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A class 420 railcar of the Cologne S-Bahn as S12 in the Cologne Messe / Deutz station (May 2016)
British Rail MPV railcar
Polish Newag 19WE

Railcars are powered rail vehicles ( traction vehicles ) that also offer space for passengers or freight. In contrast to this, locomotives that are used to transport coupled wagons , with the exception of the baggage locomotives, do not offer such a separate space for transport. As early as 1854, a steam trolley with a passenger compartment was used on the Berlin-Hamburg railway . This was the first steam railcar .

Later, railcars were first used in tram operations, after the horse-drawn tram disappeared , they became practically the only means of transport there, to which additional motorless sidecars were soon attached. Due to the cost pressure that has weighed on the railways since the Second World War, as well as the development of high-speed traffic, multiple units and multiple units took over more and more services on the railroad networks.



  • A railcar is a single, powered car that is used as a train, either alone or together with control cars , middle cars and side cars. Appropriately equipped railcars can transport a train instead of a locomotive. Until the 1930s, the term “rail bus” was used synonymously in Germany , but then in 1933 it was determined that the term “railcar” should be used uniformly.
  • A double railcar consists of two permanently coupled railcars and is used in the same way as a railcar.
  • An articulated railcar is a railcar that consists of several articulated box elements, e.g. B. with Jakobs bogie , saddled up like the Stadler FLIRT or like the short articulated trolley .
  • A multiple unit is a unit with its own drive and which cannot be separated in regular operation, consisting of several vehicles, which are referred to as multiple units / power cars, intermediate and control cars depending on their function. Multi-part articulated multiple units are referred to as multiple units. The multiple unit differs from the push-pull train (Swiss: shuttle train) in that the intermediate cars cannot be used as normal passenger cars. However, push-pull trains are often no longer separated in regular operation and only converted in the vehicle maintenance centers. On the other hand, some multiple units do not include a single railcar, namely if the power cars contain nothing but the driver's cab and drive equipment and no axle of the passenger car is driven. Finally, there are multiple units that are operationally treated and numbered as inseparable units, but technically could be used as individual vehicles.
  • A railcar is in a narrower definition of two or more railcars - formed (for example, Series 403 and Series 420 German Federal Railroad) - so exclusively motorized units. A broader definition refers to any combination of at least two multiple units or multiple units, possibly including non-motorized intermediate and control cars or sidecars , provided the coupled multiple unit units are operationally separable - e.g. B. for wing pull concepts. (Units that are operationally inseparable are, on the other hand, multiple units for this reason alone.) In a third definition, multiple units are used as a synonym for multiple units.
  • A twin railcar is the name given to two tram railcars that are permanently coupled to one another and that can only be used together.
  • A guided railcar or motorized trailer is a tram railcar that does not have a fully-fledged driver's cab and cannot be used in the first place of a train set.
  • If two railcars are coupled together in a train, one speaks of double traction , with three railcars of triple traction , and generally of multiple traction .

Colloquially, the terms “multiple units”, “multiple units” and “multiple units” are not always sharply delimited. "Multiple unit" is used more in the technical context, the term "multiple unit" is often used for shorter units.

Other languages

Class 802 narrow-gauge diesel multiple units in Dubrovnik (1967)

In other languages, the boundaries between multiple units, multiple units, rail buses and within these categories are often drawn differently than in German, which causes problems, especially when translating.

  • In English , single multiple units are called “railcar” or “motor coach”, depending on their purpose. In American English , where railcar also refers to ordinary, i.e. non-motorized, railcars, there is also the more precise term "railmotor" for railcars. In Irish English, railcar is also used for multiple units. Multiple units are referred to as "multiple units", differentiated according to drive in "electric multiple unit" (EMU), "diesel multiple unit" (DMU) and "bimodal multiple unit" (BMU). The number of connected vehicles is often given after this in digits, e.g. B. "DMU3". According to this scheme, single multiple units are again referred to as "EMU1" or "DMU1", provided they are equipped for use in a train formation.
  • The French differentiates between “motrice” (for trams), “automotrice” (electric and steam powered rail cars) and “autorail” (internal combustion units) for single multiple units. Multiple units of every type of drive are called “rame automotrice” in French. However, individual railway companies use these terms differently, such as the Montreux-Berner-Oberland-Bahn .
  • The Italian calls single multiple units “automotrice”, regardless of the type of drive, and electric multiple units “elettrotreno”. In the past, the term "Littorine" was used as a generic term for diesel railcars.
  • In Dutch , single multiple units are simply referred to as "motorrijtuig" (German: motor vehicle), which includes motorized draisines, in Flemish as "motorwagen". Multiple units are called "treinstel".
  • It's similar in Romanian : the railcar is called “automotor” ( Pl .: “automotoare”) and can be an “automotor diesel” or an “automotor electric”. An electric multiple unit is called “rama electrica”, derived from the French.
  • In Russian , the single multiple unit is called Автомотриса (Avtomotrissa), the multiple unit is called Моторвагонный подвижной состав (Motorwagonny Podwischnoi Sostaw) or, depending on the drive, Электижной состав (Motorwagonny Podvischnoi Sostaw) or "Долектизелого," or "Додектизелого" (Дектидзелет). .
  • In Spanish , multiple units are called "automotora", regardless of the type of drive, and multiple units are called "unidad de tren".
  • In Hungarian , the railcar is called “motorkocsi” and the multiple unit is called “motorvonat”. It should be noted here that one of the Hungarian names for steam engine is “gőzmotor” (“steam engine”) and therefore the earlier steam railcars (“gőzmotorkocsi”) had “ mot ” in the serial number.


On the tram , railcars now mostly run solo or in multiple units. In the past, it was widespread, especially in German-speaking countries, to carry sidecars without their own drive , sometimes limited to rush hour traffic in order to save the personnel costs for the conductor or conductor. This was involved in coupling and uncoupling at the end points. With the introduction of conductors-less or conductor-less operation, the sidecars were carried all day. However, over the years, more and more cities have replaced their trailer trains with (multi) articulated multiple units or multiple units. As a result of this conversion process, sidecars were only used in Basel in Switzerland in 2014 and only in Vienna in Austria . In Germany they can only be found in Bad Schandau, Bielefeld, Braunschweig, Darmstadt, Kassel, Leipzig, Magdeburg and Munich.

One -way motor coaches have only one driver's cab and doors usually only on one side, these require turning loops at the end points . Bidirectional railcars , on the other hand, like railway vehicles, can be used freely in both directions. Occasionally two railcars are coupled “rear-to-rear” so that they can be used as a two-way train. To be freely usable, the two railcars must have doors on both sides. In this case, one speaks of “one-and-a-half-directional vehicles”. Instead of a second railcar, a sidecar equipped with a driver's cab , i.e. a control car , can be used - however, control cars are a rare exception in the tram sector.

In Switzerland, the names railcar and sidecar were not common for trams . The sidecars were called trailer cars or just trailers. The cars with drive motors were called motor cars . Until about 1930–1935, these usually had two driver's cabs and access doors on both sides. They could circulate with or without a trailer. Since not all railway companies had reversing loops at the end stations, the trailer wagons had to be uncoupled and bypassed at such coupling end points. With the appearance of the Swiss standard wagons , the development moved towards one-way wagons .


Bernina Railway Tug Rail Car ABe 4/4 III with transition for staff in Tirano
NE81 of SWEG as trailing railcars of a freight train, 2016

In addition to the railcars for passenger transport, there are freight railcars and work railcars . Luggage railcars can still be found today mainly in Switzerland , but have disappeared elsewhere with the decline or the abolition of luggage transport. In some countries, there have been special post railcars or trains, for. B. in Belgium , the Netherlands , on some narrow-gauge railways in Switzerland or as " TGV La Poste " in France .

In the past, tow cars were used instead of locomotives for passenger and freight trains , especially on branch lines and narrow-gauge railways . These had ordinary screw couplings and side buffers so that they could be used like locomotives in front of light trains.

Typically, they have a higher engine power than regular railcars in Germany, which, if at all, only had to pull one or two sidecars or control cars specially designed for this type of railcar. Most of the tow cars were one-piece vehicles. Compared to locomotives, they had a smaller drive power. That was enough for the lower volume of traffic compared to main lines and saved one passenger car per train .

The most common railcars in electrical operation are electric multiple units. Combustion railcars (with diesel or earlier also with Otto engine) have also found widespread use, whereas steam railcars were comparatively rare. Railcars with several types of drive ( hybrid drive ) are called dual- powered railcars .

Multiple units took over regional traffic in large parts of Europe in the course of the twentieth century. With several powered units, they have a higher acceleration than trains hauled by locomotives, which is particularly noticeable with the numerous stops.

Another development led via the express railcars to the trains for high-speed traffic. In addition to the possibility of distributing the drive equipment, it was particularly necessary to optimize the train as a whole with regard to air resistance. From a technical point of view, however, such trains, such as the first two generations of the ICE, consist of two locomotives called “ powered end cars” with cars lined up in between in a uniform design, which looks like a multiple unit to the viewer.

Advantages and disadvantages

The "Giruno" the SBB will ply h with 200 km /. Long-distance transport at this speed would be more cost-effective with locomotive-hauled passenger trains.

In multiple units, the drive power can be more precisely matched to the train mass. If the mass is used as an adhesive weight by several cars , the usable starting tractive effort improves with the same drive power, which, as already mentioned, enables great acceleration. In addition to regional traffic, multiple units are also used in high-speed traffic . In order to bring the necessary high performance to the rails there, multiple units with more driven axles are usually used than with a conventional locomotive-hauled passenger train. In the case of high-speed trains, not only a high drive power is important, but also the aerodynamics , which are more advantageous for multiple units than for classic locomotive-hauled trains.

However, there are also disadvantages to these advantages of multiple units:

  • Short-term flexibility: Since the individual train parts can only be shared on workshop tracks or not at all, multiple units are much more inflexible in operation, as the railway cannot react quickly to stronger or weaker demand by coupling or uncoupling individual wagons. Multiple units have to be used for multiple units , which inevitably leads to expensive overcapacities.
  • Long-term flexibility: If the capacity is to be increased or the first class share, the catering option or the motorization are to be adjusted, this is only possible with multiple units with expensive modifications or with multiple traction.
  • Long train length: A single-story multiple unit has around 40 seats more than a push-pull train of the same length. This advantage disappears almost completely with double traction. From around 400 seats, the mass per seat and the life cycle costs of the locomotive-hauled passenger train are cheaper. The cost of the locomotive can be allocated to a large number of cars.
  • Space in double-decker trains : With the usual G1 vehicle gauge, the installation of the drive units in double-decker multiple units is at the expense of seats. A double-decker multiple unit is only more advantageous for up to around 200 seats than a double-decker push-pull train. In the case of single-story multiple units, there is usually enough space under the floor and in the roof area.
  • Market with used vehicles: Multiple units that are no longer required can be sold more difficult because they are often tailored to their original area of ​​use. In contrast, passenger coaches are standardized and often freely deployable internationally, which gives their operators strategic advantages.

In summary, the multiple unit is more suitable for short trains with high demands on acceleration, while the locomotive-hauled passenger train can show its advantages in classic long-distance transport with long trains.

Developments in mountain railways

Interregio with "Eagle" -Triebzug ABeh 150 of the central web above Brienz

Rack railways are often operated with electric single or double railcars - often supplemented with intermediate and control cars . The relatively short multiple units and multiple units are characterized by their low weight, which is particularly advantageous for rack railways. Due to the increasingly heavy trains, part of the pulling force on the Zentralbahn (ZB) and the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn (MGB) is applied via the adhesion drive in rack and pinion operation . Such a drive is used in the HGe 4/4 II locomotive . With the multi-part "Adler" and "Fink" multiple units ABeh 150 and ABeh 160/161 of the Zentralbahn, such a drive could be implemented for the first time in a (multi-part) multiple unit, with the entire train length being available as usable area and the “dead weight” “A locomotive is avoided. Some of the bogies are equipped with an adhesion drive, some with a gear drive. The drive bogies with adhesion drive provide about a third of the drive power on the rack sections, which means that the rack is less stressed.

"Allegra" multiple unit ABe 8/12 with regional train on the Bernina Railway not far from Alp Grüm

With the introduction of the two-part ABDeh 8/8 in 1965, what was then Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (BVZ) introduced a mixed concept of multiple units and trains hauled by locomotives. The three-part "Allegra" multiple units ABe 8/12 , which will be delivered from 2009 and which, with their eight driven axles, allow optimal use of the adhesion on the up to 70 per thousand steep mountain routes, are used like locomotives to haul heavy passenger trains.

Marking according to technical equipment

The following code letters were used in Germany and Austria :

  • DT - steam railcar , e.g. B. BBÖ series DT 1, later ÖBB series 3071.
  • ET - electric multiple unit / multiple unit, e.g. B. ET 25 series (later 425 series). The English abbreviation EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit) is sometimes used for this.
  • ETA - accumulator railcar , series ETA 150 (later series 515).
  • VT - Combustion multiple units / multiple units, nowadays these are usually diesel multiple units / trains, e.g. B. Series 628 . The abbreviation DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) or, in the case of diesel-electric drive, DEMU (Diesel-Electrical Multiple Unit) is sometimes used for such .
  • SVT - express multiple unit with internal combustion engine, formerly used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn before 1945
  • Code letters for B eiwagen, M ittelwagen and S taxwagen are formed accordingly, e.g. B. VB , EM or ES .

In Austria, these markings are combined with the type designations for passenger coaches, but the number of axles is always specified, e.g. B. BD4h ET 4020.

In Switzerland , railcars were initially referred to as passenger coaches, but a lowercase letter was soon added for the type of drive. This designation system was officially ordered for a long time, but is no longer used consistently today. Various abbreviations are used for special purposes, e.g. B. DTZ for the electric double-decker multiple units SBB RABe 514 of the S-Bahn Zurich . The most common type designation combines the letters as follows:

  • leading R for railcars with a maximum speed of at least 110 km / h
  • A, B, D, S, X according to the car designations
  • e for electric drive
  • m for thermal drive
  • a for battery operation
  • h as the leading lower case letter for gear drive only
  • followed by h for mixed adhesion and gear drive


  • SBB RAm TEE multiple unit with a top speed of 140 km / h, only 1st class and fuel drive
  • SBB RBe 540 second class electric multiple unit with a top speed of 125 km / h
  • SBB RABDe 8/16 electric multiple unit with 1st and 2nd class and luggage compartment (D), top speed 140 km / h
  • BVZ Deh 4/4 Electric luggage railcar with adhesion and gear drive
  • PB Bhe 1/2 Electric rack car, 2nd class, without adhesion drive

Railcar as a type of train

At the Deutsche Bundesbahn as well as the Deutsche Reichsbahn , trains that were operated by multiple units were run as separate train types for a long time, with the indication that the space on these trains could be limited. In conventional trains were previously usually vans set whose space was obviated when railcars. Today, railcars and wagons often differ only slightly in terms of the room layout, other criteria such as comfort or speed of a train are decisive for the division into train types. In train tables, the T was increasingly replaced by a railcar symbol on the Deutsche Bundesbahn after 1955, and on the Deutsche Reichsbahn after 1960.

The following train types were used for railcars:

  • T - (local) railcars. Often these were rail buses . For a long time, other trains of the lowest class, as simple passenger trains, had no letter in front of the number, then got the N for local train around 1970 .
  • Et - express railcar, the railcar version of the express train
  • Dt - express railcar, railcar version of the express train , in contrast to this, however, basically with open seating cars .
  • FDt - long-distance express railcars, such as the flying trains of the 1930s, technically the DR 137 and DR 877 series
  • TEE - From its introduction until 1963, in Germany until 1965, the type of train Trans-Europ-Express basically referred to diesel multiple units, including the DB series VT 11.5 and similar trains from other western state railways.
  • Ext - express railcars at the Deutsche Reichsbahn , technically first multiple units of Hungarian production ( Ganz-MAVAG , at the DR as VT 12.14 ), later trains of the DR class VT 18.16 .
  • TS - (Austria): multiple unit express train, u. a. until 1971 for TEE trains such as the Mediolanum
  • TER - (Spain): Tren Español Rápido. These RENFE express railcars, two-part diesel railcars of the 9700 series, which had to be reserved , ran from 1965 to 1990.

Development in Germany

Steam railcar
Construction drawing Prussian VT 2, second series, later VT 159
Express railcar type "Hamburg" of the DR
Electric multiple unit of the DB class ET 30
Driver's cab of a
Regio-Shuttle type railcar

The first steam railcars were used in local traffic in Germany at the end of the 19th century.

In most early electric railways first tram-like were used railcars, such as in the Volk's Electric Railway by Magnus Volk in Brighton , which became operational in August 1883 of 1895 put into operation the first German electric standard-gauge railway Meckenbeuren-Tettnang , who in 1900 opened Electric Kleinbahn Mansfeld and the small electric railway Alt-Rahlstedt – Volksdorf – Wohldorf opened in Hamburg in 1903 .

On the other hand , the Hamburg-Altona urban and suburban railway , which was electrically operated from 1907 , used Prussian compartment cars with close coupling and motor drive .

As a result of the development of electric drive technology, electric multiple units and accumulator multiple units (e.g. in Prussia later ETA 177) appeared, also mainly for local traffic. In 1903, a three-phase motor car set the speed record of 210 km / h on the Marienfelde – Zossen section of the Marienfelde – Zossen – Jüterbog military railway .

Between 1907 and 1915, the Prussian State Railways put a total of 24  different types of combustion railcars into service. They had the series designation VT 151 (one vehicle), VT 152 to VT 161 (first series with ten vehicles, renamed in 1913 as VT 1 to VT 10 , and second series with ten vehicles VT 11 to VT 20 - a total of 20 vehicles), VT 21 (one vehicle) and VT 101 to VT 103 (three locomotives each with a control car). They were all equipped with internal combustion engines that drove a generator , which in turn produced the electricity for the traction motors. The VT 1, VT 21 and the first series of the VT 2 were single vehicles with driver's cabs on both sides, the second series of the VT 2 and the VT 101 to VT 103 could also be coupled with a separate, motorless control car if required . The gasoline engine or, in the case of the VT 101-103, the diesel engine , and the generator connected to it in these vehicles were usually located in a porch above the first bogie . Most of these railcars had four axles, each with two bogies, with the exception of the VT 21 (2-axle) and the VT 101-103 (five-axle). Mainly these railcars were used by the railway directorates of the eastern Prussian provinces as well as in the ED Altona . Of the last of these types, two additional copies under the designation DET 1-2 were put into operation by the Royal Saxon State Railways .

In the 1920s, multiple units with internal combustion engines with different concepts of power transmission were put into service. A large number of local railcars and the first express railcars were built in Germany. At the beginning of the 1930s, the step towards the use of railcars in high-speed traffic was taken, in Germany with the Flying Hamburger from 1932 or the later ET 11 .

After the Second World War , new railcars were designed for both local and long-distance and high-speed traffic. In the 1950s, the VT 08 and VT 11.5 were built as express railcars and the ET 30 as local railcars.

The Uerdingen rail bus was developed in Germany for local transport, especially on branch lines that are not very busy (DB series VT 95 , VT 97 and VT 98 , which was used by the ÖBB as series 5081 ). There was also the MAN rail bus , which was used by various German private railways.

VEB Waggonbau Bautzen developed the type VT 2.09 known as the "piglet tax" for the DR . The VEB wagon Görlitz developed in the early 1960s, the VT series 18:16 (designation 1970 Series 175) for international long distance service.

From the mid-1960s, locomotive-hauled trains were used for long-distance traffic in Germany , and railcars were primarily procured for local traffic . The only exception was the DB class 403 IC multiple unit . Only since the introduction of the Intercity-Express have more and more railcars been used in long-distance transport in Germany. Baggage or goods railcars have not yet been widely used in Germany.

Today's use

Diesel multiple units are often used in local transport. They have largely replaced the locomotive hauled trains. Some, such as the 612 series , have tilting technology .

In large metropolitan areas such as Berlin , Hamburg , Munich , Stuttgart and Frankfurt am Main, electric multiple units handle local transport as S-Bahn trains . Electric multiple units, which are almost identical in construction, are increasingly being used in regional rail services . These trains are driven on all or almost all axles in order to achieve the required high acceleration.

Electric double-decker multiple units from different manufacturers (e.g. Bombardier, Siemens, Stadler) are increasingly being used in regional transport. The demarcation to locomotives is becoming increasingly blurred, because the class 445/446 indicates an electric multiple unit , while it is categorized as an electric locomotive with the UIC type code 91.

The high-quality long-distance transport of Deutsche Bahn is provided exclusively with ICE electric multiple units. The ICE 3 , which runs on the new Cologne – Rhine / Main line , for example , and the ICE 3MF , which is used between France and southwest Germany, are multiple units - not multiple units - as only some of the cars are powered. Likewise the ICE-T train equipped with tilting technology .

In addition, rented Stadler KISS multiple units are used as IC2 in long-distance passenger transport.

Development in Austria

The development of railcar use in Austria was initially dominated by the private railways, especially those that operated electrified branch lines and narrow-gauge railways early on. In the case of diesel multiple units, the private railways determined the development, especially on the narrow gauge, where the ÖBB did not reproduce the VT 5090 developed by the Steiermärkische Landesbahnen until 1986 .

Development in Switzerland

Beginnings of railcar use

Steam railcar

At the beginning of the 20th century, some railway companies, including the newly founded Federal Railways, experimented with steam railcars of various designs. Apart from the eleven cogwheel steam railcars of the Pilatusbahn , which are very special due to the steep incline , there were only 11 standard-gauge and 17 narrow-gauge steam railcars in Switzerland, 15 of the latter being part of the tram networks. The remaining 13 steam railcars were divided into nine designs. A total of 39 steam railcars were compared to 2,280 steam locomotives built for Swiss public railways.

Combustion railcars

It was not much different with the combustion railcars. The SBB procured a total of eight multiple units and two TEE multiple units . Before 1945 the RVT (1923, diesel-electric), BT (1926/1927, gasoline-mechanical), FO (1927/1928, gasoline-mechanical), AB (1929, diesel-electric), and MThB (1941/1942 , diesel-mechanical) two railcars each, after 1945 only the MThB three and the MG four.

In addition, around fifteen diesel-powered work multiple units (Xm) were procured, although the distinction to hand cars and construction service tractors is not always clear. Mention should also be made of the petrol-mechanical powered rail car of the Rheineck connecting railway , which was put into operation in 1909 , but which should be viewed more as a tram car, although it had standard-gauge buffers for transporting freight cars. This brings the number of petrol and diesel multiple units to 41, plus the two TEE multiple units.

Electric multiple units
Electric multiple unit in
Vevey in 1890

The situation is different with the electric multiple units. The first electric train in Switzerland, the Vevey – Montreux – Chillon tramway , ran with electric multiple units in 1888. All subsequent electric trams were also powered by railcars. The only exception was the freight transport of the Schaffhausen tram , which was handled by two locomotives in addition to a baggage railcar. In 1894, the Orbe-Chavornay Railway went into operation as the first standard-gauge electric railway in Switzerland with three two-axle railcars. In 1898 the first electric rack -and-pinion rail car was put into operation on the short Trait – Planches route , but this line had to be shut down as early as 1912 due to technical defects. The first three-phase electrified railways were opened in 1898, of which the Stansstad-Engelberg-Bahn only ran railcars from the start, but these were pushed or braked by locomotives over the rack ramp in front of Engelberg. This type of operation was then used on direct current railways (Bex – Villars 1900 and Aigle – Leysin 1901).

In 1899 the Burgdorf – Thun line was the first standard-gauge railway to be electrified with three-phase current. While locomotives were procured for freight transport, four-axle railcars were used for passenger transport. From 1901, various overland and mountain railways began operating (Montreux – Zweisimmen, Palézieux – Montbovon, Aarau – Schöftland, Bremgarten – Dietikon, Vevey – Chamby, St. Gallen – Trogen, etc.) and ran electrically from the beginning with direct current 500 and 1000 volts. Most four-axle railcars were purchased. This applied to the Freiburg – Murten – Ins standard-gauge railway, which opened in 1903, but which ran with a lateral conductor rail. The next and now the only railway with this type of power supply was Martigny – Châtelard (–Chamonix), which came up with two important innovations in 1906: It used the first railcars for mixed gear and adhesion operation and equipped them with remote control for control car operation .

In 1910, the single-phase alternating current was added as a further type of current after previous test operations had led to reliable motor designs. Three railways went into operation with four-axle electric multiple units , the Seetalbahn , the Martigny-Orsières-Bahn and the Spiez – Frutigen line as a preliminary operation of the BLS . Only the latter was already electrified with 15,000 volts; two test locomotives were used here with a view to opening the mountain route. The railcars later ran on other BLS routes. Shortly before the First World War, DC voltages of over 1000 volts were used, and the Chur-Arosa railway even went up to 2000 volts. In 1916 Nyon-St-Cergue was opened with 2200 volts. Only four-axle railcars were used on these railways, but the non-standardized tensions were later abandoned.

Use after the First World War

Baggage rail car SBB De 4/4

In 1918/1919, the shortage of raw materials and coal as a result of the First World War meant that rail operations had to be closed on Sundays - with the exception of the electrified lines. On these days there were mainly railcars. They were used like locomotives on most railways, pulling trains from mixed rolling stock, including baggage, mail and freight cars.

From 1918, after the BLS and the RhB, the SBB began to electrify their network with single-phase alternating current, initially on the mountain routes on the Gotthard. But as soon as the electrical operation came into the lowlands and the agglomerations, it became clear that the procurement of railcars could be advantageous. From 1923 a total of 21 passenger railcars ( Ce 4/6 and two Ce 4/4) as well as 25 luggage railcars ( Fe 4/4 ) were procured, which were equipped with a uniform multiple control. With multiple units at each end of the train or together with the ten control cars procured at the same time, shuttle trains could now be formed that could turn around at the terminal stations without shunting and thus achieve higher daily outputs.

New ideas came up in the mid-1930s when SBB and BLS began experimenting with red arrows and blue arrows. As single drivers, light railcars should allow cost-effective operation of secondary lines. However, there were hardly any lines with such low demand and so both railways procured light trailer cars. The BLS then only procured two-part railcars with higher performance, which could carry additional cars during rush hour. With the SBB, however, the red arrows migrated to special services over time.

Use after the Second World War

SBB RBe 4/4 delivered from 1959
Modern electric multiple unit: SBB RABe 514

After the Second World War, but systematically but not until the 1960s, the private railways began to use control cars on a larger scale (standard-gauge railways with high-performance railcars , EAV railcars and a branch railcar ). In some cases, existing railcars were retrofitted with a remote control (e.g. RVT ABDe 4/4 101-102, MO ABDe 4/4 5). In the same period, the SBB procured their powerful RBe 4/4 , which were initially used as express locomotives, as well as the first multiple units, initially diesel and four-current TEE multiple units, then from 1965–1967 twenty all-axle suburban multiple units . The first private railway NPZ appeared in 1982, and NPZ deliveries to SBB began two years later . This meant that the regional traffic of the standard-gauge railways was essentially "commuted" (ie switched to shuttle trains).

In 1969 , the Bremgarten-Dietikon-Bahn purchased articulated railcars from the narrow-gauge railways , which took over all the traffic. In 1974 SZB / VBW, today Regionalverkehr Bern – Solothurn, used the first multiple units in the Bern region . For the time being, other railways continued to procure shuttle trains, i.e. railcars, control cars and intermediate cars.

In 1997 the first Stadler GTWs went into operation on the Biel-Täuffelen-Ins-Bahn , CEV joined this procurement. A year later, the Mittelthurgau Railway started using standard-gauge GTW on the Seeline, which it was able to take over from the SBB. This type of railcar could then be exported to many European countries. For main routes and higher speeds, the SBB wanted a more powerfully motorized vehicle, which resulted in the Stadler FLIRT . Modifications from these multiple unit types are now in use on various narrow-gauge railways.

Double-deckers should be used in the Zurich S-Bahn network from the start. After long evaluations, a decision was made in favor of a shuttle train with a powered end car, which was classified as the Re 450 locomotive . The second acquisition were, however, multiple units of the type SBB RABe 514 from Siemens. The third procurement, which also included vehicles for other agglomerations, were Stadler multiple units of the type SBB RABe 511 , which were ultimately also procured by BLS as RABe 515.


Large inclines such as the Hallerbachtal Bridge are easier to cope with with multiple units than with locomotive-hauled trains
Jakobs bogies (above) and conventional bogies (below)

Compared to locomotive hauled push- pull trains , multiple units consist of vehicle parts that cannot be separated during operation, with the technical equipment being attached below or above the car body . Mechanical assemblies such as motors and electrical components such as frequency converters are usually installed under the floor, air conditioning systems are installed on the vehicle roof. Usually several bogies of a multiple unit are driven. This increases the frictional weight of the vehicle, increases acceleration and makes starting off on wet rails or steep inclines easier. The high-speed route Cologne – Rhine / Main, for example, is only permitted for multiple units with gradients of up to 40 per thousand. In the case of trains hauled by locomotives, a more complex routing with a higher proportion of engineering structures would be necessary. Since there is no space for a machine room is needed, one can ICE 3 about 20 percent more passengers than a record of locomotive and passenger coaches educated InterCity of equal length.

Since it is only necessary to separate a single multiple unit in one depot , more compact couplings can be used between the cars. The gap at the transition between two car bodies becomes smaller, which means that the intermediate doors that are common in passenger coaches can be omitted.

While a passenger coach usually has two bogies with two wheel sets , alternative axle formulas are possible for multiple units. Jacob's bogies , which are located between two car bodies, have found widespread use . Trains with Jakobs bogies have fewer bogies than conventional multiple units. This reduces mass and costs, but increases the axle loads. When purchasing new trains in 2010 , the Eurostar Group decided in favor of the Siemens Velaro , as the AGV from competitor Alstom with its Jakobs bogies had higher axle loads. Single-axle bogies are less common, for example in the 4th generation of vehicles for the Copenhagen S-Bahn or in Talgo multiple units. The installation of a sedan chair between two units equipped with bogies is borrowed from tram construction . This principle is used, among other things, in the Integral S5D95 of the Bayerische Oberlandbahn .

For new generations of railcars, light metal and composite materials are used to significantly reduce the mass of the vehicles . They usually have an automatic central buffer coupling instead of the conventional screw coupling . In this way, winging is possible during operation.

Railcars with internal combustion engines usually have a hydrodynamic power transmission with fluid drives . A diesel-electric drive with a downstream generator and electric traction motors is rare in Germany, he was, for example, in the high-speed railcars " Flying Hamburger " from 1936 or in 1976 set into operation LHB VT 2E used and today with the GTW and the Bombardier Talent another found some distribution. Smaller railcars ( rail buses ) often have a mechanical automatic transmission with retarder from the automotive industry.

A problem with diesel railcars can be the impairment of driving comfort due to engine noise and vibrations.


  • Günther Klebes: The electric and diesel traction vehicles at the railway technology exhibition in Seddin on the occasion of the railway technology conference in Berlin from September 21 to October 5, 1924 . Monographs and communications, volume 20 (double issue), published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Eisenbahngeschichte e. V., Karlsruhe 1978. ISBN 3-921700-18-3 .
  • Horst J. Obermayer: Paperback German railcars . Franckh, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 3-440-04054-2 .

Web links

Commons : Railcar  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: railcar  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft (ed.): Official Gazette of the Reichsbahndirektion Mainz of December 30, 1933, No. 61. Announcement No. 720, p. 272.
  2. Supplementary regulation no. B 015 "Protection goals derived from § 4 AEG and EBO for coupling vehicles with automatic coupling when stationary" . Version 2.0 dated July 6, 2009
  3. Compare with the trains marked with the railcar symbol in the Swiss timetable books, e.g. B. 1981, the explanation of which said: "Railcar or railcar train". From the Italian translation it can be concluded that multiple units were also meant: "Automotrice o elettrotreno". This is indicated by the fact that the «Gottardo» operated by the RAe TEE II multiple unit appears in timetable field 81 with the corresponding symbol.
  4. ^ Tram Basel rolling stock
  5. ^ Walter von Andrian: Von Giruno and Radio Eriwan . In: Swiss Railway Review . No. 8-9 / 2016 . Minirex, Lucerne, p. 382 .
  6. Lukas Ballo: When is a locomotive hauled passenger train more economical than a multiple unit? In: Swiss Railway Review . No. 4/2017 . Minirex, Lucerne, p. 172-176 .
  7. http://www.woernitz-franken.de/agvtwi2.htm The ARGE rail bus Wilburgstetten with reference to an ET timetable number
  8. Karllex and Karola
  9. VT 1 to VT 103 In: Preußen-Report Volume 9, Hermann-Merker-Verlag, Fürstenfeldbruck 1996, ISBN 3-922404-84-7
  10. ^ Alfred Moser: The steam operation of the Swiss railways 1847-1966 . Birkhäuser-Verlag, Basel / Stuttgart 1967, pages 386–396 (chapter 14)
  11. applies in particular to the two Robel catenary cars CJ Xm 1/2 182 [1] and BT Xm 2/2 9061, similar to the BLS Tm 81, later 27 and WSB Tm 2/2 1, today AB 91
  12. applies in particular to the RhB tower cars Xm 2/2 9911–9912, 9912 "(like Tm 15–26), 9916 (RACO Tm") and 9921 (RACO Tm)
  13. The following can be considered as actual service railcars: RhB tower railcars Xm 2/2 9913–9915, 9917, Xmf 4/4 9918–9919 Xmf 6/6 92020, AB Xm 1/2 51, new 89, BLS motor tower car Xm 2/2 9321– 22 and BN 9712/11, from 1948 Tm 2/2 51-54 and SOB MPV 99 85 9131 005-006 ( Memento of 11 November 2014 Internet Archive ) and the measurement railcars SBB XTmass 99 85 9160 001-5
  14. ^ A b c d Jürgen Janicki, Horst Reinhard, Michael Rüffner: Rail Vehicle Technology . Bahn-Fachverlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-943214-07-9 , pp. 73-76.
  15. Green light for ICE traffic through the Eurotunnel. (No longer available online.) In: dmm.travel. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015 ; Retrieved December 4, 2015 .
  16. S-Tog of the DSB. In: s-bahn-galerie.de. Retrieved December 4, 2015 .