The long history of the class 44 (German abbreviation: BR 44) dates back to 1920s. The German Reichsbahn had taken over more than 120 quite different locomotive types from the former State Railways. Nearly a quarter of the 33000 engines were lost as reparation payments. There were no bigger locomotives available for a heavy-duty mainline network. In this critical situation, a program for standards and production of steam engines should help. A limited range of classes was specified according to the issues and sizes required. All of them should be designed from uniform and exchangeable components. So, they could be built in series, efficiently operated, and reasonably maintained. The result were the Standard Engines (Einheitslokomotiven) becoming the basis for development and construction of German locomotives for more than 20 years.
As heavy Standard Engines for mainline freight service, the concept provided the classes 43 and 44. The BR 44 had 3 instead of 2 cylinders and 2000 HP and was capable for 50 mph - it was stronger and faster. Two pilot series of 10 engines each were built in 1926 and tested by comparison. Due to the Great Depression, the development of the more expensive BR 44 was discontinued, but in 1937, the series production was resumed. Meanwhile, the German Reichsbahn was dependant on the high performance of the BR 44. Then, the engines have got Wagner smoke deflectors, a reheat economizer and new welded 2'2' T34 tenders. During WWII, some components were simplified, but the BR 44 k (wartime transition) was less deskilled than other locomotive series were: input of domestic materials, omission of smoke deflectors and 2nd side window. Nearly 2000 engines were built until 1945 and they proved successful as the most efficient freight engines of the German Reichsbahn.
After WWII, 1242 engines found their way to West German DB and 355 engines to East German DR. They were urgently needed for the reconstruction of the country and soon got modernized. The DB attached Witte smoke deflectors, replaced the pumps, and added new headlights. The DR just changed the smoke deflectors and experimented with coal-dust fired engines. Both German railways converted part of the engines to oil burners. From this period, the big locomotives were given the nickname "Jumbos" - as strong, untiring, and good-natured beasts of burden. During the German "Wirtschaftswunder", the "Jumbos" were significantly contributing to the recovery and the success of the industry. They hauled heavy ore and coal trains, material and bulk freight transports, but also mixed freight trains with manufacturing goods over long routes and many gradients. A legendary train was the "Long Henry" ("Langer Heinrich") of the 1960s and 1970s, a 4000-ton ore train from the North Sea coast to the industrial Ruhr region. BR 44 engines were in regular service until the German Steam Era ended - 1977 in the West, 1981 in the East.
The class 44 had also been built in France from 1942 on. Some of these engines remained in service with the SNCF after the end of war. In 1946, French locomotive factories built 226 more engines with minor modifications. They were taken over into the SNCF roster as series 150X being the most powerful and the heaviest freight steam engines in France. They were assigned to industrial transport in the EST region (in green livery) and in the NORD region (in black livery). 48 engines were sold to Turkish Railways as early as 1955; all the rest were withdrawn from service until 1965. The Era of electric traction in France was rapidly coming.
The BR 44 models made by MTH are exceptional reproductions of the impressive prototypes. They meet scale and detail of the original as well as its character. Heavy metal design and a powerful electronically controlled drive system offer enormous traction effort and superior running qualities. Locomotive and tender are modeled with many prototypical details and authentically painted and lettered. Thanks to ProtoSound 3.0, we can see, hear, and feel the dynamics of the massive engines with the distinctive exhaust sound, the synchronous smoke, and many more sounds of operation. The MTH "Jumbos" bring steam era highlights back as thrilling experience for our senses in the gorgeous size of O gauge.
Did you know:
The very last regular steam train of the German Bundesbahn was headed by an oil-fired 44 on October 26, 1977. 47 engines of the BR 44 have survived, 3 of them in serviceable condition.