Visiting a BR 50 Steam Locomotive

Visiting a BR 50 Steam Locomotive

By Roger Heid

 

During the ‘70s I was doing my patriotic chores with Uncle Sam, stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany. On a fine day in fall, while on leave, my wife and I went on a leisurely road trip. Our goal was Salzburg, Austria.

Somewhere along the line, maybe near Augsburg, if I remember correctly, my eyes fell on a moving train. A short distance down the road, I pulled over to get a better look at his train passing by. It was heading in the same direction we were.

The steam locomotive I could identify to be a BR 50. This one had a brakeman’s cab on the tender. I could tell it was laboring quite a bit, judging by all the huffing and puffing and some occasional wheel spinning, indicated by the huffs and puffs becoming faster in tempo for short amounts of time. It was very busy negotiating a moderate incline, pulling 10 or 12 four-axle oil cars which must have been fully loaded. I figured it was on its way to Munich.

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Right then and there, I decided I needed to take a closer look at this beast. At the rate it was going, I could easily beat it to the Augsburg rail yard, so I thought. It took some time to actually find the rail yard. Once there, something incredible happened. You see, if you need to attend to some really important business, you usually wind up having to park six, or so, blocks away from that business location, according to Murphy’s Law. But here Murphy must have considered my business to be totally irrelevant. I was actually able to park right next to the siding my train was parked on.

I got out of the car and started to approach the locomotive. There was this older guy, busy greasing the drive wheel gear. Now, it so happened that I wore a GI style jacket, the patches on which indicated that I was US Army Military Police. I wore this quite often and did not think of it, at that time.

Then this guy, the engineer, looked up, scrutinized me and, in plain English, with a thick southern drawl, asked me if he had done something wrong.

“No, not that I know off, Sir”, I said. “Are you American?”

“Naw. I ain’t, but my wife Jenny is. By the way, I’m Joe. She is from Laredo, Texas”, he drawled. “You see, I surrendered to the Americans in ’44, after they landed in the Normandy. I spent almost three years in Texas in a POW camp. There I met this gal. In 1948, I went back and married her. Now you know. Is there anything else I can do for you? What’s your name?”

“I’m Roger, and there sure is something I want. I would like to get inside the locomotive cab to take a look.”

“Shore thaing, Rog. Go aheeaad, knaack yoresaelf out, but doncha toouuch nottin.”

Without any hesitation I climbed up the ladder and went inside. Joe also came up to do whatever he had to do. The stoker, a much younger man, also showed up to do whatever he needed to do, being quite noisy about it.

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Next thing you know, they started to uncouple the engine from the train. I was told they will have to get her re-watered and re-coaled. They asked me if I wanted to come along and to bring the wife along, too. She climbed on board and away we went. This felt a lot different than the BR 38 I rode in, a number of years before. You sure could feel the greater power, hard to describe. This was majestic by comparison.

Before we headed back, I asked if I could ride in the tender cabin.

“That darn thing”, Joe announced. “I wished it weren’t there. It takes up too much coal space, especially when we need it the most. Go ahead, but watch so your clothes don’t get dirty.”

There was more space in it than what I had expected. It certainly was not geared for creature comfort, but one could exist. Well, I had to try it.

I watched them re-coupling the locomotive to the oil tanker train. This took less than five minutes. We shook hands, thanked them and went on our way.

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During the post war years, the BR 50s, along with the BR 44s, were the backbone of heavy freight transportation. On occasion, both also saw passenger train service. As far as I know, the last BR 50 was retired in the late 1980s. Earlier in life, I had a chance to ride in a BR 44. I will tell you about this some other time.

About four years ago, I bought a Maerklin BR 50 from Reynaulds. See pix below. It does have the tender cab, just as I had seen it. It is an excellent performer. It can haul 14 four-axle freight cars on my layout, without hiccups.

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Unfortunately, this particular model is not available form Maerklin, these days, but there are the ones without the brakeman’s cab on the tender. They perform equally well.

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I do know that Roco has several models available for y’all 2-railers.

Please, do not post questions in the Blog System. It is not designed for this. If you have questions, please, join the Forum and post your questions under the appropriate topic.

Thank you.

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