DB Class 103

DB Class 103
Deutsche Bundesbahn Baureihe 103
DB class 103 in Bremen-Hemelingen on 1984-07-11
Power type Electric
Builder AEG, BBC, Henschel,
Krauss-Maffei, Krupp, Siemens
Build date 1965 prototype
1970–1973 production
Total produced 4 prototype
145 production
UIC classification Co'Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Length 19.50 m (64 ft 0 in)
20.20 m (66 ft 3 in) last 30
Locomotive weight 112 t (110 long tons; 123 short tons) prototype
114 t (112 long tons; 126 short tons) production
Electric system 15 kV 16⅔ Hz AC
Traction motors Six
Top speed 200 km/h (124 mph)
265 km/h (165 mph) 103 118
280 km/h (174 mph) 103 003+222
Power output 5,950 kW (7,980 hp) prototype
7,440 kW (9,980 hp) production
Tractive effort 314 kN (71,000 lbf) prototype
312 kN (70,000 lbf) production
Locomotive brakes KE-GPR, electric brakes
Train brakes Air
Safety systems Sifa, LZB
Career Deutsche Bundesbahn
Deutsche Bahn AG
Class 103
Retired 2003

The Baureihe 103 is a class of electric locomotives in Germany, originally operated by Deutsche Bundesbahn. For a long period, they were perceived as flagships of the DB rolling stock.



In the decades following World War II, the Deutsche Bundesbahn focused on purchasing a large number of standardised electric locomotives. The goal was to promote the electrification program and to replace older types of electric locomotives. A maximum speed of 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph) was deemed sufficient. With growing economic prosperity, competition with other means of transportation, especially automobiles, was increasing.

During the 1950s, plans were made to enhance pre-war class E 19 locomotives to have a top speed of 180 kilometres per hour (110 mph), but the technical layout was out-dated and the braking system was deemed inefficient. The plans were revised to demand a top speed of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph), combined with a Co'Co' wheel arrangement to limit the axle load to 18 tons. Elements of the new class, such as high speed bogies, were tested with existing class E 10 units.


Four prototypes were finished in 1965. They were introduced to the public at the Internationale Verkehrsausstellung (international transport fair) in Munich in June 1965 as class E 03 (class 103.0 after the introduction of the new numbering system). During exhibition runs to Augsburg they reached 200 km/h on a regular basis. The experiences made on these occasions indicated that the installed power of 5,950 kW/7,980 hp (continuous — 6,420 kW/8,610 hp one hour) was not sufficient. In addition to stronger motors the transformer was also reinforced for serial production.

Serial Type

The first serial type class 103.1 was put into service 27. May 1970. DB planned to introduce a new Intercity system with fast first class connections between major cities in autumn of 1971, so the specification sheet demanded class 103.1 to be capable of pulling a 400 tons train at 200 km/h. With a total number of 145 units class 103.1 became the backbone of German Trans Europ Express and InterCity lines. Starting with 103 216, the locomotive body was extended by 700 mm in order to provide more space in the driver's cab.

In addition to the usual Sifa and PZB, class 103 was also equipped with the LZB as an additional train safety system for speed in excess of 160 km/h. The so-called Automatische Fahr- und Bremssteuerung (AFB) (automatic speed and brake control) automatically kept the train's speed constant at any chosen speed.[1]


With inauguration of the new InterCity system only few lines' construction was enhanced for a top speed of 200 km/h, and the necessary government approvals for speeds higher than 160 km/h was also missing. Therefore class 103 in the first years did not reach its top speed in regular service. An accident furthermore delayed the introduction of regular top speed services, as on 1971-07-21 the AFB on 103 106 was suspected to be responsible for accelerating the train out of control, resulting in a derailment with 23 dead and 121 injured.

As starting in 1979 the InterCity system was altered to comprise second class also, it become widely popular. By that time the top speed of 200 km/h was permitted on lines with according features, and the technical problems had been overcome. Now class 103 had its major challenge to pull the heavy 600 tons trains at these high speeds.

Until 1987 (introduction of class 120) class 103 had a near monopoly for high speed trains in Germany. By the early 1990s the intensive utilisation resulted in an increasing number of defects. This tendency was intensified by the fact that DB significantly cut back the maintenance.

With the first InterCityExpress commencing service in 1989, class 103 no longer was DB's flagship. With regards to the wearout, DB decided to replace class 103 by the new class 101, which entered service in 1996. In the following years class 103 was displaced into lower duties, but the locomotive design was not made for repeated stops, so the locomotives were consequently worn out even more. After a brief comeback in 1998, as all InterCityExpress units were temporarily taken out of service after the Eschede train disaster, the remaining class 103 units were retired from regular service by 2003.


  • A total of 17 class 103 have been preserved, with at least five units still operational. Two units are still part of DB rolling stock and are frequently used for test runs.
  • With a one-hour rating of 10,400 kW (13,900 hp) class 103 are among the strongest conventional electric locomotives ever built.
  • On 14. June 1985 number 103 118 reached a speed of 283 km/h (176 mph).
  • The highest operational performance for one unit was reached in June 1972 with 50,250 km.


  1. ^ E 10 für Tempo 200. In: Baureihe E 10 – Eisenbahn Journal Special Ausgabe 02/2006. ISBN 3-89610-166-8, p. 38.

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