Austria’s Railjet

Modern Austrian icons 1

Austria’s Railjet

By Ernest H. Robl

Railjet is Austria’s premier 21st Century long-distance passenger rail service, operated by the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). The official logo is all lower case, contrary to the German language practice of capitalizing proper nouns.

R-A-RJ

A Roco Railjet base set of four cars in the standard Austrian Railjet paint scheme. Roco offers supplemental cars to model a full seven-car train. (Roco catalog illustration)

Railjet trains, built by Siemens, operate both entirely within Austria, as well as to adjoining countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Trains are made up of a fixed seven-car consist (that includes a dining car) and are normally powered by a specially painted Siemens Taurus locomotive. The end of the cab control car at the opposite end of the train from the locomotive has the profile of a Taurus locomotive and the controls in the cab car are identical to those of such locomotives.

R-1116RJ

A Roco model of an Austrian class 1116 Taurus electric locomotive (Taurus 2) in the Railjet paint scheme. The locomotive has an additional pantograph for operation in Switzerland, which has different catenary standards from Austria and Germany. (Roco catalog illustration)

The Czech Railways also have several Railjet trainsets – essentially identical to the Austrian trains – but in a different blue paint scheme.

R-Cz-RJ

A Roco base set for modeling a Czech Railjet train. Again, supplemental cars can be added to model a full seven-car train. (Roco catalog illustration)

The cars are connected internally by automatic center couplings. Only the end cars, the cab control car on one end and the so-called “coupling car” on the other end, have standard UIC couplers (on one end only). The trains can operate at speeds up to 230 km/h (140 mph) in either push or pull mode. Doors, windows, and connections between the cars are pressurized for operation on high-speed lines. Two trains can be operated together in the configuration locomotive+7-car trainset+locomotive+7-car trainset.

The trains differentiate themselves from the normal two-class services on standard trains, by being divided into three classes: premier, business, and economy.

Though normally mated with specially painted Siemens Taurus locomotives, any MU-capable locomotive can power the trainsets – and retain push-pull operations. After some severe storms in 2015 caused damage to the Austrian electrical system and required detours over non-electrified lines, some Railjet trains were operated with tandem class 2016 diesels – though, of course, at the lower top speeds of those locomotives.

In its Railjet design specifications, the Austrian Railways opted for a locomotive-hauled train over a self-powered consist such as the German ICE 3 trains for two reasons:

  • The power unit is the most maintenance intensive part of a train. This way, the locomotive can easily be changed out for maintenance, without having to take the whole train out of service.
  • In emergencies and for movement around maintenance facilities, the trains can be hauled by other suitable locomotives with standard couplings.

Both locomotives and cab control cars need to be equipped with all the signal systems of the countries in which they operate – a reason that particular trainsets are normally dedicated to specific routes.

In a way, the Railjet is a successor to well-liked Austrian 4010 train sets (see an earlier blog on that subject), which served with distinction for many years, including the Transalpin service into Switzerland, but which had reached the end of their useful life by the beginning of the 21st century. The 4010 sets were not capable of operating at the increasingly faster speeds of modern international service and were getting very expensive to maintain.

Modeling implications

Multiple model manufacturers offer versions of the Railjet (along with matching locomotives) in both HO and N scale. High-end versions, such as some from Roco and Jägerndorfer in HO, offer decoder-equipped (or decoder-ready) cab control cars with various lighting combinations possible. Some of these trains also include factory-installed interior lighting of all coaches, which can be turned on and off through commands to the decoder in the cab control car.  

In 2016, Piko announced a version of the Railjet with cars in the length-compressed 1:100 HO format.  These cars are part of Piko’s Hobby Line, which still offers very good detail.  These cars may be appropriate for smaller layouts with tighter radii.

Railjet trains can still be appropriate even if you are not modeling primarily Austrian operations. They would be appropriate for modern German and Swiss layouts.

And, these trains operate on both dedicated high-speed lines as well as legacy main lines.

However, keep in mind that prototype Railjet trains only stop in major cities, so, if your layout features smaller towns on a busy mainline, it may be appropriate to just have the Railjet trains run through them without stopping.

Next installment

In the next installment of this series providing a quick overview of the mainstays of modern Austrian railroad operations, we’ll look at the Taurus family of electric locomotives.

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4 Responses to Austria’s Railjet

  1. Gordon P says:

    To my knowledge, at this point only Kato/HobbyTrain is making N scale Railjet cars. The red/black color scheme has not been produced in several years. This manufacturer did announce new production of the red/balc Railjet cars last year at the Nuremburg Toy Fair, but none have yet been delivered to retailers. Does anyone else make this in N scale?

  2. Ernest Robl says:

    It looks like Fleischmann had several Railjet locos in N. I would assume that they also offered matching cars but did not see any listings for those.

    Tillig offers some Railjet equipment in TT.

    – Ernest

  3. Misha says:

    Only Hobbytrain/Lemke has made the railjet coaches in N scale. Despite having offered a variety of appropriate locos, Fleischmann has not offered the railjet coaches in N scale. The red/black standard color scheme Hobbytrain coach set is out of production and hard to find. Usually fetches pretty high prices on eBay. I would wait for the reissue as the first version had some issues with wheels causing friction against the floor of the coaches and some other nits that were supposedly fixed on the newer versions.

  4. Gordon P says:

    I haven’t had any difficulties with the 3 HobbyTrain Railjet cars that I have, other than one of them had an unfortunate encounter with a concrete floor (ouch!). So, when my order for the HobbyTrain #25216 passenger cars with Steuerwagen eventually comes in, I’ll be running a non-prototypical 6 car train.

    I was surprised, after Fleischmann put on the big promotion for the N scale Rh 1116, that they don’t offer any cars. The surprise, of course, came after purchase.

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