The years immediately following the split of Germany into the Communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany; the GDR) and Capitalist Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany; the FRG) in the wake of World War 2 were interesting times. One of the defining features of the FRG was its Wirtschaftswunder, a period of rapid economic growth. Determined not to be seen as “the poor relation”, the GDR needed to – if not match it – then at least give the perception of matching it.
In much the same way as British Railways did in that era, its state railway, the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR), drew up a detailed modernisation plan. This expressed the ultimate aim of eliminating all of its standard-gauge steam traction by 1975 at the latest, replacing it with electric traction on the main lines and diesel power on the rest.
The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user regiosprinter-tv showing 118 770 (DB 228 770) firing up both engines and departing from Chemnitz Hbf – the former Karl Marx Stadt Hbf – with a charter in July 2016.
Procurement of main line diesels
The plant to emerge as the primary manufacturer of diesel locomotives in the GDR was the “Lokomotivbau Karl Marx” (LKM) factory in Babelsberg, near Potsdam. The first prototypes were presented in 1959 – for type V60 (650hp shunters) and V180 (1,800hp main-line locos). With classic German efficiency, the two types were designed with maximum component synergy in mind, both being using variants of the 12KVD power unit from the Motorenwerk Johannisthal. Later, the requirement for traction pitched midway between the two was identified, and the 1,000hp V100 was born – the prototype being presented at the Leipzig trade fair in Spring 1964.
The first V180s produced by LKM were V180 001 and V180 002, twin-engined B-B diesel-hydraulics – although featuring no steam heat boiler and Voith transmissions, as East German industry was not, at that time, able to produce either component on its own soil. These prototypes were never actually taken into DR capital stock and were scrapped in 1965/66.
The experience gained with them was ideal though, and two further prototype locos (V180 003 and V180 004) were procured, before the first two batches of a production fleet – V180 005 to V180 087 in 1963-65 and V180 101 to V180 182 in 1966-67.
1964 had also seen the emergence from the factory of V180 201, which heralded a major refinement to the design, using three-axle bogies to permit a greater route availability along with more powerful 12KVDs of 1,000hp each. This led to a further 205 machines being built with the C-C wheel arrangement (up to 118 406; the final six machines entered traffic in 1970 after the DR renumbering system had taken effect – the V180s were now class 118).
I frequently hear people say that they “don’t do industrial locos”, with the image conjured up of spurious tiny shunters with lawnmower engines built to bump some trucks around a cement works or similar. However, on top of the two prototype V180s and the 373 DR machines, the LKW factory also produced nine further machines that might just challenge that view!
Largely identical to the DR locos – except for having no boiler and being geared for 85km/h – nine extra C-C V180s were constructed in 1968/69 for the exclusive use on freight trains to and from the chemical works of the Halle and Merseburg area (read a little more on this industry here). The Buna chemical works received four locos (numbered 201-204) and the Leuna works five (numbered 201-205!). Six of these nine locos survive today.
The above is a link to an excellent video uploaded to YouTube by user ecpaganini showing 228s at work in the former East Germany in the mid-1990s.
Progress with the modernisation plan
The plan for modernising the Deutsche Reichsbahn did not run smoothly. The economic health of the GDR was not as good as would have been believed. The money was not there to electrify anywhere near the route mileage planned; in contrast to the West, the canvas was entirely blank in this respect, largely due to the of the previously existing electric railway infrastructure of the Russian zone of occupation – later the GDR – by the Russians as World War 2 reparations.
On the other hand, 1964 saw the “Freundschaft” oil pipeline from the Soviet Union reach the oil refinery at Schwedt, north of Berlin. This permitted the direct supply of oil to the GDR, which the Soviets did at less-than-market prices. The inability to develop the electric railway as planned combined with this new source of cheap oil secured a shift in DR traction policy to be based around diesels (which was formalised in 1966).
The Deutsche Reichsbahn was very happy with its home-grown V180s. The use of shared components with the V60s and, later, the V100s, was indeed a masterstroke in terms of maintenance. It would have been ideal to have sourced the large numbers of additional diesels from the same source; however a major problem in this respect was that the Babelsberg factory was deemed to be able to produce a maximum of only 70 locomotives per year. Were it given the responsibility of building the DR’s new diesels, then the 1975 “deadline” would not have been reached. The production of V60s had already, in 1964, been shifted to LEW Hennigsdorf, north of Berlin, but the design was largely unchanged.
However, the principal spanner in the works was the development of new Comecon rules in the mid-1960s that specified that diesel locomotives of more than 1,500hp were now to be built in the USSR and Romania alone (see also the story of the Hungarian M61s as well as the German class 219s).
The locomotive factory in Voroshilovgrad in the USSR (now Lugansk, in modern-day Ukraine) met the requirement on both scores, as it could produce in excess of 1,000 locomotives per year, and had capacity to entertain large, new orders. It had an available off-the-shelf 2,000hp diesel locomotive (in the form of the M62), and although this was not ideal for the DR’s pressing needs (it had no train heating and was only plated for 100km/h), the DR felt that it would have been able to take them to replace steam on freight workings whilst working with Voroshilovgrad to influence the design of the successor type of 3,000hp diesels which would be the DR’s future standard diesel traction. Sadly, in this regard, they were to be disappointed – not one of the 867 “Ludmillas” supplied to the DR was to the specification provided by them(!) – but the lid had nonetheless been nailed down on the coffin of future V180 manufacture. The LKW factory eventually shifted its attention to road vehicles and eventually closed its doors in 1992.
(As an aside, an oil crisis behind the Iron Curtain in the mid/late 1970s along with a variety of other economic factors led to standard-gauge steam traction remaining in use with the DR right up until 29th October 1988, when 50 3559 worked its last train off Halberstadt, just 376 days before the fall of the Berlin Wall).
From V180 to 118 to 228
As the aforementioned M62s (DR class V200, later class 120) were NB – as were the first “Ludmillas” – the V180s remained the most powerful DR passenger diesel locos until the arrival of the two prototype ETH-fitted “Ludmillas” in 1972 (130 101 and 130 102) and then the commencement of the supply of the 132s in 1973. This put them at the sharp end of many of the GDR’s crack expresses in their early years, but also less taxing duties such as the early Halle-Neustadt S-Bahn network where shiny modern traction could serve as a useful propaganda tool.
Among the most prestigious of roles afforded to V180s, however, was the dedication of V180 048, V180 050 and V180 052 to the GDR governmental train.
The 1970 renumbering system saw them reclassified as class 118, but retaining the same three unique digits. A programme of re-engining all locos with yet more powerful 12KVDs in the early 1980s saw so-treated 118 0xx and 118 2xx-4xx locos become 118 5xx and 118 6xx-8xx respectively.
Following reunification of the two Germanies in October 1990, it was an obvious (if not natural) step for the railway administrations of the two nations to also be reunified; this eventually occurred as 1993 became 1994. The renumbering of the rolling stock under a common numbering scheme, however, occurred in advance of this – in 1992 – and class 118 became class 228.
The 228s did not have much of a future in the reunified Germany, though. They were done for by the sharp decline in traffic in the former East. All were withdrawn from front-line use by the mid-1990s. Happily – as with many other classes otherwise destined for the scrapyard – the proliferation of new small private freight operators at around that time gave many of them a reprieve. A number of them remain in commercial freight service today.
One brief exception in 2018 was the use of 228 719 on Erfurter Bahnservice’s Buttstädt to Sömmerda temporary commuter train between Tuesday 27th February 2018 and the end of the operation on Friday 2nd March 2018.
Opportunities to ride behind 228s are now fairly irregular and almost entirely restricted to charter trains.