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Occasional Train Blogging: Hump-Nosed Trains

by DoDo Mon Feb 19th, 2007 at 05:11:24 AM EST

Being clueless about the pre-existence of such terminology in English, I invented this English name for certain trains connected by nothing but appearance: streamlined multiple units that have, for one reason or another, an elevated-level forward-looking compartment on their end cars.

Let's start with an example from Sweden: the Swedish state railway (SJ) series Y3 "Kamelen" (='Camel'). Cars for four diesel multiple units (DMUs) were built in Germany in 1966. The end cars showcase a long hump with the driver's cabin and a panoramic passenger compartment, with the diesel equipment (motor cars) resp. a lower floor with seats (driving trailer) underneath.

A Y3 leaves Bräkne-Hoby for Karlskrona in 1974, double-deck driving trailer ahead. Photo by Stig Mohlin from Bahnbilder.de


Starting a non-straightforward evolution, the grandmother of the German 'hump-nosed' trains was the famed Schienenzeppelin, a propeller-driven fast railcar designed by a certain Franz Kruckenberg. Fast diesel railcars of the time had the driver crammed into a small place in front of the noisy motor, behind a nose that was more stylish than truly aerodynamic. The Rail Zeppelin however had a long aerodynamic nose, broken at the top end by the windshield (forced by the limited window strength of the time).

The Rail Zeppelin was a technological dead-end, despite setting a world record of 230.2 km/h in 1931. But, with propeller removed, it served as a testbed for a less exotic, much less well known, yet more influential work of Kruckenberg, one that was named for him:

Factory photo of the brand-new SVT 137 155 a+b+c "Kruckenberg" in January 1938 – one of the very few surviving photographs of the vehicle. From an extract from W. Paetzold: Voith Turbo Transmissions 1930–1985, Vol. 2: Motor Car Drives [pdf!]

The room under the aerodynamic hood was used for the engine, with other machinery under the driver's cabin. The sole prototype achieved 215 km/h in summertime speed trials. But its axle bearings weren't up to the hardships, and the summer was that of 1939 – and right at the outbreak of WWII, all diesel-powered fast trains were mothballed, to spare fuel for the tanks & warships... Only parts of the stored-away prototype could be salvaged by a museum in Dresden when it was scrapped in 1958. However, SVT 137 155 was the mother of the most celebrated post-WWII DMUs of both Germanies.

After the failure of two light luxury DMUs (class VT 10.5, which was hampered by unstable running), the young West German Railways (DB) ordered a much more solid construction, class VT 11.5 (later renamed series 601). The 9 trainsets (+ spare tractor head) were for the TransEuropExpress (TEE) service, a joint project of the West European railways from 1957. Paralleling similar ill-considered ideas across the pond (see below), the concept was to compete with air traffic with fast all-first-class luxury trainsets that can pass borders easily. (The problems were: at 160 km/h these trains were still not fast enough, the luxury passenger circle was not big enough, and the trainsets were too short for mass traffic.)

A DB 601 on a late August early morning reaches the end of the 'Slope-viaduct of Pünderich', which sits on a steep wine-growing side of the deep valley of the Mosel river. The train still sports the original stylish TEE metal letters, though the photo is from the IC era (in 1979 or 80). Photo by W. Zitz/KoLü Ksf from RailServer.de

Five 'half-trains' were also delivered to the Danish State Railways (DSB) in 1963 (series MA "Lyntog"), which had a driving trailer at the other end, but also with elevated cab, to have room for a 'walk-through' front door to link up two trains. The same year the East German DR received the first of its eight VT 18.16 (later renamed series 175, much later all-German series 675). They were kind of a prestige counter-project to DB's trains, and made an impression even across the Iron Curtain on international runs.

A four-car DR class 175 running the Vienna-Berlin "Vindobona" service passes under the bridge of the Raisdorf-Harth local road in Austria, 1979. Photo from Andraschek Collection/DEF

In 1970, DB also rebuilt four of its tractor heads with turbine drives (class 602), but that wasn't a first. Nor the original diesels.

North America

The very first US streamlined DMU, Union Pacific's M-10000 "Tin Worm" prototype from 1934, featured an elevated 'turret cab', above large (and IMO ugly) air intakes. Some later members of UP's series, copying Illinois Central's #121 "Green Diamond" or "Tobacco Worm" (all 1936), had fronts like diesel locomotives of the era, but the roof again fell off behind the cab – another distinctive hump-nosed look. In the fifties, the locomotive of the failed Aerotrain also sported a similar cab-hump.

UP M-10005 as the first westbound "City of Denver" kicks up dust upon arrival in the name-giving city, 19 June 1936. Photo by Otto Perry from Wikipedia

The most famed North American trains with a hump on the nose were the six TurboTrains built by United Aircraft in 1967 (originally five for Canadian National and one for DoT). They were powered by turbines, which were strong yet relatively small, so a similar 'hump' with panoramic view could be placed upon them as on the SJ Y3. In North American terminology, this design was christened 'dome motor car'.

The UAC Turbo was a real forerunner of high-speed trains, even incorporating passive tilt technology, but although it still holds the US rail speed record at 274.9 km/h (170.8 mph) and the Canadian at 226.3 km/h (140.6 mph), it was a failure: the turbine technology wasn't really rail-worthy, and the Oil Crises made their high consumption a problem.

The first UAC TurboTrain on a Boston to New York run just passed Pelham station, August 1970. The train with a single middle car originally ran for New Haven RR, but in a merger mania, the latter was first bought by the giant Pennsylvania RR, then the latter united with New York Central to form Penn Central, whose livery it showcases above. Later AMTRAK would add two middle cars and buy two more sets from Canada. Photo by Martin K. OToole/RailPictures.net


Italian high-speed developers chose electric multiple units (EMUs) early on – in fact already in Mussolini's time (ETR200-ETR240 family), but due to mismanagement and corruption, projects suffered continuous delays for half a century, thus Shinkansen and TGV could steal the limelight.

Still, in 1953, the state railways FS received two series ETR300 "Settebello" seven-car luxury EMUs for (originally) 160 km/h. Electric equipment fit under the floor, but the driver's cabin was placed in a hump, to have panoramic compartments of an entirely different kind: looking forward. Later the trains were also involved in TEE traffic, and received a third twin, and in 1960 four 4-car sisters (ETR250 "Arlecchino").

A preserved "Settebello", ETR302 in Codogno, 1 February 2003. Photo by Stefano Paolini from PHOTORAIL

The Netherlands

None of the above trains lived up to expectations fully. Not so the class Plan Z/ICM "Koploper" of the Dutch state railways NS. 94 three-car EMUs (series 4000) and another 50 of the 4-car version (series 4200) were built for IC service from 1977. The driver's cabin was elevated to get around the problem of the fixed length of EMUs: two trains can be coupled with the noses opening into a gangway. (Like the second endcar of the DSB "Lyntog"-s, but also CN's Turbos.)

3-car "Koploper" 4046 coupled with 4-car sister 4234 as IC 21738 (Enschede-Rotterdam Centraal) at Moordrecht, 30 November 2006. Photo by Eddy Konijnendijk from RailFanEurope


When national railways JNR built its first super-express in 1958 (series EC20, later 151), they wanted to have good line-sight for the driver at high speed (Japan's dominant gauge is 1,067 mm, with a correspondingly small loading gauge; a series 151 set a narrow-gauge world speed record of 163 km/h in 1959) and keep loud electric equipment away from passengers – hence it got a DB VT 11.5-like 'bonnet' front.

The series 151 not only led to the (flat-roofed) Shinkansen, but spawned a very large family of 'hump-nosed' EMUs for JNR and its private successors (DC sisters series 161, 181, 183, 189, AC sisters 481, 483, 485, 489, and their night-train versions 581, 583, later JR Hokkaido DC sister 781; and the dual-system 443 and diesel-electric hybrid 190/191 inspection trains), most of them with the newer flat fronts (more like the NS "Koploper") called 'walk-through' (though few really had front doors).

A snow-covered JR West 481-126, one of the last with bonnet front and original painting scheme, arrives in Aomori on the night of 12 February 2001. Photo from the Guest Album at BONNET-EXP

More modern descendants at JR East (the DC E351 "Super Azusa", dual-system 651 "Super Hitachi", E653, AC E751) and JR Hokkaido (789) got more stylish fronts. From 1960 the same or similar 'bonnet' and 'walk-through' fronts were also used in DMUs (old JNR series D[iesel]c[ar]80, Dc81, Dc/N183, and JR Hokkaido's newer tilting trains Dc261 "Super Soya", Dc281 "Super Hokuto", Dc283 "Super Ozora").

A JR Hokkaido series Dc283 train, one with cab above the front door, starts to tilt into a curve at Niyama (between Onuma and Nanae, North of Hakodate), 23 August 2005. Photo from Train Sakura

The elevated-cab-behind-panoramic-front design (like that of the FS "Settebello") is also widespread in Japan. JNR had some (rebuilt series 165, Dc183-1000 subseries); but from the early sixties, it was two privates that made most use of it: Nagoya Railroad (first Panorama Cars: series 7000, 7500) and Odakyu Express Railway (Romancecar series 3100 NSE, 7000 LSE, 10000 HiSE, 50000 VSE).

Brand-new Odakyu Express Railway series 50000 VSE ("VaultSuperExpress") near Kaisei (north of Odawara) on its first day of service, 19 March 2005. Even the elevated cab behind the panoramic compartment was morphed into a sleek aerodynamic shape with high-speed look (resembling the German ICE-3), yet the top speed of this narrow-gauge cruiser is just 130 km/h. Photo from Odakyu Photo Blog

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Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

Babelfish is a great thing, with it you can read all the foreign-language pages I linked in the diary, it now even manages to not translate (just transliterate) most Japanese placenames.

* Service message: I'll be off-line from today evening to Friday evening.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 10:15:58 AM EST
I asked Babelfish to translate the title from English to English, to see if it would come up with another suggestion for this kind of double-decker, and it said:

Occlusional Drain Clogging: Lump-Froze Brains

Either that or I've been going at the mint tea too hard.

(Serious: great diary yet again, DoDo. Love those pictures of trains.)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 10:36:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
provided a lot of interesting pics:

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 12:35:31 PM EST
Yea, they are extremely popular, and despite just six trains with a short in-service life (a decade or so), had a lot of different painting schemes (also six in total).

(From top to bottom: VIA, the Canadian public railway holding; early AMTRAK "Yankee Clipper"; the prototype in New Haven RR colours; (obviously) Canadian National.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 01:51:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personal note: I'm said to practically have been born with rail fever. The family re-tells a story how my grandfather, who was an engineer in a locomotive factory, took me out to a railway station when not yet 2 years old, and I pointed and said a garbled version of "train" as my third spoken word; can't tell how precise that was. But the first thing I clearly remember was a children's painted book with images of several of the trains in this diary, back when we lived in Zadar/present-day Croatia.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 01:59:37 PM EST
With a smaller compartment on top of the single car : the Micheline! . Also one of the first trains with tires.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 02:50:37 PM EST
It's almost overkill, but check these photos of the West German series 601 in the Rhine Valley in the eighties, the setting and age I have first met them in real life...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 03:30:53 PM EST
Hump-nosed.. Well, that's better than what I used to call the koplopers: the 747 trains. Somehow the front of a koploper reminds me of a 747 plane.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Sun Feb 18th, 2007 at 08:47:27 PM EST
The less well known Japanese diesel train, Hatsukari:

(Source: Mo-yan Railway Gallery)

The train debut was in 1959, a year after the introduction of 151s.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Mon Feb 19th, 2007 at 09:14:12 AM EST
Look at the hump-nosed visitor to Leopoldshafen!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

OK, so it isn't a train --
but what is it, and why were the staff at KATRIN eager for its arrival?

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Feb 20th, 2007 at 04:10:42 AM EST
Think "neutrinos" and "ultra-high vacuum"...

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Tue Feb 20th, 2007 at 03:05:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another fabulous diary, thank you!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 20th, 2007 at 04:56:35 AM EST
Sweet, DoDo! I never thought I'd find locomotives this interesting.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Feb 20th, 2007 at 06:33:35 AM EST

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