Railway History in Germany.

Updated: 16 Apr 2003
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The railway history of what is now Germany is complicated by the fact that it was the last major European country to be unified. In the early years of railways, Germany was still made up of a patchwork of small kingdoms (eg the Bavarian Kingdom of "Mad King" Ludwig, who built the famous castles) and duchies, all of which had their own ideas on locomotive design. Each kingdom had its own "Royal Railways", eg The Royal Bavarian Railways. This has yielded a rich haul of unusual locomotives, but who did what can get rather confusing. I have therefore added this page to hopefully clarify the story.

For most of recent history the politically dominant kingdom was Prussia.

Left: This map shows the German states at the time of unification in 1871.

The history of this area is very complex, and I'm not getting any deeper into it just now, nor indeed probably ever.

Key to Map:
Duchy of Anhalt
Grand Duchy of Baden
Bayern = Kingdom of Bavaria
Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine)
Grand Duchy of Hesse
Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Grand Duchy of Mecklenberg-Strelitz
Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
Kingdom of Preußen (Prussia)
Kingdom of Sachsen (Saxony)
Thüringen (Thuringian States)
Kingdom of Württemberg

The royal railways of the German states continued to exist separately until the early 1920s, when they were unified and became one German Imperial Railway Company (=Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft, which used the acronym DRG and the logo DR). With unification, the DRG inherited an vast number of different types of locomotives and rolling stock. One of the first and most important measures of the newly founded DRG was to:

1. Establish a common numbering system for all locos. Each number was prefixed with BR (=Bauartreihe=design series) followed by numbers thus:

  • BR01-19 Express train locomotives >110 km/h
  • BR20-39 Passenger train locos <110 km/h
  • BR40-59 Freight train locos
  • BR60-62 Express train locos with integral tender
  • BR63-79 Passenger train locos with integral tender <110 km/h
  • BR80-96 Freight train locos with integral tender
  • BR97 Rack railway locos
  • BR98 Local (not state-run) railway locos,
  • BR99 Narrow gauge railway locos
(e.g. the Royal Bavarian S 3/6 locos became BR 18.3-18.5)

2. Establish a new locomotive acquisition programme, where everything that could be standardized was, e.g. boilers, wheels, pistons, black loco but red gear, etc. Important designs which originated from the DRG's new programme were the BR 01, 03, 05 (world record 200 km/h), 42, 44, 50, 52 etc.
The DRG existed until the end of the Third Reich in 1945 when Germany was divided into East and West parts, the German railway network being divided with it.

In West Germany, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republik of Germany, FRG) called its railways Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB, = German Federal Railways).

East Germany (German Democratic Republic = GDR) continued to call their part of the German railways the Deutsche Reichsbahn and continued to use the acronym DR and the old DR logo.

After German reunification 1990, the two railways companies, DB and DR continued to exist separately until 1993 and were then unified under the new name of Deutsche Bahn (DB, German Railways) on 01-01-1994. Deutsche Bahn still uses the acronym DB.

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