German steam locomotive numbering system
Author: John Oxlade, Salfords, England (email:
The numbering scheme introduced by the DRG was subsequently used by the DB.
The DR after the war used a similar idea (but with different numbers). All
locomotives in existence at the formation of the DRG were allocated class
numbers, but it is doubtful that some of them ever carried them. Many of the
smaller or obsolete classes were withdrawn quite soon.
As far as I know, the DRG always used the full name Deutsche Reichsbahn
on the cab side of their locomotives. After about 1941, some locos had a cast
metal eagle and swastika fitted, but I believe that they still retained the
name in full. The DB also used the full name initially, but later went over to
using the metal DB shield - "Keks".
Just for information, the DRG used the round crest
on passenger vehicles and the name Deutsche Reichsbahn on freight vehicles up
until about 1941-42, when they started using a printed version of the eagle on
coaches, and a simplified DR on goods wagons.
Later, the DB enhanced the system slightly to aid in keeping track of their
stock with computers. This enhanced system is still in use today, and with the
introduction of the former DR stock into the same stock lists, the uniformity
that the DRG was striving for has now been achieved.
|01 to 19
||Express passenger locomotives
||These are all tender locomotives.
|20 to 39
||Passenger locomotives (as opposed to express passenger locomotives)
|40 to 59
|60 to 79
||These are all tank locomotives.
|80 to 96
||Rack (and pinion) locomotives
|Narrow-gauge locomotives - to be implemented at a
|Additionally, I have put together a 'catch-all' page of experimental,
unique and unusual locomotives
||Although the above number ranges were allocated, not all of them
were actually used.
For example, the first 'official' freight locomotive would have been a
class 40, but the number was never used.
The 'actual' first freight locomotive class number was 41.
A comment on the Reichsbahn (DRG) numbering system: Within the
number blocks reserved for the engine type (S,P,G,...) the new
standard classes had their own block (the first ten). So, 01 to 10 are
standard Express passenger, 11 to 19 are Laenderbahn (state railway)
classes. The first two digits of state railway engines denote the
wheel arrangement, starting with the 'smallest' type and progressively
increasing with the number of wheels. The next 1 or 2 digits denote
the class. Old engines that were due for replacement when the
numbering system was introduced in 1925 received numbers of XX.70XX
and above. That explains why, e.g. class 34 has no numbers below
34.73XX. Other gaps in the numbers are due to the fact that the
renumbering plan of 1925 was a revision of a plan of 1923 which in
turn was a revision of 1922. Some classes had been withdrawn from
service in the meantime.
Just to make life difficult, in German, a 'Tenderlokomotiven' is not what
we'd call it. The English meaning of 'tender' is a serapate vehicle pulled
behind the steam locomotive which contains water and coal (or in some cases
oil). This has exactly the same meaning in German, but a 'Tenderlokomotiven'
is a term used to indicate a locomotive with an integrated tender - a tank
In Germany, what in English is a tender locomotive is frequently called a 'Schlepptender',
[ last updated 1st Jan 2004 ]