The Class 103 - the DB's Media Star!
The German Federal Railroad ushered in a new era, when the class E 03 was presented in 1965 at the International Transportation Exhibition in Munich: regularly scheduled passenger service at 200 km/h / 125 mph. In addition, the class E 03, designated as the class 103 in the German Federal Railroad's roster from 1968 on, represented a milestone in locomotive development - it was the first express locomotive to surpass the class E 19, whose design dated back to the Thirties. Reason enough to be proud of this powerful, beautifully shaped locomotive and to put it accordingly in the limelight. Hardly any other locomotive like the class 103, known for an entire generation as the Intercity locomotive, was marketed so much in the media. In TV ad spots, posters, and brochures this locomotive became a symbol for the German Federal Railroad's dynamism, a guarantee for reliability, speed, and comfort. Extensive test runs, among them regular speeds of 200 km/h / 125 mph between Munich and Augsburg, were done with four prototypes, until the class 103 was purchased as a regular production unit starting in 1970. The 145 locomotives differed from the prototypes in leaving off the decorative striping and in double rows of vents. Single-arm pantographs were installed on the locomotives from 1976 on, and the last series of units delivered had longer engineer's cabs, because crews complained about the cramped work space. This aerodynamic, six-axle locomotive had a total continuous power rating of 7,440 kilowatts / 9,977 horsepower and was the most powerful DB locomotive until the use of three-phase current technology. The high startup tractive effort as well as the electric brakes, independent for the first time of the catenary and connected in series with air brakes, drew favorable comment worldwide. The performance strengths of the 103 were reflected in the enormous number of runs and even today it is still rated as the locomotive with the highest level of service life in Germany. Its uncommonly attractive looks remained essentially unchanged during its use on the DB. In later years, the skirting and the buffer cladding were removed and several locomotives were painted in the "Chinese red" color scheme; only one unit was painted in "traffic red". The German Federal Railroad's class 103 was very popular with crews and passengers right up to the end of its regularly scheduled use, and it is understandable that a considerable number of them have remained preserved as museum locomotives. Many people today remember back as if it were just yesterday when they were young and how the 103 flew past them on the railroad embankment.