The VT 10.5 Diesel Passenger Train

The VT 10.5 Diesel Passenger Train

By Roger Heid

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The VT 10.5 Diesel Train was essentially a rail bus on steroids. Only two sets were made, but they differed significantly in construction details. One was dubbed ‘Senator’, the other one ‘Komet’. The drive system was of the diesel hydraulic type. Initially, their top speed was 75 mph, later increased to 100 mph. They first hit the tracks in 1954.

Senator

The Senator (VT 10 501) was a day time train, operating between Frankfurt and Hamburg. At first, it consisted of four cars, but, after only a short time of operation, it was lengthened to seven cars. The front and rear drive cars featured twin axle bogies on their fronts; the individual cars, however, were connected via single axle Jacobs trucks or bogies, meaning two cars share one truck. This design caused the ride to be freight train like bumpy. This did not help the Senator’s reputation. It was retired in November 1957, which makes the Senator the most short lived design ever.

Komet

The Komet (VT 10 551) was somewhat different. Right from the start, there were eight cars in the consist, and the Jacobs trucks were of twin axle design which made the ride much smoother. It operated between Zurich (Switzerland) and Hamburg, and was considered to be a night train. It fared much better than the Senator, as it lasted until December 1960.

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During their service time, they were both problem ridden by various technical shortfalls. Often they had to be substituted by other trains, sometimes causing undue delays. They were also not as economical as expected, by a long shot.

In spite of their short and lackluster service life, they do deserve special mention. The experiences gathered during their operation eventually led to the highly successful TEE (Trans Europe Express) and the ICE (Inter City Express).

In 1955, I was given the chance to ride on the Senator for a short stretch. Frankly, I was not impressed. Its good looks promised a performance that it could not deliver. The faster it went, the bumpier it got, but it sure was fast. I never got a chance to ride on the Komet.

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About three years ago, for sheer nostalgic reasons, I picked up a Maerklin model of the Senator, all seven cars. When I’m in the mood for it, I put it together and run it for a couple of hours. It looks so good, I really enjoy it. I don’t have to sit in it, you know.

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