Class 120

Photo: Benedikt Dohmen

I’ve got to say at the outset that I haven’t always been a fan of the Class 120 electric locomotive. The 120’s were the successor to the Class 103, and in my humble opinion, the 120 was a colorless imitation of the 103.  I don’t know exactly why, maybe it’s the brick-like appearance of the locomotive. The engine is just a series of flat surfaces with rounded corners. Looking at it from the outside, there’s just not that much there. I’m over that now, for a delightful reason. I got to ride inside the cab of a Class 120, and I now readily admit that I was wrong.

I had done a favor for a friend at the Märklin factory and he wanted to return the favor. He knew someone who had worked for Mother Märklin, but had tired of it and went back to work for the real railroad. He was now the German equivalent of Road Foreman - Engines for the Deutsche Bundesbahn.

Everybody was being coy about it, but I was slowly being maneuvered toward Augsberg.  It doesn’t take much to convince me to go ride a train anyway, so when it was suggested that we should ride a regional to Augsberg, I said yes.  The trip was uneventful, and when we got there, I commenced to taking photographs of the local railroad flora and fauna.

Soon enough, the train for Stuttgart pulled in, and my host was urging me to photograph the locomotive, a Class 120, Number 118 in the series.  I wrinkled my nose but obliged with a photo.  Then, he was urging me on: “Wouldn’t you like to take a photograph of the inside cab?”  The door opened and we climbed in.  Everybody was smiling and we exchanged introductions. Then the cab door was closed and latched.  The train starter signal lit up, the crew looked out both sides as the train slipped out of the station and we were off.

Our RFE was at the controls, while the train’s engineer stood nearby.  The Stuttgart Interegio loped along for a bit and the track then curved over another main line. The tracks then straightened out and I watched as the locomotive’s speedometer quietly climbed upward to 200 Km/Hr (that’s 120 miles an hour in English terms). And the speedometer stayed at 200 for miles (or kilometers).

What amazed me was that this is just a routine, everyday event.  There are hundreds of trains that do this everyday in Germany and nobody thinks about it.

The Class 120 won me over that day.  It is just another routine day hauling just another routine train at 120 mph, an event that is a special moment in the United States but is just another routine train trip in Germany.

As we flew along on glass smooth track, the cab was remarkably quiet and conversation was held in normal tones.  The engine just flat out ran; there was no rocking and rolling, no loud scream of machinery. It rode like a flying brick.

Courtesy: Phil’s Loco Page

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