ÖBB 1044/1144 Electric Locomotives

Modern Austrian icons 3

The ÖBB 1044/1144 Electric Locomotives

By Ernest H. Robl

The class 1044 Bo-Bo electric locomotive was the mainstay of Austrian (ÖBB) mainline operations on electrified mainlines during the final quarter of the 20th century. Though now supplanted by members of the Siemens Taurus family of locomotives on premier assignments, these locomotives continue to operate in the 21st century, primarily as the rebuilt and upgraded class 1144.


A classic scene at Innsbruck, Austria, in 1991 as 1044.098-0 prepares to take a local train up to the Italian border at Brenner/Brennaro. There’s actually a story behind this photo – related at the end of this post.

The late 20th century rebuilds that converted the class 1044 locomotives into class 1144 included the addition of multiple-unit (MU) capabilities, and it is not unusual to find a class 1144 working in tandem with a member of the Taurus family on trains that do not exceed 160 km/h. The 1144 rebuild program continued into the second decade of the 21st century, so that by 2010, it was still possible to find a few unmodified1044 locomotives. Though many of the changes made during the conversion to 1144 were internal, one external feature of the rebuilt class is new LED headlights.

(The oldest locomotives were the first to be rebuilt, so the remaining 1044s are mostly from the last batch of these locomotives built in the 1990s.)

Based on successful experience with ten Swedish-built thyristor-controlled electric locomotives (Austrian class 1043), the class 1044 was the first Austrian-built locomotive with solid state electrical controls. It was also the last major example of country-specific locomotive design in Austria. Changing market and political conditions at the beginning of the 21st century meant that the successor Taurus generation of locomotives, though developed with strong Austrian input for specifications, was seen from the beginning by manufacturer Siemens as a product line that could be marketed to many other railroads.

The 1044 was intended as a universal electric locomotive for use in both passenger and freight service. It was also widely used in helper service on mountain grades, either coupled in front of the primary motive power on a train, or at the back, as a pusher. Some heavy coal trains received helpers at both the front and back.

Built in 217 copies in multiple lots between 1976 and 1995, with only minor variations, the four-axle 1044/1144 is rated at 5,00 kW (6,700 hp), roughly the equivalent of two heavy American mainline freight diesels of the same era. (The 1044s/1144s are smaller than the newer Taurus locomotives, but still pack a lot of power into a small space.)

Early deliveries of the 1044 were numbered with two-digit running numbers (1044.xx); later deliveries and subsequent overhauls changed all running numbers to three digits with a computer check digit. When class 1044 locomotives were rebuilt to class 1144, they retained their original running numbers.

With their top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph), these locomotives were adequate to meet demands at the time of their design. But, they slowly became dated as passenger train speeds increased to 200 km/h and beyond. (Some 1044/1144 locomotives are equipped with the German LZB high-speed signal system, which is also used on some lines in Austria. However, this system is used primarily by slower trains that operate on the high-speed lines during off-hours.)

The original 1044.01 underwent a number of experimental modifications over time and was ultimately renumbered to 1044.501 to differentiate it from standard locomotives. Following high-speed tests, which provided input for the design of the Taurus family of locomotives, it is now designated as an operable preserved historic locomotive.

The 1044 locomotives often operated into Germany, particularly to Munich. Though most prevalent in southern parts of Germany adjoining Austria, they even took trains as far north as the port of Bremerhaven. They were extremely well liked by German locomotive drivers, in part because they had brighter headlights than DB locomotives.

On the Swiss side, the 1044/1144 locomotives were and still are operated only as far as Buchs (S.G) in Switzerland. That’s because the catenary between the Austrian border and Buchs is of the so-called “compromise” design, meaning that locomotives with German and Austrian pantographs (as well as Swiss locomotives with Swiss pantographs) could operate under it. Any trains headed by a 1044/1144 continuing beyond Buchs have to change engines at Buchs, after which the Austrian engines are sent back into Austria, either with a train or running solo.

While no 1044/1144 locomotives were ever routinely equipped with Swiss pantographs, there were a few occasions where the ÖBB sent a 1044 to a special Swiss railroad festival of exhibit – under its own power. For those events, the loco in question was temporarily outfitted with a Swiss pantograph. (The Austrians had these in stock for use on the 4010 trainsets when they were operated on the Transalpin service from Vienna to Switzerland.)


The class 1044 and 1144 operated in a variety of paint schemes over the years, and it was not uncommon to find locomotives in several different schemes operating at the same time in the same area. The 1044 also saw the first widespread use of special paint schemes and wraps to commemorate special events.

(Several standard 1044/1144 paint schemes were developed by famed Austrian graphic designer Valousek in the late 20th century and locomotives still operate in those schemes today.)

Many of the special commemorative schemes using bright printed plastic wraps were developed in cooperation with the model manufacturer Roco, with the prototype locomotives actually carrying a Roco logo, and Roco having exclusive rights to produce models with that paint scheme.


The 1044/1144 class never had an official nickname, though early versions were sometimes called “Alpine vacuum cleaners” by Austrian fans – because these locomotives had extremely loud ventilation blowers to cool internal components, including the dynamic braking resistance grids. Later versions were equipped with newer angular ventilation grids at the edges of the roof. These larger grids both improved airflow and greatly decreased the noise of the ventilation fans. Earlier versions of the 1044 were converted to the new ventilation grids during major overhauls – with some slight variation in these grids from batch to batch. (This is another major difference between era IV and later versions.)

Modeling implications

Particularly for the HO modeler, there is a vast variety of models of the Austrian 1044/1144 available. Roco alone has produced more than 50 different versions in HO dating back more than 40 years. And that 50 figure still counts AC and DC versions as well as versions with and without sound as a single example, as these are externally identical. (Other manufacturers, including those serving the N scale community, have also provided multiple versions.)

The following Web site provides a partial overview of Roco’s examples, not including some of the more recent versions:


(The text is in German, but the information in tabular and pictorial format should still be understandable to those with limited German.)

Around 2011, Roco did a complete redesign of both the interior and exterior of this locomotive, providing added detail on the outside and a new circuit board with LED lighting on the inside. The new board also now has a provision for Plux22 decoders, which are easy to install and allow better control of multiple functions.

If you are interested in models of this locomotive, note that, in addition to changes in paint schemes, there are small exterior differences between the models representing the various eras (IV through VI). A major one is that the representation of the operating number has changed for each era. Another is the lack of radio antennas on early versions in era IV.

Notice that the most recent representations by Roco, with improved detailing and electronics range from the early versions of era IV to the current era VI.

You can find many of the earlier Roco versions – which still offer quite good detailing and running characteristics – on the used market. Be aware, however, that the least expensive versions are usually ones with the early circuit boards that do not have a provision for a decoder.

The easiest way to convert these to digital operation is to purchase a new third-party circuit board that already has a decoder socket and which also has LED lighting. (Arnold Hübsch in Austria offers these by mail order.)

Among the Roco versions of the 1044/1144 are many that never appeared in the Roco catalogs. These were special runs, often distributed only within Austria, sometimes exclusive products for one of the larger Austrian retailers. These variations often only had minor changes from one of the main production runs, such as having a different operating number.


Roco catalog photo of an HO model of 1144 117-9. This is an era VI locomotive in era V dress. Roco produced this particular model in a limited run of only 350 numbered copies. My copy, which arrived as I was working on this Blog post, is number 146/350. The older paint scheme, often called the chess-board scheme, was apparently preserved on the prototype with the intention of preserving this locomotive after other 1144s are phased out.

Roco has also produced dummy (non-motorized) versions of both the 1044 and 1144. These provide an inexpensive way to depict multiple traction on heavy trains on the steeper grades.

Even before the conversion of prototype 1044s into MU capable 1144s, it was not unusual to find two or more 1044s on such trains, at that time, of course, requiring an engineer on each locomotive.

For model operating purposes, an unpowered dummy at the end of a train may provide better operating characteristics than a powered pusher. The dummy will add some weight to the train, so you will probably want to have two powered locomotives up front.

Personal reflections

In an earlier Blog post titled “Transitions,” I described my first encounters with the 1044 in the late 1970s. (That Blog includes several photos.)

In another post, titled “Early Beginnings,” I mentioned that for several years in the late 1970s and 1980s, I was able to obtain blanket locomotive permits valid for a week or more, which allowed me to make multiple locomotive rides throughout Austria during a single trip to that country.

Many of those were aboard 1044s.

I currently own three Roco 1044s (including one dummy) and one newly arrived Roco 1144. Three older Kleinbahn 1044s will continue to serve as display models because trying to convert them to digital operation would either be impossible or simply too much trouble.


Oh, that 1044 story hinted at in the caption for the opening photo: One of my more interesting 1044 experiences was not on one, but behind it, as a regular passenger, on that very train depicted in that photo.

Look again at that photo and notice the catenary maintenance vehicle on the adjoining track. A class 4020 EMU set scheduled to take passengers from Innsbruck up the steep Brenner line to the Italian border had apparently had an unfriendly encounter with the catenary on that track. So, the railroad quickly substituted a 1044 with three lightweight domestic coaches.

The 1044 was really vastly more power than the short train needed – and the engineer had some fun with that. From previous trips in the cab on one of these locomotives, I knew what he was doing.

The 1044 has a type of cruise control, where the engineer can pre-set the maximum speed, while another control handles acceleration. Push the acceleration control all the way forward and the locomotive will accelerate as fast as possible short of slipping its wheels.

The engineer took good advantage of that. After stopping in each of the small villages on the route, he literally launched the locomotive forward. In other words he shoved the acceleration control all the way forward for each departure – and the acceleration was really apparent back in the train. The only other times I’ve felt acceleration like this on a train was on high-speed trains in France and German, when these trains were going from conventional trackage to their dedicated high-speed lines.


Want to see more model versions of the 1044 and 1144? Just do searches by those numbers on the Reynauld’s site.

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3 Responses to ÖBB 1044/1144 Electric Locomotives

  1. Neil Thaler says:

    HI, Love the article on 1044/1144 (and 1822) of the OBB.

    Do you have info at all or let me know where I can get on the loco renumbering in Austria?

    I am trying to compile info on various classes and can’t seem to find any info. The OBB will not help (I have emailed them) so I am struggling.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Ernest Robl says:

    I can provide some basic information on the post WW II Austrian scheme — 0xxx (with the leading zeros not usually written) for steam locomotives; 1xxx for electric locomotives; 2xxx for diesel locomotives; 3xxx for steam railcars; 4xxx for electric railcars; 5xxx for diesel railcars; 6xxx for control trailers matched to a particular power car; 7xxx for intermediate cars for dedicated trainsets.

    There are some levels below that, with specific meaning for the second and third digit for some of the categories, though these were not always followed exactly, such as in the case of the 1116 and 1216 series.

    As far as REnumbering, that’s a much more complicated subject. Some pre-WW II locomotives had several different class numbers over their lifetime: first their original Austrian number, then a DR number; then a new Austrian number.

    However, most renumberings focused on upgrades, such as from 1042.5 to 1142.5, where the locos retained their operating numbers in the new class.

    What specifically are you looking for? I do have some German-language books on Austrian locomotives, though it may require some digging to find specific information.

    – Ernest

  3. Luke Barber says:

    As Ernest said above, the rebuild generally resulted in 1044s retaining their numbers as 1144s. Keep in mind the following, however:

    -The 2 prototypes built before the main batch have not been rebuilt; they retain their 1044 designations

    -The 1044s were built in 2 batches; 1044 01-126 and 200-290. The 1144 has retained this number gap.

    -Some 1044s have been totaled in accidents over the years; some have been replaced, and some haven’t. More info here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/80053-blog-railway-german-style-alpine-hoover-bb-class-1144-as-a-newly-tooled-roco-model/

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