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H0 scale “SU-29 018” (OnRail DH 1504, ex Deutsche Bundesbahn BR 216) in Polskie Koleje Państwowe (PKP; Polish State Railways) service, 2016 (Whif/modified Märklin 3075) | by Dizzyfugu
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H0 scale “SU-29 018” (OnRail DH 1504, ex Deutsche Bundesbahn BR 216) in Polskie Koleje Państwowe (PKP; Polish State Railways) service, 2016 (Whif/modified Märklin 3075)


Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!



Some background:

Following good performance from the pioneering diesel-hydraulic locomotive the DB Class V 80, the Deutsche Bundesbahn planned in 1953 to build several types of new diesel locomotive, primarily to replace steam powered locomotives.These were: V 60, and V 65, both shunters, the V 65.2, also for shunting as well as light freight trains, the heavy DB Class V 200, for express passenger trains, and the universal V 160 for both freight and passenger work on the main network.


The new V 160 class was a central piece in this line-up, because it would replace important steam-powered engines such as the BR 03, BR 23, BR 38.10 (former Prussian P 8 class), BR 39 (ex P 10), BR 50, BR 57 (ex G 10) and BR 78 (ex T 18). Steam heating for passenger coaches was necessary, and a top speed of 120 km/h was specified. Initially, a 1,600 hp powerplant, consisting of two engines of the same type as in the light V 80 was planned, the first newly developed diesel locomotive built for main line service by the Deutsche Bundesbahn (but only built in 10 examples). This dual engine arrangement had already been successfully introduced in the heavy V 200, which was initially powered by two 1,000 hp diesel engines. However, it was soon realized, that, if a single, high-powered engine could be used, weight, complexity and therefore maintenance and other costs would be considerably reduced. The V 160’s design was modified accordingly and a single MTU V16 four-stroke diesel engine was chosen. Both two-axle bogies were powered via drive shafts from a two speed hydraulic drive from Voith, which offered a compromise between the requested high speed for light passenger trains and the alternative reduced second gear with lower top speed, but much higher torque, for freight train service. Gears could only be switched when the locomotive was standing still, though.


In the spring of 1956, V 160 development began at Krupp. Welded steel components along with other lightweight materials were used to keep the axle load well below 20t, so that the V 160 could be safely operated on secondary lines. However, in the main production series of locomotives, some of the lighter weight welded construction was abandoned in favor of less expensively produced components - leading to an increase in axle weight from ~18.5 to ~20t, which was still acceptable but lowered overall production costs. This was furthermore not regarded as a major problem since the DB perspectively started to abandon branch lines, switching to more economical diesel multiple units or giving them up altogether towards the Seventies.


The first V 160 unit was delivered on 6 August 1960, with eight more following by 1962 from both Krupp and Henschel. These prototype units, due to their rounded, “busty” front end, were later to become unusual amongst the entire V 160 family and earned them the nickname “Lollo” (in allusion to Gina Lollobrigida). A final prototype V 160 010, the tenth, was manufactured by Henschel in 1963 and the first to feature the serial locomotives’ angled front end, which was inspired by the design of the super-heavy V 320 Henschel prototype.


Despite the single main engine, the V 160 was still a complex locomotive. In addition to the main engine, the V 160 featured a small, independent auxiliary diesel engine, driving a generator providing the 110 V electrical supply for lighting as well as driving an electric air compressor for the brakes. The steam heating apparatus, sourced from Hagenuk and powered by fuel oil, took up one end of the locomotive, between the engine and drivers cabin. It had the capacity to satisfactorily heat 10 coaches when the outside temperature was -10°C. For passenger train service, most V 160 locomotives were also equipped for push-pull operation, as well as for multiple working, controlled via a 36 pin control cable and respective sockets on the locomotives front ends.


The prototypes performed well, and volume production began, numbers V 160 011 to V 160 224 being built between 1964 and 1968 by Krupp, Henschel, KHD, Krauss-Maffei and MaK. The first V 160/216 locomotives entered service on the Hamburg to Lübeck line, working push-pull double decked passenger trains, replacing the BR 38.10 and BR 78 steam engines. The engines were also used on freight workings as well. On push-pull passenger working, the locomotives were sometimes found in the middle of the train - which facilitated easier separation of carriages en route.


By the time the 156th example was under completion, the Deutsche Bundesbahn changed its numbering system. From then on, the V 160 class were re-designated as Class (Baureihe = BR) 216, with the individual unit numbering continuing as before. Over the next decade, because of changing requirements – mostly in terms of increased power, speed as well as the requirement for electrical passenger heating – a number of related classes sprang up, the BR 210, 215, 217, 218 and 219. Although some were a little longer and carried additional components (e.g. an auxiliary jet engine), all of them were essentially based on the original V 160 and more than 800 machines of all types were eventually built.


Since the 1990s, the Bundesbahn’s BR 216 locomotives scope of work started to shift more on freight than on passenger trains because of the lack of steam-heated passenger stock. From 2000 onwards, the Deutsche Bahn AG’s BR 216 fleet was phased out, with the last locomotive being decommissioned in 2004.

Several locomotives were sold to private operators like rail construction companies and remained in frequent use, and some retired BR 216s were re-built and offered for sale, too. The first in the series of rebuilt Class 216s was called type “DH 1504” and created in 1998 by the firm 'On Rail'. Despite only little external changes, the result was an almost completely new locomotive, only the transmission, bogies and frame were saved from the original locomotive. The original V16 diesel engine with 1,370 kW (1.900 hp), was replaced with a lighter but more powerful 1500 kW (2,085 hp) V12 four-stroke diesel engine, also from MTU. On customer demand, a new electric Webasto heating system could be installed instead of the original steam heating system, making the DH 1504 capable of operating modern passenger trains, and for this purpose the units were also fitted for multiple working as well as for remote control operation (e.g. for shunting). Another option was additional ballast, so that the axle load could be kept at 20 tons for better traction. Otherwise, 18 t axle load was standard for the revamped DH 1504.


Since 1998, 6 of these locomotives were re-built for private operators in Germany. By late 2019, three DH 1504 locomotives were in the use of the Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen (OHE), two work for the Niederrheinische Verkehrsbetriebe (NIAG) and one for the Mindener Kreisbahnen (MKB). However, the biggest sales success for OnRail’s modernized BR 216 was the export to Poland, where the PKP (Polskie Koleje Państwowe, Polish State Railways). After its privatization in 2001, the PKP was looking for a low-cost replacement for its last ST-43 Class diesel electric freight locomotives of Romanian origin, which dated back to the 1960ies. Twenty DH 1504 locomotives for mixed duties were built by OnRail between 2001 and 2005 and entered PKP service as Class SU-29 (spalinowa uniwersalna = mixed-traffic diesel locomotive with hydraulic transmission and multiple-unit control). Their initial primary field of duty was the cross-border freight traffic on the east-west relation on the PKP “Polskie line Kolejowe”, the so-called “Niederschlesische Gütermagistrale”. Since 2005, this route had been expanded, electrified and became double-railed, so that the SU-29s gradually took over more and more passenger train duties on non-electrified major lines. The SU-29 machines are expected to remain in PKP service beyond 2030.



General characteristics:

Gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge

UIC axle arrangement: B´B´

Overall length: 16,800 mm (52 ft 57⁄8 in)

Pivot distance: 8,600 mm

Bogie distance: 2,800 mm

Wheel diameter (when new): 1000 mm

Fuel supply: 3,800 l

Service weight: 80 t



MTU 4000R20 V12diesel engine with 1500 kW (2,085 hp) at 1,800 RPM



Voith L821rs 2-speed gearbox



Maximum speed: 120 km/h (75 mph) or 80 km/h (50 mph)

Torque: 235,2 kN


The kit and its assembly:

Well, this is a rather unusual what-if “build”, since this not a model kit as such but rather the conversion of a readymade H0 gauge model railway locomotive for the “Back into service” group build at in late 2019.


The inspiration was not original, though: some time ago I stumbled across a gift set from the former East-German manufacturer Piko, apparently for the Polish market. It contained a set of double deck passenger wagons, and a (highly simplified, toy-like) German BR 216 in PKP markings. It was called SU-29 and carried a very crude and garish green livery with yellow front ends – inspired by real world PKP diesel locomotives, but… wrong. I found this so bizarre that it stuck in my mind. When I dug a little further, my surprise even grew when I found out that there were other national adaptations of this simple Piko BR 216 (e .g. for Denmark) and that Piko’s competitor Roco offered a similar BR 215 in PKP colors, too! This time, the fictional locomotive was designated SU-47 (which cannot be since this would indicate a locomotive with electric power transmission – poor job!), and it also wore a bright green livery with yellow front markings. Bizarre… And the PKP does NOT operate any BR 216 at all?!


However, with the GB topic in mind, I decided to create my own interpretation of this interesting topic – apparently, there’s a market for whiffy model locomotives? The basis became a 2nd hand Märklin 3075 (a BR 216 in the original red DB livery), not a big investment since this is a very common item.

In order to easy painting, the locomotive was disassembled into its major sections and the body stripped of any paint in a one-week bath in oven cleaner foam, a very mild and effective method.


The heavy metal chassis was not modified, it just received a visual update (see below).


The upper body underwent some cosmetic surgery, though, but nothing dramatic or structural, since the DH 1504 described above only differs in minor external details from the original BR 216. I decided to modify the front ends, especially the lights: Locomotives in PKP service tend to have VERY large lamps, and I tried to incorporate this characteristic feature through masks that were added over the original light conductors, scratched from styrene tube material.

In the course of this facial surgery, the molded handles at the lower front corners were lost. They were later replaced with three-dimensional silver wire, mounted into small holes that were drilled into the hull at the appropriate positions. Fiddly stuff, but I think the effort was worth it.


The original vent grills between the lower lamps were sanded away and covers for the multiple working cable adapters on the front ends added – scratched with small styrene profile bits.

For a cleaner, modern look, I removed the original decorative aluminum profile frame around the upper row of cooling louvers. The roof was modified, too: beyond the bigger headlight fairing, the exhaust for the auxiliary diesel engine was removed, as well as the chimney for the old steam heating system. The diesel engine’s exhaust pipes were lengthened (inspired by similar devices carried by DB BR 218), so that the fumes would be deviated away from the locomotive’s hull and the following wagons. Horns and a blade antenna for each driver’s cabin were added, too.



Painting and markings:

Both Piko and Roco V 160s in PKP markings look garish – righteously, though, since PKP locomotives used to carry for many years very striking colors, primarily a dark green body with a light green/teal contrast area on the flanks and yellow quick recognition front markings. However, I did not find any of the two model designs convincing, since they rather looked like a simple toy (Piko) or just wrong (Roco, with a surreal grass green contrast tone instead of the pale teal).


I rather went for something inspired by real world locomotives, like the PKP’s SU- and SP-45s. The basic design is an upper body with a dark green base (Humbrol 76, Uniform Green) and a pale green-grey area around the upper row of louvres (an individual mix of Humbrol 96 and 78). The kink under the front windows was used for waterline reference, the front section under the windows (in the dark green base) was painted in bright yellow (Humbrol 69) as a high-viz contrast, a typical feature of PKP locomotives. The chassis received a grey-green frame (somewhat visually stretching the locomotive) with bright red (Humbrol 19) headstocks, a nice color contrast to the green body and the yellow bib.

Silver 1.5mm decal stripes (TL Modellbau) were used to create a thin cheatline along and around the whole lower section. At some time I considered another cheatline between the light and dark green, but eventually ignored this idea because it would have looked too retro. The locomotive’s roof became medium grey (Revell 47).


The running gear and the tanks between the bogies were painted in very dark grey (Humbrol 67, similar to the original DB livery in RAL 7021) and weathered with a light black ink wash, some thinned Burnt Umbra (simulating dust and rust) plus some light dry-brushing with dark grey that emphasized the surface details. This used look was also taken to the upper body of the locomotive with watercolours (Grey, Black and some Sienna and Burnt Umbra) for a more natural look of daily service – rather subtle, and I emphasized the louvres, esp. on the light background, where they tended to disappear.


Individual markings consist of single decal letters in silver and white in various sizes (also TL Modellbau) for the locomotive’s registration code as well as of H0 scale catenary warnings from Nothaft Hobbybedarf, plus some generic stencils from various model decal sheets (incl. Cyrillic stencils from an 1:72 MiG-21 decal sheet…).


For a uniform finish I gave the locomotive an overall coat of matt acrylic varnish from the rattle can – it still has a slightly sheen finish and matches well the look of Märklin’s standard rolling stock.



A different kind of what-if project, but this has not been my first H0 scale locomotive conversion. The fictional PKP SU-29 looks a bit weird, with the garish paint scheme and the oversized headlights, but this strangeness makes this model IMHO quite convincing. The model is fully functional, even the light works well in the enlarged headlight fairings. Maybe I’ll sell it, since I do not have the appropriate model railway set at hand to effectively use it (which is also the reason for the rather limited scope of pictures of the finished item). And I am curious what people might be willing to pay for such a unique, fictional item?


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Taken on December 18, 2019