The DB "Leig" Unit
As early as the Mid-Twenties the German State Railroad (DRG) was faced with competition from trucks. The less-than-carload-lot service most of all had to be accelerated in order not to lose more market share. The DRG therefore developed a new transport concept in 1927, whereby less-than-carload-lot freight was hauled in its own trains and was to be sorted in route. This saved time-consuming switching maneuvers for loading and unloading along the route. Actually, these so-called "Leichten Eil-Güterzüge" / "Light Fast Freight Trains" ("Leig" for short) were supposed to be hauled by newly developed powered baggage rail cars but they were not available yet and were never built except for a few individual samples. Initially, use was made of locomotive-hauled short trains and the conversion of existing freight cars as a cost-effective "emergency solution". On each pair of cars, a shock absorption plate replaced a buffer on one side at one end of the cars and the buffer on the other side was replaced by a buffer without a plate in order to achieve two close-coupled cars in this manner. At the close-coupled end with a spacing between the cars of only 54 cm / 21-1/4", large openings were cut into the end walls and the space between the cars was bridged by a walkover plate and a diaphragm. The result was a large connected workspace.
The first "Leig" units still consisted of a boxcar and a freight train baggage car. After just a short time, "Leig" units were made from two high-capacity cars. The permissible maximum speed was increased to 100 km/h / 62 mph after changes to the suspension for the cars. The sidewalls for these boxcars bore the lettering "Stückgut-Schnellverkehr" ("Less-than-Carload-Lot Express Service") in different versions, whereby the variation known to everyone and often selected had ascending black lettering on a white background. The "Leigs" were usually coupled together in "Leichtgüterzügen" / "Light Freight Trains" with a maximum of ten axles, sometimes with a gondola for bulky or dangerous freight. With this limitation on the train length, trains could be stopped exactly at station platforms and the freight transfer could be accelerated accordingly. After the end of World War II, the DB at the start of the Fifties stood before the task of replacing and adding to the "Leig" units in the years to come. It purchased the type Gllmehs 52 "Leig" units in large numbers as a result. The DB did not stop running trains of Less-than-Carload-Lot Express Service until the Sixties and the "Leig" units continued to be used only in "normal" freight trains.