eight-yearly overhaul, therefore alternative traction has been sought for the tourist excursion work in its absence – there is not really another steam type that would be appropriate for this particular route, so the answer has been a diesel.

Consequently, class 228 twin-engined diesel-hydraulic 228 721 will work a round trip (13:50 Blankenburg to Rübeland and 16:15 return) on both Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May 2018.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user knarfemheob showing 228 721 in action on the main line in 2013.

This is unlikely to be repeated – at least not for another eight years – as the 95 is likely to be back in traffic before any more excursions are due to run.

How to get there

Blankenburg is served by passenger trains on a branch from Halberstadt (which are all DMUs, as is everything else in the area now).  The 13:04 from Halberstadt (12:08 from Magdeburg) reaches Blankenburg at 13:30.

The nearest airports are Hannover and Leipzig-Halle, both of which are rail-served and from which Blankenburg can be reached within three hours by train.

Tickets

Fares for a one-way journey are €10 and €20 for the return.  They are available from info(AT)arbeitsgemeinschaft-rübelandbahn.de (replace spam trap with @) or from on the platform at Blankenburg or also on board the train.

What to combine it with

The most obvious other railway attraction in the vicinity is the Harz metre-gauge railway network based in Wernigerode (15 minutes west of Halberstadt by train) which sees copious amounts of steam working and stunning scenery, and is highly recommended for a visit.  Aside from that, sadly, the Rübelandbahn sits within a loco-hauled desert.

Various dates in 2018: The Reblaus Express

May 2018 will see the return of the popular Summer loco-hauled nostalgic train on the branch from Retz to Drosendorf, in the far north of Austria near to the border with the Czech Republic.

The “Reblaus Express”, as it is known, makes three round trips from Retz to Drosendorf (24.75 miles each way, and quite steeply-graded in places) each Saturday, Sunday and public holiday between April and October.  These trains depart from Retz at 09:25, 13:25 and 16:25 and return from Drosendorf at 11:55, 14:55 and 17:55 (full timetable here).

Motive Power

The Reblaus Express actually began on Saturday 31st March 2018 and runs until the end of April with a diesel railcar, making just two round trips per day.  However, from Tuesday 1st May 2018 (a public holiday) to Sunday 28th October 2018, loco-haulage and the full three-trip timetable will be the order of the day.

I am informed in mid-April 2018 that the motive power planned for the Reblaus Express during May and June 2018 is ex-ÖBB class 2143 diesel-hydraulic, 2143 070.

However, from July 2018, a Czech class 742 diesel-electric may take over.  This has not yet been formally confirmed, however.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user Andreas Suck of 2143 070.

Tickets

A single ticket costs €14 and a return (which acts as a day rover) is €19.  Children under 6 are free and adults over 62 qualify for a concessionary rate.  There is no UK rail staff travel privilege fare and Interrails etc are not valid.  More detail can be found in a PDF here.

Getting there

Retz lies just 3 miles from the Czech border, and is on the route from Wien to Znojmo, which sees an (electric) loco-hauled service to a roughly two-hour frequency.  Wien to Retz is about an 80 minute journey.

Combining it with other haulage opportunities

This is not the only regular nostalgic train that operates in Austria this Summer.  The “Nostalgieexpress Leiser Berge” (to be the subject of a separate article in the near future) operates also with ex-ÖBB class 2143 power and makes a round trip from Wien Praterstern (depart 09:14) to Ernstbrunn every Saturday between 5th May and 27th October.

You can have both locos on the same day, either as a (fairly long) day trip from Wien if you so wish, or as an interesting way to get from Wien to the Czech Republic.  The “Nostalgieexpress Leiser Berge” can be caught from Wien Praterstern to Korneuburg (arrive 09:43), going forward after a bit of a wait on the 11:20 regional express to Retz (arrive 12:12), from where the “Reblaus-Express” can be taken to Drosendorf and back at 13:25, arriving back at Retz at 16:05 – sadly too late to get back to Korneuburg have a second run with the Ernstbrunn train back into the capital, but it does connect nicely onto a regional train across the border into the Czech Republic should you be moving on there.

Combining it with a family holiday

Clearly the shuttle nature of the operation lends itself quite nicely to permitting a day trip to one of the stations along the line; heading up on the first round trip, having a few hours there away from the trains and then returning on the Reblaus Express later.

The most obvious destination for this would be the end of the line at Drosendorf itself, a historic town and the only one in Austria with a fully-preserved city wall.  As the town’s website itself states: “Drosendorf has all the ingredients you need to dream; a lot of nature and a bit of town, a castle and a river, sunny meadows and shady avenues, blooming gardens and wooded rocks. But also inns with beautiful terraces, solid accommodations and many ideas for the future“.

However, the train also makes stops at various other points along the way, many of which have merits of their own – check out this official PDF (in German) for some detail on this.

11th-15th April 2018: V100 service train haulage on Rügen

Although it is many years since the former Deutsche Reichsbahn V100 type centre-cab diesel-hydraulics had any proper regular passenger workings, there is an annual event of interest on the island of Rügen in north-east Germany that provides a bit of a timewarp.

Each April, the single-car DMU shuttle used on the branch from Bergen auf Rügen to Lauterbach Mole is replaced by top-and-tail Pressnitztalbahn 202s sandwiching two coaches.  2016 saw 202 565 and 202 703 hauling the trains, whereas 2017 saw 202 565 and 204 425 in charge.

2018’s locos have been advised as being 202 565 and 202 708.

Above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user KadanToMi showing 112 565 (ex-DB 202 565) in action on charter duty.

Further details

More details on these workings can be found (in German) in this PDF document.

Various dates in 2018: NSB El11 haulage on dining charters

A series of dining trains over two itineraries in Norway will give the opportunity to travel behind 1954-built electric locomotive no.El11 2098.

Above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user Khanet Phokaew showing El11 2098 departing from Hønefoss on a charter in 2015.

Nordmarka Rundt

The “Nordmarka Rundt” tour operated by Historiske Togreiser will run on twelve Thursday evenings between May and October 2018.

It will depart from Oslo Sentral at 17:00 and runs via a circular route: up to Roa, then via the non-passenger line to Hønefoss – run round – then back via Hokksund and Drammen.  Arrival back in Oslo is 21:00-22:00.

The downside is that this is not come cheap – the train is full dining, and the ticket for the train plus four-course meal comes to 2500 NOK – £226 at current prices.  However, it may well come in handy perhaps as way of shoehorning a railway interest into a romantic city break to Oslo!

Dates: Thursday 03/05/18, Thursday 10/05/18, Thursday 24/05/18, Thursday 21/06/18 and Thursday 28/06/18, Thursday 16/08/18, Thursday 30/08/18, Thursday 06/09/18, Thursday 13/09/18, Thursday 20/09/18, Thursday 27/09/18 and Thursday 04/10/18.

Bergensbanen

The El11 will also twice be given the opportunity to stretch its legs on a much longer journey, from Oslo to the North Sea coast at Bergen along the stunningly scenic Bergensbanen.

These will each from Oslo to Bergen on the Friday and return from Bergen to Oslo on the Sunday.  Inclusive of breakfast, a two-course lunch and a three-course dinner, a single is 2850 NOK (£258 at current prices) with a 50% discount applied to one leg if you book a return.

Dates: Friday 25th/Sunday 27th May 2018, Friday 14th/Sunday 16th September 2018.

The Flåmsbana

Climbing 863 metres over its 12.6 mile length from Flåm to Myrdal with gradients of up to 1-in-18, the Flåmsbana (Flåm Railway) is a tourist-oriented loco-hauled branch line that is consistently rated highly in “most scenic railway” lists.

I often find that Norway is a country somewhat overlooked by haulage enthusiasts; perhaps because there are now only 27 locos of two classes (one diesel, one electric) which see use on passenger trains, and given the combination of this and its sheer size, it does not offer the opportunities presented by certain other countries to rack up seriously high numbers of locos for haulage in a day.

Sometimes overlooked even by those who do visit Norway is one short branch line in the west of the country, upon which neither Interrail tickets nor FIP rail staff travel passes are valid – although to miss it would be a shame.

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Check out that gradient!  El18 2246 leads the 14:40 ex Flåm through the passing loop at Berekvam, 06/04/18 (JW)

The Flåmsbana

Running from a junction with the Oslo to Bergen main line at Myrdal to the bank of the Aurlandsfjord, the branch from Flåm to Myrdal opened in 1940, and electric traction replaced steam four years later.  Initially used were class El9, replaced in turn by class El11, then class El17, and finally – within the last few years – class El18 have taken over.  Reminders of the past are still visible, however, with El9 2063 the centrepiece of a small (free to enter) railway museum adjacent to the station in Flåm and the severed cab of El17 2231 is “bursting out” of a building on the right-hand side of the train shortly after departing Flåm (link to photo).

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El9 2063 in the museum at Flåm, 06/04/18 (JW)

Named by Lonely Planet as their no.1 train journey in the world in 2014, by National Geographic as one of the 10 best European train trips, and a feature of many other “best of” scenic railway lists, this branch line is one of the world’s steepest adhesion-worked railways.

It sees a tourist-oriented service all year round, and as with any “must-do tourist activity”, it could not be described as cheap.  However – again as with any “must-do tourist activity” – it is popular because it is worth doing.  The mountain scenery is absolutely stunning, and the trains pause at Kjosfossen station for a grandstand view of a waterfall.

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It’s fair to say that the waterfall at Kjosfossen was not quite as impressive when viewed in its frozen state in early April!  (Here‘s how it “should” have looked!)  06/04/18 (JW).

Traction and times

All trains on the line are operated by NSB and are formed of six B3 carriages top-and-tailed by El18 electric locos (“Lok 2000” machines externally identical to SBB class 460, VR class Sr2 etc), both powering.

Between April and October, two sets (and therefore four locos) are in use; for the rest of the year, just one set suffices.  My journey in April 2018 brought to mind brief flashbacks to bashing in the USA as only the rear three carriages of the six were available for travel (the others being locked out) and staff on the platform at Flåm were initially very reluctant to let me past that point to view, identify and photograph the loco on the front of the train!  (This would have been no great problem, though, as viewing it at Myrdal would’ve been easy).

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Flåm (JW)

How to cover it

A PDF containing timetables and fares can be found here.  A round-trip ticket costs up to 550 NOK (£50 at the time of writing) which is admittedly a lot for a 12-mile branch line. Holders of Interrail passes do at least get 30% discount on these fares, but there is no rail staff concession.  Reservations are required on specific services.

If you are only bothered about getting the locos in the haulage book and not covering the track, however, there is a cheaper way of doing so.  A return from Myrdal to the first stop – Vatnahalsen, less than 0.75 miles away – and back is 140 NOK (£12.72 at current prices) if purchased online (which satisfies the reservation part too).

Myrdal sees loco-hauled trains on the Oslo to Bergen main line – also El18s – on the expresses that run between the two cities.

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The top of the hill at Myrdal (JW)

As part of a family holiday

On this site I am increasingly trying to highlight ways of incorporating loco haulage into otherwise non-railway holidays – i.e. “bashing by stealth”: the family are enjoying themselves whilst you are surreptitiously (or not so surreptitiously!) getting the haulage book out!  The Flåmsbana makes this easy as it is actually part of a circular tourist itinerary aimed at enjoying the scenery of the Norwegian fjords – “Norway in a Nutshell” – which takes in the railway, a fjord cruise (including up the Nærøyfjord – a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and a scenic bus journey, based on either Oslo, Bergen or both.  I can attest that I travelled this itinerary with my fiancee in April 2018, and despite her certainly not sharing my interest in trains, she had a great day out too!

There are two “Norway in a Nutshell” itineraries centred on Bergen which allow you to complete this round trip in a day either clockwise or anticlockwise; both of which involve travel on class 69 EMUs on the main line, rather than loco-hauled trains, however.

I can personally recommend Bergen for a family holiday with some transport interest, and this will form part of an article on this site in the not too distant future.

5th & 6th May 2018 – Maldegem Steam Festival

Plans are now finalised for the key event of the year at the Stoomcentrum Maldegem, in Belgium.

This is one of my favourite European preserved railways – and one that can be visited as a day trip from the UK too.

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“Fred” at Maldegem, 13/08/17 (JW)

The event will be held on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th May 2018, on the theme of “100 years since the end of the First World War”.  There should be seven steam locos in steam on both the narrow and standard gauge, as well as one diesel loco and a diesel railcar in use too.

In addition, several First World War-themed attractions are planned including re-enactors, musicians and a small memorial festival involving a steam loco and a large work of art featuring a poppy each day.  As usual, there will be an international selection of trade stands present.

The seven steam locos consist of three on the (600mm) narrow gauge and four on the standard gauge, and include foreign visitors:-

Narrow gauge

Kerr Stuart 0-6-0T “Joffre” (no.3014/1916) from the Apedale Valley Light Railway (used in the trenches)

Barclay 0-4-0T “Jack” (no.1871/1925) ex Granton Gasworks

…as well as Hanomag 0-4-0WT no.4618/1906 (this loco is believed to have been taken “POW” by the British during the First World War).

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Hanomag no.4618/1906 at Maldegem, 13/08/17 (JW)

Standard gauge

SLM 0-6-0WT “Tigerli” (no.2079/1910) from the MBS at Haaksbergen in the Netherlands – formerly of the Aluisuisse factory at Chippis, Switzerland

War Department Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST WD196 (no.3796/1953)

Avonside 0-4-0ST “Fred” (no.1908/1925) ex Buxton Quarry

St Leonard 0-4-0T “Yvonne” (no.947/1893) ex Soumagne Colliery

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Many readers of this website enjoyed Austerity WD196 during its appearance at the Bocq railway “Festival” in August 2017.  It may be more familiar to others in the UK as the former “Errol Lonsdale”, a name it gained whilst employed at Longmoor – where it also featured in a St Trinian’s film.  Here it is seen at Dorinne, 12/08/17 (JW).

The railway

As the above implies, the railway has both standard gauge and 600mm lines, both running from its operational centre of Maldegem which is situated 14km from the Belgian-Dutch border.  The standard gauge line runs from Maldegem east to Eeklo, and the narrow gauge from Maldegem west along the route of the former line to Brugge as far as Donk.

Getting there

The railway can be reached by train via the branch line from Gent to Eeklo.  The SCM station at Eeklo is located just across the road from its mainline counterpart.

Alternatively, should you wish to head for Maldegem first, it is linked to Brugge railway station by the no.58 bus operated by De Lijn, with a journey time of roughly 25 minutes.  Via either of these methods, a day trip is eminently feasible, either by Eurostar or by plane to Brussel.

The railway advise that for groups wishing to attend from the UK, transport from the Zeebrugge P&O Ferries terminal (served by a nightly sailing from Hull) or Brugge railway station can be arranged by preserved bus.

 

With many thanks to Kevin Hoggett for his help with this article.

DSB ME 1503 – air pollution experiment

The Danish ME class General Motors diesels are nearing the end of an almost 40-year career.

The introduction from 2002 of a fleet of air-conditioned double-deck carriages – which have now replaced all of the single-deck, opening-window stock – gave rise to a problem.  Ultra-fine particles from the locos’ exhausts enter the carriages’ ventilation system and then circulate within the saloon.  This is caused wholly by the greater height of these vehicles than the ones they replaced.

ME1503 at Østerport, 20/03/17 (JW)

ME 1503 at Østerport, 20/03/17 (JW)

This issue had been identified early in the days of the double-deck carriages and numerous attempts have been made to find a solution.  All 33 locos remaining in traffic in 2010 were fitted with an “emissions kit” which aims to give cleaner internal combustion; this has been successful with an estimated 30% reduction of such air emissions reached.  The locos are also driven according to a in-cab “green screen” computer system which instructs drivers on how to drive, matching the train’s progress to its schedule whilst also considering both emissions and fuel consumption.  Intake filters were also fitted to the carriages.  It is claimed that these two approaches taken together more than halved the amount of harmful pollutants detected within the carriages.

Two variants of catalyst were also tested on the MEs, however neither were successful (one was found to actually increase nitrogen dioxide emissions), so were not rolled out across the fleet.

2015 study

The Institute of Public Health at Københavns Universitet (København University) conducted a study in 2015 that concluded that staff working within ME-powered carriages were exposed to a higher level of air pollution than if they were on traffic-clogged city streets, and were therefore at increased risk of lung cancer, bladder cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“The impact on DSB employees working in the train carriages is considerably higher than if they were exposed to a highly-travelled traffic jam. So, of course, that’s not good. However, it is not acutely hazardous and does not give immediate effects. But there is a good reason to accelerate the electrification of the network”.

Professor Steffen Loft, Head of the Institute of Public Health, Københavns Universitet, 2015 (quoted in a news article in July 2017).

ME 1503

Consequently, as of June 2016, a spoiler was experimentally fitted to locomotive ME 1503, effectively deflecting the exhaust up and over the carriages by forming a “roof” between loco and stock.

This makes it identifiable from the other class members as it is a unique fixture.  It is only fitted as one end as the MEs now exclusively work on the western end of their trains.

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ME 1503, spoiler detail (JW)

Findings

ME 1503‘s spoiler has been found to be effective, but not as effective as had been intended (link).

Ultimately, any solution will be just a case of “damage limitation” as the MEs will be replaced from 2020 by a fleet of new Siemens Vectron electric locos.  The Vectrons had initially been intended to work on the Nivå – København – Køge – Næstved route, but the replacement and withdrawal of the MEs is seen as such a priority that they will instead be put to work on the Nordvestbanen (to Kalundborg) in order for that aim to be realised.

The section of this line from Roskilde is yet to be electrified, but the project to do so has been signed off as part of a 1.2 billion DKK scheme, and some work has commenced.