The Inter City Express (ICE)

The Inter City Express (ICE)

By Roger Heid


Here is a very condensed description of the famous ICE Passenger Train, just so you get the idea what it is. It is a very modern, high speed passenger transit system that runs all over Europe, primarily in Germany. It can reach speeds in the vicinity of 250 mph. The units are the EMU type. EMU means Electric Multiple Units.

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Since its inception, The ICE has undergone several generations. It all started out in 1985 when the German DB proposed the development of such a system. France and Japan had also started to develop their own systems. Diesel trains like the Senator and Komet were unsuccessful forerunners. Several experimental prototypes were procured and tested. In 1991, the ICE network was officially inaugurated. Initially, it was based at a newly built station in Kassel. As time went by, the network expanded into Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Denmark. Some say you can get from Basel to Hamburg in actually less time than what it takes using a plane. Could be!


Siemens Velaro in 2010


Close-up of the front


Cab Interior

In Germany, the ‘ICE’ is a household word, with a nearly 100% awareness among the population. The Germans usually pronounce it like ‘Itze’. They don’t think of it as frozen water. The German word for ‘ice’ is ‘eis’. The ICE is Germany’s most used passenger train system.

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Much more can be written about this phenomenal train. I could spend another hour typing away. Therefore, if you want to know more details about the ICE Network, simply google ‘ice train’ and go the Wikipedia posting, and whatever else you want to look at. There you can read all about it.


Maerklin, Trix and Roco have representative models in their line-up. If you model Eras V and VI, using catenaries, they definitely are a must have.


Maerklin 36711

If you operate an analog layout, be advised that generally the pantographs of digitally equipped electric locomotives are not wired to pick up power through the pantographs. In the digital world, a catenary system is only for show due to inherent connectivity problems.

One Response to The Inter City Express (ICE)

  1. Misha K says:

    Hi Roger,

    I think a brief description of the main variants of ICEs would be in order, since they are very different (and not all are EMUs). In brief:

    ICE-V – this is the experimental pre-production train which debuted in 1985. It is not an EMU but has two powered Bo-Bo head units, akin to the TGV.

    ICE 1 (Class 401) – depicted in the last two pictures in your post, debuted in 1991, this is the production model with a top speed of 280kph. The standard ICE 1 consists of two powered head units and 12 coaches. There is a variant with a second set of pantographs for use in Swizterland.

    ICE 2 (Class 402) – first operated in 1995, is a variant of the ICE 1 which has only a single powered head unit and seven coaches (the last of which has a driving cab). It also has a top speed of 280kph. Two ICE 2s can be coupled together.

    Ice 3 (Class 403) – depicted in the first, second, fourth and fifth picture in you post, entered service in 2000, this is the train that was essentially especially developed for the new Cologne-Frankfurt high speed route. Due to the extreme grades and other technical limitations, the heavy powered head units of the ICE 1/2 cannot operate on this route and an EMU design was necessary. That is the ICE 3. It consists of eight coaches, four of which are powered. There is a variant for international service (ICE 3M and 3MF – Class 406) which has an additional set of pantographs. Top speed in Germany is 300kph, on dedicated routes in France 330kph is possible. A small number of ICE 3 trains are owned and operated by the Dutch NS, recently under a new HiSpeed label.

    ICE-T (Class 411) – this is a 7-coach or 5-coach EMU with tilting technology that was intended to replace regular Intercity trains on regular rail lines (not dedicated high speed tracks). It has a top speed of 230kph. It didn’t quite live up to expectations but remains in service. It looks similar to the ICE 3 but has a flatter nose and the red stripe doesn’t wrap around the front.

    ICE-TD (class (605) – this is a diesel-powered counterpart to the ICE-T. Looks essentially the same but without pantographs, being a DMU. Were intended for improved service on non-electrified routes. DB was unhappy with it, didn’t take the full order, sold them to DSB of Denmark which is operating them today. Top speed 200kph.

    Class 407 (Velaro-D) “new ICE 3″- this is an improved version of the ICE-3 by Siemens (your third picture). Entered service last year. Top speed 320kph.

    Modelers wanting to depict certain eras precisely should also note that the ICS 1 and 2 were originally delivered in Era V with orient-red/pastel-violet stripes under the windows. This was changed to a single traffic-red stripe in Era VI. All ICE trains received city names some time in the mid-aughts.

    Again, I don’t know H0, but in N scale the ICE V was produced by Minitrix, the ICE 1 by Minitrix and Fleischmann, the ICE 2 by Fleischmann, the ICE 3 by Arnold and Minitrix, the ICE T by Fleischmann. The ICE TD and 407 have not been made in N scale (yet).

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