Paris …In A Day

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7603 at Vanves Malakoff, 22/05/17 (JW)

I woke up in my own bed in Birmingham, travelled behind 18 mainline electric locomotives and 1 diesel, and returned to my own bed that same night. All for less than the price of your average enthusiast railtour.

This is the second in my occasional series of “…In A Day” articles, focusing on day trips that can be made to experience continental railways without spending too much money or too much time away from home.  In March we visited København, this time we visit Paris.

France’s capital is frequently cited as one of the best places in the world to visit for a romantic city break, however its appeal from a railway point of view is perhaps lesser known!  However, it is an interesting destination nonetheless – although it’s fair to say that visiting Paris for its railways will take you away from the tourist trail.

Getting There

Most obviously, Paris is one of two European capitals currently accessible directly by train from the UK; via Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford.  The city centre-to-city centre journey time from London is in region of 2hr 20min, which once travel to and from airports, check in and security time etc is taken into account, is faster than air.

If you do wish to make a day trip by air, though, you do have numerous options.  Paris has two main airports – Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY) which are served by frequent flights from numerous British airports throughout the day.  There’s also Beauvais (BVA) airport, to the north of the city, which doesn’t currently see flights from the UK.

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27302 at Clamart, 22/05/17 (JW)

Loco Hauled Suburban Passenger Trains

Paris may not sit in the mind alongside Brussel, Zürich, Wien, Warszawa etc as one of the “great” European cities where large numbers of locomotives can/could be travelled behind in small amounts of time, but with numerous suburban routes served by intensive loco-hauled stopping trains, Paris will still give you a good return on this.

Much like London, Paris is served by multiple termini (seven – clockwise from the top: Nord, Est, Lyon, Bercy, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and St Lazare) each of which have a distinct character.

For the purposes of this article, I will only give a brief outline of loco haulage on suburban services, as “intercity” long distance services are far less easy to cover on a day trip, particularly when long distances (and consequently, expensive fares) are required to travel even just to the first stop.

Paris Nord, probably the first termini that most visiting Paris will arrive at (either directly on the Eurostar or on the unit from CDG airport) sees BB15000 electrics working regional services (roughly one an hour) towards Creil, Compiègne and St Quentin.  However, these are generally non-stop to Orry-la-Ville-Coye – only about 20 minutes out of the capital, but which sits outside the area of validity of the tickets that I’ll tell you about slightly further on in this article.

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15024 at Paris Nord on a sleeper from Hamburg, 02/09/07 (JW)

Since the high-speed line to Strasbourg (the “LGV Est”) opened, the amount of loco haulage at Paris Est has been much reduced, with TGVs via the new line replacing loco and stock via the “classic” line almost completely.  Local services are also mainly in the hands of multiple units.

Exceptions are two weekdays-only peak-hour commuter trains in from La Ferté Milon in the morning peak (06:18 and 07:18 from La Ferté Milon), returning in the evening (17:05 and 18:05 from Paris).  These are booked for BB67400 diesel locos, but there have been a number of recent reports of either of these being substituted by multiple units.  The BB67400s are Pielstick-engined “Type 4” equivalents, the first of which entered traffic in 1969.  In general, their sphere of operation has contracted year-on-year and these are now the last passenger workings that take them in and out of the capital.

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67511 awaits departure from Paris Est, 22/05/17 (JW)

Other diesel action out of Paris is provided by the big six-axle CC72100 machines, again solely out of Est.  These handle some of the Intercity services on the route to Troyes, Culmont-Chalindrey and Belfort, but are in the process of being replaced by bi-mode “Coradia Liner” multiple units and this is expected to have been completed by July, with all of the CC72100s gone by the end of the year.  (Diagrams and recent workings can be found on the excellent European Rail Gen group, to which I encourage you to sign up and post, however do bear in mind that unit substitutions can, and indeed do, occur).  However, for the minute, they represent one of the last places in Europe where you can travel on a “classic” diesel-hauled long-distance Intercity service, with mile after mile at 160km/h and up to 100 miles between station stops.  On the other hand, this does make scratching in many locos quite difficult and time-consuming.  Personally, I’ve tended to only use them for long-distance journeys – over 300 miles to and from Mulhouse, for example; though they now only run the 275 miles to Belfort – still a fair old journey!  (Edit: retained for posterity, but these locos eventually finished on passenger in August 2017).

Paris Est also sees BB15000 action on local services – the fairly infrequent services to St Dizier and Bar le Duc are powered by them – however these are generally non-stop to Chateau Thierry, 45 minutes distant, which again sits outside the area of validity.

7613 arrives at Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14 (JW)

Moving round to Montparnasse, we find much more loco haulage.  In fact, the corridor between there and Versailles Chantiers – 10 miles containing 7 intermediate stations – sees a 15-minute frequency of loco hauled stopping trains in both directions through the day.  These are all electrics, with duties shared between BB7600 and BB27300 classes hauling double-deck “VB2N” stock.  The former are, like the BB15000s, classic Paul Arzens-styled “broken nose” machines, a 14-strong fleet converted from BB7200s a few years ago purely for these duties.  They are 1,500 v DC locos, meaning that they can only work services to Plaisir Grignon and (primarily) Rambouillet.  The routes beyond Plaisir Grignon are electrified at 25,000 v AC, so are the preserve of dual voltage BB27300 “Alstom Prima” electrics, built about 10 years ago, which do also turn up on some Rambouillet services.

Some “classic” BB7200s can be found on some services between Montparnasse and Le Mans, which are non-stop from Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers, however these in the main seem to now be units.

The rule out of Montparnasse is for the locos to be on the country end working in push-pull fashion, necessitating a walk to the front of the trains from the blocks to see which locos are on them – although there is also a footbridge between some platforms midway down the platform, which makes this a little less awkward.

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27316 passes Clamart on a semi-fast to Dreux, 22/05/17 (JW)

Mention a little while back of Mantes la Jolie brings us nicely onto the next terminus round – St Lazare – as BB27300-powered trains also run from Mantes la Jolie into there.  This means that it’s perfectly possible to travel between Montparnasse and St Lazare entirely loco-hauled, but this will take you several hours as opposed to a quarter of an hour on the Metro!

Although some of the last remnants of the doomed BB17000 class of electrics have been seen working out of St Lazare as recently as earlier this month (May 2017), the general rule now is for all of the loco haulage on suburban services in and out of St Lazare to be BB27300s.

There are actually two routes to Mantes la Jolie from St Lazare – both worked by BB27300s – the quicker, southerly route via Poissy and the slower, more northerly route via Argenteuil and Meulan Hardricourt each seeing 30-minute frequencies.  The latter shares the route as far as Conflans Saint Honorie with the services along the route towards Pontoise, Boissy l’Aillerie and Gisors, which also operate at a 30-minute frequency – so there’s a combined frequency of every 15 minutes between St Lazare and Conflans.

By the way, more helpfully than Montparnasse, locos here are on the blocks end which means waiting at St Lazare for your specific painted number to appear is far less strenuous!

27303 departs Bellevue, 19/10/14 (JW)

One thing you may notice is a discrepancy between the numbers painted on the sides of the locos in the pictures and videos here, and what I refer to them as.  Quite simply, in recent years SNCF has adopted a locomotive numbering convention that reflects its sectorisation, and now has numbers are up to six digits long where the first references that loco’s sector (e.g. “807603” is BB7603 belonging to Transilien (“8”); “115064” is BB15064 belonging to SNCF Voyages (“1”), and so on).  To keep things simple, I’ll refer to these locos by their pre-sectorised numbers here.

In terms of the class numbers of mainline locos themselves, the letters reflect the wheel arrangement (e.g. BB, CC, A1AA1A etc) and classes between 0000-9999 are DC electrics, 10000-19999 are AC electrics, 20000-29999 are dual voltage electrics, 30000-39999 triple voltage electrics, 40000-49999 quadruple voltage electrics, and 60000-79999 diesels.

Route Map

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A non-exhaustive map showing most of the routes described in this article (JW)

Validity

There are actually a couple of rover-type tickets available for unlimited travel in the Paris area, but the best value is the RATP Mobilis ticket (link in French).  Mobilis tickets are available from RATP ticket machines however these machines oddly tend to take only coins or cards – I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to carry €17.30 in change with me if I can help it!  These tickets can also be purchased over the counter using notes, however, and that is what I did at Paris Nord – it took about two minutes and was a very simple transaction.

Mobilis tickets are priced on a zonal basis, and the official zonal map can be found here.

Zones Price (EUR) Price (GBP) *
1-2 €7.30 £6.33
1-3 €9.70 £8.41
1-4 €12.00 £10.40
1-5 €17.30 £15.00

* Conversion based on 25/05/17 exchange rates

If you wish to travel on the BB67400-hauled commuter trains out of Paris Est, then you will need to purchase a zone 1-5 ticket, purely because the trains’ first stop at Meaux sits within zone 5.

Just a note on the Mobilis ticket – what you aren’t told is that it is only valid once you have written on it – date of use, first name and surname.  Be warned!  (Although I must say that it was not looked at all day, only serving a purpose to get me through barriers).

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15064 at Paris Nord, 22/05/17 (JW)

Safety & Security

I feel I need to add a note on personal safety here.  The November 2015 terror attacks in Paris are still fresh in the memory, as are the “Charlie Hebdo” killings and numerous other terrorist actions in and around the city since 2013.  Additionally, my A-Level French well over 10 years ago contained a solid two months’ work on how dangerous the Paris banlieue (suburbs) are and how they are apparently no-go areas, and the press frequently back this assertion up.

I can honestly say that I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere that I’ve been in Paris, although a degree of caution and “street smarts” (to use an awful Americanism!) are helpful in any capital city – particularly when it comes to beggars, pickpockets etc.

What is true about the suburbs is that unlike certain other capital cities – London, Berlin etc – many suburbs are in effect quite deprived self-contained settlements, rather than dormitories for the city, and consequently they have little in common with the picture-postcard tourist trail around the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, etc.  Bashing the suburban trains – particularly if you follow my itinerary at the bottom of this page – will most likely take you into the suburbs at some point.  Purely through habit in such areas, I wouldn’t tend to show off expensive camera equipment, simply not to draw attention to myself, but this isn’t something I would say is specific to Paris.

By the very nature of this article, it does not cover travel on trains late at night, and from experience the outer parts of the city do take on an edgier character at those times.

My Day

As ever, I would not take the liberty of assuming that all readers would wish to approach their day in the same manner that I did.  However, here is a brief run through of how I chose to approach my day (Monday 22nd May 2017).

In order to apply some structure to the 8 hours or so that I had in Paris, I elected to first head over to St Lazare station to travel behind as many electric locos as possible on the routes out of there; then to Montparnasse for more of the same; and finally over to Est to have a slower-paced look at the diesels, before a meal and then my Eurostar home.

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3014 at London St Pancras, 06/04/14 (JW)

The journey to Paris was uneventful; I arrived at St Pancras with far more than the minimum 30 minutes check in time required, and my Eurostar rolled into Paris Gare du Nord spot on time at 11:47; local time.

Having purchased my ticket at the RER ticket office down the stairs to the left-hand side of the blocks, I continued through the passageway to reach Magenta station, where I stepped straight onto one of the frequent EMUs through to the terminus of Haussmann-St Lazare, which sits beneath the terminus station of Paris St Lazare.

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Ferrotract Vossloh G1206 no.1552 (276038), Paris St Lazare, 22/05/17 (JW)

In the spirit of riding behind as many locos as possible, I chose to ignore the Mantes la Jolie via Poissy services, and focus on the 15-minute-frequency corridor through Argenteuil and Conflans Sainte Honorie.  I chose two stations – Val d’Argenteuil and Cormeilles en Parisis – 2.2 miles apart, which allowed me to spin up and down between them travelling on every service in both directions, until the BB27300s that I’d had heading into town started to reappear coming back out.  Neither of these stations are “good for a fast leap” with lengthy subways between platforms, meaning that you do rely on good punctuality to be able to continue to do this, but I had no problems.

In all, I was out of St Lazare for 1hr 43min, and in that time made 10 separate moves resulting in 9 individual locos for haulage.

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27350 at Cormeilles en Parisis, 22/05/17 (JW)

Apart from the BB27300s themselves, there were a couple of other items of interest to be seen.  First up was orange centre-cab Vossloh G1206 (1552 / 276038) leased to Ferrotract which was sat in the sun in one of the platforms at St Lazare (photo above).

Also, on the left-hand side of the train between Argenteuil and Val d’Argenteuil was a small engineer’s yard which contained another Ferrotract G1206 (1573) and, notably, two ex-Deutsche Bundesbahn V100 diesel-hydraulics, both now with Eurovia Travaux Ferroviaires (ETF) – “512-3” (211164) and “524-8” (211136).

Here’s a very rushed photo of the latter!

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Ex-DB V100 diesel-hydraulic no.211136, Val d’Argenteuil, 22/05/17 (JW)

Additionally, perhaps of interest to some UK enthusiasts, was a Euro Cargo Rail EWS-liveried Class 66 GM diesel which passed Val d’Argenteuil at approximately 13:40 with a long freight train heading away from Paris.

Having arrived back at St Lazare, I wasted no time in heading down to the Metro to catch line 12 directly to Montparnasse – or, rather to Montparnasse Bienvenue station, which purports to serve Montparnasse terminus, but it’s quite a long walk through the underground passageways to reach it!

From Montparnasse, the first stopping train departure was the 14:50 to Mantes la Jolie which was headed by 27309, which I required for haulage, so that set the tone for the next hour or so.  Again, the stations along this route are served by loco-hauled trains at 15-minute intervals in both directions, so again I picked two stations (Vanves Malakoff and Clamart, 0.9 miles apart) that allowed me to travel up and down between them on every one of them.

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To refute the myth I didn’t do any sightseeing…….!  The view from Clamart station.

This was achieved at a marginally better pace as the trains at these stations stopped either side of island platforms – no subways or footbridges to contend with!

Again, I made 10 separate moves and travelled behind 9 different locomotives – 7 of them BB27300s again, but the highlights were two BB7600s (admittedly only for very short runs).

I could have continued with my “scratching spree” – I’m confident that 30 or even 35 different locos for the day would have been very achievable in the time I had, if high volumes of locos was my only aim – but having spent the first half of my time on very short runs with relatively new, relatively unexciting traction, I decided that I would now like a longer run with something older and louder.

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27310 rolls into Vanves Malakoff, 22/05/17 (JW)

As a result, I headed over to Est on Metro line 4, again a direct journey (for reference, this route also links these two termini with Nord, making it quite a useful one for our purposes).  However, “direct” does not necessarily equate to “fast”, especially in the rush hour.  Less than 4 miles as the crow flies, there are 13 stations to call at, and this took 26 minutes.

I still arrived in good time for the 17:05 to La Ferté Milon, with 1971-built 67511 at its head, which I caught to its first stop of Meaux, a distance of 27.4 miles.  This was a really enjoyable journey – I was able to sit about 10 feet behind the loco, which was hauling two five-car “RIB” sets, with the window pulled down to forehead level even in a seated position.  The loco was worked fairly hard, with the 120km/h top speed of the stock being exploited fully, and the scenery further out as the route criss-crosses the Marne river is quite pretty.  And all this on a really sunny afternoon to boot – definitely the highlight of my day.  (Check out this link for a bashing report of a trip in 2014 which includes some videos of BB67400s).

In a classic case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dustcart”, my loco haulage for the day was now over, and an EMU soon shuffled in to take me non-stop back to Paris.

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67522 passes outside Paris Est, getting into its stride with the 18:05 to La Ferté Milon, 22/05/17 (JW)

Just outside Est station, 67522 stormed past with the 18:05 departure.  This is not timed to make at Est, it’s a minus 4 – if you wish to travel on both the 17:05 and 18:05, you need to stay east of Meaux.

You may wonder, then, why I didn’t do this myself, especially as 67522 was also required for haulage.  There were two reasons; one was the fact that if you travel on the 18:05 beyond Meaux – even just to its next stop of Trilport, 6 minutes later – you wouldn’t get back to Paris in time for the 20:13 Eurostar, my train home on this day.

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Just in time to see 72189 depart with the 18:12 to Culmont-Chalindrey, 22/05/17 (JW)

The other reason was that I hoped to get back to Paris in time to witness the departure of IC11743, the 18:12 to Culmont-Chalindrey, which is still booked for haulage by one of the popular big CC72100 class diesels.  I managed this, just about (as you can see, the photo wouldn’t win any awards!) but I was pleased to stand and enjoy watching it leave, as I suspect this will be the last time I see one here.  I’ve got great memories of long distance blasts with these engines to and from Belfort and Mulhouse from days gone by, and I will miss them.

As IC11743’s tail light disappeared into the distance, I had just two hours until my Eurostar departed (so, 90 minutes until check in for it closed).  Rather than head off elsewhere looking for more loco haulage – and risk making it tight for my train home – I went for some food and a beer and then had a look at the electrics sat on the blocks at Nord before finding my train back to England.

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22321 and 22342 sit at the buffer stops at Paris Nord, 22/05/17 (JW)

The 19 different locos that I travelled behind during the day was nowhere near my personal record of 56 in a day trip (Birmingham to Brussel and back when I was 18 and had considerably more stamina!) but I was still entirely happy with a varied and interesting day.

Here is my “move” for the day:-

Birmingham Intl. 0540 EMU 1R00 05:00 Wolverhampton – Euston
London Euston 0705
London St Pancras 0831 EMU 9010 08:31 St Pancras – Paris Nord
Paris Nord 1147
Magenta 1205 EMU 19176 11:34 V. sur Marne  – H. St Lazare
Haussmann St Lazare 1209
Paris St Lazare 1227 27334 31071 1227 St Lazare – Boissy l’Aillerie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1245 1251 27357 36862 1152 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1254 1257 27340 36873 1242 St Lazare – Mantes la Jolie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1301 1306 27338 37064 1156 Gisors – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1309 1312 27350 31073 1257 St Lazare – Boissy l’Aillerie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1315 1321 27332 36870 1222 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1324 1327 27364 36881 1312 St Lazare – Mantes la Jolie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1331 1336 27341 31080 1305 Boissy l’Aillerie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1339 1342 27357 37083 1327 St Lazare – Gisors
Cormeilles en Parisis 1346 1351 27326 36874 1252 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Paris St Lazare 1410 1422 Metro Line 12
Paris Montparnasse 1436 1450 27309 65623 1450 M’parnasse – Mantes la J.
Meudon 1500 1501 27307 65626 1355 Mantes la J. – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1506 1510 27314 65425 1505 M’parnasse – Rambouillet
Clamart 1512 1519 7603 65428 1422 Rambouillet – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1521 1525 27310 65527 1520 Montparnasse – P. Grignon
Clamart 1527 1534 27304 65530 1456 P. Grignon – Montparnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1536 1540 27302 65429 1535 M’parnasse – Rambouillet
Clamart 1542 1549 7614 65432 1452 Rambouillet – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1551 1555 27307 65631 1550 M’parnasse – Mantes la J.
Clamart 1557 1604 27311 65634 1455 Mantes la J. – M’parnasse
Paris Montparnasse  1611 1625 Metro Line 4
Paris Est 1651 1705 67511 17255 1705 Paris Est – La Ferté Milon
Meaux 1733 1744 EMU 17160 1704 Chateau Thierry – Paris Est
Paris Est 1809
Paris Nord 2013 EMU 9059 2013 Paris Nord – St Pancras
London St Pancras 2139
London Euston 2230 EMU 9G48 2230 Euston – Wolverhampton
Birmingham Intl. 0021

Finances

I introduced this article by asserting that it was a relatively cheap day out (in comparison to a railtour) and here are the numbers to support that.

Virgin Trains ticket Birmingham Intl to Euston = £6.00

Outward Eurostar ticket = £19.00

Rover ticket = £15.00

Return Eurostar ticket = £19.00

Virgin Trains ticket Euston to Birmingham Intl = £6.00

Total = £65.00

The £19.00 each way Eurostar tickets were obtained as part of a limited-time online special offer, but these are worth keeping an eye out for as they make cross-Channel travel much more affordable.  Additionally, my Virgin Trains tickets were both purchased in advance online and considerably cheaper than the equivalent walk-up fares.

Again, I’ve elected to leave petrol, parking and sustenance out of the equation, as these would be costs associated with most days out regardless of destination, but even with those taken into account, I’m sure you’ll agree it was still a good value day out.

 

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The 230km/h Trabant!

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For four years, one of Europe’s fastest locomotives wore a unique livery prominently featuring the unmistakable shape of the infamous 23hp East German “Trabant” car.  What was 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 solely 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 – whilst still featuring symbolism of Berlin and of the actions of those at the Picnic leading to what eventually happened there.

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

So, what was the “Pan-European Picnic” and what was 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.

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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 182 509 and 182 560 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, and indeed through other countries behind the Iron Curtain; they are still particularly present in Hungary.  But they were also 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 was included in this design.  The irony was that a vehicle that struggled to hit 100km/h in real life could be “seen” flashing through the German countryside at well over double that!

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

As a Dispolok machine, the “Pan-European Picnic” loco lived a somewhat nomadic existence, but since it gained its special livery it worked predominantly for DB (both on regional passenger services for DB Regio, and on Intercity expresses for DB Fernverkehr) and, from January 2017, it was 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 held the contract to provide motive power for the crowd-funded open-access train operator Locomore, which operated a Stuttgart to Berlin and return passenger service between December 2016 and May 2017 (this is now part of the Flixtrain operation).  Although 182 517 worked the lion’s share of these trains, 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.

182 509 lost its unique livery in 2018.

DB “Ludmillas” – current status

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232 583 at Szczecin Glowny, 17/05/12 (JW)

One of the most popular European diesel locomotive types is the “Ludmilla” family; powerful machines built in the Soviet Union for the Deutsche Reichsbahn of East Germany.  Of a total fleet of 873 locos, only 242 are thought to remain extant – roughly a sixth of which have now left Germany.

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One of the machines now in Romania is 232653, seen here at Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen on a very long freight train, 21/04/06 (JW)

This article is not intended as a history of these locos, although I am in the process of writing one.  Rather, this is a roll-call of those that have survived to the current date (01/05/17), with details of where they can now be found, plus dates of recent photographs and sightings, with links to them.

This list is correct and up-to-date to the best of my knowledge, but trying to keep tabs on several hundred locomotives spread across the continent can be like herding cats – so if you’re aware of any corrections required, please let me know!

DR Class 130 / DB Class 230

130 002 Interessengemeinschaft Bw Dresden-Altstadt, Dresden, Germany Static Display 17/04/2016
130 012 PHU Lokomotiv Bronisław Plata, Podegrodzie, Poland Spare Parts
130 077 Bahnlogistik 24 GmbH, Dresden, Germany – as 230 077 Operational 24/02/2016
130 101 BSW-Gruppe Traditionsgemeinschaft Bw Halle, Halle (Saale), Germany Operational 05/07/2015

DR Class 131 / DB Class 231

131 001 BSW-Gruppe Traditionsgemeinschaft Bw Halle, Halle (Saale), Germany Static Display 03/07/2010
131 011 ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt Transport GmbH, Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany – as 232 107 Operational
131 012 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany – as 231 012 Operational 22/04/2017
131 015 STRABAG, Berlin, Germany – as 232 105 Operational 06/12/2016
131 034 Ecco Rail, Będzin, Poland – as BR231-063 Operational 17/11/2016
131 050 stored at Neustrelitz Works, Germany – as 231 050 Stored
131 056 Orion Kolej, Z.P., Nowy Sącz, Poland – as BR232-035 Operational 27/01/2017
131 060 Sächsisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Chemnitz-Hilbersdorf, Germany Static Display 29/08/2015
131 070 Privately owned, Falkenberg, Germany – as 231 070 Static Display 13/09/2009
131 072 Bahnbetriebswerk Arnstadt, Germany Static Display 19/09/2015
131 075 Ecco Rail, Będzin, Poland – as BR231-014 Operational 26/07/2015

DR Class 232 / DB Class 232, 233, 234 and 241

232 004 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – as 132 004 Operational 06/04/2017
232 005 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 30/03/2017
232 008 Starkenberger Baustoffwerke GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as 241 008 Operational 27/04/2017
232 010 Thüringer Eisenbahnverein, Weimar, Germany – as 132 010 Static Display 30/05/2015
232 022 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – stored at Constanta Spare Parts
232 040 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 040 Operational 27/08/2016
232 043 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 043 Stored
232 045 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 20/02/2017
232 049 Pol-Miedź Trans, Poland – as BR232-049 – badly damaged at Bolesławieci, 30/07/2015? Scrapped? 12/04/2013
232 050 Przedsiębiorstwo Obrotu Surowcami Wtórnymi „DEPOL”, Bydgoszcz, Poland – as BR232-781 Operational 13/04/2017
232 055 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 057 ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt Transport GmbH, Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany – as 232 850 Operational 24/01/2017
232 068 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – currently as MEG 313 Operational 04/03/2017
232 072 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany – as 232 901 Operational 21/12/2016
232 073 Przedsiębiorstwo Obrotu Surowcami Wtórnymi „DEPOL”, Bydgoszcz, Poland – as BR232-789 Operational 21/07/2016
232 076 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 076 Stored
232 079 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 22/02/2017
232 083 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 088 EfW, Frechen, Germany Operational 24/01/2017
232 090 Rail Time Polska, Warszawa, Poland – as BR232-090 Operational 13/10/2016
232 092 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 29/03/2017
232 093 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 25/04/2017
232 096 Unknown, last reported at Eisenach ??
232 103 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – stored at Delitzsch Stored 02/04/2017
232 104 PUK Kolprem, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Poland – as BR232-037 Operational 11/06/2016
232 105 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 28/03/2017
232 109 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – as 132 109 Operational 20/04/2017
232 112 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 112 Operational 28/07/2016
232 117 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 29/04/2017
232 118 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 118 Stored
232 122 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 010 Operational 18/01/2014
232 127 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 127 Operational 01/07/2016
232 128 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 10/09/2016
232 131 unknown ?? 01/12/2016
232 135 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 013 Operational 25/03/2017
232 141 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany Operational 19/04/2017
232 151 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 151 Stored
232 154 Przedsiębiorstwo Obrotu Surowcami Wtórnymi „DEPOL”, Bydgoszcz, Poland – as BR232-561 Operational 27/12/2016
232 155 Starkenberger Güterlogistik GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as V300 005 Operational 07/04/2017
232 158 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – as 132 158 Operational 23/12/2016
232 161 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 232 902 Stored
232 170 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 232 903 Stored
232 173 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 176 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 176 Operational 22/10/2016
232 179 DB Cargo, stored at Halle (Saale), Germany – as 233 179 Stored 29/04/2017
232 182 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – stored at Delitzsch Stored
232 184 Exported to Poland, future user TBC Stored 19/03/2017
232 189 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 14/02/2017
232 201 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 18/03/2017
232 206 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 206 Stored
232 209 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 13/11/2016
232 217 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 217 Operational 15/02/2017
232 219 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 219 Operational 01/03/2017 + rep. wkg. on DSO 21/04/17
232 223 DB Gleisbau, Germany Operational 02/12/2016
232 227 Ecco Rail Sp. z o.o. g, Będzin, Germany – as BR232-446 Operational 11/05/2016
232 229 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – stored at Delitzsch Stored 29/07/2016
232 230 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 26/04/2017
232 232 DB Cargo, stored at Halle (Saale), Germany – as 233 232 Stored 16/02/2017
232 233 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 233 Operational 27/03/2017
232 238 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany Operational 28/03/2017
232 239 Erfurter Bahnservice, Erfurt, Germany Operational 11/04/2017
232 240 DB Cargo, stored at Halle (Saale), Germany Stored 07/12/2013
232 241 DB Cargo, Germany Operational
232 242 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 234 242 Stored 19/11/2014
232 249 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 249 Stored
232 252 DB Cargo, stored at Nürnberg Rbf, Germany Stored
232 253 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 254 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 20/04/2017
232 255 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 11/04/2017
232 259 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 04/02/2017
232 262 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 03/02/2017
232 264 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 264 Stored
232 265 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria (stored at Pirdop?) Stored? 22/09/2014
232 278 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 234 278 Stored
232 280 DB Cargo, stored at Halle (Saale), Germany Stored 16/02/2017
232 281 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 281 Stored 19/09/2015
232 283 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany Operational 09/03/2017
232 285 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 285 Operational 12/04/2017
232 288 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 288 Operational 10/04/2017
232 289 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 289 Stored
232 293 Erfurter Bahnservice, Erfurt, Germany Operational 11/02/2017
232 294 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 24/04/2017
232 295 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 295 Stored
232 303 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 31/03/2017
232 304 Interessengemeinschaft Dampflok Nossen e.V., Nossen, Germany (permanent loan by DB Museum) – as 234 304 Static Display 11/10/2015
232 305 Dampflok-Museum Hermeskeil, Germany Static Display
232 306 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 306 Operational 02/02/2017
232 309 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 20/04/2017
232 314 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 314 Operational 17/02/2017
232 320 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany – as 232 904 Stored 24/01/2017
232 321 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 321 Operational 16/06/2016
232 322 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 322 Operational 03/11/2016
232 326 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 326 Stored
232 330 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 22/10/2016
232 333 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany Operational 26/04/2017
232 334 Erfurter Bahnservice, Erfurt, Germany – as 132 334 Operational 13/04/2017
232 338 Starkenberger Baustoffwerke GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as 241 338 Operational 20/04/2017
232 347 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 24/01/2017
232 353 Erfurter Bahnservice, Erfurt, Germany – as 241 353 – stored at Delitzsch Stored 02/04/2017
232 356 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany Operational 06/12/2016
232 358 DB Cargo, stored at Rostock Seehafen, Germany Stored
232 359 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 367 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 367 Operational 31/03/2017
232 372 Mecklenburgische Eisenbahnfreunde Schwerin, Germany – as 132 372 Static Display 06/05/2013
232 373 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 373 Operational 19/08/2016
232 375 Privately owned, Falkenberg, Germany Static Display 09/10/2016
232 384 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany Stored 24/01/2017
232 387 Schienen Güter Logistik GmbH, Germany – as V300.18 / 232 446 Operational 25/03/2017
232 388 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany Stored 17/03/2016
232 401 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 22/10/2016
232 404 Starkenberger Güterlogistik GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as V300 001 Operational 26/10/2016
232 405 Starkenberger Güterlogistik GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as V300 002 Operational 04/10/2016
232 408 Orion Kolej, Z.P., Nowy Sącz, Poland – as BR232-408 Operational 29/10/2016
232 409 DB Cargo, Germany Operational
232 411 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria Operational 12/03/2017
232 413 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 416 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany Operational 21/04/2017
232 423 unknown – as 232 905 ?? 01/12/2016
232 426 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany Stored
232 428 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 27/04/2017
232 429 Starkenberger Güterlogistik GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as V300 004 Operational 03/11/2016
232 434 Unknown, last reported at Nymburk ???
232 441 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 441 Stored
232 443 Ecco Rail, Będzin, Poland – as BR232-443 Operational 13/10/2014
232 448 Exported to Poland, future user TBC Stored 19/03/2017
232 449 Starkenberger Baustoffwerke GmbH, stored at Halle (Saale) (or Cottbus?), Germany – as 241 449 Stored 24/01/2017
232 450 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 450 Stored
232 451 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 451 Stored
232 452 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 452 Operational 29/03/2017
232 453 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 457 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 458 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 458 Stored
232 461 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany Stored 19/09/2015
232 469 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 28/04/2017
232 472 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 16/02/2017
232 478 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 478 Operational 22/04/2017
232 484 DB Cargo, Germany (possibly now stored at Cottbus?) Operational? 29/03/2017
232 486 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 486 Stored
232 489 Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH, Schkopau, Germany – as 315 Operational 16/04/2017
232 493 DB Gleisbau, Germany – as 233 493 Operational 09/03/2017
232 498 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 21/03/2017
232 500 Dampflokfreunde Salzwedel, Wittenberge, Germany Static Display 25/03/2017
232 502 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany Stored 24/01/2017
232 504 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany – as 232 906 Stored 06/09/2014
232 505 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 510 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 510 Operational 30/08/2016
232 511 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 511 Operational 20/04/2017
232 512 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 13/04/2017
232 515 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 515 Stored 19/09/2015
232 519 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 521 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 521 Operational 24/08/2016
232 524 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany Stored Scrapped 08/2018
232 525 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 525 Operational 02/07/2015
232 527 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 528 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 31/08/2016
232 529 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored
232 531 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 13/04/2017
232 534 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany Stored
232 535 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored 19/09/2015
232 536 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 536 Stored
232 537 Orion Kolej, Z.P., Nowy Sącz, Poland Operational 08/09/2016
232 541 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 001 Operational 04/08/2013
232 543 GySEV, Hungary – as 651 002 Operational 08/08/2016
232 547 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 547 Stored 19/09/2015
232 550 DB Gleisbau, Germany Operational 22/04/2017
232 559 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 003 Operational 08/08/2015
232 561 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – stored at Delitzsch Stored 29/07/2016
232 562 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 562 Stored 19/09/2015
232 567 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 25/04/2017
232 568 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany Stored 19/09/2015
232 569 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 26/04/2017
232 571 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 25/08/2016
232 572 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 572 Operational 20/04/2017
232 579 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 014 Operational 18/08/2016
232 583 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 04/03/2017
232 586 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 586 Stored
232 587 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 05/04/2017
232 588 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 588 Stored
232 589 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 07/11/2016
232 592 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany Stored 24/01/2017
232 596 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 596 Stored
232 598 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 004 Operational 20/09/2015
232 600 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria Operational 21/04/2017
232 601 Wedler Franz Logistik GmbH, Germany Operational?
232 609 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 26/08/2016
232 613 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria Operational 19/06/2016
232 614 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 005 Operational 09/06/2015
232 616 DB Cargo, stored at Hamm, Germany – as 233 616 Stored
232 617 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 006 Operational
232 618 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 19/11/2016
232 622 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 622 Stored 19/09/2015
232 625 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 625 Stored 19/09/2015
232 635 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 27/08/2016
232 636 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 636 Operational 11/08/2016
232 643 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 643 Stored
232 652 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 652 Stored
232 653 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 015 Operational 23/05/2015
232 654 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 16/02/2017
232 657 DB Cargo, Germany – as 232 909 Operational 19/08/2016
232 658 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 11/04/2017
232 660 Protor SA, Zabrze, Poland – as BR232-660 Operational 06/11/2016
232 662 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 662 Operational 24/08/2016
232 663 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria Operational 29/01/2017
232 665 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany Stored
232 668 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 16/02/2017
232 669 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 29/04/2017
232 673 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany Operational 20/04/2017
232 678 DB Cargo Bulgaria, Bulgaria Operational 04/07/2016
232 682 GySEV, Hungary – as 651 008 Operational 28/01/2017
232 683 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany – as 233 683 Stored
232 684 Starkenberger Güterlogistik GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as V300 003 Operational 11/03/2017
232 685 DB Cargo Romania, Romania – as 651 009 Operational 26/08/2014
232 689 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 689 Stored 19/09/2015
232 690 Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH, Schkopau, Germany – as 318 Operational 20/03/2016
232 693 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany Stored 19/09/2015
232 696 DB Cargo, stored at Cottbus, Germany – as 233 696 Stored 24/01/2017
232 697 Starkenberger Baustoffwerke GmbH, Starkenberg, Germany – as 241 697 Operational 19/04/2017
232 698 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 698 Operational 05/01/2017
232 699 DB Cargo, Germany – as 232 908 Operational 19/04/2017 + rep. wkg. on DSO 30/04/17
232 701 Leipziger Eisenbahnverkehrsgesellschaft, Leipzig, Germany – stored at Delitzsch Stored 29/07/2016
232 703 DB Cargo, Germany Operational 24/04/2017
232 704 DB Cargo, stored at Chemnitz, Germany Stored 05/01/2013
232 705 DB Cargo, stored at Mukran, Germany – as 233 705 Stored 19/09/2015
232 709 DB Cargo, Germany – as 233 709 Operational 20/04/2017

DR Class 242/ DB Class 142

142 001 EKO-Trans (Arcelor Mittal), Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany – as 242 001 Operational 16/03/2017
142 002 Hafen Halle GmbH, Halle-Trotha, Germany – as 232 002 Operational 28/06/2015
142 003 Captrain, Wroclaw, Poland – as BR232-01 Operational 12/11/2016
142 004 Captrain, Wroclaw, Poland – as BR232-04 Operational 12/10/2016
142 005 Pozbruk, Rokietnica, Poland – as BR232-003 Operational 07/03/2017

 

232 387

Today, there are two 232s that carry variations of the number “232446”, but neither of them are the original!  SGL (Schienen Güter Logistik GmbH)’s V300.18, the UIC number of which is 92 80 1232 446-5 D-SGL, is the body of 232387 with the innards donated by the real ‘446.  More confusingly, the former 232227, now working for Ecco Rail in Poland, carries “BR232-446”. The SGL machine is seen here on an engineers train at Esslingen, near Stuttgart, 28/11/15 (JW)

“Flüchtlingszüge”, October 1989

Railways have been key to facilitating many of the major historical events of the last two centuries, but it is rare that the trains have been the subject of the world’s attention.  This is the tale of two nights in 1989 when, for a series of trains, that was indeed the case.

The Background

The German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, was a Communist state formed in 1949.  Mainly due to the comparative lack of its own naturally-occurring industrial resources, it never managed to match the “economic miracle” that occurred in West Germany after the Second World War, and indeed the flow of people from East to West in search of a better life was stemmed only by the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.  Ten years later, the man who masterminded the project – Erich Honecker – became the country’s leader, and ruled with an iron fist.  Many citizens dreamed of leaving the country, but the very existence of the Wall – as part of the Iron Curtain that bisected the continent – steadfastly prevented them from doing so.  Their international travel was limited to a small number of fellow Warsaw Pact nations.

As the 1980s progressed, disquiet diffused throughout the Eastern Bloc.  Under Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership, Moscow no longer got involved in the Warsaw Pact states’ internal affairs, and amid this atmosphere, the first crack in the Iron Curtain showed on 11th September 1989 when Hungary dismantled its border with Austria.  Thousands of East Germans began travelling through Czechoslovakia to Hungary for “holidays”, then simply crossing to Austria and beginning a new life in the West.  Unsurprisingly, this situation was not allowed to develop.  As a bid to cut off the flow of people, Czechoslovakia closed its border with Hungary to GDR citizens.

This left thousands of East Germans stranded in Czechoslovakia.  Rather than return home, many headed straight to Prague and congregated at the West German Embassy, 3,000 people cramming themselves in the baroque palace and its gardens, seeking asylum in the West.  West Germany did not have grounds to protest – according to its own Basic Law, they were all German citizens.  Eventually, almost double that number presented themselves.

This had the potential to cause extreme embarrassment to the GDR regime, who were gearing up for lavish celebrations in the first week of October to mark the 40th anniversary of their country’s formation.  At a time when they were preparing to demonstrate that everything was rosy in the East, they really did not need a high-profile diplomatic incident in which significant numbers of their citizens would rather live in borderline unsanitary conditions in corridors and cupboards than make a life in their country.

The decision to let them leave for the West was therefore an obvious one that suited all parties.  However, Honecker wanted the last word.  He could have let them all simply leave on service trains directly to the West German border.  However, in revenge for potentially tainting his highly-anticipated anniversary celebration, he wished to humiliate them.  He also wanted to portray them to the world as traitors, as undesirables that were being expelled by the glorious GDR rather than fleeing it.

Honecker’s self-serving solution was to insist that all 5,490 refugees travel in sealed refugee trains – or Flüchtlingszüge – from Prague, transiting through the territory of the GDR, whereupon Stasi officials would confiscate their ID papers and effectively render them stateless, before depositing them just across the border at Hof.

The Evacuation

The decision had been made late on Friday 29th September.  Things got moving the following evening.  Prioritising those with small children, the first tranche of passengers were marshalled onto buses outside the Embassy and driven to Praha-Libeň railway station.  To say that the atmosphere was tense would be an understatement.  There was suspicion that the East German authorities would not let the train proceed beyond their territory.  Nobody knew how this would play out.

At 20:50, hauled by a class T478.3 “Goggle” diesel loco, the first train pulled out of Praha-Libeň.  In total, another five trains followed at two-hour intervals.  Ironically, the reason that the requisite coaching stock – six rakes of at least 10 vehicles apiece – had been able to be cobbled together with such a short lead time, was that scratch sets had already been assembled at various locations across the GDR in readiness for working reliefs in connection with the 40th anniversary celebrations later that week; it was these rakes that were sent to Prague.  True to Honecker’s promise to himself that he would humiliate the passengers, however, they were unheated and in various states of disrepair.

The trains proceeded via Dĕčín to Bad Schandau, where they lost their Czechoslovakian motive power and gained both Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) locos and Stasi border officials, who confiscated the paperwork of the passengers.  The trains then continued via Dresden and the “Sachsen Magistrale” route through Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) and Zwickau, then finally across the border to Hof, the first one arriving at 06:14.

The journey was not a smooth one.  Most of the trains were booked a crew change at Dresden Hbf – the main station of the third-largest city in the GDR.  Obviously, the GDR was not publicising the fact that the trains were running, but the West Germans were, and although it was illegal to do so, East Germans in some areas could pick up Western TV.   Ironically, the area around Dresden was known as the “Valley of the Clueless”, the geography of the region blocking out TV signals from over the border.  During the brief crew change on the second train however, at least three young people were able to jump aboard.  Many arrests were made further along the route as others tried.  A dramatisation was made for the 25th anniversary featuring 231 012 of WFL, some of which is on YouTube here.

The locos used to power these illustrious trains through the night in the GDR were as follows:-

Headcode DR Loco(s)  
23360 250 192 Bad Schandau – Reichenbach
132 478 Reichenbach – Hof
23362 132 285 Bad Schandau – Hof
23366 132 059 Bad Schandau – Hof
23364 132 696 Bad Schandau – Hof
23368 132 695 Bad Schandau – Hof
23370 132 701 Bad Schandau – Hof

The Consequences

The scenes of the trains’ arrival at Hof were shown on TV screens across the world.  Millions saw the big Russian class 132 “Ludmilla” diesels (later DB class 232, after reunification) lumbering along the crowded platforms at Hof, illuminated by blinking flashguns as they came to a halt and their excited and relieved passengers alighted.

Of course, amongst those millions were large numbers of East Germans – who, their resolve strengthened by the feat of successful escape by their fellow countrymen, then immediately made their way to the West German Embassy in Prague in an attempt to emulate them!  Almost as soon as it was emptied, the old building became full of East German refugees again.

Eventually, 7,607 people shoehorned themselves into the Embassy.  There could only be one solution.  However, Honecker persisted with his insistence that they be removed on trains that pass through the GDR.

The Second Operation

This time, eight trains were required to convey them.  The first departed from Praha-Libeň at 18:34 on the night of Wednesday 4th October, the last seven hours later.

This time, the locals in Dresden were prepared.  5,000 people crammed themselves in the Hbf, with 10,000 outside, all with the hope of getting aboard one of the refugee trains that was due to pass through. What ensued was nothing short of an all-out riot; described afterwards as the greatest example of civil disobedience in the GDR since the 1953 uprising.  Many were injured, including one man who lost both of his legs when he fell underneath one of the trains whilst trying to climb aboard.  Severe damage was caused to the station.  Police used water cannons in an attempt to quell the disturbance but thankfully, in contrast to 1953, no shots were fired.

After the first three trains had passed Dresden, and amidst escalating chaos, the remaining five trains were diverted away from the city.  This was no mean feat, with them having to travel further through Czechoslovakia, entering the GDR by way of Bad Brambach.  The use of this route necessitated a reversal at Plauen.  During a run round here, a further seven people succeeded in sneaking aboard one of the trains, but ultimately, these diversions were a success.

The DR locomotives involved on the second night were as follows:-

Headcode DR Loco(s)  
23358 132 478 Bad Schandau – Hof
23362 132 655 Bad Schandau – Hof
23360 132 596 Bad Schandau – Hof
23366 132 701 Bad Brambach – Hof
23356 132 285 Bad Brambach – Hof
23364 132 059 Bad Brambach – Hof
23368 132 696 Bad Brambach – Hof
23370 132 643 Bad Brambach – Hof

Here is some footage on YouTube from Hof as these trains arrived.  Again, after seeing the scenes from Hof, thousands more East Germans descended on the Embassy in Prague.  This time, however, they were loaded onto a much lower-key special train on 3rd November and simply taken via Cheb directly into West Germany.  The GDR regime had learnt from their mistake, but – as with many things in their short history – it was too late.

The Locos Today

The route to Hof is now electrified.  The border has gone.  There are no longer two Germanies or a border between them.

However, most of the locomotives that found themselves thrust into the world spotlight over those two nights in 1989 still exist.  The fates of the nine class 132s that performed on the refugee trains over the two nights are as follows:-

Loco No. Final No. Current Operator Current Status
132 059 232 059 scrapped
132 285 233 285 DB Cargo operational
132 478 233 478 DB Cargo operational
132 596 233 596 DB Cargo stored at Chemnitz
132 643 233 643 DB Cargo stored at Chemnitz
132 655 232 655 scrapped
132 695 232 695 scrapped
132 696 233 696 DB Cargo stored at Cottbus
132 701 232 701 Leipziger Eisenbahngesellschaft GmbH stored at Delitzsch

Even the class 250 that worked the very first train out of Bad Schandau – 250 192 – still survives, as DB Cargo loco 155 192, stored at Sassnitz-Mukran on the island of Rügen.

The part that these locomotives played has not been forgotten.  PIKO produced a G-scale model of 132 478, the loco that brought the first train over the border, and Lok Magazin have made a couple of calls for the loco, now DB Cargo’s 233 478 and still in traffic, to be preserved as a memorial to the events.

Another of the locos, 132 701 – now 232 701, recently purchased by the private freight operator Leipziger Eisenbahngesellschaft GmBH (LEG) – has attracted attention.  The Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper dubbed it “die Lok der Freiheit” (“the freedom loco”) and expressed the editorial opinion that given its status as “ein Stück Weltgeschichte” (“a piece of world history”) it should be brought back into action – it currently remains stored at Delitzsch.  ‘701 did not haul the ground-breaking first train, however the interest in it might well be explained that its arrival at Hof was later in the morning, after daybreak, and therefore it appears in far more photographs from the day.  (Edit 08/2018 – the loco has been put through works in Latvia and has now returned to Germany, hopefully to re-enter service with LEG shortly).

The Historical Impact

There is a credible interpretation of history that says that these fourteen trains over two nights in autumn 1989 irreversibly changed the world.

Routing the trains via the GDR was a gamble that did not pay off.  Intended to act as a show of State strength, it only served to strengthen the resolve amongst many of those that remained in the GDR to emulate the passengers in their journey west.  Public unrest spread like wildfire, and the numbers taking part in the peaceful demonstrations springing up across the GDR swelled.  According to politician Günter Schabowski, Honecker’s decisions regarding these trains were the major catalyst that swayed the Politbüro to force his resignation on 17th October.  It was amid this background of spiralling social and political chaos that the Berlin Wall was opened on 9th November.

From there, the domino effect was unstoppable.  The general anti-Communist sentiment that had taken hold across the Eastern Bloc throughout 1989 gained renewed strength.  Bulgaria’s leader Zhivkov was ousted the very next day; the government in Czechoslovakia had been overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution” by the end of the month; Christmas Day saw the violent deposal, fleeting trial and summary execution of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu.  These events effectively rendered the Warsaw Pact null and void, and it was dissolved in 1991; in this act, the Cold War was arguably ended on the spot.

Perhaps, then, if anyone would have been lucky enough to have been stood at the lineside on the “Sachsen Magistrale” on those two nights almost three decades ago, they would have not only witnessed a procession of powerful Russian diesels howling over the steep gradients with their heavy trains, but they would have been witnessing true history in the making.