BR 44 – Heavy Freight Locomotive Performed Herculean Service for Many Years

What an impressive sight! 44 1378 and a BR 52 with just five small freight cars but it's a very impressive shot.

Much like its lighter brethren, the BR 50/52, the BR 44 heavy freight locomotive used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft (DRG), the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) and the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) was a success story from beginning to final mustering out. Its design goes back to 1927 and its use went into the early 1980s. That’s a tough act to follow. This machine was built in numerous variations but always retained the 1’E (2-10-0) axle configuration and its 20 ton axle loading.

Affectionately known as Jumbo in Germany, the BR 44 also must have made quite an impression on the SNCF because in 1946 the French produced this engine as the 150X. They were used primarily to haul many a freight train in the 2,000-ton range.

BR 44 – Standard Locomotive 1927 – 1982

The BR 43 and BR 44 were part of the DRG’s standardization plan for general locomotives. Ten examples were built in 1927. Of the two, the BR 43 proved very economical to operate and therefore it continued in production but when the demand for faster freight trains was upon the DRG, production of the three-cylinder BR 44 took precedence.

In 1937, Krupp, Henschel and Schwarzkopff delivered the so-called intermediate BR 44 (44 013 – 065). These machines had boiler pressures of 16 bar and cylinders with the bore smaller by 1.97 in. (50 mm). In place of the copper fire box, they used steel fire boxes.

Engine 44 066 was the first standard locomotive of the BR 44 series. A major change was in the actuation of the third cylinder. Instead of an eccentric disc, the cylinder was powered by a crankshaft axle.

Procurement continued through the second World War albeit in a simplified version. Thus the BR 44 became the BR 44 ÜK (Übergangs Kriegslokomotive or transition war locomotive). In France, 226 BR 44s were built but these never reached DRG service. In 1949, LEW Berlin-Hennigsdorf assembled 10 engines (44 1231 – 1240) from parts still in hand and these went to the DR. The boiler for these were made by Frichs inDenmark. By then the BR 44 had reached the status of having the longest production run for a single type with 1,989 engines having been built between 1927 and 1949. At war’s end, 1,242 went to the DB and 335 to the DR.

DRG From 1933 to 1962

In 1932, the DRG evaluated eight different locomotives to determine if boiler pressures of up to 25 bar would be advantageous. Engines 44 011 and 012 were selected to be fitted with new boilers and changed from three cylinders to four. St 52 steel was used for the boilers and several different steels were selected for the fireboxes. To speed the heating and circulating of the water both engines were modified with firebox water chests based on the American Nicholson design.

During evaluation at LVA Berlin-Grünewald, the water chests bulged and leaked and thus they had to be removed for modification. Then, in tests, the two engines demonstrated extremely low steam and coal consumption, levels not previously reached by the DRG. The tests showed that 20 bar is the maximum boiler pressure that could be reached with the Stephenson-type tube boiler. In 1935 boiler pressure of the two test engines were lowered to 20 bar and in 1939 to 16 bar. Engine 44 011 was in DB territory at the end of the war but was removed from service on December 13, 1950 at Bw Kornwestheim. Engine 44 012 found itself in East Germany in 1945 and it was sent to Bw Halle for use as a braking locomotive. It was mustered out on March 14, 1962.

Conversion by the DB, 1950 – 1968/73

After the war the DB made it a point to take all the single types, oddballs, if you will, out of service. It is not economical to maintain parts somewhere for a locomotive of which there is only one example. Simultaneously, the DB conducted trials on various methods that might be used to make existing locomotives thermally more efficient. It was anticipated that the results of these trials would pave the way to the construction of new and better boilers.

Under these ground rules, engines 44 239, 241, 242, 244 and 246 (Schwartzkopff 1939) were fitted with new welded boilers with a 23 in. (585 mm) long firebox and multiple valve superheated steam regulator. The locomotives were also the first German engines to be outfitted with automatic stokers and shaking gratings. These advances were used under license from the U.S.. Five more engines, 44 433, 475, 629, 1174 and 1210, also received the new welded boilers and feedwater preheaters at Henschel. The stoker-equipped locomotives where phased out between 1964 and 1968. 44 443 and 44 629 were mustered out in 1966 but 44 1174 and 44 1210 lasted until 1973. In 1955 engine 44 475 became the first German locomotive to be retrofitted for oil firing. Thirty-one more were similarly converted from 1958 to 1960.

Conversion by the DR; 1951 – 1975 (coal); 1961 – 1981 (oil)

The BR 44s that the DR inherited and that were then commandeered by the Russian forces to move war booty to points East proved too much for the Russian train crews. They were not used to what was really a pretty complex locomotive although they had little difficulty dealing with the simpler BR 52 and BR 42 Kriegsloks. In the end, they returned the BR 44s to the DR saying thanks but no thanks.

Yet, the DR also experienced a major problem with the 44s. It wasn’t their complexity because the crews were experienced enough to deal with that. The problem was the coal. Not all coal is good coal. East Germany had little, if anything, in the way of what is called "Steinkohle" or bituminous coal. East Germany had what is called "Braunkohle" or brown coal, a coal with a much lower heat content. Braunkohle is manufactured by pressing powdered brown coal or lignite into briquettes. These briquettes are relatively fragile and shoveling them into the firebox easily broke them. Then glowing broken pieces fell through the grating into the ash pit. At times it was necessary to empty the ash box while away from the locomotive servicing facilities. Hot, glowing coals dumped on tracks with wooden ties are not a good combination.

There was way out. The DR renewed its interest in the possible implementation of coal dust firing. The project, headed by Hans Wendler, proposed the feeding of the coal dust from the tender to the firebox by means of a pneumatic system.

In 1951 locomotive 44 506 was fitted with a system to accomplish this. Side-by-side tests with the conventionally fired 44 1416 showed that under the same conditions, the coal-dust fired machine was clearly more efficient. Based on this, a total of 22 BR 44s were then converted. The last one of these modified Loks was taken out of service in 1975.

While coal dust firing made for greater efficiency, there were some distinct disadvantages. One was the distinctly dangerous episodes from prematurely ignited coal dust. There were reports of flashbacks from the firebox. Then there were the ever increasingly layers of coal dust that seemed to cover everything including train crews. The reality is that dust is dust and that it makes for a big mess. Maybe that’s why East Germany seemed to have a uniformly gray appearance.

In 1959, engine 44 195 became the first DR locomotive to be converted to oil firing and production engines were delivered starting in 1961 ending in 1967. The production run totalled 94 engines with about half receiving entirely new boilers. All went well until about 1980. Then the oil crunch hit. The initial oil contract with the Soviet Union was up for renewal. By then even the Soviets had adjusted the price of their crude oil to coincide with world oil prices. The DR could no longer afford the Soviet crude and had to take its oil-fired BR 44s out of service by the end of 1981. In the 1982/1983 period 58 of the oil-BR 44s were rebuilt to for coal firing. Seventeen of the engines would up as mobile heating plants and eight were made into steam generators retaining only the boiler and a set of wheels. A rather inglorious end to a fine locomotive.

A Word about Tenders

The BR 44 came with a great variety of tenders. The standard coal tender was a 2’2’T32 or 2’2’T34. (The T-number indicates the amount of water held measured in cubic meters.). Some had 2’2’T31.5 tenders. The 2’2’T32.5 Kst was the coal dust tender and 2’2’T34 Öl was for oil. Some BR 44s also used a tub tender 2’2’T24 Kst for coal dust.

LEW = Kombinat VEB Lokomotivebau-Elektrotechnische Werke "Hans Beimler" After 1990, LEW Hennigsdorf, GmbH. Combine for Locomotive Construction and Electric Technology.

LVA = LokomotivVersuchsAnstalt. Locomotive testing facility.


Year introduced 1927
Axle configuration 1'E (2-10-0)
Service class G 56.20
Continuous output 1,910 hp
Maximum speed, forward 50 mph (80 km/h)
Maximum speed, reverse 31 mph (50 km/h)
Maximum tractive effort 95.0 tons
Cylinder bore 21.6 in. (550 mm)
Piston stroke 26 in. (660 mm)
Locomotive service weight 109.8 tons
Tender service weight 72.8 tons
Tender coal capacity 353 ft3 (10 m3)
Tender water capacity 1,200 ft3 (34 m3)
Boiler pressure 16 bar
Overall length including tender 74.2 ft (22,620 mm)
Wheel diameter, pilot truck 33.5 in. (850 mm)
Wheel diameter, drivers 55.1 in. (1,400 mm)
Fire grating surface area 48.4 ft2 (4.5 m2)
Steaming surface area 2,561 ft2 (238.0 m2)
Superheating surface area 1,076 ft2 (100.0 m2)
Builders Henschel, Schwartzkopff
Number built approx 2,000


Das grosse Typenbuch deutscher Lokomotiven, Weisbrod, Bäzold, Obermayer, Transpress, Berlin, 1992, ISBN 3-334-70751-5.

"Baureihe 44 – Unvergessene Schwarze Giganten," Märklin Magazin, 1/96, p. 64.

"Jumbos Unter Dampf – Die Baureihe 44 bei der Reichsbahn der DDR," Eisenbahn Magazin, 7/87, p. 26.