The BR 18 Steam Locomotive

The BR 18 Steam Locomotive

By Roger Heid


The BR or Class 18 steam locomotive is truly amazing. Just looking at this 4-6-2 (2’C1’) wheel arrangement tells you she is a fast one. In 1956, I remember, I had an opportunity to take a brief glance at one, at the Ulm railroad station. She was heading an Express Passenger Train, heading for Munich.


What is even more amazing is the remarkable and long history behind her, in spite of the fact that only a total of 159 were built. In order to stay within the confines of this blog, I will refrain from going into all the tedious details. During her life span, she underwent numerous modifications and improvements. I will keep it short and sweet.

It all started in 1908. Maffei, a Munich based company, set out to deliver 89 examples to the Royal Bavarian State Railways (K. Bay. Sts. B.)  Back then, they were designated S 3/6. They were intended for fast passenger service. The S 3/6 was derived from its forerunner, the famous Baden IV, aka BR or Class 17, noted to be the first ‘German Pacific’. The ‘Pacific’ was a well established US prototype.


Roco S 3/6

After WW I, with the onset of the Weimar Republic and the foundation of the DRG (Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft   ->  German Imperial Railroad Company), 70 more specimens were manufactured.  Henceforth, they were re-designated Class 18.4-5.


After WW II, there were 30 of them left in West Germany. The DB rebuilt all of them to varying specifications. The last one was retired in 1965, so it is said. A few of them saw specialized service afterwards, besides being shifted into museums. One of them has gained quite some notoriety among railroad buffs. It is a spiffed up commemorative version, still in service on special occasion, to this date, operated by the Meiningen Museum.

Yes, there is a Maerklin 18 in my inventory. Its performance is flawless. On occasions, it hauls an Era II Express Passenger Train at neck-breaking speeds. I have to slow it down in order to enjoy the finer details of the entire train, which is fully lit. One of our cats flees when I turn the throttle all the way up. I think it is because of the sound effects.


Roco has a 2-rail DC model in the catalogue. Wouldn’t you know, Roco also has the Meiningen commemorative model. It is something to think about, isn’t it? It sure is pretty, isn’t it?



Roco Meiningen Commemorative

So, there you have it. I did the best I could to describe this important steam loco without going into lengthy historical and academic dissertations. No matter which Era you model, there is a place for it. This is a great steam locomotive. She is a must have!!



3 Responses to The BR 18 Steam Locomotive

  1. Ernest Robl says:

    Roger asked me to add some information about the 18.201 locomotive, whose Roco model is mentioned above:

    The 18.201 was a purpose-buit high-speed research locomotive — one of a kind — that had little to do with the original BR 18. Because of its 2C1, configuration, it was made somewhat of an honorary member of the class 18. (It’s dimensions and technical features are quite different!)

    The 18.201 was built 1960-61 mostly from parts of three different locomotives directly with the purpose of having a locomotive capable of 160 km/h or more. At that time East Germany was trying to get into the railroad passenger coach export business, and most other countries wanted passenger cars thatcould be certified for 160 km/h. The locomotive was intended for and did run braking tests with these new coaches.

    (The locomotive itself set a speed record of 182.5 km/h [113 mph]!)

    This was somewhat of a strange decision by the East German DR, as by the 1960s, it was already clear that the future of higher-speed passenger rail was unquestionably electric. But, apparently it was simpler to build a fast steam locomotive using mostly available parts than to design a high-speed electric on short notice.

    It underwent restoration a few years ago and is considered the fastest operable steam locomotive in the world. (Roco was a sponsor of that restoration, giving it unique access to the prototype for its models. Roco has produced several versions of this model, including a red paint scheme in which the prototype operated for about a year after first being restored and put back into service. It’s also mentioned in my Giesl Ejector blog.)

    – Ernest

  2. Misha says:

    There is some (understandable) confusion here. There is not *one* single Br 18. There are actually at least five different Pacifics that came from the different Länderbahnen that were redesignated as Br 18 of one type or another by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DRG). The one you are mostly talking about is the Bavarian S3/6, though two other different Br 18s snuck in as well. In brief:

    Br 18.0 0 this is the Saxonian XVIII H – only ten examples built. See:

    Br 18.1 this is the Wurttembergian C – 41 examples made. See:

    Br 18.2 this is the extremely elegant Baden IVf – 35 examples made. See:

    Br 18.3 this is the Baden IVc – 20 made. This is the one in your third picture from the bottom. Some of these survived into DB operations postwar. These had the largest driving wheel diameter of all of these pacifics: 2,100mm!
    See also the first few pics from 10 May 1969 in this gallery!: Lehrte 68-69

    Br 18.4 these are the earlier production models (subseries a-k) of the Bavarian S3/6, some of which had a streamlined cab and originally no smoke deflectors. The brown loco in your second pic is an 18.4 in original Länderbahn colors. The black one in the second pic from the bottom is a later 18.4 in DRG service with added smoke deflectors but retaining the original streamlined cab. Subseries d and e of the 18.4 had larger diameter drive wheels (2,000mm instead of 1,870mm).

    Br 18.5 these are the later production models (subseries l-o) of the Bavarian 18.5 which were ordered after the Länderbahn era by the then Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft. The top pic and the b/w pic in the middle are 18.5′s.

    Br 18.6 After WWII the Deutsche Bundesbahn retrofitted 30 later model 18.5′s with new boilers and fireboxes. These engines were redesignated 18.6 but were visually largely indistinguishable from te 18.5. The retrofit cause some fractures on the pump support, so these locos had to have the boiler pressure reduced and then were withdrawn from service fairly early, between 1961 and ’65.

    You’ve already clarified that the East German DR 18.201 has nothing really to do with the other ex-Länderbahn Br 18s, having mostly been cobbled together from the 61 002 (of Henschel-Wegmann-Zug fame) and other donors.

    I’m into N scale, not H0, so I don’t know which models of these variants are available in H0. But in N scale these are available as follows:

    18.0 – unavailable
    18.1 – a handmade small production series was available by Intermodel in both K.W.St.B. and DRG colors
    18.2 – available from Hobbytrain in Bad.St.B., DRG and DB colors
    18.3 – a small series handmande production was made by Lemaco, but this is also available from Hobbytrain in all liveries worn by these locos
    18.4 – Arnold and Minitrix have made these
    18.5 – Arnold and Minitrix, likewise
    18.6 – announced by Minitrix
    18 201 – Arnold


    - Misha

  3. admin says:

    Thank you, Misha, for your contribution. It is appreciated. While working on this blog, I started to realize that I was opening a can of worms.

    But then again, there are many blog readers. Contributions like yours add valuable information, making individual blogs more complete.

    Thanks again.

    Roger Heid
    Choo Choo

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