EPOCHE IV:  THE TWILIGHT OF WEST GERMAN STEAM

  Because my father was in the Air Force, I was fortunate to have lived in Germany from 1969 to 1974.  Though I had been fascinated with trains since I was a baby (according to my mother), I was totally ignorant about German railroads.  By 1971 however, I was buying German railroad magazines and learned that steam locomotives were still active.  In the summers of 1972 and 1973, I purchased regional passes which allowed me a month of unlimited train travel in central Germany.  Sadly, the exotic passenger locomotives that the railfan magazines wrote so much about were too far away for me to experience, but the “common” class 023, 044 and 050 locomotives were still plentiful in central Germany.

 

   The final decade of West German steam coincided with the start of Epoch IV on January 1st, 1968.  For those not familiar with German railroad epochs, here is a brief rundown:

EPOCHE I ( pre 1920)- Railroads operated by the individual states; Prussia, Bavaria, Baden etc. (Länderbahnen)

EPOCHE II (1920-1949)-  State railroads are absorbed into the Deutsche Reichsbahn.

EPOCHE III (1949-1970)  Railroads in West Germany become the Deutsche Bundesbahn , while railroads in East Germany remain the Deutsche Reichsbahn.

EPOCHE IV (1968-1990)  Adoption of international standards  for rolling stock markings as well as “computer numbers” on all rolling stock.  This began on January 1st, 1968 on the Deutsche Bundesbahn and July, 1st 1970 on the Deutsche Reichsbahn.

EPOCHE V (1990-)  Re-unifaction of the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Reichsbahn into Deutsche Bahn.

   During epoch IV each locomotive and railcar was given a seven-digit “computer” number; the first three digits indicated the class, the second three digits indicated the unit number, while the seventh digit was a check digit.  The check digits allow computers to confirm that a number is correct.  To get a three digit class number for steam locomotives, a zero was added to the old two-digit class number.  For other types of rolling stock, the alphabetic prefixes were replaced by numbers as outlined in the chart below:

Ep4 equipment types chart.png

  The check digit is preceded by a dash, and is calculated with a three-step process as outlined below:

Check digit chart.png

   The decline of steam locomotives was a gradual process.  At first, locomotives would be in planned service on regular assignments (Plandampf), which would keep them in the group eligible for maintenance (Unterhaltungsbestand).  When removed from regular service, they would be held in reserve for extra movements such as work trains (including electrification), military trains, fan trips, seasonal rushes, and as stand-ins for diesel and electric locomotives.  At that point, any needed repairs or expiration of boiler certification (Kesselfrist) would result in the locomotive being stored (Zugestellt).  Finally, the locomotive would be officially retired (Ausgemustert) and stricken from the roster.

 

   The chart below lists Deutsche Bundesbahn steam locomotives in existence during Epoche IV.  The quantities are derived from a master roster of steam locomotives I am working on and hope to make available on this site.  The quantities include all locomotives including those that are stored, and a quantity in parentheses indicates that only stored locomotives remained.  The chart doesn’t always correspond with other rosters I have seen, particularly for the 044 and 050 classes.  The quantities include all locomotives for which I’ve been able to find a number and retirement date on January 1st of each year. 

 

   The “Type” column includes wheel arrangement and number of cylinders, as well as the class designation of former State Railway locomotives. “Einheit” locomotives are those built by the former Deutsche Reichsbahn prior to World War II.  “Umbau” locomotives are those equipped with new boilers by the Deutsche Bundesbahn in the fifties.  Since the new boilers significantly changed their appearance, Einheit and Umbau locomotives within the same class are listed individually.  Finally, “Neubau” locomotives were those built new by the Deutsche Bundesbahn.

Ep4 steam roster chart.png