InnoTrans Berlin 2012

With all the talk about the InnoTrans Railroad Messe in Berlin, Germany my friend Michael ( and myself finally made it to the exhibit on one of the "open door" days. We had decided to venture out bright and early, right after breakfast. Sure enough at this early hour there were not that many other visitors to be seen. The lines at the ticket booths were mercifully short and we paid our €2.50 (about US$3) to get into the exhibit. 

InnoTrans Exhibit South Entrance on an early Sunday morning (Photo by Ralf Meier)

During the "open door" days of InnoTrans only the outdoor exhibition pieces are accessible. That area encompasses about 5 km of track where the manufacturers place their newest creations of locomotives, coaches and other assorted rolling stock. Visitors are allowed to touch, climb over, duck into, push buttons and do things to the exhibition pieces that are normally not allowed.  Representatives from the various manufacturers are on hand to sing the praises of their products and to answer questions from the public. As the morning went on it did get quite busy. 

Of course I am delighted that all these people have enough interest in railroad technology to spend the better part of a day walking among the exhibits. But it is hell on good photography! Somebody inevitably will walk right in front of your lens, ruining one's carefully composed picture. And then of course all the locomotives and rolling stock are placed so close together that it is difficult to get a good angle for a nice photograph. Be that as it may, I was not particularly bothered by this and just klicked away. 

Following are a few impression from the InnoTrans 2012:

PESA Company Diesel Locomotive


General Electric Power Haul Diesel Locomotive


"It's gotta be here somewhere!" (Photo by Michael Evans,


Siemens Mobility Class 189 Multi Voltage Electric Locomotive


Technical Specifications for the Siemens Electric Class 189 showing regulatory approval for 12 countries.



Part of the head light assembly Class 149 Electric Locomotive 

A Talgo Company Power Unit for the Spanish RENFE High Speed Talgo Trains


One of the Siemens Mobility "Desiros" EMUs for the Russian RZD, ordered for the coming Winter Olympics in Sochi.


Interior of the Russian "Desiro" EMU


Deutsche Bahn (DB) Class 642 Diesel Multiple Unit converted to Hybrid Drive



Detail of a Czech Railway Double Deck EMU


Stadler Company Double Deck EMU for the private ODEG Railway in Berlin 


Bombardier "TRAXX" Class 245 Diesel Locomotive for Deutsche Bahn (DB)






Vossloh High Speed Grinding Unit



Detail of the Vossloh High Speed Grinding Unit (Photo by Michael Evans,



Vossloh High Speed Rail Grinding Unit (Photo by Michael Evans,



Alstom Train - Tram Vehicle



Alstom Train-Tram Vehicle for heavy rail and for light rail lines in urban areas.




Solaris Light Rail Vehicle



Cab of a Bombardier "Last Mile" Electric locomotive 



Interior of Bombardier "Last Mile" Electric Locomotive



Interior of Bombardier "Last Mile" Electric Locomotive


Interior of Bombardier "Last Mile" Electric Locomotive


Interior of Bombardier "Last Mile" Electric Locomotive


Street Car Track Grinding Unit on a Maintenance Lift 


Detail of Street Car Track Grinding Unit



Automatic Scharfenberg Coupler



Another Automatic Scharfenberg Coupler



And yet another variation on the Automatic Scharfenberg Coupler themeA note on these couplers. I had thought that the European Union would have come to their collective senses by now and required compatible Automatic Scharfenberg Couplers for all trains in the Union. Alas, I am wrong. Each manufacturer uses the same basic Scharfenberg Coupler, but uses their own proprietory train control, electrical and signal connections. Thus a Bombardier train can not hook up to a Siemens train. What idiocy!

Of course there was also a bit of nostalgia at the InnoTrans. A steam engine dutyfully labored back and forth on a mile of track giving cab rides to small and big kids alike. Deutsche Bahn even showed a "Schienenbus", a diesel rail car. These units basically saved hundreds of branch lines from closure in the 1960's and 70's and were finally retired in 1983. I have fond memories of riding one of these to school for a few years.   

Steam Locomotive at InnoTrans 2012


A diesel rail car operated by Deutsche Bahn in the 1960's and 1970's. (Photo by Michael Evans, 

Of course no German gathering of any kind would be complete without food and music, so it was also at the InnoTrans.

Ompah Band at the InnoTrans 2012 in Berlin (Photo by Michael Evans,


 Food Stand at InnoTrans (Photo by Michael Evans,



Pretzels and filled buns for your enjoyment. (Photo by Michael Evans,


A few parting thoughts:

It appears that railroad technology development is proceeding a pace. Not only is rolling stock continuously improved and reinvented, but the ancillary products are also being worked on and improved. One case in point is the railroad track. A good number of European train operators are now starting to build slab track or "Feste Fahrbahn". This kind of track is particulary desirable on high speed lines. There is no ballast which will move around or needs to be cleaned or tamped every so often. Deutsche Bahn stated that the new slab track costs about a third more to build, this is easily offset by the considerably lower maintenance expense and much higher longevity of the track.

Deutsche Bahn High Speed Line Slab Track (Photo by Deutsche Bahn AG)

Railroad signal technology has also undergone a significant shift to LED "bulbs". Conventional bulbs burn out at a fairly rapid rate, given the every day railroad environment. A lot of railroad signals are difficult to get to, thus a light source that will last for a significant number of years is very desirable. LEDs also use less energy, another benefit.

LED Railroad Signal Light Head 

Railroads also seem to be moving to double deck Electrical Multiple Unit trains for long distance and medium distance service. In a way this is really not surprising. With the ever increasing passenger numbers the train operators have to do something. Just adding another coach or two to a locomotive hauled train is not working anymore in a lot of places for the simple reason that the station platforms are not long enough and can not be easily lengthened. So get rid of the locomotive and double deck everything. Presto: a 55 percent increase in capapcity in the same train length.

Double Deck TGV (Photo from Wikipedia Commons) 

Then there is the recent developement of the "Last Mile" electric locomotive. Again, this makes great sense. Particularly in heavily over-head electrified countries it is a pain to have a freight train get somewhere with an electric locomotive only to have to uncouple it and replace same with a diesel locomotive to go the few miles on a branch line. This is expensive. Not only the extra diesel locomotive, but also the extra crew and the waiting time for that crew. Of course this "last mile" idea also works well with commuter lines. Case in point the New Jersey Transit Authority. The authority has ordered a batch of Bombardier ALP-45DP dual power units for its commuter lines. These are based on the Bombardier "TRAXX" family of locomotives, which have been exceptionally reliable.

A NJT ALP-45DP locomotive (Photo by NJT)


Bombardier "TRAXX" Multi Electric System Locomotive for a private German rail company, no diesel power on board.