The Fastest Train in the World.
In the 1920s the German State Railroad Company was faced with increased competition. Automobiles and airplanes made traveling more individual and faster. The day trip - depart in the morning, return at night - became an attractive offering for businessmen and the well heeled. If the Railroad company did not want to lose these customers, rail travel had to become faster. After initial attempts with the rail zeppelin (which set a world record for the fastest rail vehicle at 230 km/h or 143 mph, (a record which stood for 24 years), the German State Railroad commissioned a two-piece combustion powered rail car. It was placed in service in May of 1932 and linked the two metropolitan centers of Berlin and Hamburg.
The express powered rail car raced through the 228 km or 142 mile stretch in 132 minutes. With an average speed of 128 km/h or 80 mph it was the fastest scheduled train in the world and took its place in history as the "Flying Hamburger". The new express service was an immense success. Naturally, the German State Railroad ordered additional powered rail cars. This Hamburg type is the prototype for our model. The design was improved for the VT 137 units; they were equipped with a modified front part, and they were equipped for double unit operation. The propulsion system made use of the diesel electric principle. A unit comprised of a 12-cylinder diesel motor and generator sat on each of the two end trucks. These units functioned as power plants which generated the electricity for the electric traction motors. They were placed on the two axles of the middle "Jacobs" truck, which connected the two halves of the unit.
The express service network of the SVT was quickly extended. To and from Berlin the Hamburg-type powered rail car served Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Stuttgart, and Munich; there was also a direct connection between Hamburg and Cologne. The German State Railroad held the 03 class streamline steam engine in reserve as a backup. They could jump in with a three-part skirted passenger car ("Schurzenwagen") composition in the event that an SVT failed. In contrast to the prototype, the Hamburg class was equipped for multiple unit operation. The stretch from Berlin to the south was run as a double unit operation. In Nürnberg the two powered rail cars were separated, and they continued on separately to Stuttgart, or Munich, respectively. The train and station personnel were trained for this separation maneuver in order to save time. After a 60 second stop the first powered rail car moved out of the station, after another 60 seconds the second powered rail car left the station. On the return route the two cars were re-coupled in Nürnberg. Today we are familiar with this type of double unit operation from the ICE 2.