A Day with a BR 44 Steam Locomotive

A Day with a BR 44 Steam Locomotive

By Roger Heid

 

One day, going home from school, I noticed that my commuter train was going to be pulled by a very large steam locomotive of a type I had never seen before. It had five drive axles. The nameplate told me it was a BR 44. It seemed to me it was like an overkill for just our passenger train. I stood there, awestruck, gawking at this monstrosity. Wow! What a giant!

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Then, from behind, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see who it was. This man looked like he was the engineer.

“Say, you must the one that’s always trying to bum rides on our engines?” he said. “Yeah, I heard about you. You wanna ride? Oh, my name is Erwin.”

“Of course I want a ride, but not today. You see, my Mom will tear me apart if I get these school clothes dirty. But next week, I will be on vacation. Will you come through again? Why are you using such a big engine for just this passenger train?”

“The 38s won’t be available, for a while. They need fixing, you know. Next week, on Tuesday, you can catch the 7:10 am, and we will take you Ulm and then to Augsburg and back here, later in the day. See you then. Bring a box lunch along. We won’t have time for a restaurant. Now, you better hop on the train. We’re about to take off.”

Once on the train, I was suddenly overcome by a spell of wishy-washiness. This can’t be true. I had to pinch myself to confirm my state of being fully awake. I was.

At home, I had to gently break the news to my Mom. I carefully explained I was going to be gone all day, this coming Tuesday. From the look in her face I could tell she could hardly wait to hear what exactly I had in mind. I filled her in. She reluctantly agreed, but she firmly impressed on me to wear my old clothes and to wash my hands and face before coming home. I readily agreed to this, of course. Mom had washed and repaired my engineer’s cap, a real sweet gesture of her. Gosh, I loved my Mom.

The day finally arrived. After the mandatory hugs and kisses, I left the house. I was way too early, of course. The train finally arrived. I had estimated just where the loco would come to a halt. I was only 10 feet off. Boy, I was getting good at this. Without any further ado, I climbed into the cab. Oops! This was not the same engineer I had met last Friday. I thought I was going to faint.

“Relax, boy, we knew you were coming. Erwin told us about you. He had to take a train to Cologne. My name is Eberhardt, the stoker is Karl. Welcome aboard, but keep your hands off the levers and controls. This is not a 38 or 64, you know.”

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I can assure you, this was the most exciting loco ride, to date. This was something to get used to, for sure. What the heck, I was going to be a railroad engineer, anyway, something I had already decided upon. Now, my mind was firmly made up.

Once in Ulm, the 44 was uncoupled. We needed to re-water, and after a few shifting maneuvers, we were heading a good sized freight train to Augsburg. I did not get a chance to count the cars.

During this leg of the trip, I noticed that the average speed was significantly slower, in spots. Seemingly, the train was heavy, and there were some hills to negotiate. The stoker was busier than before.

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The return trip went without flaws or problems. By the time we got back, I was obviously an experienced BR 44 operator. On my way home, it rained some. I felt the water running down my face, here and there. The accumulated soot must have done a number on my appearance, according to my Mom’s reaction when I came through the door. Spare me the details, please. You read about this before.

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The BR 44 was manufactured until 1949. During the post-war years, it was one of the backbones of heavy freight. On rare occasions, it was also pressed into passenger service. I do not know when the last one was retired.

At this point, I do not have a model BR 44 in my collection, a shortfall I will correct one of these days. Both, Maerklin and Roco have very nice models in their catalogues. Check it out.

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