Twins from Different Parents

Twins from Different Parents

Austria’s ÖBB 2043 / 2143 road diesels

By Ernest H. Robl

Austria’s series 2043 and 2143 B-B diesel road locomotives are somewhat like twins — born to different parents.

When Austria began large-scale phase-out of steam in the 1960s, it needed medium-duty diesel road locomotives to handle passenger and freight trains on non-electrified lines.

While the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) needed a total of 154 of these locomotives, for political reasons, it was decided to split the order between two major manufacturers — SGP in the Vienna area and Jenbacher Werke (JW) in western Austria. And, this time, unlike the past where identical steam locomotives were built by multiple factories, the two builders were allowed some variations from each other, as long as the locomotives met the general specifications.

[LINK: For more information about the Jenbacher Werke, see my previous Blog article on the Austrian 2068 diesel road switchers.]

The result was two locomotives that look very similar, have many components in common, but have different internal configurations. To simplify maintenance, the SGP-built 2143 locomotives were based in areas east and north of Vienna and around Vienna itself, while the Jenbacher 2043 were stationed in western and southern Austria.

Both locomotive classes were rated at approximately 1,490 horsepower. Both types were built in multiple lots between 1964 and 1977. Early deliveries of both types had a top speed of 100 km/h (60 mph); final deliveries of both series were geared for 110 km/h.

The first order of 2043 diesels was slightly shorter than the later production runs, in part as a weight-saving measure prompted by concerns over light rail on secondary lines. It turned out that such a drastic measure was not really needed, with the following deliveries being slightly longer and heavier (which gave them better traction).


The major differences between the locomotives were

  • The Jenbacher 2043 had a two-stroke diesel prime mover, while the SGP 2143 had a four-stroke diesel.
  • This resulted in a somewhat different sound for each of the types and a slightly different arrangement of external ventilation louvers.

Both had hydraulic transmissions and both were originally delivered without multiple-unit (MU) controls. Both had auxiliary diesels powering a generator to produce head-end power for passenger trains. That secondary diesel was normally shut down when the locomotives were in freight service.


Early days: My black and while photo from the 1970s shows a still relatively new 2043 with a local passenger train made of Schlieren cars. The front shows scars from an unfriendly encounter with a vehicle at a grade crossing. (This belies the myth that European railroads don’t have grade crossings. The fast main lines don’t, but the secondary branch lines have plenty of grade crossings.) Note the old-style logo and the individually applied raised numbers.

Both classes were modernized over the years during major overhauls, including the installation of two-way radios, which became important for increasing traffic on non-signaled lines..

The first locomotives were delivered in pine green. They were later repainted into various orange and red schemes used over the years.

These locomotives had a somewhat inverted assignment profile, compared to most locomotive types, where newer locomotives are typically used in passenger service and older units in freight service.

In 1991, when Austria’s railroads switched to a new scheduling system, where most passenger trains operated at set intervals (hourly, every two hours, etc.), the ÖBB suddenly found itself short of motive power. That gap was filled with the purchase of rebuilt used diesel locomotives from Germany (which Austria numbered in the 2048 series). But, as these newly acquired locomotives did not have electric power for passenger cars, the 2048 series was assigned to freight and switching service, while most 2043 and 2143 locos were assigned to local passenger service.

(The 2048 series were, in effect, “new” locomotives as they had been substantially rebuilt and equipped with new diesel motors.)

Most 2043 and 2143 locomotives were retired – some sold off – at the beginning of the 21st century as they were replaced by the more powerful 2016 Siemens Hercules diesels. However, a few remain in operable condition, used primarily in nostalgic and charter train service, as well as reserves for peak periods. So, you can still find some in use as this is being written in 2017.

The Erzberg locos

Four 2043 locos were briefly assigned a special role — working the 7 per cent plus incline of the Erzberg (Ore Mountain) line in central Austria, which had been built as a rack operation. For that purpose they received several special adaptations and were numbered in the 2043.5xx series.

This step was prompted by several factors. By the late 1970s, the steam rack engines that had been used on this line, where the freight operating pattern was empties uphill and loaded ore cars downhill, were worn out, as was the rack rail on the incline. At the same time, it was obvious that the iron ore on the mountain that gave the line its name was close to reaching depletion. But, the mine was in place and the line needed to provide service for a few more years.

That was when the decision was made to implement the adaptation of the 2043 diesels. They were equipped with track brakes on their trucks. Track brakes (which had also been used on the railbuses — without cog wheels — which provided passenger service on the Erzberg line) are devices where the brake pads work directly against the rails, rather than the wheels. They are considered an emergency device and are not used in normal train operations.

In addition, the 2043.5 locomotives were equipped with overspeed monitoring systems, tied in with the track brakes. In other words, if the system is armed and the locos are going too fast, the track brakes apply automatically. The overspeed system could be cut out when the diesels were operating in flat terrain.

So, starting in 1978, the Erzberg operation changed to two MU 2043 locomotives and 10 ore cars per train. The second locomotive was assigned primarily for braking the loaded downhill trains. in addition the ore trains, the specially adapted diesels also operated a few passenger trains.

By 1987 the ore traffic was gone and passenger traffic had fallen to the point that it was about to be eliminated. So, for a brief period, the remaining passenger trains were again operated with railbuses of the series 5081.5.

Today, the Erzberg line is preserved as a museum railroad — with passenger trains still operated with railbuses.

Between1993 and 2001, in the course of major overhauls, the 2043.5 locos had their special adaptations removed and were then returned to their original numbers.

Modeling implications

A an era-appropriate 2043 or 2143 provides an ideal starter locomotive for anyone modeling an Austrian branch line any time during eras 4-6. With one locomotive you can model all the operations on such a line. And, you can choose from multiple versions in both HO and N scales.

Roco even has a 2043 (depicting eras 5-6) digital start set (51291) being produced in 2017. (If this sells well, a different 2043 start set may well be offered in future years.


The Roco 51291 digital start set. (Roco catalog illustration).

Let’s look at the possibilities with a minimal amount of track and rolling stock. Roco offers two add-on track sets (51250, 51251) to supplement digital start sets. Together with the tracks in a digital start set, these sets include enough GeoLine pieces for a double-track oval, two cross-overs and a small yard. The switches are already digitized and include a decoder.

But, instead of an oval, think of the visible part of your layout having a small station representing the end of a branch line. That station has enough switches for run-around moves and to serve two small industries, as well as a general-purpose loading ramp. The other key part of the layout is a hidden staging hard, which can be directly below the visible part of the layout. All of the above could easily be built with the track components in the above three sets. Depending on your exact track plan, you may need to purchase one or two additional special track pieces. And you will need to acquire a few more pieces of rolling stock. But these will let you have the following operating pattern:

  • A passenger train (engine and two coaches) appears from a tunnel (the hidden staging yard). It makes a brief stop at a small platform where the tracks first become visible and then proceeds to the end station. There, after its passenger stop, the engine runs around the coaches and then proceeds back to the hidden staging yard — representing a junction with a main line.
  • A few moments later, the engine again emerges from the hidden yard, this time with a small freight train. At the station, the engine sets out its freight cars and picks up freight cars already there. Then, it heads back to the staging yard.
  • A short time later, the engine appears again, this time with a work train, consisting of a ballast hopper or two, flat car(s) with replacement rails, and perhaps a small mobile crane, also on a flat car. This train runs to the end of the line — with a few brief stops along the way — where the engine again runs around the train and heads back to the hidden staging yard.
  • Then, it’s time for another passenger train — and the cycle continues.

Yes, the above scenario is a little bit of a stretch, using only one engine — but only a little. For much of the past half century, Austrian passenger traffic on non-electrified branch lines has been worked with diesel Triebwagen (DMUs). But these lines do see some locomotive-hauled passenger trains, including when the regularly scheduled Triebwagen is out of service.

As you acquire more rolling stock (and more storage tracks!), you can vary both the passenger and freight trains that appear. But, even with a small amount of rolling stock, you can still have some interesting operating sessions. Later, a second engine, such as one of the ÖBB diesel road switchers or a diesel railcar would offer even more operating possibilities. You can even have excursion trains with a preserved steam locomotive.


The first HO models of the 2143 locos were produced by the now defunct Austrian manufacturer Klein Modellbahn back in the 1990s. (As noted in other posts, Klein Modellbahn had problems with its zinc alloy castings, so some of these models ended up with cracked frames. A third party offered replacement brass frames.)

Around 2003-2004 Roco began producing HO models of both the 2043 and 2143 series, in various color schemes and depicting the locos during different parts of their lives. (As on the prototypes, Roco was able to save production costs through the use of parts common to both series.)

The body of the 2043 included in the above-mentioned starting set dates back to that time — but internally, the model has had a major overhaul. It now boasts a new circuit board with LED lighting and a Plux22 decoder — allowing better individual controls of the LED lights — and possible add-on functions.


Close-up of the Roco 2043 included in the 51291 start set — now with LED lighting. (Roco catalog illustration).

[LINK: For more about start sets, see my previous post about this subject.]

Jägerndorfer offers both 2043 and 2143 models in N scale.

If I recall correctly, Lima also produced either 2043 or 2143 (possibly both) models in HO, and there may also be models from other manufacturers that I am not aware of.


Jägerndorfer catalog illustration of one of its 2143 models in N scale.

Yes, the 2043 and 2143 locomotives did sometimes venture short distances into adjoining countries, particularly Germany — and particularly during detours necessitated by weather-related catastrophes. So, one of these locomotives at a border station in another country would not be totally out of place.


Yes, I’ve got one of these 2043 Roco sets on order. That’s despite the fact that I already have

  • Models of other Austrian diesels
  • A variety of Roco digital components
  • Other models of Austrian gondolas
  • A variety of Roco GeoLine tracks.

This purchase will provide several things:

  • Another piece of motive power for my branch lines
  • More display tracks for my bookshelves — replacing Roco Line track that is being incorporated into the layout
  • Another digital controller for the test track on my workbench

As this will be one of the older engines (prototype-wise) for my era 5-6 layout,the 2043 may even eventually go to the railroad museum on my branch line — still powering excursion trains of older cars, of course.


As always, comments are welcome.

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