This page presents the favourite locomotive type of many railway fans all over Europe.
These locomotives run as MÁV M61 class in Hungary.
After the failure of the project of Hungarian manufacturer Ganz-Mávag to develop a diesel-electric locomotive in the output range of 1000-1500 kW in 1951-1957, the only way for MÁV was purchasing this kind of locomotive from abroad. An alternative solution was buying a null-serie and a licence of the locomotive, but this could not be a reality.
In 1960, answering for the request of MÁV, all major Western European manufacturers have tendered for delivery, but only two factories have sent a demonstrator locomotive. One was a Krauss-Maffei-built, the six-axle version of the DB V200 diesel-hydraulic locomotive, with two diesel engines and a boiler for train heating. Its output was 1546 kW, the maximum speed was 120 km/h. Its number was M61,2001 during the two-week testing period.
The other demonstrator was the NOHAB-built NSB Di3a-623. It was built with GM-EMD 16-567D1 engine (1435 kW), GM DC-electric transmission, with Co'Co' wheel arrangement, train heating boiler and ASEA traction motors. This unit was ready for the delivery on 18.8.1960, and was originally made for the Finnish Railways, who did not confirm the order, so the locomotive has got to the Norvegian Railways. In 1960, it ran across Eastern Europe, to increase the interest of the railways for the NOHAB locomotives. However, only Hungary ordered 20 units.
Although the German locomotive performed well, MÁV chose the NOHABs. One of the reasons was the Hungarian experts' fear of the two diesel engines per unit and the novelty of hydraulic transmission (recent bad experience with Ganz-built hydraulic shunters [M31 class], which, however, became more reliable later). On the other hand, several NOHABs were in service in Western Europe, with excellent reliability.
The deliveries were planned to start in September 1963. However, in lack of tractive effort on the newly electrified Budapest-Miskolc main line (No.80), MÁV wished to get two units of the diesels in May. So, the first NOHABs, M61,001 and M61,002 arrived in May 1963 (M61,001 arrived at Budapest on 12.5.1963). Their price was $ 226.000 per unit.
An interesting thing to be mentioned here: In December 1963 NOHAB offered the delivery of new NOHABs with supercharged GM engines (EMD 16-645E3, 2460 kW, and EMD 20-645E3, 2867 kW), even with barters, but Soviets made this impossible. MÁV has purchased the M62 type from 1965, with 1472 kW output in large scale (nearly 300 units).
As I mentioned above, M61,001 and M61,002 started their service on fast trains between Budapest and Miskolc, during the summer of 1963, running 900 kilometers a day (five runs between the two cities; each with the running time of 1 hour and 52 minutes.
From September to December 1963 , 14 units arrived continuously (M61,003-016). In 1964, the four remaining units arrived (M61,017-020). In September 1963 during the International Fair of Budapest, M61,001 was exhibited.
The M61 001-010 units have got into the rolling stock of Budapest-Nord, the M61,011-020 got to Debrecen. Their first services were international fast trains, and heavy freight trains between Budapest and Záhony (This line No. 100 was the busiest one of Hungary, especially in the 60's). In the same time with the appearance of Soviet-built M62 class heavy freight locomotives in 1965, their job clearly became the passenger service.
In accordance with the electrification of MÁV lines, the NOHABs appeared between Budapest and Békéscsaba (line No.120), Szeged (line No. 140), and Kelebia (line No. 150).
From 1978 they appeared around the Lake Balaton (lines No. 26, 29, 30). Many of them are still in service on the line No.29, in the rolling stock of Tapolca. The lake shore is unimaginable without the typical GM sound and the view of the majestic appearance of the NOHABs. Sometimes they appeared between Szombathely and Kaposvár and pulled the Göcsej-Express, which used to have one of the nicest routes on rails in Hungary.
In 1997, 33-34 years after the delivery, only 9 units remained in continuous service (M61,001, 002, 004, 006, 010, 013, 014, 019, 020). The first one was withdrawn in case of a smaller accident (M61,009) in 1987. From 1987 to 1997 8 units were withdrawn, 2 ones are reserved since early 1996, but aren't working (M61,008, 017). The main reasons against NOHABs today are the old age of their construction, the small number of rolling units (this is the only reason why the less reliable M62 series is "more suitable" for MÁV more than 150 M62s are in service today) and the lack of electric train heating. MÁV decided to stop working with steam train heating, whether the rolling stock allows this wish.
On the occasion of the MÁV's 125. birthday, M61,004 was repainted to the old livery, with a little difference: instead of the communist symbol red star, a nice NOHAB logo is painted on the "nose" of the loco.
Presently four units (001,002,019,020) are equipped with a control panel for electric train heating cars, which have been used in M62-passenger service for more then 25 years. Other units still work with their boilers (mainly 004,013,014). The M61,006 and 010 got into freight service. It is important to know that M61,006 underwent a renewal in 1995, most of the diesel engine's parts are brand new (I've heard the same news of the M61,019 in 1996. This unit was repainted several times that year.).
And what is the future? Some of them (maybe 001) will go to the Museum of Transport, Budapest. M61,004 will go to "Nostalgia" service all around Hungary. Some of them will be in freight service or be reserved. And, I hope, far in the future, none of them will be junk, but all of them will be exhibited at several stations all over Hungary, suggesting the words which I've heard so many times: "MÁV never will have a better locomotive than this one!"
Words by Peter Werner Groh
Gigant Club NOHAB Division