ÖBB Class 1822

This is a brief look at a small fleet of electric locos that never realised its full potential, but is nonetheless interesting – the ÖBB class 1822.

These machines were known as “Brennerloks”, and were built for a very specific purpose: heavy cross-border freight and particularly RoLa (piggyback) work on the Brenner route between Italy and Germany through Austria.  Consequently, they were dual-voltage: 15kV a.c. (as used in Austria and Germany) and 3kV d.c. (as used in Italy).  They were essentially a development of class 1014, but specialised for the mountain work.  A prototype fleet of five – 1822 001 to 1822 005 – was ordered and built in 1991, with a view to a larger follow-on order being placed once they had been evaluated.

Above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user Ferrovie.Info showing 1822s in their “natural habitat” of the South Tyrolean Alps.

However, between the placing of the order and the entry to service of the locos, the Italians had gone cool on the idea of a RoLa route linking Verona and München, and therefore the true raison d’etre of the locos never even materialised.  Leaving the Italians out of the equation, a RoLa operation was set up from Brennersee – just inside the Austrian border – to Germany.  However, as this did not run on Italian metals, it also did not run under Italian wires, and so locos with this capability were not a pre-requisite.

ÖBB did find a novel use for these machines, however, which traced its origins back over 70 years previously.  The province of Südtirol (South Tyrol) was formerly part of the Austrian-Hungary, but was annexed to Italy after the First World War by the Allies who had promised it to the Italians in the 1915 Treaty of London in return for their entry to the conflict on their side.  Although returned to Germany by Mussolini during the second war, it was again returned to Italy by the Allies straight afterwards and has remained so ever since – although with huge levels of politics surrounding it.

As with many of the political developments of the 20th century, there was a railway element to it.  Whereas the railway linking Innsbruck, Franzensfeste, Innichen and Lienz had previously been simply a domestic route within Austria-Hungary, it now found itself crossing two borders and running for 105 km (65 miles) of its length within Italy.  However, Austria continued to operate corridor trains along the route.

By the 1960s, the Italians had re-electrified its section of the Brennerbahn to its own voltage, and the section of line from Franzensfeste (/Fortezza) to Innichen (/San Candido) was electrified at 3kV d.c. from “new” when the wires went up on this route in the 1980s, switching to Austrian voltage at the border.  The corridor trains operated with loco changes necessary at the border, with an Italian loco working them from Brenner to Innichen (at consequent cost to the Austrians).  The 1822s allowed them to seamlessly operate these from Austria, through Italy and back into Austria with the same locomotive.  Thus this really saw the start of the “borderless” operation of multi-voltage locos in this part of Europe that we take for granted there today.


1822 002 and 1822 005 were sold to PTKiGK Rybnik in Poland in 2005, making use of their 3kV d.c. capability.  However, they later became the property of DB Schenker Polska, who deemed them non-standard and surplus to requirements.  Wary of them passing into the hands of competitors, both were scrapped in 2014.

The remaining locos, withdrawn from use by 2007 – surplus to requirements with more modern multi-voltage class 189 and eventually Taurus electrics coming well on stream.  These machines – 1822 0011822 003 and 1822 004 – were laid up at Linz and eventually sold to TecSol and leased to Adria Transport for use on cross-border freights between Slovenia and Italy; their low axle loading being of particular benefit on this route.  Thus this small but interesting class continues to be seen crossing Alpine borders.