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Roco BR52 Kreigslok

Review by Neil Wood

During the Second World War there was a high demand for cheap economical powerful locomotives. These were known in the UK as austerity locomotives. In Germany they were known as Kriegslokomotiven or Kriegsloks. Although about a dozen classes of locomotives were known as Kriegsloks there were three main classes, Class 50, Class 42 and Class 52. The 2-10-0 Class 52 was the most well known of all the Kriegsloks and was designed by Richard Paul Wagner, the Chief Engineer of the Central Design Office of the Locomotive standards Bureau of the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DRG).

Wagner was strongly influenced by his experience in the First World War where service and maintenance of many classes of locomotive were issues, and spare parts procurement and non-standardisation of parts were issues. These issues encouraged him to concentrate on the standardisation of locomotives, Einheitslokomotiven.

The BR52 was somewhat unique in that it was not included in neither the 1st procurement plan in 1924, nor the 2nd in 1934 and the 3rd in 1939. Nevertheless on 12th September 1942 the 1st Class 52 number 52 001 was finished by the Borsig works in Berlin. Towards the end of 1941 there were only three steam locomotives which were essential to war logistics on the procurement plan of the DRG. It was evident to the Wehrmacht that the railway was vital to supply and move their forces to assist in the invasion of the USSR. The severe conditions of the Russian winter in 1941- 1942 demonstrated the shortcomings of the available locomotives to operate in extreme sub zero conditions. The need for a more reliable locomotive and the need for increased production resulted in a new locomotive which was achieved by making severe simplifications in construction methods to speed up the manufacturing process.

At this point the BR50 was the best of the current kreigsloks. The new kreigslok would be required to have the same performance as the BR50 but had to economise on labour and materials. The BR 50 consisted of 6,000 parts however the BR52 had reduced this to 5,000 parts of which 3,000 were simplified in order to further reduce costs and manufacturing time. Much of the saving was in non- ferrous metals of which 2.65 tons was reduced. The amount of steel saved relative to the BR50 was 12 tons. The manufacturing time was reduced by 6,000 hours per locomotive which was a significant saving when you consider that the Wehrmachtís annual requirement for the period of 1943-1944 was for 7,500 locomotives. The manufacturing time was also a saving of 30% of the time required for a BR50.

The Wagner smoke deflectors used on the BR50 were not used on the BR52 initially however this saving was not one that could be maintained. Many different types were tried eventually settling on the Wittender smoke deflectors which were tested in 1943 and were then adopted as standard.

With more than 6,100 locomotives of this class having been built, the BR 52 has a strong claim to being the most heavily produced steam locomotive class ever. Approximately 6,000 of these locos were constructed between 1942 and 1945 mainly for use on the Eastern Front to supply the war with Russia. Because 17 different locomotive works manufactured these locos it is difficult to know precisely how many of these locos were made. It is estimated that 6,700 locomotives of the BR 52 were made.

Many other countries have used these locos since the end of the Second World War, Russia being one of the biggest users with 2,100 of this class. Poland may have had more than a thousand with East Germany having slightly less. The BR 52 was still in use in Austria until 1976. Because of the abundance of these locomotives along with the ease of maintenance and power many Communist Bloc countries were slow to retire these locos. Poland was still using these locos well into the 1990ís with Turkey and Bosnia keeping them in service until relatively recent times.


Roco model 62269 BR52 1817

December 2008 Price Ä359.00 (approx £350)

Model Specifications:
Motor: 5 pole can motor; Length: 265mm; Livery: DB Black and Red; Purpose; Heavy freight; Finish: Pristine; Era: Epoch III

Locomotive Body, plastic; Tender body, metal; Operating headlights; Directional backup light; Shunting mode; Sound decoder preinstalled with following effects; Engine Sounds; Synchronized Chuff; Whistle; Squealing brakes; Switching whistle; Air pump; blowing off steam, Coal being shovelled, Injector; Brake release; smoke generator can be added and controlled digitally; many additonal add on parts including crew.

This has been an eagerly anticipated model by many and is sure to please those who have waited. First impressions indicate that the detail is pretty good and the model captures the look of the prototype well. The model comes in several variants including East German, Check and Austrian and there are also non sound and three rail AC versions available.

The box is made of surprisingly thin card rather than the thicker type favoured by most other model makers. Previous Roco locomotive boxes on their Platin range were pretty solid and robust. Inside the box the model is encased in three pieces of foam with two flat sheets at the top and bottom with a centre piece with a section hollowed out for the loco in the foam. When I was looking for the booklets which normally accompany these models I lifted the centre section of foam to find that it lifted right up with the loco remaining behind. I then was in the unenvious position of having to reposition the foam around the loco so that it didnít swill around the flimsy box. The box is fine for transit however the foam helps it maintain its structural integrity. Once the foam is removed it becomes very pliable with nothing to hold it in shape. Under the bottom sheet of foam I found the aforementioned booklets. These are; a Loksound 3.5 sound decoder manual; a spare parts booklet; operating instructions and a sheet which outlines the decoder address and functions and gives some brief information on the decoders operational characteristics.

There are twelve functions:

F0 = Lights
F1= Steam sound
F2 = Whistle
F3 = Coupling
F4 = Smoke generator (if you install one)
F5 = Injector
F6 = Shunting mode
F7 = Airpump
F8 = Short whistle
F9 = Scoop of coal
F10 = Bell
F11 = Brake release
F12 = Blow out

Out of that list Iím wondering why the bell has been included. Bells arenít used on German locos so I am wondering why it has been left in.

The loco instruction manual gives important advice on running, maintenance and smoke generator installation. There is a plug in the tender that enables it to be activated with the running sounds or the lights which is odd given that it has itís own designated function. The manual is identical in outlay to previous Roco manuals so I suspect that they use a generic template for them. The info in the manual says that some parts must be oiled prior to operation. This crucial information is likely to be missed by those who havenít bought Roco products before and are unaware of the dearth of literature hiding underneath the foam layers.

Getting to the model itself, it does look very nice. The model is to scale length and matches the original quite closely. The first surprise was to find out that the tender body is made of metal rather than plastic. The cover the tub tender is plastic however. There is not much fine detail on the tender but as this locomotive was made to austerity standards there was not a lot of fine detail on the original to encapsulate. There are lots of extra add on parts as you would expect from Roco. This includes two figures, a front coupler pocket, and all sort of pipes and cylinder rods. When looking to see where to add the front detail parts I was pleasantly surprised to find they had already been added at the front. The piping to the body is well reproduced and accurate. There is a front NEM coupler pocket which can be added if required. Instructions on how to do this are in the manual. Adding the front coupler pocket may require removal of some of the front detail parts. The engineer and fireman figures are made of plastic and they can be attached using plastic model cement. There are also cylinder rods which can be attached however these may restrict the radius of curves that the loco will go through.

The Wittender smoke deflectors on this loco seem a bit thicker than they should be. Had they been made of etched brass a more accurate thickness would have been achieved. They are, however, better than the smoke deflector supports which are considerably thicker than they should be. However in saying that the positive side of this is that they will be strong and less likely to break if incorrectly handled. Rivets are present in all the appropriate places. The wheel rims have wide flanges which is usual in European models. There are two traction tyres on the model to assist pulling power. There is accurate see through space under the boiler. The cab has minimal detail as is usual with most European outline. This may be because most European outline tender locos are permanently close coupled to the tender making viewing of the cab interior difficult.

The paint work to the upper metal body is nice however the lower half has the chassis detail in plastic which has been moulded in red and has not been painted. Unfortunately there is a slight translucent look which gives away that you are looking at plastic rather than cast metal as per the real thing. This may give an added incentive to some to do some weathering. Given the condition of many of these locoís in the period, weathering is a must.

Disconnecting the loco and tender is similar to other Roco tender locos. The tender must be unclipped then a six pin socket unplugged, then finally the cardan shaft pulled out of its drive socket. This isnít something you donít want to be doing to often.

The sound is nice, not as loud as some other decoders in similar sized locos but certainly sufficient for the purpose. There are a variety of sounds on the decoder which are appropriate for the loco and also some that seem inappropriate; the bell. The chuff is fine and cuts when the throttle is dropped and the loco coasts. The brake squeal is nice. Bit more authentic than some. The whistle is nice and doesnít sound ďloopedĒ. There is also a short whistle although this does sound slightly clipped at the end.

A smoke unit may be installed and installation is quite easy. This can then be activated by a designated function. There is also a shunting mode function which halves the speed of the loco for better slow speed control.

There is a slight noise from the motor but it is very faint, certainly nothing to be concerned about. The motor is nice and quite powerful being able to pull a decent load which is handy as I have a fairly heavy and extensive train in mind for this model.

All up this is a very nice model which I can thoroughly recommend. It has been very nicely done by Roco. The breadth of variants being made available mean that this will be a popular loco for Roco. So hopefully it will be around for some time, although having said that, this is a popular model which sold out quickly on release so I wouldnít hang around too long. I had ordered one before release but had to wait on the second batch. Well worth the wait, I am really enjoying watching this loco chuffing round the layout. Donít let the flimsy box put you off; thatís not why youíre buying this. This is a very nice locomotive and it wouldnít surprise me one bit if this sold in the same quantities as the original.

- March 2009

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