The vast majority of the Moseley Railway Trust’s fleet of locomotives are, naturally, UK-built. However, a small number were constructed overseas. This week, we’ll take a look at an overseas works with a lot of history. Orenstein & Koppel were a very long established German engineering company, and they survived as an entity until very recently – visit a shopping centre and there’s a fair chance that the escalators will say “O&K” on them. O&K built very large quantities of railway equipment in their various works in Germany. As far as the narrow gauge is concerned, prior to WW2, there were two key works. Steam locos, and a few of the larger diesels were built in the “Drewitz” works, in the Babelsburg suburb of Berlin. Chillingly, the business changed its name to MBA after 1935 – Orenstein, a Jewish name, was unacceptable to the Nazi regime. After the arrival of the Russians changed the political landescape somewhat, this works evolved into “Lokomotive Karl Marx” – so no mistaking the political allegiance there.
The smaller narrow gauge internal-combustion locos were built at a works in Nordhausen, in the Harz mountains, and were marked under the “Montania” brand – it being the Montania works. O&K took over this works in 1912, and ran the place until it closed in January 1942. During this period, 9371 locos were built. Perhaps slightly surprisingly, a good number were shipped to the UK; O&K had an agent, William Jones, who seems to have been very adept at selling things without getting into unfortunate discussions about where they came from and why can’t we understand the funny writing in the instruction book. The MRT has three such Montania/William Jones locos in the collection – two petrol locos, types MM and M, and a diesel RL1B. The MM seems to have been built only for UK customers, and the loco in the collection is the only known survivor. Similarly, the RL1B again seems to have been specific to the UK market. There has always been some suspicion that the locos were shipped from Germany as kits, and final assembly was done by Jones. The top pictures show the MM (left) and the RL1B (right).
Nordhausen later gained notoriety as the centre of manufacture for the Nazi V1 and V2 rockets; even this factory used narrow gauge railways, and the remnants of a steam loco used in the works, and the associated forced labour camp, is preserved as a memorial (photo below). This loco is like the O&Ks in the MRT collection – it is an object through which future generations can understand the past; in some cases a pretty unpleasant past. Find out more here.
The MRT is hoping to take the MM O&K on a rather happier foreign outing next year – see here for details.
In the meantime, you are more than welcome to contact the MRT here.