Franz Kruckenberg

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Franz Friedrich Kruckenberg
Schienenzeppelin and its supporters
Kruckenberg (2nd from the left) in front of the Schienenzeppelin
Born (1882-08-21)August 21, 1882
Uetersen, Germany
Died June 19, 1965(1965-06-19) (aged 82)
Heidelberg, Germany
Nationality German
Education ship building
Engineering career
Engineering discipline aerodynamics
Significant design Schienenzeppelin
Significant advance high speed trains

Franz Friedrich Kruckenberg (* 21 August 1882 in Uetersen, Germany; † 19 June 1965 in Heidelberg) was an engineer and pioneer of high speed railway systems. He designed several high speed trains. His most famous train was the Schienenzeppelin.

Kruckenberg was born into an ancient Hamburg merchant family. He studied from 1904 to 1907 mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule (Polytechnic) Charlottenburg in Berlin gaining his Diplom in naval engineering. Before World War I he constructed combat aircraft and airships. Already at that time he criticized airships because of their explosive hydrogen filling and the civil use of aircraft because of the high fuel and maintenance costs.

The revolutionary Schienenzeppelin[edit]

Schienenzeppelin at Erkrath-Hochdahl steep ramp

After the first World War he opened an engineering consultancy in Heidelberg. First he invented a hanging monorail, but he did not get the financing for a prototype. Later he founded the Flugbahn-Gesellschaft mbH together with Hermann Föttinger to build a high speed propeller driven train, the "Schienenzeppelin". The first test runs were made 25 September 1930 on the track Braunschweig-Paderborn between Kreiensen and Altenbeken.

On 21 June 1931 his Schienenzeppelin made the first run on the track Hamburg-Berlin. Between Ludwigslust and Wittenberge, the Schienenzeppelin achieved a world record for trains of 230.2 km/h (143.0 mph). It was the fastest railcar in the world for more than 20 years. A major problem was the propeller, causing noise and wind. Kruckenberg rebuilt the Schienenzeppelin to a hydraulic driven car, which still made a top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph) with only 441 kW.

The Schienenzeppelin was revolutionary for this time, since the aerodynamic streamline profile and the light weight construction was proven usable for high speed railways. Kruckenberg's ideas continue to influence high speed train construction today (ICE, Acela, TGV, AVE). The Schienenzeppelin was scrapped in 1939.

SVT 137 - prototype of following high speed trains[edit]

After the Schienenzeppelin Kruckenberg designed the DRG Class SVT 137 155 in 1934. This prototype of a three unit DMU had a diesel-hydraulic transmission and was ready in 1938. On a test run, on 23 June 1939, this train made a world speed record for diesel trains of 215 km/h between Hamburg and Berlin. Parts of the SVT 137 are still preserved in Dresden.

Based on this prototype Kruckenberg constructed the DB Class VT 10.5 ("Senator" und "Komet") as talgo technique fast running daytime (7 parts) and night (8 parts) trains after World War II. They were famous for their unreached light weight (0.92 t/seat), but had disadvantages in maintenance due to their six motor concept. So they were taken out of service in 1959 resp. 1960.

Also the famous DB Class VT 11.5 ("TEE") und DR Class VT 18.16 ("Vindobona") were derived from Kruckenbergs SVT 137 155.


  • Gottwaldt, Alfred (2006). Der Schienenzeppelin. Franz Kruckenberg und die Reichsbahn-Schnelltriebwagen der Vorkriegszeit 1929-1939. Freiburg: Ek. ISBN 978-3-88255-134-1. 
  • Gottwaldt, Alfred (1972). Schienenzeppelin. Franz Kruckenberg und die Reichsbahn-Schnelltriebwagen der Vorkriegszeit 1929-1939. Augsburg: Rösler und Zimmer. 

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