We are writing in 1966. The German State Railroad (DR) of the GDR had quite successfully pursued for several years the conversion to diesels of its locomotive fleet with GDR units such as the V 100 and the V 180. Shortly before, the big brother Soviet Union had decreed in consultation for mutual economic aid however, that from that point on large diesel locomotives for the socialist brother nations were only to be built at the Soviet locomotive builder in Luhansk. At that time, it was one of the largest locomotive builders in the world. It had German roots, because it had been founded in 1896 as the Russian Machinery Company by Gustav Hartmann in Luhansk. The founder was the son of Richard Hartmann, the owner of the Saxon Machinery Company in Chemnitz.
In 1965, the German State Railroad finally ordered out of necessity a first series of six-axle diesel electrics, the type M 62. The 12-cylinder diesel motor built by the firm Kolomna put out 2,000 horsepower leading to the designation V 200 on the DR.
The first units attracted a lot of attention in the GDR. However, not in a positive sense. The infernal noise of the two-stroke diesel motors pulled residents out of their sleep at night and gave rise to the legend that silverware was shaken from coffee tables. These monsters were soon called "Taiga Drums", "Stalin's Final Revenge", or simply "Pistol". Since the two-stroke diesel motor of the V 200 had an idling speed of 400 rpm and peak revs of 750 rpm, it produced a sound reminding one of a drum.
The main reason for the excessive noise of the first 177 units was the lack of a muffler. After massive complaints from the population, the maintenance facility at Meiningen developed an effective noise control system, which was installed in the first 108 locomotives. The rest of the "Pistols" had a muffler installed, which was developed in Luhansk. The sound background of the V 200 however remained very high. When a "Drum" was approaching with a heavy freight train, you knew immediately what kind of motive power it had. The "Taiga Drums" were therefore a cult for many railroad fans. A pain for some, a pleasure for others.
Working railroaders were also mostly satisfied with the performance and reliability of the V 200, which because of a lack of train heating was seen pulling passenger trains only in isolated cases in the summer. Its main area of use was heavy freight service because its maximum speed was limited to 100 km/h / 63 mph.
In 1975, Luhansk delivered the 378th "Pistol" to the DR and that was the end. The successor to this locomotive type now designated as the class 120 was the more powerful and newer "Ludmillas", the classes 130, 131, 132, and 142.
When freight traffic fell off massively on the German State Railroad after the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989, the "Drums" ended up more and more on sidings. On the one hand, a lot had been demanded of these units for years. On the other hand, they were considered as real oil guzzlers.
In 1992, the DR reclassified 200 "Drums" as the class 220. However, three years later the end came already for probably the loudest diesel locomotive on German rails. Numerous locomotives were then sold abroad and to private railroads. Thus, 29 "Pistols" went to Lithuania, 33 to North Korea, and 31 to Poland. Starting in 2011 no Luhansk "Drums" drummed any more through the German countryside, until the Erfurt Railroad Service bought back from Poland in 2021 road number 220 507 and put it through an overhaul. Since January 27, 2022, this cult locomotive can be admired again in operation in this country. However, without a great drum roar, because this unit has a quieter class 232 motor. This locomotive is still a real "Pistol" however.