The Dutch Streamliners

A while ago I received a question about my model train collection. I already introduced the Roco NS 1200 and 2200 locomotives in earlier posts. Now I feel is a good time to give a proper introduction to my other trains: Dutch streamliners. They take me down the memory lane… to the moment the train bug bit me. Here’s my story.

Dutch streamliners: Artitec DMU's and EMU
Dutch streamliners: the Blue Angel (in red), the Red Devil (in yellow) and the Dog Head in green. The models were made by Artitec.

Memory Lane, part 1

It was something like 1976. I was around 6 years old, the same age as my son now. The location was the railway station at Groningen. This was my hometown, a province town in the north of The Netherlands. I was there with my parents. We were waiting for the train from the west. From Leeuwarden, another northern province town. The train that would bring my grandparents was yellow. A diesel train.

We were early, or the train was late. It didn’t matter. I looked around at all the other trains. One or two red diesel trains, smaller ones, were waiting to leave for smaller towns and village in the province. Towards the east more trains. Electrical ones, that would leave for other big towns, much further away. They were also yellow and looked roughly similar to the yellow diesel train. So simpel: yellow, big trains and red, small trains. Except sometimes… Occasionally a green train appeared!

More or less all passenger trains that came to Groningen were MU’s (Multiple Units). I only saw locomotives pulling dirty and noisy freight trains that sometimes rolled through the station.

Memory Lane, part 2

It was something like 1976. My father bought a model train set. Lima. A Dutch locomotive, series 1200 with a few coaches. The locomotive was yellow. The so-called Plan E coaches were blue. During Summer holidays, we visited Arnhem, also a province town, in the middle of Holland. And there I saw them in real life: a 1200 locomotive with exactly those coaches!

NS 1200 with Plan E coaches
NS 1200 with Plan E coaches

With my 6 year old’s logic, my life was complete: yellow, red, green and blue trains! The train bug bit me. And it would never leave me again…

A historical context: streamliners

In the early 1930’s steam locomotives still dominated the train scene. Scientists started to understand aerodynamics and apply this to trains as well. While diesel and electrical locomotives were still quite rare, the technology enabled a new form of passenger trains: streamlined MU’s.

For a small country with a high population density (and hence, station density), MU’s were very beneficial. They accelerated and decelerated faster than traditional trains and also the turn-around time at terminals was much shorter. After all, the train could just change direction. Only the train driver had to walk to the other cockpit.

The first streamline design

In 1934 the first streamliner was introduced in Holland. It was a DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) and two years later an electrical version followed. Compared to the steam locomotives they had a specific weak spot: in case of an accident, the train driver had little protection. Also, the cockpit windows were very small.

1940 brought a second iteration of this front end design, both diesel and electric versions. The windows were slightly bigger and the front end was strenghtened. Finally, a third iteration of the front end design was introduced in 1946 (electrical) and 1952 (diesel). The original livery of the diesel version was blue, which earned the DMU the nickname ‘Blue Angel.’

The second streamline design

Around that time the main lines in the Dutch railway network were electrified and diesel was only for the smaller local lines. A new streamliner was introduced with a redesigned front end in 1954. This front end would result in the nickname ‘Dog Head’ (Hondekop). Only electrical versions of this MU appeared as it would operate on the main lines.

A new DMU carried a modernised version of this front end design in 1960. The original livery was red and it received the nickname ‘Red Devil.’ An electrical version would follow in 1964.

Color shuffle

It is a bit ironic that once a train model got a nickname based on its colour, it wouldn’t take long until the colour would change. It seemed like the Dutch Railways didn’t have a clear color scheme. The first streamliner was light grey, the Blue Angel was blue and some electrical locomotives and coaches were teal. There was even a purple diesel locomotive at one time.

This changed in around 1960. Then, the following color scheme was introduced:

  • DMU: red
  • EMU: green
  • Electrical locomotive: blue
  • Coach: blue
  • Larger diesel locomotive (for freight trains primarily): brown
  • Smaller diesel locomotive (for switching and light freight trains): green

This resulted in the Blue Angel losing its color and turning red. My guess is that the original nickname was kept to distinguish it from the Red Devil.

The color scheme changed again in around 1970. A new corporate identity was created based on yellow and the now common logo:

  • Local DMU, EMU, coach: yellow with blue banner stripes on the sides for commercials
  • Long distance EMU, coach: yellow with dark blue around the side windows
  • Locomotives: yellow/grey

This did not mean that in 1970 all trains would change colour. The Red Devils turned yellow rather quickly. I haven’t known this train in red at all. Until 1980 some Dog Heads were still green. From 1977 a subset of all Blue Angel received a yellow paint job after a thorough revision. The rest remained red until the last ones were scrapped in 1985.

It could easily happen though that the blue commercial banners and logos were added to the trains long before they would be painted in yellow. Many Blue Angels (in red) had those, as well as green Dog Heads.

The model scene

Regarding Dutch model trains there were always some manufacturers that made one or two models of a Dutch locomotive and a few coaches. But Holland is a MU country. The most iconic Dutch MU’s were missing. Until…

It was something like 2015. As a coincidence I stumbled on Artitec’s website. I never heard of this company before, but they made a model of the Blue Angel. It was available in different colours, with a decoder for digital control and various functions, including sound.

Already in 1985 I was aware of developments regarding digital control of model trains. Now I was looking for a theme for programming as a hobby. I connected the dots and bought a Roco digital starter set. Of course, the Blue Angel (in red) would follow soon after.

Then, in 2017 Artitec introduced also the Red Devil. On my visit to Holland I added this (in yellow) to my collection as well. And this week the Dog Head from Artitec arrived at my home… in green!

Conclusion

Maybe I would have started with the hobby again with only Roco: the NS 1200 and 2200 locomotives. I may have started exploring about model railroad control and blogging about it. But it was Artitec with the release of the Blue Angel that really got me started. And they followed up the Red Devil and Dog Head. Kudos to them for bringing back my childhood memories!

Now if Artitec would only release those blue Plan E coaches again, to complement my 1200 locomotive…

Note: I have no affiliation with either Artitec or Roco.

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