The Baden IVh Steam Locomotive

The Baden IVh Steam Locomotive

By Roger Heid


Just west of the Black Forest, in the southwest corner of Germany, along the east bank of the Rhine River, there is and has been the ‘Rheintalbahn’ (Rhine River Valley Railroad). It connects Frankfurt to Basel, a Swiss city located right where the German, Swiss and French borders meet. Basel has suburbs in both, Germany and France.

The Southern portion of the RRVRR, from Mannheim to Basel, was operated by the ‘Grossherzoglich Badische Staatsbahn’ (Grand Dukal Baden Staatsbahn). Baden was a State of the German Empire.

The terrain was quite flat, suggesting fast passenger service. The forerunner of the IVh was the type IVf, a version of the Pacific.


Baden IVf  - the forerunner


This locomotive’s relatively small drive wheel diameter imposed some serious problems when operated at sustained top speeds, such as bearings becoming too hot and wearing out prematurely. It turned out to be fuel and maintenance hungry, for the intended purpose not economical, at all. It was also unable to deliver the desired speeds.

In 1915, the Baden Railroad therefore ordered an improved locomotive from Maffei in Munich. After extensive re-engineering, it took three years for the first batch of a total of 20 to be delivered. (1918-1920). Maffei’s concerted effort resulted in the famous and infamous Baden IVh, yet another type of Pacific.

Among many changes in engineering designs, the most visible change was the very noticeable drive wheel diameter increase. In addition, the application of newly developed steel alloys made the drive system nearly indestructible, as it turned out, in later years. She could easily handle up to 75-85 mph, depending on the imposed drag load. Subsequently, she was put into express passenger service between Frankfurt and Basel. She quickly became known frequently pulling the notorious ‘Orient Express’. Yes, she was very much up to the job, and, lo and behold, she was a sight to see. Sometimes, the train started to move, just to stop again to give the on-lookers another chance to board the train. That’s how famous she was!

However, just to add a few drops of vinegar, there was a downside to all this glory. The engineers disliked her tremendously because they had a hard time coming to terms with this rather complex new system. The maintenance people outright hated her because completion of maintenance tasks was highly frustrating, sometimes nearly impossible. That’s how infamous she was!

Nevertheless, the story goes on. In 1920, after WW I, in the process of railroad system unification, the newly formed DRG (Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft) took them over and re-designated them BR 18.3, hence another BR 18. The picture below shows one of them sitting around in front of a school in Offenburg, serving as a monument.


The BR 18.3 in Offenburg. The drive wheel diameter is noticeably much larger.


During the late 1920s, the new BR 01, the ultimate German Pacific, pushed the Baden IVh types out of the Rhine River Valley, in short order. They were shoved off to do service the flat regions of Northern Germany. Once there, some of the inherent difficulties started to become improved upon, gradually, at first. Overall operation and maintenance henceforth started to become a lot easier, as time went by. Some engineers put their heads together to determine if, how and what needed to be fixed to make this beast more user friendly. Quite a task it was, indeed.

In 1933, they started to trickle to Koblenz, an ancient city located where the Mosel and Rhine rivers flow together. There they were kept as back-ups for the ‘Rheingold Express’, and they saw regular service between Saarbruecken and Frankfurt. After 1935, they could also be found doing their job in Bremen, a city on the north coast of Germany. In 1942, all of them were stabled in Bremen. They were ideally suited for this region where the BR 01 types were not   needed so much, on a daily basis.

Test runs conducted during the 1930s, after most of the initial difficulties were eliminated, proved the old Baden IVh to be superior to the BR 03, a newer Pacific version, simplified from the BR 01. This is quite remarkable.

During WW II, one of the twenty locos fell victim to the war. The remaining 19 stayed in West Germany. In 1948, they were tentatively taken out of service. However, powers to be decided to put three of them back into service, out of need. (18 316 – 18 319 – 18 323)

In 1956, during a trial run, the 18 316 reached a top speed of just over 100 mph. This made her the fastest steam locomotive of all types ever built and used by German State Railroads prior to the unification after WW I.

In 1969, they were retired and placed in museums, except the 18 316. In the early 1990s, she was restored to operating condition and was used on special occasions. In 2007, she finally found her resting place in a museum in Mannheim.


The venerable  18 316 in the Mannheim museum. RIP. Leave her alone. Do not disturb.

Of course, there is a Maerklin Baden IVh running around on my layout. It looks beautiful, runs like a charm, and it has all the mfx features. The scale top speed equates its reputation in the real world. It ranks in the top 10 of my favorites. It is sheer pleasure to watch her dragging my Era II Express Train, fully lit. There is nostalgia for you, at its fullest, I do declare.


Maerklin Model 39022

Although there were only 20 of them made, the Baden IVh deserves special mention. As you can see, she has a vivid and long lasting history. In spite of her initial shortfalls, she proved to be a real winner, after all.

If you model Era I and/or Era II Express Trains, you want to have it. If you are lucky enough to find one, jump on it. I did, while it was available.

Finally, let me tell you, dealing with all the ‘ German Pacific’ versions and their history can be a daunting task. I have been trying.

If you have any questions, please post them in the Forum. The Blog System is not designed to give answers.

Thank you.

Happy Railroading!

One Response to The Baden IVh Steam Locomotive

  1. Roger, very interesting. I have a contract from the publishing company ‘Pen & Sword’ to write a book (deadline June 2016) on the development and operation of the German Pacific locomotives. I’m attempting an illustrated history of every pacific from the Baden IVf, Wurttemberg C and Maffei S3/6 through to 10.001/2 and 18.201, covering East and West Germany. I have access to many of the Eisenbahn Kurier loco hiistories and experience of travelling behind mmany between 1958 and the Polandampfs of the 1990s.

    Sharing of info would be helpful – any photos (especially prewar or colour) ?

    Where are you located? I live in Cheshire UK, near Crewe.

    Best wishes,

    David (Maidment)

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