Lucky Meeting a V188 Diesel Locomotive

Lucky Meeting a BR V188 Diesel Locomotive

By Roger Heid


For a starter, let me explain what a V 188 is. It was designed for use by the German Army during WWII to haul heavy artillery. It is a dual diesel locomotive, the two halves permanently coupled together. Both halves had engines in them. The original designation was D 311. The axle configuration is Do+Do. The top speed was about 45 mph.


After WWII, the DB took two of them into service for heavy freight; a third one served as a parts source. They were renamed BR V188; after 1968, it was changed to BR 288. They were truly a rare sight. In 1969 and 1972, they were both retired, respectively.

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In summer of 1966, I visited my friend Kevin, a US Army officer who was stationed in Bamberg. He also was a railroad buff and an avid fellow modeler. In fact, he was part of the plot I described in my article regarding the BR 86 adventure which took place a little over a year later.

We had lunch in the Snack Bar, talking about various railroad issues. We had both noticed that the waitress’s rear end was well worth pinching. Both of us, being real gentlemen, decided to leave this up to certain others, of low degree, and the MPs who undoubtedly would have been called upon the scene. Then Kevin looked at me, an ominous grin dominating his face.

“Roger, I may have a surprise for you. I found a V188 at the Bamberg rail yard.”

“A V188??  —-  What’s that?” I had never heard of it before, but I did not think of it as an unheard of new rocket, developed during the Third Reich.

He gave me some details about this loco, and off to the rail yard we went. On the way there, he told me he was almost certain it would be there. He mentioned that he was fairly sure it was actually stationed or stabled right here in Bamberg.

We drove around the rail yard for almost an hour looking for that darn locomotive, but there was no V 188 in sight, wherever we looked. Then I spotted a railroad worker walking along the dirt road we were on.

We pulled over, and I asked the man in German if he knew of the whereabouts of the V 188.

“Oh! This old D 311? Oh yes, a rare one. It is in Shed 2 for service. I’m on my way there. You give me a ride and I’ll let you in”, he answered in plain American English with a distinguishable southern drawl to it. I already sort of knew why that was, but I asked him anyway.

“You speak English rather well, but you are German, I think. Were you in the States before?”

“Yup! POW. I spent almost two years in Texas. I got captured when you guys landed at Anzio. I wanted to stay in Texas, but they wouldn’t let me.”

Believe me, this was not the first time I had heard this scenario while I lived in Germany. Three of my teachers had a similar fate. One of them actually managed to return to the US.

Anyway, we arrived at Shed 2, almost a mile from where we had picked up Joe, as he had introduced himself. He looked at us, some kind of pain reflecting from his rugged face.

“Myself, I would gladly let you in, but my boss needs to be persuaded, you know what I mean.”

Oh yes, we knew all too well. For occasions like this one, you never traveled without the ‘Public Relations Support Supply’ in your trunk. The proverbial bottle of Jim Beam and a carton of Camels did the trick. Naturally, Kevin had the merchandise handy, and then some. Somehow, we knew we would need it. Joe got his share, as well.

For your information, at that time, the Handle Jug Jim Beam (1/2 gallon) used to cost about 55 Marks on the economy, meaning a German retail outlet. We paid the equivalent of 8 Marks in the US Army Class VI store. For a carton of cigs, locals bled 20 Marks. We spent a mere 6 Marks.

There we were, scrutinizing this V188 from top to bottom, from inside out. It must have been a real monster at the time of its first introduction. Looking at pictures of the humongous old Wehrmacht Artillery makes one understand why such a big locomotive was needed.

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We were about ready to depart from the shed, when the ‘Shed Master’ put one heck of a smirky grin on his face.

“If you guys vant to vait for a haff hour, you can ride in it. But ve need more goodies for se engineer.  Sis engine vill haff to be coupled to a freight train about sree kilometers from here. I vill follow you vis my car and bring you back.”

For some reason, the ‘Shed Master’ became all excited. I could not quite figure out why. He must have had reasons of his own, I guess.

The engineer, an older guy, arrived shortly after. He thoroughly inspected his iron horse and fired it up. Yes, she was quite noisy, especially being inside the shed. Then he climbed down from the cab to go and check if the turntable was in the correct position. It wasn’t. He had to correct this error. The words he muttered I do not wish to put into writing. Having been around GIs for so many years, I was used to ‘flowery’ language, but this engineer’s verbal tirade took the cake. I think I might even have blushed, heaven forbid.

When the engineer returned from the turntable, he suspiciously looked at the ‘merchandise’ in Kevin’s hands.

“This is for you for letting us ride in your loco to where the freight train is,” Kevin said, handing the stuff to the engineer.

“What’s this for?” the engineer asked.

Joe intervened, loudly explaining to the engineer what it was for. The engineer took it and stashed it in a wall locker. Then he nodded, motioning us to climb into the cab.

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Joe explained to us that the old engineer was hard of hearing. He had driven this V188 ever since it first came into existence. He had hauled artillery to the Eastern Front with it. He never referred to it as anything but his D311. Joe also made a point of the fact that this engineer and this V188 were virtually inseparable. Rumor had it that he had been driving this particular loco on its virgin run and that he never ever drove any other locomotive, period. That makes you wonder what stories this man could tell if he wanted to.

The ensuing trip was very short and quite loud. I don’t blame the old man to be hard of hearing. He ignored us completely, as if we did not exist.

Back at the shed, we jacked jaws for a while. Kevin and I decided to take Joe and the Shed Master to the O-Club for a drink or two. More jacking went on until our jaws got tired.

As you might have guessed, there is a Maerklin version of this locomotive in my collection. I bought this a few years ago. It has an mfx-decoder with the whistles and bells. It is very powerful. At one time, I had it pull forty freight cars seemingly without any noticeable effort.

No, mine does not pull any artillery. It drags an Era III freight train, just exactly what it did when I met her. Unfortunately, Maerklin does not offer this model these days. Maybe it will come back.





3 Responses to Lucky Meeting a V188 Diesel Locomotive

  1. Rune says:

    Nice story!
    I’m 3D modelling the D311 (in scale 1:1) so to 3D print it in scale 1:72. I need it to pull the mighty 1:72 scale “Dora” 800 mm railway gun made by Hobbyboss. I’m also modelling the supporting railway cars that followed the cannon to Sevastopol.
    Kind regards,

    • Jens Andrée says:

      Rune – I’ve been planning a Schwerer Gustav diorama for almost two years now and I’m pretty much done with all the research, and I’ve bought all the kits I need in order to add the flak support, crews etc that supported the gun.
      Finding a D311 kit in 1/72 scale turned out impossible so I’m curious how far you’ve come 3D modelling these trains? I have been thinking about modelling them myself in Fusion 360 but if you’ve already done it perhaps you are willing to share? I’m printing a lot of parts and whole assemblies with my Anycubic Photon resin printer, and the last year I’ve done so much more digital modelling than actual modelling so I was hoping to focus on styrene for this massive diorama… ;)

      Many thanks in advance!


  2. Nick says:

    Would love to keep abreast of your 1:72 build, am wanting to add 2 pair o my hobbyboss Dora also, but sounds like you have waaaay more scratchbuild skill than I do
    Please reach out at
    Many many thanks

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