|Grandpa is giving a lesson on lettering of early era III coaches
Author: Martin Silz, Essen, Germany
- Grandpa, I had a look through your old railway photos. I found
an old photo of a coach and I don't know what it is.
- Oh yes, that photo was taken in the early 1950s. This was a
coach I used to take when driving to work. Basically these were
freight wagons, that got windows and seats. They were not very comfortable,
but they were the best we could get at that time.
- Grandpa, what are all those letterings?
- Let's see.. First there is the number of the coach:. 300 357.
All coaches were grouped in a way at that time. All numbers
starting from 300 000 to 305 000 were so called MCi-coaches, just
as you can read in the second line.
- The letters Stg certainly stand for Stuttgart. I can read it in
the middle part of the coach. There they repeat the number, too.
- That's right. So the coach belonged to the Direktion
Stuttgart. Do you see the little white sign next to the Stuttagrt
lettering? It says Heimatbahnhof Stuttgart Hbf. So the home of
this coach was Stuttgart central station. All passenger coaches
use to have a home station. Even today.
- I understand. But what does MCi mean?
- That's a code for the type of coach. The C tells, that
it is a third class coach. You can also tell this from the white
number 3 in the black square underneath the outer windows.
- Third class? We only have two different classes today.
- Until 1956 there were three different classes in Germany:
first class coaches were very luxurious and only used in express
trains, second class compartments had comfortable soft seats and
third class coaches only got wooden benches.
- Wooden benches? They must have been _very_ uncomfortable.
- Yes, but normally they were shaped in a curved style and you
could sit on them quite a while without getting an aching back.
There were coaches, that were used for heavy hand luggage, so
called Traglastenwagen. Those only had benches made from two
boards. The benches were arranged only along the walls, keeping a
big empty space in the middle for suitcases, bags, boxes and so
on. These coaches WERE uncomfortable. When I was a student my
friends and I often had a dance with our girlfriends in these
(Grandpa is laying back in his armchair, doing a deep sigh)
On the other hand we simply couldn't afford driving second class
at that time.
The M is a sign, that this coach was built during WWII as a
kind of auxiliary coach, and last the letter i denotes,
that there are only open passenger bridges between coaches, no passenger
tunnels like today.
I think we go into details of these lettering codes some when in
- The coach is an all none smoking coach. I can tell that from the
Nichtraucher signs. Were there as many non smoking people at that
time as today?
- No, smoking was quite a habit at that time. I remember to
grow my own tobacco in my garden after the war. Many people did so
at that time. But being an all non smoking coach was a feature of
this special coach. Normally there were approx. one third of the
seats in non smoking compartments. But the Mci coaches only had
one big compartment, so there were full coaches for smokers and
full coaches for non smokers.
- 12,1 t , is this the weight of the coach?
- Correct. The driver has to know, how heavy the train is, he
has to pull with his loco. Just like the number of the coach the
weight is repeat on the coach's frame. So the man who writes down
all the numbers and weights of the coaches needn't look up that
high, because this would be quite uncomfortable and the lettering
at the upper left corner might even be hardly readable at night.
If you look left from the weight lettering at the frame you can
even read when the weight was controlled last: at the 15. February
Do you know what the 56 Pl stands for?
- Let me think it over. The driver has to know about the weight of
the coach. Perhaps the conductor want's to know the number of
- You are an expert.
- LüP 12,30m. This seems to be the overall length.
- LüP means Länge über Puffer, the distance between the tips
of the buffers.
Can you imagine what Hikpbr means?
- There is a similar sign at the frame. Hikp-Bremse. So this must
have something to do with the breaks.
- Hikp stands for Hildebrand-Knorr Personenzug Bremse
(Hildebrand-knorr passenger train break). A standard type of break
at that time. If you are interested in details you should read Bremsenbude.de
- There are again two weights underneath the break lettering. And
they are somehow connected to it by a bracket. Strange.
- These are the so called break weights. These weights have
something to do, how fast a train can break. And this is needed to
tell the maximum speed on the journey. You know, the train has to
stop safely in front of the signals, don't you ?
P stand for the Personenzug (passenger train) and G for Güterzug
(freight train). Breaks for freight trains always work a bit
slower and apply not that strongly as breaks for passenger trains.
This is a kind of remainder from the old times when trains were
stopped by brakemen.
- Dhz? Dhz? Where are you? Oh yes. Now we are again at the
coache's frame. Here you can read the heating system: steam
heating (Dampfheizung). This was very convenient at that time with
all the steam engines.
- What do all the arrows mean at the right half of the frame?
- The two arrows pointing at each other with the 6,00m in
between, describe the distance of the axles.
- Six meters.
- And the sign next to it tells that the axles can move a bit
in there bearings. This allows them to adjust radialy in curves.
By this the coach can run more easily through tight curves. This
kind of bearing is known as Vereinslenkachsen, a development of
the early 20th century.
- And the table?
- This table had to be filled with dates. Once a month the
workshop had to control whether there was enough oil in the axle
boxes. The day of inspection was written down in this table. So
everybody could see, that there was enough oil in the axle boxes.
Because of that this table was known as Schmierraster (greasing
The table above the right axle holds the dates of the last full
inspection of the coach and where this was done.
- There are some small letterings at the lower right corner of the
coach. They are hardly readable. What do they mean?
- This has something to do with the colouring of the coach. The
paint was renewed at the 15.February 1950. Do you see the date
right to the lettering Anstrich?
Grundfarbe and Dachfarbe mean basic paint, so the green colour of
the coach, and roof paint. The names right to these lettering give
the companies, who delievered the paint.
- Funk... Funken... Funkenschutz Wasserglas? What has a glass of
water (Wasserglass) to do with protection against sparks (Funkenschutz).
Does the conductor need to have a glass of water to extinguish a
fire ignited by sparks? He will only be able to extinguish very
small fires, won't he?
- (Smiling) Wasserglass is a special kind of 'paint'. This
protects the bottom of the coach from being incended by sparks
coming especially from the breaks. So you see it is literally
said: spark protection by Wasserglass 'paint'.
- Thanks Grandpa for your explanation. Now I know a lot more about
lettering of early DB coaches.
[ last updated 31st Dec 2003 ]