Admiring a BR 01 Steam Locomotive

Admiring a BR 01 Steam Engine

By Roger Heid


During spring break in 1958, I took a train to Mannheim to visit relatives. They had invited me to spend the Easter Holidays with them. In Stuttgart I had to catch the Express Train taking me to Mannheim. Before departure time, I had a chance to walk to the front of the train to check what type of locomotive I would encounter.

Somehow, I had expected to meet some electric loco, but, no, it turned out to be a steamer. As I approached this beast, I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen one that big before. The number plate said it was a BR 01.


She looked truly majestic. Just alone the size of the drive wheels was impressive. She radiated a sense of confidence; you knew she’d be able to get you anywhere, in a hurry. I was mesmerized. Unfortunately, I needed to refrain from pulling all my charm to convince the engineer that I needed to ride in it. I was wearing my freshly cleaned Sunday suit, and I had no desire to arrive in Mannheim looking like a coal miner after his shift. My decision also spared me from having to explain this to my Uncle. He was a little weird, in my books. On top of that, the engineer actually shooed me away. Well, he did not know anything about me. Anyway, the ride went very smooth, and, yes, she was fast.

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Here is a brief history and some facts. From 1926 until 1938, there were 231 examples built by several manufacturers. During the 1930s, she was the choice steam locomotive, primarily assigned to haul the famous Passenger Express Trains. She was able to reach top speeds from 75 to 81 mph. Notably, you could never see her pulling a train running in the backwards mode. In that mode, she could only do about 30 mph.

After WW II, the DB wound up with quite a few of them. Most all were rebuilt and improved upon. In West Germany, the last one was retired in 1973; in East Germany, they lasted until about 1982. A few found their way into museums.

Yes, I have one of these proud locomotives in my collection. This Maerklin model is definitely one of my top favorites. The running characteristics are virtually flawless. She also knows how to creep, her slow motion being hardly noticeable. At one time, I thought I had her parked. Well, this was not so. The throttle had not been turned all the way down. By the time I paid attention to her again, she had gotten away almost 4 feet.


Maerklin 37105

For the 2-rail DC fans, Roco offers a truly excellent BR 01 model. Other makers offer them as well.


Roco 62155

If you are running an Express Train on your Era II or III layout, a BR 01 Steamer is an absolute must have, I guarantee. Take note, that some of the BR 01 models do not have front couplers and no front NEM pocket. On a layout, you would never have it pull a train running in backwards, and I don’t think you would ever use for shunting duty. The absence of the front coupler lends it its prototypical appearance.


You probably noticed that not all of them look totally alike, most notably the wind deflectors. You can observe both, the Witte and Wagner designs, the Wagners being the bigger ones.

This has something to with the changes, modifications and rebuilts the BR 01 was subjected to throughout her lifespan.

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