112102 at Berlin Alexanderplatz, 13/05/12 (JW)
The word “underrated” has become a bit of a cliche when applied to workaday locomotive types, but for the German class 112/114 family of electrics, it is truly appropriate.
Built between 1990 and 1994, the 129-strong fleet was conceived as a development of the ubiquitous Class 243 electrics for the former East Germany (since reunification, DB Class 143). The 143s were 120km/h machines, but the gradual spread of electrification and increases in line speeds behind the Iron Curtain necessitated 160km/h motive power, especially with the Berlin to Dresden axis in mind. Four prototype machines were built; 212 002 to 212 005, which entered traffic in the days immediately following German reunification in October 1990. These were later renumbered 112 002 to 112 005 under the post-reunification numbering convention.
The success of these four led to the procurement of a further 35 machines (112 006 – 112 040), which entered traffic solidly and reliably in the astonishingly short window between August and December 1991.
Now stored in the “strategic reserve” at Hamm, 114 026 (the former 112 026) is seen in happier times on an RE7 service at Berlin Ostbahnhof, 11/05/12 (JW)
There then followed a flagship project – the first locomotive procurement since reunification of the two German railway administrations (if not the formal merger) – the 90 machines of class 112.1. These entered traffic between 1992 and 1994 – but not in numerical order… Interestingly, the Deutsche Reichsbahn ordered 112 101 to 112 145, and the Deutsche Bundesbahn 112 146 to 112 190. These were constructed side by the side in the factory at Hennigsdorf, therefore the last to enter traffic in 1994 was in fact 112 145.
Sectorisation of German railways in the late 1990s saw the 112.0s pass to DB Nahverkehr for regional passenger train work, with the 112.1s remaining on long-distance duties. In order to further underline the distinction, the 112.0s were consequently renumbered as class 114. When the 112.1s followed suit in the early years of the last decade, no further class renumbering took place.
But what of my claim that they are “underrated”? These machines have worked away for over a quarter of a century with little fuss or fanfare, and have made themselves at home in most, if not all of Germany’s 16 states over the years. They have proved as adept on the RE and RB work that they have made their own, as the InterCity work for which they were built; if anything, the tightly-timed start-stop nature of the duties they find themselves on nowadays makes it far more demanding than what was envisaged for them on the drawing board. Their acceleration can be truly astonishing, and even now they are frequently diagrammed to turn in over 1000km in a day.
Another “inmate” of the Hamm compound is 112 127, which was most recently a Braunschweig machine before withdrawal. Here it is seen in one the bay platforms at Hildesheim Hbf, prior to working a stopper to Braunschweig on the foggy morning of 22/11/11 (JW)
The creeping “unit-isation” of regional railways in the former East Germany has seen the original 112.0s (new class 114) displaced from their duties in this area, and the fleet are now, in the main, firmly located in the “West” – split between Frankfurt am Main and Stuttgart. 114 005 and 114 040 remain allocated to Rostock, where they are used as a common fleet with the 112.1s.
In 2006, as experiments, two class 143s were “upgraded” – one to 160km/h (114 101) and one to 140km/h (114 301). Although these projects got quite far, they were not quite developed, and these machines have now returned to their original 143 guise.
Sadly, a by-product of their modest nature is that their gradual withdrawal is also largely going unnoticed. As of 05/07/17, only 75 of the 90 class 112.1 remain in traffic. The 114s have also seen their numbers gradually chipped away, and only 31 of the 39 machines remain in traffic. Click here for a list.