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Taurus puts 1955 French speed record holders in the shade

01 Oct 2006

A dramatic dash along the Nürnberg - Ingolstadt Neubaustrecke on September 2 put a Siemens-built Taurus locomotive in the record books when it touched 357 km/h. Murray Hughes reports

A NEW world record speed for locomotives was set in Germany on September 2. At 16.02 four-axle Taurus locomotive No 1216 050, built by Siemens for Austrian Federal Railways, hauled a single dynamometer car along a section of the Nürnberg - Ingolstadt Neubaustrecke, reaching a maximum speed of 357 km/h near Hilpoltstein.

The previous speed record for a locomotive was established over 50 years ago on March 29 1955, when SNCF's BB9004 attained 331 km/h between Lamothe and Morcenx on the Bordeaux - Dax main line in southwest France.

The Class 1216 four-system Taurus loco, decked out in a silver-grey livery, notched up the new record at Hilpoltstein between Allersberg and Kinding, where more than 1 000 photographers and onlookers had gathered to watch the event. Considerable interest was generated by the presence at Kinding station of BB9004 and its fellow 1955 record holder CC7107, which had been hauled specially for the occasion from their home at the Cité du Train museum in Mulhouse. Also present were two other Taurus locomotives, one of which had been built for Slovenian Railways, Dispolok's Eurosprinter ES 64P001 and DB Co-Co loco E03 001, one of four prototypes built in the 1960s for inter-city service in Germany at 200 km/h.

Whereas SNCF had made a number of modifications to the locomotives and coaches to improve the aerodynamics for the 1955 speed trials, only minor changes were made to the Taurus loco, mainly to accommodate measuring equipment. Apart from that and the removal of its windscreen wipers, the loco was a standard product operating under DB AG's standard high speed 15 kV 16 ²?³e_STnSHz catenary the French locos established their records using a 1·5 kV DC power supply.

No 1216 050 is no stranger to speed records. The same locomotive had been used in the Netherlands in January this year to test the track and infrastructure of the HSL-Zuid high speed line. There it set successive Dutch speed records of 258 km/h and 263 km/h before a Thalys trainset scooped the national blue riband with a run at 336·2km/h on March 2.

It is worth pointing out that the September 2 record in Germany was a carefully-orchestrated event, there being little doubt that a record would be achieved. Contrast that with the 1955 trials, when the outcome was unknown. Nor should it be forgotten that the French tests left the track in unusable condition, with the rails bent out of alignment by the lateral forces exerted by a hunting bogie. The ballastless track on the Nürnberg - Ingolstadt line was designed from the outset for 300 km/h operation, and as Klaus-Dieter Josel, DB's Executive Manager in Bayern, said after the event, 'the new tracks were built as if for a world record'.

Two trips were planned for the record attempt. Had a record not been set on either occasion, a third opportunity had been built into the day's timetable. Plans had also been laid to postpone the record attempt in the event of bad weather, but happily this proved unnecessary.

The whole event was staged without interrupting DB AG's normal service on the route, which is admittedly rather sparse with an ICE service every 2 h in each direction. More ICEs will be added in December to provide a 30 min interval service, together with 'local' trains running at 200 km/h and calling at intermediate stations between Ingolstadt and Nürnberg (RG 9.06 p558).

Many guests had arrived at Kinding by a special ICE service from München, with others travelling by bus from Nürnberg. Formal presentations were followed by the locomotive being named Kinding-Altmühltal by the Mayor of Kinding, Rita Böhm. Visitors were then taken by bus to the motorway service area at Hilpoltstein, where they were able to take up position at the lineside to observe the record-breaker.

The first attempt planned for 14.20 was delayed for around half an hour by a technical problem with a pantograph sensor, but once this had been dealt with the locomotive was accelerated up to 344 km/h, beating the 1955 record by 13 km/h and exceeding the 330 km/h which the Taurus had reached during a dummy run the previous week.

The second trip secured the new record of 357 km/h, this speed being sustained for about 4 min. On arrival in Allersberg, the figure was quickly affixed in large yellow figures to the front and side of the loco ready for display to photographers at Kinding. As many as 32 people were on board the record-breaker - six in each cab and 20 in the measurement vehicle.

Although the record was established on infrastructure owned by DB AG, Germany's national railway was not the operator as the locomotive is owned by Austrian Federal Railways. Dispolok, which belongs to Siemens and holds the necessary operating and safety licences, could have been allocated this role. However, the IGE company (Internationale Gesellschaft für Eisenbahnverkehr), a specialist rail tour business based at Hersbruck near Nürnberg, was designated as operator for the record attempt, and thus shares the title with DB, ÖBB and Siemens.

DB Netz and DB Energie were closely in-volved in preparations for the event, and DB Systemtechnik provided the dynamometer car that was used to measure the speed and numerous other parameters. Altogether there were 21 sponsors, whose logos were displayed on the sides of the loco.

Several individuals were instrumental in the record attempt. Notable among these was Axel Dworaczek of Dispolok, who shared the project management task with his Siemens colleague J Schurig. Dworaczek was in the driving seat, both metaphorically and literally - he was at the controls of No 1216 050 on the record-breaking run.

  • CAPTION: ÖBB Taurus loco 1216-050 shared the glory at Kinding with French record-breaking locomotives BB9004 and CC7107, recalling the daring exploits of 1955 when 331km/h was attained on the Bordeaux - Dax main line
  • CAPTION: Axel Dworaczek of traction leasing company Dispolok, a Siemens subsidiary, played a key role in organising and staging the record