OBB Electric Road Switchers

ÖBB Electric Road Switchers 1063/1163/1064 and Their Jägerndorfer HO Models

By Ernest H. Robl



In the U.S., the terms “locomotive” and “road switcher” are almost synonymous – at least as far as diesels and the freight sector go.

With the exception of specialized industrial situations and a few older units in use in major terminals, most modern freight diesel locomotives are of the road switcher type. As the name implies, these locomotives are supposedly suitable for both road-haul of trains as well as switching.

The road switcher came into its own about halfway through the 20th century. Before that, many diesel locomotives had been of the full carbody design – the so-called E and F units – often consisting of a lead locomotive with a control cab at one end (A unit) and one or more cabless boosters (B units). The B units came about both as a money-saving feature – the cab equipment is expensive – and to meet early objections from unions to a single engineer operating several locomotive units.

This design, while elegant, had little flexibility. An engine consist with only a single A unit on one end had to be turned to run in the opposite direction and was not really suited for switching as it offered the operator little visibility to the rear.

The carbody design has, however, remained predominant in the passenger sector, where streamlining (due to operation at higher speeds) is more important and switching functionality is less important.

The road switcher design, with a cab placed between a short and long hood (just wide enough to cover the diesel motor and related equipment) allows better visibility to the rear – and, if necessary even allows the unit to operate on the road with the long hood leading. However, this is rare these days as engine consists usually have at least two units, normally coupled back to back, so that there is an outward facing cab at each end.

As with many multi-purpose designs, the road switcher is a compromise with some limitations and drawbacks – but with enough positive points to make this the predominant freight locomotive design.



The European difference

On the other hand, European locomotive designers long ago focused on a full carbody design with cabs on either end for both diesel and electric road locomotives.

The end cabs provide excellent visibility of the track ahead, but, if there is to be a substantial movement in the opposite direction, the engineer has to change cabs. The full carbody design came about in part to keep the operator from having to go outside into the elements while changing ends.

Any locomotive can perform switching moves if necessary. The ubiquitous Austrian class 1044/1144 even has special slow-speed switching throttles, similar to the knobs found on many model railroad controllers.

But, certainly the end-cab design is not ideally suited for switching, as noted above.

So, European railroads continued to maintain separate switcher designs for both electric and diesel locomotives. These switchers were employed in both passenger and freight terminals.

They usually had the control cab centered or almost centered on the body of the locomotive and narrow hoods on both ends covering the equipment, allowing visibility in each direction. They usually also had outside platforms on at least one end to allow switching personnel to ride the locomotive and to safely cross from one side of the tracks to the other, even when there were cars coupled to both the front and back of the locomotive.

Geared for heavy pulling power, these switchers had a major drawback. They had a low top speed, which made them totally unsuited for pulling trains between stations. They even caused problems when they needed to be transferred between terminals, because their limited top speed did not fit into the operating pattern on busy lines. (Some of these switchers had higher authorized top speeds when towed than when operating on their own, and were therefore usually towed by a road locomotive during transfers between terminals.)


In Austria

Okay, I know each European country’s rail equipment developed slightly differently. What I presented above are generalizations, to which there are some exceptions. I can’t cover every Europeans country, and I am most familiar with railroads in Austria. (France, for example, embraced the road switcher concept fairly early on for some of its diesel and electric freight locomotives.)

What I am trying to do is set the background for the development of electric switchers in Austria in the second half of the 20th century – leading up the description and discussion of some really nice HO scale locomotives.

In the 1960s, Austria’s electric switchers were predominantly of the jackshaft drive design, with a single traction motor powering multiple axles via side rods. Some of these locomotives, such as the classes 1061/1161 dated back as far as 1920s, though essentially the same design was built into the 1940s. While durable -– the 1161 was retired in 1994 – maintaining these units became more and more expensive.

A few small improvements had been made in the series 1062 which was built in 1955 (and served until 1995), but these switchers still only had a top speed of 50 km/h (about 30 mph) and a jackshaft drive. By the 1980s, they were no longer state of the art.

In the early 1960s, in an attempt to find a more modern switcher design, the Austrian railways (ÖBB) made a disastrous detour to an electro-hydraulic design, class 1067. This switcher had an electric motor powering a hydraulic transmission, which in turn powered the drive wheels. While this locomotive had a few components in common with the much more successful class 2067 diesel switcher, only five examples were built and they were failure-prone from the beginning.

An Austrian locomotive engineer hand experience with the 1067 told me it could charitably be described as “Ein Klumpert mit Stangen.” – a piece of junk with side rods. Though formally retired in 1994, most of these switchers had been sidelined well before then. (Two are preserved as historic items – a very high percentage of the original production run.)


The breakthrough

By the end of the 1970s, Austria was already beginning to build and operate its vastly popular class 1044 road electric. Of the 217 examples built between 1976 and 1995, most are still in operation today as upgraded class 1144.

The four-axle 1044 had solid state electrical controls and was suitable for both fast passenger trains and heavy freights.It was based in part on good experiences with the class 1043, a Swedish design.

There was no question that solid state controls and components were the way to go, but now the question became whether these could be fitted into four-axle switcher configuration. Again, Austria looked outside its borders.

The German Ruhrkole AG (RAG, a private German coal hauler) had ordered such a locomotive design that appeared to be what Austria was looking for. The RAG series E 1200 had AC traction motors, solid state controls, and a top speed of 80 km/h (about 48 mph). It could even operate on multiple voltage electric systems. The ÖBB leased one of these units and tested it extensively, not only in yard and terminal duty but also on steep mountain lines.

That gave birth to ÖBB series 1063, built in 50 examples in 1982.Partway through construction, both horsepower and top speed were upgraded. The later versions have about 2,600 hp and a top speed of 100 km/h (about 60 mph), thus making them suitable not only for heavy switching but also hauling local freight trains.

Like its predecessor, the 1063 had provisions for operating on a second voltage system, but these were never used as political and other considerations kept these locomotives from crossing borders.

Improvements in electrical equipment allowed a much smaller transformer to be located below the central cab, giving good visibility in both directions.


The even better 1163

With the impending mass retirement of older electric switchers, the ÖBB needed additional versatile heavy electric switchers, resulting in the 1994 construction of 20 units of the class 1163.

Rather than ordering more copies of the 1063, the ÖBB decided to apply experience with that series to an improved version. Among the differences are a slightly lower horsepower rating but a top speed of 120 km/h (about 75 mph), making an even better fit for the ever-faster traffic on main lines.

But, by far the major external change is the design of the cab, giving even better visibility in all direction. Many small ergonomic changes were made internally. Operating sounds were further reduced — important for use of these locomotives in city environments.

Like its predecessor (and some diesel compatriots) the 1163 has four control stations, making it operable from each corner of the center cab.Two control stations – the one the right in each direction, are the main control stations for road operations; the control stations on the left have the basic switching functions allowing the operator to be in that location if needed.

The 1163 locos are extremely well liked by their operators and are considered plum assignments. They also have very little downtime, as most components are modular and can be swapped out in a few minutes with a small forklift. (Note that handrails for the walkways along the hoods are on the inside — on the hoods — giving quick access to internal components once the hood doors are opened.)

So, in effect, the 1063 and 1163 are true road switchers, in that they not only were ideally suited for a variety of switching duties but could also take trains out on the main line. Yes, both series do have the transformer tap for head-end power, allowing them to supply hotel power to passenger cars.In a few cases, the 1163 engines have pinch-hit on local passenger trains.


A six-axle variant

There is also a six-axle version of the 1063, the 1064. The latter was built in a series of 10 units between 1984 and 1990, primarily for hump duty in the large freight classification yards in Vienna and Salzburg. As they only have a top speed of 80 km/h, they are largely confined to their primary assignments, though on occasion they have been seen taking transfer freights from their home bases to other nearby freight yards when other locomotives were in short supply.




Modelers of contemporary Austrian railroading had a dilemma, as far as being able to realistically depict switching operations. Yes, Roco offered models of the side-rod electric switchers, but these were all retired in the mid 1990s.

Austrian manufacturer Kleinbahn made a model of the 1063 that was both true to scale and reasonably detailed. But that model suffered from a variety of production problems, including a brittle alloy used in the casting of the main frame. Any substantial impact would crack or break that frame. (I have one of those Kleinbahn models – in non-operating condition!)



However, in recent years Jägerndorfer (also known as Jägerndorfer Collection or JC) has been offering a nice variety of the Austrian electric road switchers, allowing modelers to select among models and paint schemes. JC items are available for both two-rail DC and three rail AC HO modelers — and in both analog and digital versions. (JC still makes some models for other manufacturers, sold under their brand names.)

Klaus Jägerndorfer is an Austrian engineer who had previously worked for other Austrian model manufacturers but then decided to strike out on his own, initially to fill a niche market for Austrian models. Wile only offering a limited number of models, these have always been provided in a number of different paint schemes and with a variety of road numbers.

Some Jägerndorfer models are offered in both high-end and standard versions, with the high-end models having additional factory-installed functions.Though some high-end models are pricey, the standard models still provide a very good value.

Like most European model manufacturers, Jägerndorfer took a hit and cut back production during the recent recession. But the firm now appears to see a bright future and is announcing new models.

In my estimate, the basic models still compare in quality to other top manufacturers, such as Roco. And, of course, the fact that JC only makes a limited number of models is not a problem, as this equipment fits in well with the products of other manufacturers.


My 1163

Jägerndorfer actually produced the 1163 first, but has now gone back to produce versions of the 1063 and 1064.

I have an analog model (with provisions for a decoder) of the 1163 019-1 in the as-delivered bold Valousek paint scheme with the “Pflatsch” ÖBB logo (not currently in production) – and I really like it.

Not only does the model have beautiful detail, particularly in the handrails, but it has excellent slow-speed operating characteristics for switching – as well as a reasonable top speed for road operations.

But, what I really like are the super-bright LED headlights that actually light up the right of way and adjoining items. (Digital models have switchable high beams – “Fernlicht” – and dimmed lighting for operation in stations.)

The model came with NEM coupler pockets and non-mounted loop couplers. installed Roco Universal couplers instead. The engine does not have close-coupling mechanisms – but neither do some Roco engines. And, for a switcher which also does a lot of pushing, the truck-mounted coupler pockets are actually an advantage.

On my test track setup, the 1163 has pulled and pushed 16 car freight trains (where most cars have had weights added) through tight curves and crossovers.

Documentation and packaging is comparable to that provided by Roco.Opening the loco for internal oiling and lubrication is more complex than for most Roco models.

The 1163 will be main switcher in the major terminal on my planned layout and will also work industries at the next station on my electrified main line.

Right now, I have other items higher on my priority list, but at some point there may also be a place for an Austrian class 4020 Jägerndorfer commuter EMU set on that layout.

I have no qualms about recommending Jägerndorfer items to others. In fact, if you model or collect modern Austrian equipment, take a serious look at some of the 1063/1163 road switcher models.

Oh, and if you model an earlier period, Jägerndorfer recently announced that it will produce several versions of the 1950s era 1062 electric switcher with siderods.



To see photos and descriptions of the Jägerndorfer HO locomotives on the Reynauld’s site, go here:



(Be sure to look at the following pages, too and/or the matching AC 3-rail pages!)

Prototype photos and data can be found on the German version of Wikipedia — just select German as the language of your search .Then enter “ÖBB ****” (where **** represents the series number) in the search box.



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