How a German town affected the design of an elegant Austrian train, the series 4010

How a German town affected the design of an elegant Austrian train, the series 4010


By Ernest H. Robl



Entire documentary television series have been devoted to the strange connections that sometimes lead to key historic developments.  And, railroads are no exception to finding these connections.

For example, did you know that the track configuration in a German town had a key impact on the design of one of Austria’s flagship trains, a predecessor of the current Railjet service?

The train is the ÖBB series 4010 electrical multiple unit set, which for decades connected Vienna at one end of Austria with the other end of the country (and beyond to Zurich, Switzerland, as the legendary “Transalpin.”

The series 4010 was built in 29 sets between 1965 and 1978, being in some ways a contemporary of the Eurofima generation of passenger cars.  But, in some ways, the 4010 was actually technically ahead of them.


Elegance in motion:  A 4010 EMU set sweeps over one of the curving viaducts of the Semmering line in Austria.  The train, enroute between Vienna South and Graz, has the power car leading at left and the longer cab control car at the right.


The 4010 normally operated in a fixed consist of six units:

  • Power car 4010
  • Open (non-compartment) coach 2nd class
  • Compartment coach 2nd class
  • Diner or buffet car
  • 1st/2nd combination compartment coach
  • Cab control car 6010 (open seating 1st class with baggage compartment and conductor office)

The power car was designated as such, rather than being classified as a locomotive in the 1xxx numbering scheme, because it also contained a baggage compartment and conductor office – and because it was designed to work solely with this fixed consist.


Technical background

Austria had tried operating its Vienna-Switzerland Transalpin service with its four-unit 4130 multiple unit electric trains.  The 4130 was a long-distance variant of the 4030 commuter train, the first real post WW II electric multiple unit (EMU) trains in Austria.

And, though the 4130 was reconfigured internally for long-distance travel, it proved inadequate in many ways, including having insufficient power on mountain grades and simply not having amenities that travelers expected.  The 4130 did have provisions for food service, but, because travelers could not move between two sets moving together, both sets had to have food service areas, taking up a substantial amount of the 8-car double consist.


Geographic background

The shortest and flattest route between Salzburg and Innsbruck in Austria was and still is through a section of Germany that Austrians call “Das Deutsche Eck” (the German Corner).

More or less in the middle of the German corner is Rosenheim, Germany.  That’s where lines from Salzburg and Innsbruck – both going to Munich – come together.  Think of the track configuration something like an upside-down Y, with the two lower branches going to the two large Austrian cities and the top stem having the passenger station and then continuing to Munich.

Back when European cross-border issues were a lot more complex and important than they are now, Austria negotiated a treaty with Germany that allowed the ÖBB to speed up its passenger service between Salzburg and Innsbruck (and beyond), by routing a small number of high-value trains via Rosenheim.

These trains were designated as “corridor trains,” meaning that the trains only transited Germany and no passengers were allowed to board or detrain in Germany.  Therefore, these trains did not require any cross-border passport control – another thing that’s mostly in the past now.

The problem, of course, was that all these corridor trains had to change direction in Rosenheim.  They arrived on one leg of the upside down Y and departed on the other.

And that largely influenced the composition of the 4010 Transalpin.


The Rosenheim effect

In the 1960s, when plans were being made to upgrade the cross-Austria service, the choice for a high-quality train was between a fixed consist EMU and a standard locomotive with standard passenger cars.

The need to change directions in Rosenheim meant you needed a cab control car (then usually only found on commuter trains) at one end.  The need for a cab control car also meant that all coaches between the power car and the cab car had to be wired for remote control of the power car from the cab car.  That threw the decision to a fixed consist.

Being a true EMU, the 4010 trains could also operate as double consists.  And, here again, Rosenheim had an influence.

When trains changed direction in Rosenheim, the Austrian engineer had to get off at one end and walk the length of the platform to the other end.  (There was no internal connection between double sets.)

The double sets were just the right length to fit the station platforms at Rosenheim!


The basics

The four-axle power car had its four traction motors geared for 150 km/h top speed (about 90 mph).  While that may appear modest today, it was very much state of the art in the 1960s and 1970s, when railroads were just learning what kind of infrastructure they needed for faster trains.

The four traction motors delivered a total of 3,350 horsepower, more than adequate to move a six-coach train even on steep mountain grades.

The power car had two pantographs.  On trains operating entirely within Austria – and 4010 sets traveled all major electrified lines, once the full 29 sets were delivered – the identical second pantograph simply acted as a reserve, in case of problems with the first.


A tough day in the Alps:  After encountering severe weather in western Austria, this 4010 power car on the Transalpin gets its face scrubbed at Innsbruck.  Notice that in this 1975 photo, the train still has the original raised lettering — depicted in the 2015 model by Roco.  With its blue face and red-framed headlights, the 4010 couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.

But, on trains operating into Switzerland, such as the Transalpin, the second pantograph had the narrower Swiss palette, allowing the trains to run anywhere under Swiss catenary.  (Both Austria and Switzerland have the same catenary voltage.)

But, one of the key advancements of the 4010 sets was the use of an automatic Scharfenberg center coupler between cars of the consist.  Only the power car and the cab car on the other end of the train have standard UIC couplers on one side only.

The center couplers performed extremely well in push mode and made it easier to couple and uncouple parts of the train during major maintenance.

In a few cases, during major motive power shortages, the 4010 power car coupled back-to-back with its cab control car, even did emergency duty as a “long locomotive” pulling other kinds of cars, including freight cars.


A classy train

With its own livery of blue and white and distinctive faces on the ends, the 4010 gave an elegant impression that was matched by its interior amenities.

Yes, I rode these trains many times in Austria, including several cab rides, including one down the Arlberg line from Feldkirch to Innsbruck.

But, despite its popularity with the riding public, the 4010 was finally overtaken by newer technology, including faster Taurus locomotives with multiple voltage capabilities – and coaches with power outlets for personal computing device.


Classy to the end:  By 2001, this train was wearing the red and black liver — and getting close it its retirement.  The 6010 cab control car is at the end of a train leaving Stainach-Irdning, but the snow and ice on the buffers show that the cab control car had recently been in the lead on this December day.


Even a new red and black livery in the 1990s that matched the 4010 to the then livery of Austria’s Eurofima cars used on other long-distance trains was just a step toward the end.  The 4010 was more and more relegated to secondary routes and food service on the trains curtailed accordingly.

It was the appearance of the new generation Railjet trains that finally led to the retirement of the last 4010 trains in 2008, though one entire train has been preserved by the Austrian Society for Railroad History.

But, look at the Railjet’s basic features and you will see some of the pioneering technology of the 4010.  The Railjets are push-pull, and though they use a separate Taurus locomotive, they operate in a closed consist, where only the end cars (including the cab control car) have standard UIC couplers.  Between them, the cars have automated center couplings.

And, yes, the trains still travel via Rosenheim.  But back in 1982, the Austrian Railways paid Germany to build a 1.2 km curved connecting track between the two legs of the inverted Y.  Since then, Austrian trains have not had to enter the Rosenheim station —or to change direction.  This shortened the travel time between Salzburg and Innsbruck even more.



Over the years, Roco has produced a variety of versions of the 4010 in both its blue and red liveries.  In 2015, Roco is producing yet another version with lots of features (63044 DC; 69044 AC).  This Era IV version still has the original raised lettering by already the painted-on “Pflatsch” logo.



Catalog illustration of Roco’s latest rendering of the 4010, an Era IV version to be available in early 2015.


Modelers focusing not only on Austria, but also on Germany or Switzerland will find these elegant trains an excellent addition to their layouts.  The trains operated in all of those countries.  In Germany, the trains not only cut the German Corner between parts of Austria but also ran through to Munich.

And, for modelers of Austria in Eras IV and V, these trains were an essential part of long-distance travel – that left many of those travelers with pleasant memories of travel through the Alps.  Already have one 4010 model?  You can always use a second one.



One Response to How a German town affected the design of an elegant Austrian train, the series 4010

  1. Ernest Robl says:

    Jägerndorfer has announced a full 6-part red and white (as shown in the snow/ice image above) Era 5 N scale 4010 model — as of fall 2010 — including a version with sound. Well worth looking at, if you model Austria in N.

    – Ernest

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