DB Class 201 to 204, 293 and 298

In my article here, I covered the development of the dieselisation programme of the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) in the late 1950s and 1960s, so I will not repeat that in this article; suffice to say, we shall come in at the point where DR had identified a need for a fleet of diesel locomotives midway between their 650hp V60s and their 1,800hp V180s, and for that design to share as many common parts with those types as possible.

The first V100 – a centre-cab, B-B, 1,000hp, 100km/h, diesel-hydraulic – was therefore built in the same factory, LKM at Babelsberg, near Potsdam, and presented the Leipzig trade fair in Spring 1964.

Three prototype V100s were built in 1964/65 – V100 001 to V100 003 – the first two by LKM and the third by the Lokomotivbau Elektrotechnische Werke “Hans Beimler” (LEW) in Hennigsdorf.  These were extensively tested, although sadly V100 001 and V100 002 were virtually destroyed in a fire at Cottbus Works on 19th December 1968, along with two of the production machines.  V100 003 passed into DR capital stock in 1968, enjoyed a full career, and in 1994 passed to the collection of the DB Museum – it is currently on long-term loan to the Eisenbahnverein Wittenberg and does make occasional appearances on main line railtours.

But, back to the 1960s.  Again, as described in the class 228 article, the Babelsberg factory was disadvantaged by the ability to produce only an estimated 70 locomotives per year.  As a result, when the decision was taken to build a squadron fleet, these came from LEW.


Mittelweserbahn’s V1701 (ex-DB 202 768) is seen at Dorfen Bahnhof, 11/08/09 (JW)

Production V100s

The first production loco – V100 004 – was completed by LEW in late 1966 and entered traffic with DR in January 1967.  Over the next 12 years, 863 further machines left the Hennigsdorf factory for DR (which also took on two ex-industrial machines, giving the running numbers V100 001 and V100 002 in lieu of the destroyed examples).  These allowed virtually all steam to be removed from DR secondary routes.

In 1970, DR adopted a computerised numbering system, and locomotives numbered V100 xxx became 110 xxx; locomotives from 110 202 carried the new numbers from introduction.  The last V100 of the run – 110 896 – was completed in March 1978.

Extra orders

There were further orders for V100-type locomotives that kept the production line open long after the DR order was completed.  The first of these were the 190 virtually identical locomotives which were built between 1974 and 1982 for export to industrial use in China.  An excellent (if brief) article on these machines can be found here.

Additionally, seven V100s were built in 1981 for Československé Státni Dráhy (ČSD), the Czechoslovakian state railway operator, as their class T476.1.  These became class 745 under renumbering.

Also, although they aren’t fully within the remit of this website, it’s still interesting to look at the 31 V100s that were built for industrial use in East Germany and Czechoslovakia.  29 of these are actually thought to survive today, most of them active on the main line for small private freight operators.  Particularly given the fact that many of these too have gone through life-extending refurbishment and modernisation work (see more below), they are nowadays largely indistinguishable from the ex-DR machines.

The fact that the production line remained open did allow DR to re-enter the fray and procure further V100s in the 1980s.  First were 37 orange machines (111 001 to 111 037), built between 1981 and 1983, which didn’t have a boiler, were plated for 65km/h and were geared for heavy shunting work – an area where there was the same gap between types V60 and V180 as had previously existed on the main line (although a small number of class 110s had been previously converted to “shunters” – being regeared accordingly and losing the boiler – which were thenceforth known as class 108.

The final V100s to be built for DR, in 1983, were 10 class 110.9 locos (110 961 to 110 970) which were dedicated for use on engineers’ and snowplough duties.


(As can be imagined when dealing with a fleet that, in total, numbered almost 1,000 individual machines, there were a huge number of differences, trials and modifications.  I’m only covering the most noteworthy here, for now!)

From the late 1970s, DR began a programme of replacing the 1,000hp 12KVD power units with 1,200hp variants in a number of class 110s.  From 1981, the locomotives so-treated were reclassified to class 112 (in contrast to the class 118s that received the same modification, which retained the same class number but had their last three digits changed).  This programme continued into the early 1990s, with over 500 of the locos re-engined by that time.

From 1983 and then concurrently, a yet more powerful variant of the power unit – of 1,500hp – was fitted to what amounted to a total of 65 class 110s.  These became class 114.

One of the most noteworthy developments in the V100 story was the conversion in the late 1980s/early 1990s of 10 of these machines – 110 861, 863, 870-872, 874, 877, 879, 891 and 892 to metre-gauge, where they became DR class 199.8 (DB class 299, after reunification – they later reverted to their DR numbers).  This project was intended to replace steam on the Harz narrow-gauge networks, leading to these locos gaining the nickname “Harzkamels”.  I’ll tell their story in more detail in an article dedicated to them here.

In 1992, after German reunification but before the merging of the two national railway companies, all DR locos were renumbered to bring them into line with Bundesbahn convention.  As such:-

DR class 108 > DB class 293
DR class 110 > DB class 201
DR class 111 > DB class 298.3
DR class 112 > DB class 202
DR class 114 > DB class 204

Fall and Rise

Following German reunification, while various locos from either side of the erstwhile Iron Curtain gained regular workings to places that – shortly before – had been in a different country, the V100 locomotives by and large retained their original spheres of operation.  However, as with most of the rest of the ex-DR traction, the forecast for them was grim in the brave new world.

Goods traffic dropped off a cliff in the former East Germany, for a number of reasons, but mainly due to the shifting economic landscape of Europe in the early 1990s.  The passenger traffic that was left was also decimated, as branch lines were closed, and what remained was taken over by brand new multiple units.  The 202s lost their last booked passenger work in 2001.

However, the decline of this locomotive type at around the turn of the century coincided perfectly with the increasing liberalisation of the German railway scene and the emergence of small (or sometimes, not quite so small!) private freight operators onto the national network.  Here were numerous companies wishing to run trains, but with insufficient funds to procure new locomotives – redundant V100s were the ideal solution for them.  Despite initial resistance from DB themselves, sufficient locomotives were made available (plus ex-industrial and ex-narrow gauge sisters) for the Schienenfahrzeugzentrum Stendal (now Alstom) to craft a heavy refurbishment programme which essentially turned them out as “brand new locos” – with more powerful Caterpillar or MTU power units – available to rent or to buy outright.

At the InnoTrans expo in Berlin in 2000, the first of these machines – 203 001, the former 202 349 – was unveiled to the public, thus opening a new chapter of the history of these interesting locomotives and turning the future of the German railfreight scene irretrievably in a new direction – a story that will be the subject of a future article on this site…

Forthcoming Workings

Although it is many years since this class had any proper regular passenger workings, there is an annual event of interest on the island of Rügen in north-east Germany, when the single-car DMU shuttle on the branch from Bergen auf Rügen to Lauterbach Mole is replaced by top-and-tail Pressnitztalbahn 202s sandwiching two coaches for five days in the middle of April.  In 2016, this featured 202 565 and 202 703; in 2017, 202 565 and 204 425; and in 2018, 202 565 and 202 708.  This is expected to return in 2019, although the dates are yet to be advised.

There are also occasional “gala weekends” of steam shuttles in the same neck of the woods, usually using the Pressnitztalbahn’s 2-8-2T 86 1333 top and tail with one of its 202s.  One such weekend is coming up – 13th and 15th July 2018 – with shuttles between Greifswald Hbf and Ladebow.  The 202 is advertised in publicity as 202 708, however it is expected that it is more likely to produce 204 271 (ex-DB 202 271).

There are also railtours:-

202 565 of the Pressnitztalbahn is specified by painted number for a railtour on Saturday 27th October 2018 which runs from the former East Germany into the Czech Republic.

An unspecified machines is also advertised to work a tour on Saturday 3rd November 2018.

Additionally, there are usually one or two workings in the calendar for the metre-gauge “Harzkamels”; details here.  Currently 199 861 (ex-DB 299 110) is the only one with a serviceable boiler, so handles all of the passenger workings in the colder months, but 199 872 (ex-DB 299 114) does get the occasional working in the Summer when heat is not required.