German railway wagon classes

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The system of German railway wagon classes (Wagengattungen) was introduced in Germany in 1902 and 1905 by the Prussian state railways based on their system of norms, and was soon taken up by the other state railways (Länderbahnen). On the formation of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the system became mandatory across the whole of Germany. In the course of the years more and more adjustments to it were made. It was finally replaced between 1964 and 1968 when the two German railway administrations - the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Reichsbahn (East Germany) - adopted the internationally standard UIC classifications for passenger coaches and goods wagons. Today, you will still find the system regularly being used for narrow gauge goods wagons, because these were not generally given UIC designations, as well as on many historic vehicles.

The wagon class comprises one or more main class letters (Hauptgattungszeichen) (in capitals, sometimes with lower case letters in between) and possibly several secondary class letters (Nebengattungszeichen) (always in lower case). Combinations of several main class letters are possible, e.g. on passenger coaches with different accommodation classes.

KKw = Lidded wagon with bogies and less than 30 t dead weight, here on the 750-mm gauge line of the Preßnitz Valley Railway

Main class letters[edit]

In order to distinguish bogie wagons, the last letter of the main class was doubled to begin with, e.g. BCBCC, GGG (exceptions were the Post, Salon, Schlaf und Speise where there was no difference). From 1928 the system was changed on passenger coaches. Instead of doubling the letters, the number of axles was indicated where it was greater than two. So an eight-wheeled BC coach was no longer classified as a BCC but as a BC4. That now made it possible to distinguish passenger coaches with three axles or more. For goods wagons, the doubling of letters was retained. Only on Dgw and ZM wagons was the differentiation dropped, whilst the BT, H, Pwg, V and VO wagons had no bogie variants anyway.

Period When Valid
(if limited)
Meaning
A Passenger coach 1st class
B Passenger coach 2nd class
BB 1928 to 1938 Former BC. 3rd class (C) compartments subsequently upholstered for 2nd class
BT from ? Groß Behälter-Tragwagen. Large container-carrying flat wagon.
C to 1956 Passenger coach 3rd class
CC 1928 to 1938 Former CD. 4th class (D) compartments subsequently fitted with benches for 3rd class.
D to 1928 Passenger coach 4th class
Dienst from ? Dienstwagen. Departmental wagon.
D… from 1952 (DR) Doppelstockwagen. Double-decker coach (only in combination with B, C, Pw)
DGB from 1957 (DR) Doppelstock-Gliederzug, 2nd class. Double-decker articulated train, 2nd class
DGR from 1958 (DR) Buffet car for the double-decker articulated train
Dgw from ? (DB) Dienstgüterwagen. Departmental wagon.
G Gedeckter Güterwagen. Covered van.
HH to 1923 Langholzwagenpaar. Log wagon pair.
H from 1924 Cradle wagon. Type of Langholzwagen or log wagon.
K Klappdeckelwagen. Lidded wagon.
K… from ? Narrow gauge passenger coach (only in combination with A, B, C, D, Pw, Post)
…K from 1954 (DR) Passenger coach with Küche (kitchen). (not in combination mit WL, WR)
…L 1933 to 1956 Lokalbahnwagen. Branch line coach. (only in combination with B, C, Pw, Post)
L… from 1957 (DB) Lokalbahnwagen. Branch line coach. (only in combination with B, C, Pw, Post)
…L from 1956 (DB) Liegewagen. Couchette coach.
…L(Z) from 1954 (DR) Coach with Lautsprechern für Zugfunk (loudspeakers for train communication).
M… from 1943
(DR only to 1954)
Provisional wartime coach (only in combination with B, C, Pw)
M from 1954 (DR) Passenger coach of goods van design
M from about 1957 (DR) Militärwagen? Military van - a covered van with special equipment for carrying troops
N 1911 to 1921 Covered van or combination van with air brakes or pipes for use in fast trains
O Offener Güterwagen. Open wagons.
P to 1927 Packwagen. Luggage van (not used for passenger coaches with a luggage compartment which had secondary letter p instead, see below).
P from 1928 Privatwagen. Private wagon.
Post Postwagen. Post van (to 1927 not used for passenger and goods wagons with a post compartment, which had secondary letters post instead, see below).
Pw from 1928 Gepäckwagen (Packwagen). Luggage van.
Pwg from 1933 Gepäckwagen für Güterzüge. Luggage van for goods trains. Guards van.
R from 1914 Rungenwagen. Stake wagon.
…R from 1956 (DB) Wagon with restaurant section (not in combination with WR)
S Schienenwagen. Flat wagon (e.g. for carrying rails).
S… from 1928
(DR only to 1945)
Sonderreisezugwagen (special passenger coach) for FD trains (only in combination with A, B, C, Post, Pw, WR).
…S from 1954 (DR) Sonderwagen. Special wagon.
Sdr from 1945 (DR) Sonderreisezugwagen. Special passenger coach.
Salon Salonwagen. Saloon car.
Schlaf to 1927 Schlafwagen. Sleeper.
Speise to 1927 Speisewagen. Dining or restaurant car. (not used for passenger coaches with dining section, which used secondary letters speise instead, see below).
T from 1943 Thermoswagen. Kühlwagen. Refrigerator van.
V Verschlagwagen. Livestock van for small livestock e.g. sheep and poultry.
VO to 1921 Offener Viehwagen. Open livestock wagon for large livestock, e.g. cattle and horses.
WG from ? (DB) Gesellschaftwagen. Company coach.
WL… from 1928 Schlafwagen − "wagon-lit". Sleeper. (only in combination with A, B, C)
WR from 1928 Speisewagen − "wagon-restaurant". Dining or restaurant car.
X Departmental open wagon.
Z from 1928 Zellenwagen. Prison van?
Z from 1951 (DR) Zisternenwagen. Tank wagon.
ZM 1945 to 1950 Tank wagon for the transportation of crude oil.

Secondary letters for passenger coaches[edit]

Period valid
(if limited)
Meaning
b from 1957 (DB) With additional brake pipes (Bremsleitung) and electrical control wiring (omitted on railbus classes and with f)
c from 1954 (DR) Passenger coach of goods van design (only as Mci, previously MCi)
d 1928 to 1937 Former 4th class D, now used unchanged as a higher travel class
e to 1927 Passenger coach with 2 decks (Etagen)
e from 1954 (DR)
from 1957 (DB)
Electric train heating (elektrischer Zugheizung) (DB: omitted with m)
(e) from 1957 (DB) Electric heating (elektrischer Heizleitung)
f from 1957 (DB) Driver's cab (Führerstand) on shuttle trains
g to 1927 Luggage van only suitable for use in goods trains (Güterzüge) (only in combination with P)
g 1928 to 1956 Former covered van (gedeckter Güterwagen) form passenger transport (only as Dgi or Cgi)
g from 1957 (DB) Rubber communication walls (Gummiwülste) instead of bellows (only in combination with ü or y)
from 1962 (DR) Rubber communication gangways (Gummiwulstübergängen)
k 1928 to 1953 (DR)
1928 to 1956 (DB)
Kitchen (Küche) (omitted on WL, WR)
kr from 1928 Sick bay (Krankenabteil) or with compartment which can be converted into a sick bay
i Through coach with open gangways
l from 1957 (DB) Light (leichte), eight-wheeled fast-stopping or passenger train coach of standard design with less than 30 t dead weight
m from 1957 (DB) Length over 24 m, upholstered 2nd class and electric heating or heating pipes
o from 1954 (DR) Stove heating (Ofenheizung)
p to 1927 Passenger coach with luggage compartment (Gepäckraum)
post to 1927 Passenger coach or luggage van with post (Post) compartment
r from 1967 (DR) Passenger coach with buffet facility
s from 1957 (DB) Closed side entrance (Seitengang) in 1st class or luggage van
on WL: Sleeper with individual compartments, in combination with i or y:
speise to 1927 Passenger coach with dining area (Speiseraum)
tr from 1928 suitable for heavy hand luggage (Traglasten) or equipped with a heavy hand luggage section
u 1933 to 1937 Converted (umgerüstete) former 3rd class (C), now upholstered and operated as 2nd class (B) and
former 4th class (D), now fitted with benches and operated as 3rd class (C)
ü Bogie coach with corridor and bellows gangways (Faltenbalgübergängen) (for express train coaches)
üp from 1939
(DB only to 1956)
Bogie coach with corridor and bellows gangways (Faltenbalgübergängen) (for passenger and fast-stopping train coaches
y from 1957 (DB) Bogie coach with corridor and bellows gangways (Faltenbalgübergängen) (for passenger and fast-stopping train coaches
v 1939 to ?

from 1962 (DB)

Passenger coach with temporary wooden benches

Priority compartments (Vorzugsabteile) (more legroom)

z from 1962 (DB) air conditioning

Secondary letters for goods wagons[edit]

Description of the maximum load[edit]

Four- and six-wheeled wagons[edit]

for Classes Period valid Meaning
m all to 1910 At least (mindestens) 15 ton maximum load
1911 to 1923 At least 15 ton but less than 20 ton maximum load
mm all At least 20 ton maximum load
m G, H, K, O, R, S, V, X ab 1924 At least (from 1937 exactly) 20 ton maximum load
mm G, K, O, R, X from 1937 more than 20 ton maximum load
w all to 1923 Less than (weniger) 10 ton maximum load
G, H, O, S, T, V, X from 1924 Less than 15 ton maximum load and not tippable

Wagons with eight wheels or more (including HH wagons)[edit]

for Classes Period valid Meaning
m GG, HH, OO, SS to 1910 At least (mindestens) 20 ton maximum load
1911 to 1923 At least 30 ton maximum load
SS 1933 to 1950 At least 50 ton maximum load (omitted on SSt and SSy, see below)
from 1950 (DB) At least 35 ton maximum load (omitted on SSt and SSy, see below)
w GG, HH, OO, SS to 1923 Less than (weniger) 20 ton maximum load
GG, KK, OO from 1924 Less than 30 ton maximum load
SS Less than 35 ton maximum load

Description of loading length and loading area[edit]

for Classes Period valid Meaning
k S from 1924 Loading length shorter (kürzer) than 13 m
SS Loading length shorter than 15 m
l all except SS to 1910 At least 7 m loading length (Ladelänge) and 17 m² loading area
all except R and SS 1911 to 1923 At least 8 m loading length
SS to 1923 More than 12 m loading length (Ladelänge)
1924 to 1932 More than 15 m loading length (omitted on SSt und SSy, see below)
from 1933 More than 18 m loading length (omitted on SSt und SSy, see below)
G 1924 to 1932 At least 24 m² loading area (Ladefläche)
from 1933 At least 26 m² loading area
K from 1960 (DB) At least 33 m² loading area
O from 1951 At least 10 m loading length (Ladelänge)
X from 1951 (DB) At least 8 m loading length

Description of features of importance for train formation[edit]

for Classes Period valid Meaning
b G, R, T from 1933 Ferry wagons (Fährbootwagen) for German-English ferry services (with smaller loading gauge)
e all from 1924 Electric heating pipes (elektrischer Heizleitung)
ee all from 1933
(DR only to 1950)
Electric heating pipes (elektrischer Heizleitung) and electric heating (elektrischer Heizung)
f all 1924 to 1932 Ferry wagons (Fährbootwagen) for German-English ferry services (with smaller loading gauge)
h all except ZM from 1924 Steam heating pipes (heizleitung)
hh G, GG, T from 1933 Steam heating pipes (heizleitung) and steam heating (Dampfheizung)
n G, V, VO to 1923 Air brakes or air pipes. Steam pipes or other equipment that make it suitable for use as a luggage van or in passenger trains (from 1911 some formed the main letter class N, see above)
q all from 1951 (DR) no through couplings (0-0 wagon or 'Null-Null-Wagen'), maximum load reduced
r all from 1924 Wagon with exchangeable wheelsets for transiting to Russian (russische) broad gauge (omitted on SSy, see below)
s G, R, SSy, T 1933 to 1950 Suitable for fast (schnell) trains running at up to 90 km/h
GG, RR, TT Suitable for trains running at up to 120 km/h
G, R, SSy, T from 1951 (DR) Suitable for trains running at up to 100 km/h
GG, TT Suitable for trains running at up to 120 km/h
alle ab 1951 (DB) Suitable for trains running at up to 100 km/h
u X to 1914 Unsuitable (untauglich) for trains used as public transport
[u] O, HH, S/SS, X to 1921 Unusable (unbrauchbar) for the loading of military vehicles
u alle 1939 bis 1948 Unusuitable (ungeeignet) for military transportation
G ab 1948 (DB) Unusuitable (ungeeignet) for passenger transportation
O sides not removable? ('nicht abbordbar')

Description of individual wagon classes[edit]

Classes G/GG and N[edit]

Period valid Meaning
f to 1923 Stalls for race horses (Luxuspferde)
g from 1951 (DB) Floor hatches for unloading bulk material
i 1911 to 1927 (?) End platforms, suitable for passengers
k 1924 to 1944 Refrigerated (Kühleinrichtung') (from 1945 several formed the main letter class T, see above)
from 1951 (DR) Refrigerator van (Kühlwagen), old type
ll from 1933 Pair of close-coupled vans for part-load goods, known as a Leig-Einheit
p from 1924
(DB only to 1950)
Six-wheeled, dead weight 16 tons
t from 1924 End doors (Stirnwandtüren)
trieb from 1933 to 1960 Goods railbuses (Gütertriebwagen) (all were left with the DB after the war)
v 1924 to 1932 End loading doors and special ventilation for livestock transportation (Viehbeförderung)
from 1933 Stable wagon with groom compartment
x from 1951 (DR) Fixed (internal?) walls for grain transportation

Class H/HH[edit]

for Class Period Valid Meaning
o H from 1924
(DR only to 1950)
Without (ohne) stakes, only usable in pairs
s H/HH to 1950 Coupling rods (Kuppelstangen)
z HH to 1923 Prongs (Zinken) on the rotating cradles

Classes K/KK, O/OO, VO and X/XX[edit]

for Classes Period Valid Meaning
c O to 1910 Coke wagon (Cocswagen) with high sides in order to load the right amount of coke corresponding to the maximum load
from 1911 Maximum 15 ton load, wooden sides at least 1,30 m high but lower than 1,90 m
f O/OO from 1951 Rotating and folding drop ends for transporting vehicles (Fahrzeugbeförderung)
g O 1924 to 1950 High, fixed rail sides (Gatterwänden)
g K from 1957 (DB) Sliding sides
i O/OO from 1951 (DB) Tippler (Muldenkippwagen)
k O/OO to 1923 Front walls (Kopfwänden) that pivot about an upper hinge and allow the load to be dumped onto tipping equipment
k O from 1933 Bucket car (Kübelwagen) with two or three removable buckets, 25 ton load
OO from 1951 (DB) Bucket car with four or five removable buckets
from 1951 (DR) Transporter for large containers
k K from 1951 (DB) Crane (kranbar), sliding roof with crane loading and unloading
n O/OO from 1951 (DR) Low (niedrige) sides, 40−80 cm high
o X/XX from 1914
(DR only to 1950)
Sides over 40 cm high
p O/OO from 1924 Not tippable, at least 15 t load, sides up to 1,90 m high
q O/OO to 1923 Removable end walls
t K/KK, O/OO,
X/XX
not
limited
Funnels (Trichtern), floor hatches, inclined floors or side hatches for self-discharging, not tippable. X wagons additionally with removable end walls
v O from 1924 Wooden sides over 190 cm high, no tipping facility (ex main class VO, see above)
y X 1914 to 1923 Special equipment for rapid loading and unloading etc.
z O, VO to 1923 Specially sealed, and so suitable for peat litter transportation or the like
O/OO from 1933 Ore transportation (Erzbeförderung) with special sealing

Classes R/RR and S/SS[edit]

for Classes Period Valid Meaning
a SS from 1933 Open brakeman's platform, folding platform rails
o R from 1933 No stakes
Ru Ol, Sl 1911 to 1913 At least 10 m long and with stakes (formed separate main letter class R from 1914, see above)
t S/SS from 1924 Well wagon (Tiefladewagen)
y SS from 1942 Heavy goods flat wagon (Schwerlastwagen) with 50 t maximum load, loading length 8,8 m (with folded platform rails 9,5 m), open brakemans' platform, exchangeable wheelsets for broad gauge
yl RR
SS
from 1951 (DR)
from 1951 (DB)
As for y, but longer loading length
ym SS from 1942 As for y, but higher maximum load (DR: > 50 t, DB from 1951: 80 t)
RR from 1951 (DR) Heavy goods flat wagon with 80 t maximum load, loading length 14,36 m, open brakemans' platform, folding platform rails

Class T/TT[edit]

Period Valid Meaning
f ab 1943 Fish (Seefische) van only
g Refrigerated goods (Gefriergut) only
gg Refrigerated goods (Gefriergut) and dry ice only
k from 1943 (DR) Refrigerator van (Kühlmaschinenwagen)
from 1951 (DB) k, an insulation value
kk from 1951 (DB) Insulated milk can van
n ab 1943 Not (nicht) suitable for refrigerated goods
o No (ohne) meat hooks
v Electric ventilators (Ventilatoren)

Class V[edit]

Period Valid Meaning
e to 1910 with decks (Etagen)
1911 to 1921 Lattice walls and two floors
g 1911 to 1932 Intermediate floors for geese (Gänsebeförderung) (to 1921 always used in combination with e)
from 1933 Four floors
p from 1922 No equipment to alter the loading area
z to 1921 With equipment to alter the loading area

Class ZM[edit]

Period Valid Meaning
h 1945 to 1950 Heating pipes (Heizschlangen)
i Insulation (Isolierung)
s For black (schwarzer) crude oil
w For white (weisser) crude oil

Class Z/ZZ[edit]

Period Valid Meaning
d ab 1951 (DR) Heating pipes or tank
i Interior (innerer) lining
w Only for fuel

Sources[edit]

  • Helmut Behrends, Wolfgang Hensel, Gerhard Wiedau: Güterwagen-Archiv 1. transpress, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-344-00184-1.
  • Helmut Behrends, Wolfgang Hensel, Gerhard Wiedau: Güterwagen-Archiv 2. transpress, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-344-00330-5 .
  • Peter Wagner, Sigrid Wagner, Joachim Deppmeyer: Reisezugwagen 1. Sitz- und Gepäckwagen. transpress 1993, ISBN 3-344-70783-3.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]