15th November 1973 – GySEV M62 906 written off at Fertőboz

44 years ago this week saw a notable railway accident in western Hungary.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities – although the loco, one of a small fleet of only six – was written off. 

In a previous article (this one), I touched on how MÁV – Magyar Államvasutak, the Hungarian state railway – standardised on Russian M62-type “Szergej” diesel-electric locos in their bid to modernise in the 1960s and 1970s.

MÁV were supplied with 288 such locos between 1965 and 1978 – 273 of standard gauge, plus a further 15 broad (1524mm) gauge machines for use on the broad gauge tracks around the border with the Soviet Union (now Ukraine).

The Győr-Sopron-Ebenfurti Vasút (GySEV), a curiously independent Austrian-Hungarian joint venture operating largely in the border areas on the opposite side of the map, also ordered six M62s of their own.  Numbered M62 901 to M62 906, they all entered traffic in May 1972, largely on express passenger work, and largely fairly anonymously.

At 06:07 on Thursday 15th November 1973, that was to change.

332450_312760565415740_2021591443_o

Above is a link to a photo of M62 906 after the accident at Fertőboz – from the Hungarian Locomotives Facebook page.

That day, M62 906 was powering train 107, the “Ciklámen Expressz”, the early morning Sopron to Budapest train, which it was booked to work as far as Győr where it would hand over to electric traction.

Running a short while ahead of it was a freight train – train 191 – hauled by a class 424, a 4-8-0 steam loco.  Due to a brake defect on one of its wagons, it came to a stand near Fertőboz.  Shortly afterwards, the signalman at the previous station of Balffürdő set the road for the “Ciklámen Expressz” to pass through, which it duly did.

A collision was now inevitable.  Upon seeing the stationary train ahead of him, the driver of the express made a brake application however, at 06:07, the M62 struck the rear of the freight train at 57km/h (35mph) and derailed.

Fortunately, and most importantly, there were no fatalities – however 23 were injured, three of them seriously so.  This included the driver of the M62 – who was trapped in his cab – as well as the railwayman manning the boiler in the steam van marshalled behind the loco (again, in this article we briefly looked at why MÁV were forced to heat their trains in a fairly unconventional manner).  The driver of the 424 also suffered slight injuries.

Over 10 million forints of damage were caused.  M62 906 was added to the pantheon of locomotives written off very early into their working lives – just 18 months, in this case.  It was scrapped in March 1975.  To correct the shortfall in its motive power fleet, GySEV in fact received two M62s – M62 143 and M62 093 – from MÁV in July 1976, which became its M62 907 and M62 908 respectively.  GySEV’s last M62 was withdrawn from traffic in 1996.

But back to Fertőboz on that fateful day.  Heavy rain in the immediate aftermath of the accident hampered both the recovery and the investigation – or investigations, as both GySEV and MÁV conducted inquiries independent of one another.  Perhaps predictably, this led to confusion.  GySEV attributed the accident not only to the signalman but also to the driver and secondman of the M62; their deliberate re-enactment on Wednesday 19th December 1973 with another M62 concluded that even taking into account the dark and foggy conditions on the day, the stationary freight train would have been visible from a distance of approximately 558 metres, which would have left sufficient time for the train to be brought to a stand.  The brake only went in, however, at a distance of 165 metres.  Meanwhile MÁV, on the other hand, placed the blame squarely on the signalman.

Those on the footplate of the M62 were acquitted though lack of evidence.  The hearing at the District Court of Győr found that the signalman at Balffürdő – identified only as “Ferenc N.” – had misunderstood a phone call as pertaining to the freight train having reached Fertőboz – when in fact it had been from Sopron advising that the express was en route.  He recalled that it had been a “senseless noise” and that he had only actually understood the word “received”.  In fact, he claimed that he did then doubt himself, and attempted to contact Fertőboz, but could not get through.  He then considered stopping the express via hand signal as it passed him, but feared disciplinary action for causing an unnecessary delay should his hunch be proved unfounded.  He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for his mistake.

This story has no happy ending, as it is understood that “Ferenc N.” committed suicide by drowning.

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in a similar one – also about accidents writing two European locomotives off very early in their career – German electrics 103106 and 101092.  Do contact me if there any other European Traction stories you would be interested in reading about.

Guides to bashing in Europe – Budapest

By Tony Traynor

Budapest has lots to offer the rail enthusiast.

MAV electric classes 431, 432, 433, 470, 480 and diesel class 418. GySev classes 430 and 471, all available for short leaps as are ÖBB 1116 and Railjet 1216s. CD class 380, ZSR class 350 and Romanian class 477 also visit but longer leaps are needed for these.

IMGP2999.JPG

431133 and 431349 sit side-by-side on the blocks at Budapest Nyugati, 03/08/14 (JW)

In the hills is the children’s railway using class Mk45 diesels on most services although they do have a unit and in summer use a kettle.

Budapest Deli has frequent loco hauled departures all stopping after 4km in Budapest Kelenföld, the stop at Kelenföld is seen by some conductors as a pick up/Set down only station so you have to be a bit smart at times. Kelenföld also has hauled departures to Budapest Keleti. Deli is a bit of a mess of a station with hauled services using the lower numbered platforms, a fair bit of shunting goes on but is unpredictable. Lots of food and drink shacks here and the station also has metro line 2 to Keleti.

IMGP2827.JPG

431181 rushes into Kelenföld with a local train, 02/08/14 (JW)

Kelenföld is a rebuilt station with the Deli services using the lower numbered platforms and Keleti services use platforms 14+15. A couple of food outlets but fairly rubbish shop wise. Kelenföld is 13 minutes away from Keleti by metro line 4. Keleti itself has plenty to offer food and drink wise including a supermarket across the road on the lower numbered side.

Keleti mainly sees the longer IC trains and thus the only leaps from here are out to Kobanya Felso (15 minute walk to Kobanya Also on the Nyugati line) using class 432 and occasionally class 431. OBB 1116, 1216, GySev 430, 471 and MAV class 433 can be leapt on out to Kelenföld but again the problem with the pick-up/set down scenario exists.

IMGP6455.JPG

A busy moment at Ferencvaros with 431-hauled local passenger trains heading each way and 431 314 standing alongside on a freight, 22/03/15 (JW)

A few times per day some hauled trains stop at Ferencvaros station. This station is alongside the yard and sees very frequent freight and shunting. Not really any facilities here though. The local service between Kelenföld and Kobanya Kispest stops at Ferencvaros.

Budapest Nyugati is the main bashing station in Budapest, leaving Nyugati the first station is Zuglo some 5km out, all trains stop here although the IC services from here into Nyugati are set down only so use your head. Next station is Kobanya Also where only the locals stop. Next along is Kobanya Kispest where all trains stop. All electric services go straight on here, the locals calling at Pestszentlorinc and Szemereetelep and then all trains calling at the airport station of Ferihegy. This station was new built about 10 years ago and was excellent for the passenger terminal just across the road, however nowadays the passenger terminal is on the opposite side of the airport requiring a bus. The 200E bus runs frequently from Kobanya Kispest station to the airport and stops alongside the train station at Ferihegy.

The above is a link to a YouTube video from TKori225 of Ganz-built diesel-hydraulic 418110 getting into its stride away from a station stop on a Budapest to Lajosmizse service.

From Kobanya Kispest the diesels turn right heading down to Lajosmizse the first stop being Kispest. At the Budapest end of Kispest is a supermarket but more interestingly a flat crossing with a busy tram line. Budapest Nyugati has also a hauled service on the Szob line using mostly class 432 but also class 431. The stopping patterns are a bit up in the air but the first shack is called Rakosrendozo.

Nyugati and Keleti station are of a similar build with the main platforms being in the train shed whilst bay platforms are further up on the left and right, Nyugati has a subway between both sets whereas Keleti doesn’t. Zuglo has a kiosk on the island platform and a couple of drinking shacks down below. Zuglo and Budapest Keleti are just a few minutes apart by a very frequent bus service.  Metro line 1 is the oldest metro in mainland Europe.

A 24 hour ticket costs 1650 forint and covers a good distance including the airport and all the stations mentioned above.

Useful Links

A very smart thing with Hungary is that most locos are fitted with GPS and this is accessible to the public at iemig.mav-trakcio.hu

www.bkk.hu Budapest ticket gen

http://www.railfaneurope.net/list_frameset.html  Photos of Hungarian locos

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/HunRail/conversations/messages Gen

 

My sincere thanks to Tony for putting this together and allowing me to publish it on the site – I am very grateful to be able to benefit from his expertise!  If you have any content that you would like to see here, please contact me.

December 2017 and May 2018: Two multi-loco “NoHAB” celebrations in Hungary

Two separate events have recently been advertised, both intending to feature multiple Swedish-built “roundnose” NoHAB diesel-electrics in and around Hungary.

The history and background of the fleet of General Motors-engined diesel-electrics supplied by the Swedish firm of Nydqvist & Holm AB (“NoHAB”) to Hungary has previously been explored in an article on this site – and it’s an interesting tale, lurking in the iciest depths of the Cold War.  May 2018 marks the 55th anniversary of the arrival of the first machine – M61.001 – and therefore it’s appropriate that they get some time in the limelight.

30th December 2017, Budapest to Tapolca

The first event is on Saturday 30th December 2017 and is a variation on something that has become a bit of an annual institution – similar events having occurred on 30th December 2016 and 22nd December 2015 – taking 8 NoHABs (all 6 surviving M61s and 2 former Danish MYs, one of which has just celebrated its 60th birthday!) from Budapest to Tapolca and return.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user Gábor Szőcsényi of 2016’s 8-NoHAB event.

The 2017 event, however, will have something of a twist.  Whereas in the past, all 8 locos have been the head of the same train simultaneously (although not all powering at the same time, causing some headaches for the haulage enthusiasts…), this year will see two separate trains each with 4 machines on the sharp end.

One, named the “Vulkán”, will be powered by M61.019, 459 021 (ex-DSB MY1125), 459 022 (ex-DSB MY1156) and M61.017.  The other, named the “Panorama”, will be powered by M61.001, M61.006, M61.010 and M61.020.

Both depart from Kelenföld station in the Budapest suburbs at 08:55 and run to Székesfehérvár, from where there will be a parallel departure of the two trains at 09:55.  From there, the “Vulkán” takes the route along the north shore of Lake Balaton, whereas the “Panorama” heads around the south side – the two trains converging on the M61s’ spiritual home of their later years of Tapolca.  Each train will return to Kelenföld via the opposite route.

Additionally, the cab of M61.004 will be able to be seen at Tapolca.  It has been on display in the vicinity of the station since the 2015 event.  This loco was a devastating loss; having already been earmarked for preservation, it struck a fallen tree, derailed and was written off at Badacsonylábdihegy on the north shores of Lake Balaton on 4th June 1999.  A memorial stone to the loco has stood at the trackside at the accident site since the 5th anniversary, in 2004 – and, of course, both charters will also pass this spot during the day.

Fares for each train are 5,990 HUF (£17.10 at current prices).  It does appear that if you wish to travel behind all 8 during the day, you will need to purchase a separate ticket for each train, but I’m sure you will agree that even then that would still represent superb value for money.  More details here.

10th-13th May 2018, Hersbruck to Budapest

A separate event for those with a significantly larger budget has been advertised by the German firm of IGE Erlebnisreisen; a multi-day affair stretching from Thursday 10th May 2018 to Sunday 13th May 2018, featuring 5 of the 6 surviving M61s (the only absentee from the plan as currently advertised is M61.017) along with Altmark Rail’s ex-DSB loco MY1149.

Above is a link to one of Kaspertog‘s videos of MY1149 at work for Altmark Rail in Germany in 2014.  This loco will work the trunk sections of the IGE tour in May 2018, it being a long way from its Danish homeland when it rolls into Budapest…

Kicking off from Hersbruck (near Nürnberg) with MY1149, it runs via the main line through Regensburg, Passau, Linz and skirting Wien as far as the Hungarian border at Hegyeshalom, where it is joined by M61.001 for a mainline blast to Budapest.

On the Friday, MY1149 is joined by M61.010 and M61.019 for a circular trip around the lake with a break in Tapolca – out via the north shore and back via the south.

The Saturday sees M61.006 take the train from Budapest Nyugati to Balassagyarmat, on the Slovakian border, and then back to the railway museum in Budapest whereupon there will be a photographic gathering of “as many NoHABs as possible”.

The return on the Sunday is as per Thursday’s outward, but the pilot loco to Hegyeshalom is M61.020.

The total fare for train travel only (not including accommodation) for the four days is €949 (£843.10 at current prices).  The organiser has stated that a minimum number of 130 participants signed up by 28th February 2018 is necessary in order for the tour to run.

More details here.

Other Charters

Additionally, Continental Railway Solution – the Hungarian company that used ex-British Rail class 47, 47375 on a ground-breaking railtour in May 2017 – have recently posted on their Facebook page (link below) that they are hoping to run a charter from Hungary to Kosovo and back using GM power all the way in 2019, the implication being that NoHABs will feature for at least parts of the itinerary.

This idea is reminiscent of a railtour that ran in August 2009 from Augsburg (in south-west Germany) to Kosovo and return that was intended to feature NoHAB power throughout – although sadly MY1125 had to be piloted by Serbian locos (electrics and also a GM class 661 “Kennedy” diesel) when in that country.  Additionally, the main train only reached Zvecan, as the contentious political situation in Kosovo prevented it going any further – passengers were conveyed south into Kosovo by road transport in order to travel behind the former Norwegian class Di3 NoHABs eking out their life there.

MÁV class M41 diesel-hydraulics – fleet round-up

IMGP6780

418 108 at Veszprem (JW)

One of my personal favourite European classes is the Hungarian M41 type (now class 418 since renumbering); gutsy 1,800hp diesel-hydraulics built by Ganz-MÁVAG in the 1970s and early 1980s.

114 of these machines were built for Hungary; 107 for the national operator MÁV, and 7 for the private railway GySEV.  (The GySEV machines passed to MÁV in 1987 after the electrification of the Győr to Sopron main line, as a small fleet of class V43 electrics moved the other way).

Of these 114, only 78 remain in service, but just 47 of these retain their 12-cylinder licence-built SEMT-Pielstick power units.  31 of the survivors have been re-engined with quieter Caterpillar 3512-series power units and renumbered firstly to M41 23xx and more recently to 418 3xx.

These locos do have nominal depot allocations, however it is fair to say that they can and do move around frequently.  To give a recent example, I spent a morning covering four of the diagrams booked for Hatvan-allocated M41s out of Budapest Nyugati in April 2017, and was presented with one machine from Szombathely, one from Debrecen, one from Székesfehérvár and one indeed from Hatvan; three of those moved on again within the next three weeks, so it is a very fluid situation.

As a result, rather than listing their depot allocations, I have decided to keep tabs on where the surviving M41s are actually working, with the assistance of the excellent MÁV “mapper”.  This shan’t be updated every day, and it certainly doesn’t purport to be a definitive list of “last workings” etc, but hopefully it will be a useful resource if you are searching for particular machines.  If a loco does not have anything shown against it, then I have not seen or heard of it working for some time; indeed, this might even mean that they are already withdrawn (but were shown as operational on the last list I had).

Updated to:- 04/08/17

Loco No. Former No. Working date Diagrams covered
418 103 (ex M41 2103) 30/06/2017 Békéscsaba
418 106 (ex M41 2106) 27/07/2017 Hatvan
418 108 (ex M41 2108) 07/07/2017 Celldömölk
418 110 (ex M41 2110) 04/08/2017 Hatvan
418 112 (ex M41 2112) 03/07/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 115 (ex M41 2115) 04/08/2017 Békéscsaba
418 118 (ex M41 2118) 04/08/2017 Szombathely
418 120 (ex M41 2120) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 122 (ex M41 2122)
418 126 (ex M41 2126)
418 128 (ex M41 2128) 04/08/2017 Miskolc
418 130 (ex M41 2130) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 131 (ex M41 2131) 30/06/2017 Debrecen
418 135 (ex M41 2135) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 140 (ex M41 2140) 03/07/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 142 (ex M41 2142)
418 143 M41 2143 27/07/2017 Hatvan
418 145 (ex M41 2145) 06/07/2017 Debrecen
418 146 (ex M41 2146) 04/08/2017 Hatvan
418 148 (ex M41 2148)
418 149 (ex M41 2149) 27/07/2017 Hatvan
418 150 (ex M41 2150) 10/07/2017 Szombathely
418 152 (ex M41 2152) 04/08/2017 Miskolc
418 153 (ex M41 2153) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 154 (ex M41 2154) 07/07/2017 Debrecen
418 156 (ex M41 2156) 27/07/2017 Hatvan
418 157 (ex M41 2157) 13/07/2017 Hatvan
418 163 (ex M41 2163) 07/07/2017 Miskolc
418 164 (ex M41 2121) 13/07/2017 Hatvan
418 165 (ex M41 2165) 04/08/2017 Miskolc
418 166 (ex M41 2166) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 167 (ex M41 2167) thought to have been OOS since March 2017
418 170 (ex M41 2170)
418 171 (ex M41 2171) 04/08/2017 Békéscsaba
418 172 (ex M41 2172) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 174 (ex M41 2174) 14/11/2016 Hatvan
418 175 (ex M41 2175) 04/08/2017 Hatvan
418 177 (ex M41 2177) 04/08/2017 Miskolc
418 178 (ex M41 2178) 04/08/2017 Miskolc
418 185 (ex M41 2185) 04/08/2017 Hatvan
418 187 (ex M41 2187) 06/07/2017 Debrecen
418 188 (ex M41 2188)
418 197 (ex M41 2197) 30/06/2017 Dombovar
418 198 (ex M41 2198) 04/08/2017 Debrecen
418 202 (ex M41 2202) 10/07/2017 Debrecen
418 204 (ex M41 2204) 14/07/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 211 (ex GySEV M41 004, M41 2211) 04/08/2017 Hatvan
418 303 (ex M41 2137)
418 304 (ex M41 2158) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 305 (ex M41 2192) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 306 (ex M41 2205) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 307 (ex M41 2136) 14/07/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 308 (ex M41 2180) 04/08/2017 Szombathely
418 309 (ex M41 2127) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 310 (ex M41 2161) 04/08/2017 Celldömölk
418 311 (ex M41 2134) 04/08/2017 Celldömölk
418 312 (ex M41 2196) 04/08/2017 Szombathely
418 313 (ex M41 2147)
418 314 (ex GySEV M41 002, M41 2209)
418 315 (ex M41 2107) Caught fire at Vep 04/08/17
418 316 (ex M41 2206) 10/07/2017 Szombathely
418 318 (ex M41 2201) 04/08/2017 Celldömölk
418 319 (ex M41 2179) 01/08/2017 Celldömölk
418 320 (ex M41 2125 / 2184) 07/07/2017 Szombathely
418 321 (ex M41 2199) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 322 (ex M41 2173) 07/07/2017 Debrecen
418 323 (ex M41 2113)
418 324 (ex M41 2124)
418 325 (ex M41 2111) 06/07/2017 Debrecen
418 326 (ex M41 2119) 06/07/2017 light engine off Debrecen
418 327 (ex M41 2116) 06/07/2017 Székesfehérvár – caught fire 06/07/2017
418 328 (ex M41 2138) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 330 (ex M41 2176) 04/08/2017 Celldömölk
418 331 (ex GySEV M41 007, M41 2214) 10/07/2017 Szombathely
418 332 (ex M41 2141) 10/07/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 333 (ex M41 2169) 03/07/2017 Szombathely
418 334 (ex M41 2182) 04/08/2017 Székesfehérvár
418 335 (ex M41 2186)

It is, of course, entirely possible that some of those listed with no recent passenger workings have been stored, or that some not listed might be reinstated at some point.

 

If you’re enjoying the content of this website, please could I invite you to have a look at how you could support it?  Thanks!

Various dates in 2017: GySEV Nagycenki Széchenyi Múzeumvasút

The Nagycenki Széchenyi Múzeumvasút, situated approximately six miles south-east of Sopron near the Hungarian border with Austria, was the first working museum railway in Hungary.  

Opened on 6th November 1970, this little 760mm (2ft 5½in) gauge railway runs through the former private estate of Count Széchenyi István, a 19th century Minister of Public Works and Transport, whose name is commemorated in its title.

It is operated by the private Győr-Sopron-Ebenfurth railway (GySEV), and runs from Fertőboz station on the GySEV standard gauge network (on the Győr-Sopron main line) in something of an “h” shape, to a terminus at Nagycenk Castle (“Széchenyi-kastély” in Hungarian, as it was Széchenyi’s mansion).  (Incidentally, the main line through Fertőboz station is notable as the location of a serious accident on 15th November 1973, which wrote off GySEV’s M62 906 just 17 months into its career – but more about that another time!)

The railway is open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays – although the railway does not run as often as that – and houses the Széchenyi István Memorial Museum (entry 1400 HUF – £4.00 at current prices).  There is also a small open-air museum of narrow-gauge steam locos and rolling stock here.

A link to a YouTube video (narrated in German) uploaded by kaktus1948 giving a great overview of the railway, with the C50 diesel “Kiscenk” in use.

The 1½ miles from Fertőboz to Barátság (“Friendship”) station were built in just three months largely by volunteer labour – local Communist youth groups and schoolchildren – with heavy-duty tasks carried out by Russian soldiers garrisoned locally.  Track and signalling equipment was salvaged from closed narrow-gauge routes elsewhere in Hungary.

Barátság is a relatively isolated junction terminus (with a layout much like Battersby’s, to give a UK example), and there the loco runs round before taking the circuitous ¾-mile ‘extension’ to Kastély – the station for the castle –  which was opened in July 1972.

There were plans in the 1970s to extend the railway through to the Széchenyi Mausoleum, near to Nagycenk station on the Sopron-Szombathely main line – but these never came to fruition.

Motive Power

At its opening, the railway used two 0-6-0 class 394 steam locos – 394.023 and 394.057 – both of which have now departed to pastures new (the former to the Zsuszi system at Debrecen and the latter to the Szilvásvárad system).

Nowadays, the railway is predominantly run by two locomotives – one steam and one diesel.  The steam loco is an ex-industrial class 492 0-8-0T built by MÁVAG in 1923, named “András“, built for use for a coal mine at Balinka.  The diesel is a C50-type diesel-mechanical loco dating from 1956, numbered GySEV 2921 001 and named “Kiscenk” (GV 3778), which was obtained from the Balatonfenyves system.

2017 Operation

The railway operates on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from April to October.  The C50 will be used as a rule; the exceptions being when steam is advertised : 17th June, 24th June, 9th July, 23rd July, 6th August, 20th August, 16th September, 17th September, 21st September.

The timetable can be found in PDF form here.  An adult return ticket is 890 HUF (£2.54 at current prices).

The 230km/h Trabant!

DSC02114 (3)

One of Europe’s fastest locomotives wears a unique livery prominently featuring the unmistakable shape of the infamous 23hp East German “Trabant” car.  What’s it all about?

182 509 is a Siemens ES64U2-type loco, built in 2002 for their own spot-hire business, “Dispolok”, which was bought out by MRCE in 2006.

It was one of two such machines (182 509 and 182 560) to get unique specially-designed liveries – different on each side – in summer 2014, to mark the impending 25th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.  182 560’s was dedicated to the fall of the Berlin Wall, whereas 182 509’s was on the theme of the “Pan-European Picnic”, arguably a lesser-known event.

DSC02113 (2).JPG

182 509 livery detail, seen on 05/05/17 (JW)

So, what was the “Pan-European Picnic” and what is the livery all about?  As I described in my article on the Flüchtlingszüge from Prague, 1989 saw burgeoning unrest through the Communist states behind the Iron Curtain, and history tells us that this resulted in the systematic collapse of the regimes in each of these countries by the end of the year.  It was a watershed year but these momentous events were characterised not by shows of aggression (except in Romania) but by demonstrations of peace.

One of the main characteristics of Eastern Europe in 1989 was the gathering pace of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika, of not interfering in the internal affairs of the Communist states.  It was in this climate that the Hungarian Minister of State Imre Pozsgay and the Austrian Otto von Habsburg, an MEP and President of the International Pan-European Union, sponsored an event to be held near Sopron, a Hungarian town near to the Austrian border, on Saturday 19th August 1989.

The theory was that the border between Hungary and Austria would be opened for a few hours, allowing people from both sides of the Iron Curtain to mingle, eat together (i.e. the picnic) and generally show that despite decades of propaganda to the contrary, those on both sides of the previously impregnable border between ideologies were not so different.

DSC02109 (2).JPG

182 509 livery detail, seen on 05/05/17 (JW)

What was not planned for, however, was the additional attendance of 600 enterprising East Germans who had been on their summer holidays in Hungary, had heard about the event and had decided to seize their opportunity to escape to the West.  The border guards turned a blind eye to this and their “Republikflucht” had been successful.

Again, history informs us that the border between Hungary and Austria was finally opened properly on 11th September and East Germans headed there in their droves in an attempt to leave – and (again, as described here) the dominoes had begun to fall that eventually resulted in the breach of the Berlin Wall – hence the liveries on 182509 and 182560 each commemorate events that neatly book-end what are probably the most significant twelve weeks in European history in the second half of the 20th century.

And what of the “230km/h Trabant” in the title?  These little two-stroke cars, manufactured by VEB Sachsenring in Zwickau, were ubiquitous in East Germany.  They were the vehicles that East German families drove in to Hungary in their attempts at escaping, that were left abandoned on the streets of Prague as their owners crammed into the West German Embassy, and that smokily and noisily inched across the Berlin Wall when it was first opened on that landmark night in November 1989.  As a result, Trabants became one of the most instantly-recognisable symbols of the events of 1989, and so it’s entirely appropriate that one is included in this design.  The irony is that a vehicle that struggled to hit 100km/h in real life can now be “seen” flashing through the German countryside at well over double that!

DSC02107 (2).JPG

182 509, Stuttgart Hbf, 05/05/17 (JW)

So, where is the best place to see the “Pan-European Picnic” loco?  As a Dispolok machine, it lives a somewhat nomadic existence, but since it gained its special livery it has worked predominantly for DB (both on regional passenger services for DB Regio, and on Intercity expresses for DB Fernverkehr) but, since January 2017, it has been hired to the Swedish firm of Hector Rail.

Although Hector Rail is based in Sweden, 182 509 is as yet only passed for use in Germany and Austria.  As well as a number of freight flows across the former, Hector Rail have the contract to provide motive power for the crowd-funded open-access train operator Locomore, which have operated a Stuttgart to Berlin and return passenger service since December 2016.  Although 182 517 has worked the lion’s share of these trains to date, 182 509 did have a stint of a several days working this in May 2017, which is when the photos in this article were taken.

MÁV M61 “NoHABs” – American technology for Communist Hungary

IMGP2792

M61 017 at Tapolca, 02/08/14 (JW)

The tale of how the state railway of Communist Hungary came to procure American-engined locomotives, even as the Soviets affirmed their power over it, is an intriguing and obviously very politically-charged one.

The Hungarian State Railways (Magyar Államvasutak; MÁV) first dipped its toe in the water regarding diesel traction in the late 1930s but, in common with most other European countries in the same boat, any plans were put on indefinite hold by the advent of World War 2.  Sadly, as much as an unfortunate consequence of geography as anything, Hungary was to suffer an astonishing amount of destruction during the conflict, and its railways were a key strategic target – indeed, 17% of all war damage sustained by Hungary was to its railways.

As a result, 1945 did not leave it in a position to pick up where it left off; significant reconstruction to merely return the railways to something approaching an operable state was the priority.  As a result, it was well into the 1950s before MÁV could re-investigate main line diesel traction.

Hungary in the 1950s

It’s important to interject here that the 1950s did not bring harmony to Hungary.  In common with the rest of Eastern Europe, it was subject to an enforced process of “Sovietisation”, with the political, ideological, social and economic norms of the Soviet Union being forced upon it.  However, this was not universally popular in Hungary.  Occupied by the Germans from the west, and invaded by the Russians from the east, the Hungarians had seen the worst of both sides and 600,000 of its civilians had died in the conflict between the two on its soil.  Many saw the Red Army not as a liberating force but in the same light as they viewed the Nazis.  The unnatural implementation of Soviet policies on Hungary led to a revolt by the Hungarian people in Autumn 1956.  This challenge to their authority was ruthlessly crushed by the Soviets, resulting in the deaths of around 3,000 Hungarian civilians, and served to harshly underline the power that Moscow held over it.

A link to a British Pathe film from 1956, neatly describing the uprising (some disturbing scenes, but then again it was a disturbing event).

The forced industrialisation that “Sovietisation” brought to Hungary in the 1950s resulted in a drastically increased requirement for motive power for freight traffic, hitherto fairly quiet routes now became important freight arteries.  Hungary was now a world of “five year plans”, where (often arbitrary) delivery targets were met regardless of how complete the product was.  At the same time, with propaganda in mind, labour competitions were to be seen in many areas of Hungarian industry and the railways were no exception – one ambition was to have each working locomotive cover at least 500km each day in the name of keeping the wheels of industry turning (this turned out to be too ambitious by quite some margin).  The upshot of all of this is that more and more trains were required to be run, and as a result, more motive power was required.  The obvious solution was diesel traction, which could result in increased efficiency and reduced costs compared to the ubiquitous steam traction in use at the time.  Modern traction would also provide ideal propaganda in a country that was being rapidly modernised.

Initial development

MÁV naturally turned its attention domestically; to the primary Hungarian rolling stock manufacturer – Budapest-based Ganz – which after a period building tanks and Messerschmitt Bf109s during the war, was now returning to the railway market.  However, it was primarily turning out electrics, such as the Co-Bo class V55s.  Diesels were not its forte – however, in 1957, it was able to turn out the M601 – a 2,000hp, 141t 1-Co-Co-1 diesel-electric prototype.

The M601 was not a success by any stretch of the imagination.  It survived less than a year; a catastrophic crankshaft failure on this unique locomotive during trials effectively ended not only its career, but Ganz’s hopes of contracts to provide locomotives to other Communist nations in the early years of dieselisation on the spot.

None of this helped MÁV in its increasingly-urgent search for diesels, though.  Bitten once, they were twice shy in trying unproven traction, and wished for something “off the shelf”.  With only diesel shunters being successfully produced in its own country, it looked to elsewhere in the Communist Bloc; with most of Eastern Europe similarly engaged in rebuilding decimated railway networks, only mother Russia was building main line diesels in any numbers.  Indeed, off the back of the M601 debacle, the Soviet Union offered a version of their TE3 diesel-electric locomotive, but MÁV quickly declined this offer, deeming it entirely inappropriate for their needs – being too big and too heavy.

Having fruitlessly looked east, MÁV naturally swivelled its eyes to the west, where diesels were increasingly ousting steam, and with significant success.  At the time (the late 1950s), arguably the two most successful main line diesel locomotive types in Western Europe were the General Motors-engined diesel-electrics built under licence by Nydqvist & Holm AB (“NoHAB”) in Trollhättan, Sweden and meeting the challenges that Scandinavia threw at them, and the Maybach-engined diesel-hydraulics from Krauss-Maffei that were revolutionising the Deutsche Bundesbahn in West Germany.  In February 1960, arrangements were finalised for MÁV to receive demonstrators of both.

The above is a link to a 17-minute MÁV promotional video from 1978 (“Hív a vasút! Vár a MÁV!”) focussing on the fruits of the efforts that had gone into the modernisation of the Hungarian railways in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – it makes very interesting viewing four decades on.

The demonstrators

First to arrive, that May, was the NoHAB.  This 1,950hp machine was not strictly a manufacturer’s demonstrator, as it had been intended for sale to Finland, but VR (Finnish State Railways) did not take up the order.  This green-liveried locomotive undertook a two-week tour of Hungary, being comprehensively put through its paces on a variety of duties, both freight and passenger, exceeding requirements in all areas.  It was also demonstrated in Romania, Bulgaria and the DDR (East Germany); there are some really interesting photos of its brief spell in the latter in July 1960 on this link.  The loco returned to Scandinavia at the end of its tour, and in the August joined the books of NSB (Norwegian State Railways), numbered Di3.623, with whom it served for the next 40 years.

As a brief aside, Di3.623 is thought not to be the first NoHAB diesel to traverse Hungarian metals.  Back in 1955, Di3.602 (now preserved in Norway) passed through whilst undertaking its own demonstration tour, visiting Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, an itinerary also followed by Krauss-Maffei’s V200 005 the same year.  Whilst in Turkey, the NoHAB certainly worked as far as Ankara, and is even reported to have reached the Syrian border!  Not bad for a loco that went on to earn its keep working into the Arctic Circle!

The Krauss-Maffei loco arrived in Hungary for its period of testing in the July.  This loco was broadly based on the V200 class of diesel-hydraulics, but took advantage of several years’ worth of technological development – it being a six-axle variant of the four-axle V200 design – although still clocking in at only 101t.  It had been built as an add-on to the order of three such locos supplied to Jugoslovenske Železnice in 1957 to power Marshal Tito’s private “Blue Train”, but had been rebuilt in 1958 as a truly unique demonstrator – losing its two Maybach MD650 power units of 1,100hp each in favour of two 1,500hp MD655s.  Speaking in British Rail metaphors, it was turned from a “Warship” into a “Western” (albeit with Mekydro transmissions).  It had proven itself an exceedingly capable machine throughout testing in Austria and Bavaria, but had thus far resulted in no orders.

For its Hungarian testing, it received the number “M61.2001”.  It again was a tremendous success in terms of the specific tests carried out in Hungary; however, MÁV were discouraged by its two-engine design, which was entirely alien to anything it had clapped eyes on before, and also its hydraulic transmission – after it’d had bad initial experiences with its M31s (although history shows that it did successfully embrace hydraulic transmission eventually).  As a result, the order was placed with NoHAB, initially for 20 machines.

Delivery

NoHAB built them at Trollhättan and, as if to underscore their “out of the box” quality, they delivered themselves to Hungary between May 1963 and March 1964.  In ones and twos, they were worked via the Trelleborg to Sassnitz train ferry, thence the DDR and Czechoslovakia, with journeys taking up to twelve days.  As well as themselves, they brought copious amounts of spares, occasionally in volumes filling complete wagons.

The locos were emblazoned with signage trumpeting “Noch eine NoHAB-GM lokomotive nach Ungarn”: “Another NoHAB-GM loco to Hungary”.  This can only have been for the benefit of the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn; the message was not in Czech, or Hungarian for that matter!  However, regardless of the success or otherwise of their experience with Di3.623, DR did not declare any interest.

017

East Germany may not have procured its own NoHABs, but in 1968 – a number of years after the opportunity had presented itself – it did (perhaps oddly) select an M61 as one of the trains featured on a postage stamp produced for the Leipzig autumn fair.

A conflict of interest?

At this point it’d be prudent to mention the elephant in the room – given the incredibly delicate political situation at the time, and with the Soviet Union unhesitatingly resorting to using force to assert its power in Hungary – how was MÁV getting away with procuring traction built outside Moscow’s sphere of influence to a design from the “wrong” side of the Iron Curtain?

Firstly, it must be established that the Iron Curtain was not a solid barrier.  Goods and services crossed it all the time.  This extended to rolling stock too; for example, PKP (Polish State Railways) had obtained its twenty EU06 class electrics from English Electric at their Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows in 1962; the trade even went the other way, an obvious example being Electroputere in Craiova, Romania, being sub-contracted to construct the first thirty Class 56 locos for British Rail in the mid-1970s.

That is not to say that trade across the black-and-white divide between “Capitalist” and “Communist” countries was straightforward or even encouraged.  Conspiracy theories continue to circulate that the sinking of the MV Magdeburg in the Thames Estuary in October 1964, whilst conveying 42 British-built Leyland Olympic buses bound for Cuba, was orchestrated by the CIA – the USA having imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, which it “encouraged” its allies to follow, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The supply of 10 diesel locomotives to Cuba the following year by Brush Traction was deemed so politically sensitive by Brush’s parent company Hawker-Siddeley, keen to protect its business opportunities in the USA, that all references in publicity were not to Brush but to the innocuous Clayton Equipment Co. of Hatton, Derbyshire and the machines were constructed not at Brush’s Falcon Works in Loughborough, but at Internal Combustion’s site in Derby.  It was business that these companies in the “capitalist West” wanted, but depending on the circumstances, they did not necessarily want it to be common knowledge.

However, Sweden was not necessarily the “wrong” side of the Iron Curtain, depending on your viewpoint.  It was ostensibly neutral in the Cold War, and as such maintained trade links with both sides with minimum concern to either side.  Its very neutrality had a strategic purpose – forming, as it did, something of a tangible, physical barrier between “East” and “West”, although this barrier would surely have counted for nothing in the event of nuclear conflict!

The fallout

Despite all this, the decision to source traction from the Swedes was not popular with the Soviets.  The award of a contract to even a “neutral” country was seen as taking work away from the Comecon nations; that is, those who had joined the “Council for Mutual Economic Assistance”, the economic union of nations aligned with Moscow.

This would perhaps have been negated if GM/NoHAB had granted Ganz a licence to construct a production batch of locos in Budapest; as they had in the 1950s when the Belgian company AFB (Anglo-Franco-Belge) had built the class 202, 203 and 204 locos for SNCB and the class 16s for CFL in Luxembourg.  This is what had happened with the English Electric EU06 design (the first 20 locos were supplied complete from England; but nearly 500 Polish licence-built examples followed); it is what was eventually done for the 18-cylinder Pielstick power units for MÁV’s class M63 diesels in the 1970s (see a stunning photo by Philip Wormald here), for example, and also for the Fiat power units for PKP’s SP45s.  This would have been a win-win solution; the workers’ jobs seen to be protected, professional dignity preserved, and arguably superior locomotives provided.  That licence, however, was not forthcoming.

At roughly the same time, the Russians finally reached a position to provide a diesel loco that, on paper at least, began to meet MÁV’s needs.  1964 saw an order for twenty machines; 1965 saw a follow-on order for another 32.  These were the first 52 locomotives of the type that went on to be known, not just on MÁV but also worldwide, as “M62s”.

IMGP6825

M62 loco no.628165 is seen at Győrszabadhegy, being passed by M41 no.418108 on a passenger train, 24/04/15 (JW)

The M62s were not the immediate across-the-board success that the NoHABs had been – developed as they were in the Soviet Union, and not specifically for Hungary’s requirements, they did not feature any sort of train heating capability (Russian convention being to heat each coach individually).  As a result, steam vans had to be cobbled together – initially using boilers retrieved from withdrawn class 275 2-4-2T steam locos – and then electric train heating vans, in order to make them viable motive power for passenger trains through Hungary’s colder months.

In contrast, the M61s proved ideal “out of the box” and met all expectations, and MÁV was very pleased with them.  It is no secret that those involved in their operation would have liked more.  NoHAB were certainly equipped to build them, and even offered a more powerful version (using a 20-cylinder 645-series power unit, as in the DSB MZ class, as opposed to the M61s’ 16-pot 567-series power units).

However, as these would need to be sourced from a non-Comecon nation, and as a loco of the equivalent power classification was now available from the Soviet Union, any further orders were always going to go to Lugansk and not Trollhättan – regardless of the real-world differences in MÁV’s early experiences of the two.  Further M62 teething troubles required ironing out even as further batches were ordered and delivered, although it must be conceded that the locos eventually settled down to give good service over many decades.

MÁV’s M62 fleet eventually totalled 288 machines, by far and away Hungary’s most numerous diesel locomotive type.  Eventually, over 7,000 production series M62-type locos went on to be produced, for markets as far afield as Cuba, Mongolia and North Korea – but MÁV’s M62.001 (still going today) was the very first of them.  It’s an interesting “what might have been”, though, to consider how different Hungary’s motive power scene would have looked over the last half a century if the circumstances or timeline had been slightly different.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by Becsky András featuring some interesting M61 scenes from 1996.

Legacy

The last M61 was withdrawn from normal service in 2000, however seven survive – all still in Hungary – and can semi-frequently be sampled on mainline railtours and occasional seasonal service trains.

As an aside, Di3.623 – the demonstrator from 57 years ago that led to the M61 order – was withdrawn from private use in Sweden following fire damage in 2014.  It was purchased the following year by the Hungarian NOHAB-GM Foundation and “repatriated” to Budapest where, after repair, it will join their operational fleet, ostensibly as “M61.623”.

 

If you’re enjoying the content of this website, please could I invite you to have a look at how you could support it?  Thanks!