The Rheingold Express

The Rheingold Express

By Roger Heid

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The ‘Rheingold Express’ was a very famous long distance passenger express train. It was named after the opera ‘Das Rheingold’ by Richard Wagner. This opera romantically centered on the Rhine River. It operated from May 1928 until May 1987. Operation was halted in 1939, due to the outbreak of WW II, to be resumed in 1951.

In the North, in the Netherlands, there were two starting points. One was in Hoek van Holland, near Rotterdam; the other one was in Amsterdam. The two legs merged in Utrecht. At Hoek van Holland the train had timed connections for ship service from and to Harwich, England. In the South, it initially terminated in Basel, Switzerland.


The stops after Utrecht were in Duisburg – Duesseldorf – Cologne – Mainz – Mannheim – Karlsruhe – Baden-Baden – Freiburg – Basel. Between 1965 and 1982, a section between Basel and Geneva was in operation.

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Effective May 1979, the branch from Utrecht to Hoek van Holland ceased operation, leaving Rotterdam being the terminus in the North.

Starting in 1983, a branch to Munich was added which separated from the main line in Mannheim. The stops were Heidelberg – Stuttgart – Augsburg.

From 1928 until 1939, this train was known as the ‘Rheingold’. In 1931, the name ‘Rheingold’ was actually printed on the coaches and the locomotive tender, whereby the DRG logo remained. In 1951, the train was re-named ‘Rheingold Express’, but the word ‘Express’ was dropped in 1954, thus back to just ‘Rheingold’. From 1965 until the discontinuation in 1987, the ‘Rheingold Express’ was re-designated a First Class only TEE (Trans Europe Express) train, now called ‘TEE Rheingold’.

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Locomotives used during pre-war period

Netherlands:  Series 3700 – 3800  - 3900 after 1930

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Left:  NS Serie 3700    Right:  NS Serie 3800

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Left: 3800 Close-up      Right: NS Serie 3900

Germany:  Baden IVh (between Mannheim and Basel) – S3/6 (between Emmerich and Basel) – BR 01 after 1935

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Versions of  the Baden IVh and BR 18 series

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BR 01


Switzerland:   Ae 4/7 Electric


Locomotives used during the post-war period

When the Rheingold was re-instated in 1951, it served only within West Germany. The BR 01 remained in service. In addition, versions of the BR 03 were used. The BR 41 was pressed into service between Kaldenkirchen and Cologne.

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Left:  BR 03                   Right:  BR 41

In 1962, the Rheingold was once again established as a link between Holland and Switzerland, following the pre-war route.  At this point, the E10-12 Electric Locomotive entered the picture. In 1968 it was re-designated E112.  A a number of them remained in service until 1987.

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In the beginning, luxurious Pullman type coaches in their distinct cream/blue livery were used. They came in 1st and 2nd Class. Dining cars were provided by Mitropa. There was also a blue luggage car. The typical Rheingold train of the day consisted of 26 coaches and 3 luggage cars.


1st Class Interior about 1930

At the time, these Pullmans were the most technically advanced coaches the DRG had available. In early 1939, the Pullmans were replaced by the more advanced ‘Schuerzenwagen’ (Skirted Coach), which carried over to service resumption in 1951.

The interior of these skirted coaches was very luxurious, designed by artist. A notable feature were the lamps mounted on a small platform in each window.

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In 1962, new rolling stock was introduced which included dome cars, one per train. The dome cars were only used by the Rheingold and Rheinpfeil trains.

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After 1987, the Netherlands continued the service with their own train known NS Rembrandt, named after the famous Dutch painter.

Off and on, the model railroad manufacturers feature Rheingold related items in their catalogs.


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Samples of model rolling stock.

Reynaulds offers a large selection of

Rheingold trains in many scales, please visit

our website to view

our selection of Rheingold trains and other great




2 Responses to The Rheingold Express

  1. Misha says:

    To add a bit more detail…

    From 1928 to 1939 the train consisted of custom made 1st and 2nd calss Pullman coaches that generally operated in pairs: one coach with kitchen and one without. They were coupled together at the kitchen end, so that waiters could serve both coaches from the centrally located kitchen. The colors were cream/purple (not blue) with gold lettering. Mitropa lettering was on all coaches, not just the ones with restaurants. The standard train had four coaches, but up to a dozen were not unheard of during peak summer season. Fire regulations required the baggage coach to be placed as a buffer between the locomotive and the first passenger coach. Due to Mannheim being a terminus and requiring a new engine to be coupled to the other end, a second baggage coach was coupled to the other end of the train for the Mannheim-Basel segment. Due to lack of sufficient numbers of purpose built Rheingold baggage coaches, regular DRG coaches (usually of Württembergian provenance, I think) were used for the second baggage coach.

    Dutch NS 3800/3900 class pulled the prewar train to the German border. From Zevenaar on through Mannheim DRG class 18.4 and 18.5 pulled the train. South of Mannheim, DRG class 18.3 pulled the train to the Swiss border. Around 1934 the DRG Class 01 replaced the 18.3 on the southern segment. From Basel bad. Bf. SBB Ae4/7 took care of the rest of the route.

    In 1939 with the start of the war (and the lack of international travellers coming to German) the Nazis suspended the Rheingold service. There was no Rheingold from 1939 to 1951. The original Rheingold coaches were repurposed for a variety of roles, from serving the Wehrmacht brass to being used as mobile field hospitals.

    The first postwar Rheingold in 1951 used refurbished Schürzenwagen which were repainted in blue F-train colors and given embossed silver “DEUTSCHE BUNDESBAHN” lettering. Originally, due to occupation statutes or some such thing, an international company had to provide the catering and for the first few years of the postwar train until 1955 a CIWL restaurant car ran in the train, thereafter it was a DSG restaurant car. The first postwar Rheingold was a three-class train, switching to two-class after the 1956 Klassenreform that eliminated 3rd class service. Locomotives during that period were Class 23 and 41, mostly in the northern segment, north of Cologne, and 01 and 03 in the southern segment south of Cologne.

    In 1962, a completely new purpose built set of luxury coaches was manufactured for the Rheingold. These were blue/beige 26.4 meter coaches, open plan, compartment, humpback restaurant and dome car with bar, all of them 1st class only. These coaches became the standard for future DB, UIC and Eurofima coaches. The level of luxury was above that of the TEEs of the time, so that the TEE service was improved to mach that level and starting in 1965, the Rheingold (and its sister train, the Rheinpfeil) both were converted to TEEs and the coaches were repainted red/beige, like all other TEEs.

    The intended locomotive for the 1962 Rheingold was the purpose built streamlined E10.12 with a higher top speed of 160 km/h. There were delays with the first engines, so a handful of regular box-shaped E10s were modified with the high speed bogies and painted in Rheingold colors to take care of the train until the regular E10.12 came online. V200 diesels pulled the train north of Cologne and later north of Duisburg to the Dutch border until those segments were also electrified. The E10.12 were redesignated 112 in 1969. From 1970 onwards the DB class 103 took over the Rheingold. Shortly thereafter, the dome cars disappeared as they were not certified for the 200 km/h top speed the 103 could do on certain segments and the unreliable humpback restaurant cars were replaced with regular new 27.5 meter restaurant cars familiar from TEE and InterCity service.

    In the 1980s business travellers had pretty much stopped using the Rheingold, having switched to air travel, and the service limped along on tourist business, which ledto a new branch line to Munich. The Rheingold ended in 1987 after the Lockerbie bombing drastically affected the numbers of American tourists traveling to Germany.

    AKE Touristik offers a new reincarnated occasional special Rheingold service since a few years ago using refurbished 1968 red/beige coaches and a preserved operational Class 103. Another provider occasionally runs similar museum trains with a preserved box-type 1962-style E10 and blue/beige coaches.

  2. Misha says:

    Also wanted to add a couple more things:

    In the 60s/70s SBB Re 4/4 I pulled the train in the Swiss segment, while NS 1100 pulled it in the Netherlands.

    “Rembrandt” roughly follows the same route but it never was a lucury train. It is a regular two-class EuroCity, while Rheingold was 1st-class only.

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