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Roco 0-8+4 Mh.6

The Mh.6 superheated narrow gauge steam engine was especially built for and is based on the Mariazell Railway in Austria.

 

History of the Mariazell Railway (Mariazellerbahn)

The Mariazell Railway (German: Mariazellerbahn) is an electrically operated narrow-gauge railway with a track gauge of 760 mm (2 ft 5 7/8 in) which connects the Lower Austrian capital Sankt Pölten with the Styrian pilgrimage centre of Mariazell.

Construction
The mainline from St. Pölten to Kirchberg and the branch to Mank were opened on 4 July 1898; in 1905, the stretch through the Pielach valley as far as Laubenbachmühle and the branchline extension to Ruprechtshofen were completed. In 1906, the Mountain Line was pushed through far enough for freight traffic to be taken through to Mariazell. On 2 May 1907, passenger service to Mariazell began running.

Operation
On the Mountain Line, the service was for the time being run with steam locomotives specially designed for the line of series Mh and Mv, which very quickly turned out not to be up to the job. The rush of passengers was so great that for a time, the railway, which had become enormously popular overnight, did not even bother with advertising. Among the various kinds of freight carried on the railway were agricultural products, ores from local mines, and above all wood from the heavily forested mountain region. Wood remained the most important kind of goods on the railway right up until freight operations were discontinued on the Mariazell Railway. As early as 1909, standard-gauge goods wagons were being transported along the Mariazellerbahn on narrow gauge transporter wagons, insofar as the railway's narrow loading gauge would allow it.

Electrification
Several scenarios having to do with raising the railway's performance were considered, among them double-tracking and the acquisition of an even stronger type of steam locomotive. At this time, the acting director of the State Railway Office, Engineer Eduard Engelmann jr., brought forth the suggestion that the Mariazell Railway be electrified using single-phase alternating current.

This suggestion was said to be revolutionary. There had never been a railway line of such length, meant to handle mainline traffic, that had been electrically operated. The only electric traction at this time was to be found on tramways and light, local railways, which used only direct current (DC) throughout. Only the more tramlike Stubaitalbahn in Tyrol, built in 1904, was even actually run using alternating current (AC). Despite great opposition, Engelmann managed to implement his vision. So, the Mariazell Railway was electrified between 1907 and 1911, making use of the mountainous region's vast hydroelectric resources. At that time, the locomotive series E (now ÖBB 1099), still used now, were acquired.

Winter on the Mariazellerbahn, regional train passing the Heugraben viaduct near Puchenstuben station
Photo: Herbert Ortner, Vienna, Austria. Source: Wikipedia

World Wars
During the First World War, quite a number of steam locomotives and a great number of wagons were temporarily confiscated for wartime duty, among them the locomotives Mh.1 to Mh.5. The last one was returned from Sarajevo only in 1920.

In 1922, the old Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) took over the Mariazell Railway from the Lower Austrian State Railways, which had fallen into financial difficulties. After Anschluss in 1938, the narrow-gauge railway, like all Austrian railways, became part of the Deutsche Reichsbahn. During the wartime years 1944 and 1945, there was wartime destruction and damage in many places, especially around St. Pölten.

After 1945
After the Second World War, the former State Railway lines remained with ÖBB. The rolling stock was given a new number scheme as of 1953. In the following years, there were some alignment corrections on the line. That, and the rebuilding of the rolling stock in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the changeover to diesel working on the branchline were the furthest-reaching modernization measures undertaken on the railway. In 1984, the last Rollböcke, the more primitive type of transporter wagon using forks to hold the standard-gauge wagon's axles, were replaced with Rollwagen, the more advanced type resembling a wagon with a short stretch of standard-gauge track onto which the standard-gauge wagon is fastened.

On 31 December 1998, ÖBB also ended transporter wagon service on the Valley Line and the remaining section of the branchline, thereby ending all freight service on the Mariazell Railway.

As of about 2000, ÖBB was considering selling or abandoning the Mariazellerbahn. At present, the railway is still being run by state order, and at the state's expense. Since autumn 2003, one of the many future scenarios being considered is conversion to standard gauge for the Valley Line between St. Pölten and Kirchberg an der Pielach, a stretch of line important for commuters and schoolchildren, and furthermore for the rest of the line, more strongly tourist-oriented marketing.

Handover
In 2010, ÖBB handed the railway over to the provincial government of Lower Austria. The railway is now operated by NÖVOG, which is owned by the provincial government. There are plans to buy new rolling stock.

 

Mariazellerbahn vintage train "Panoramic 760" with steam engine Mh6 in Mariazell station, Styria, Austria.
Photo: Herbert Ortner, Vienna, Austria. Source: Wikipedia

Locomotives
For the opening of the first stretch of line in 1898, the Lower Austrian State Railways bought four locomotives of Series U, already proven on the Murtalbahn, which along with the two-axled passenger coaches and goods wagons customary at the time formed the railway network's basic equipment. The fleet was filled out in 1903 by two-axled light steam-powered railcars, which took over less-used trains. For the opening of the next stretch of line between Kirchberg and Laubenbachmühle in 1905, and in view of the Mountain Line through to Mariazell, a compound steam engine and a superheated steam engine were acquired as further developments of the U series.

For the extension to Mariazell, an especially high-performance engine was needed. The Krauss locomotive works in Linz brought forth a proposal to build a locomotive designed by Wilhelm von Engerth, with four powered axles and a tender, four of which were built by 1906 and which used superheated steam. They were designated Mh (nowadays ÖBB 399). In 1907 followed two locomotives with compound steam working. These were designated Mv. The "h" stood for "Heißdampf" (superheated steam), and the "v" for "Verbundantrieb" (compound working). Since the latter locomotives did not very well prove their worth, the next order was for two further locomotives, this time of the Mh variety. Since many passengers were expected, a great number of four-axled passenger coaches were bought, which were comparable in comfort and appointments with contemporary standard-gauge coaches. Also in 1906, three bigger and stronger steam railcars were delivered.

Once electrification began in 1911, all together 16 locomotives of series E were delivered between 1911 and 1914. Thereafter, steam trains disappeared from the mainline after only five years. All steam railcars were sold, and most of the steam locomotives remained on the unelectrified branchline. A few were sent to the Waldviertler Schmalspurbahnen.

Service on the mainline is today still mainly done using the now nearly 100-year-old series 1099 electric locomotives together with passenger coaches not much less old than the locomotives. The class 1099 can therefore claim to be the world's oldest electric locomotive still running on the line for which it was originally built.

Since 1994, two newly developed electric multiple unit trains (ÖBB 4090) have come into service. For lighter runs diesel multiple unit trains (ÖBB 5090) are used, as well as on the Krumpe, where series 2095 diesel locomotives are also used.

For nostalgic runs, the Mh.6 steam engine stationed in Ober-Grafendorf is brought in. This was a private initiative in the 1990s by several Mariazell Railway railway employees, who managed to restore and reinstate the Mountain Line's original locomotive.

All six of the narrow gauge NÖLB Mh or 399 class Engerth locomotives survive in Austria.

Mh.1 / 399.01 (5431/1906) is part of the ÖBB heritage fleet. It is currently based at Gmund ,ÖBB-Erlebnisbahn.
Mh.2 / 399.02 (5432/1906) is part of the ÖBB heritage fleet. It is currently based at Gmund ,ÖBB-Erlebnisbahn.
Mh.3 / 399.03 (5433/1906) was sold to the Pinzgauer Lokalbahn. It is currently based at Zell-am-Zee.
Mh.4 / 399.04 (5434/1906) is part of the ÖBB heritage fleet. It is currently based at Gmund ,ÖBB-Erlebnisbahn.
Mh.5 / 399.05 (5924/1908) is privately owned. It is currently based at Heidenreichstein.
Mh.6 / 399.06 (5925/1908) is preserved on the Mariazellerbahn in Austria.

 

The Roco H0e model of the Mh.6

The model is noted as 0-8+4. The 4-wheel tender is attached to chassis if the loco by two lateral shafts making the loco and tender perform as a single articulated unit.

Announced in 2007, the model was eagerly anticipated. These were the models produced:

2007 - Roco 33260 H0e-Steam Locomotive Mh.6 (Museum)
2007 - Roco 33261 H0e-Steam Locomotive Mh.4 / 399.04 (Black, red frame, wheels and handrails)
2007 - Roco 33262 H0e-Steam Locomotive Mh.3 / 399.03 (Black, red frame, wheels and handrails)
2011 - Roco 33266 H0e-Steam Locomotive Mh (NÖLB, Black with yellow lining)
2011 - Roco 33267 H0e-Steam Locomotive Mh.3 SLB (Black, red wheels, bright brass boiler bands)
2011 - Roco 31051 H0e Train Set: Freight Train Mh.3 / 399.03 (Black, red frame, wheels and handrails) + 3 freight wagons

Some of the 2007 models are still available and can be bought at a reasonable price.


I was really keen to get one of these models and have been looking at them for the past few years. Always put off a little by the price. I still feel slightly bad (or is that guilty?) every time I spend over a hundred bucks for a loco. Anyway as I've been upgrading part of my H0e/OO9 section of my layout, I thought that it would be great to pick up one of these models. Looking around I saw that the price is still high for the latest 2011 releases, but a few good deals can be had for the 2007 models if they can be found. I picked up the Mh.6 for 20% off the normal price which is relatively reasonable.

My first impression of the model was made before I even opened the carton that landed up on my desk. I saw who it was from and assumed they must have made an error and put nothing in the box as it was so light. The model, boxed with instructions and foam weighs 240.9g. Perhaps after recently receiving a couple of Bachmann On30 Spectrum locos which weigh a considerable amount, I was expecting more. The model, having a metal boiler and a few other structural components is still dainty, fine and light.

Here I am installing a Bachmann 36-558 6 Pin DCC Decoder. The back EMF gives the model great running characteristics at slow shunting speeds. The decoder plugs in without fuss. I don't have a 90° adaptor so the decoder has to be bent over very gently to allow it to fit under the coal load.

All well. It runs superbly. So smooth. All wheel pickup prevents any hick-ups over difficult track.

The model is supplied with etched plates which need to be sanded down to expose the lettering and numbers from the painted ground. I'm not a fan of applying plates when the tampo painting is quite reasonable as in this case. You have to use a dot of epoxy or superglue and you really don't want any excess to come out.

The model comes with a few detail items: pipes and hoses etc. and some coupler options.

Unfortunately, the lights are not functional. The tender light would be easy to get working, but the front headlight would involve some surgery. There is a guy on Youtube who has installed working lights and even a sound decoder with authentic sounds for this loco. Apparently the chimney gives off a characteristic sound.

The loco is matched by a set of coaches. These are the Mariazellerbahn ÖBB coaches (Roco 34090). The loco pulls them around without fuss. The 4-axel bogie coaches really look the part and make a nice sound gliding behind the Mh.6.

A stunning, good looking little model. Smooth running with a flywheel on the 5-pole motor. Digital, with all wheel pickup. Impressive pulling power. What more could you want from a H0e model?

 

Further viewing of the Mariazellerbahn (Youtube) Mariazellerbahn trains in the snow, Snowplough, Mariazellerbahn Documentary (23min in German with excellent video)

 

DFT - March 2012

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