The Siemens Velaro ICE 3 (Class 403) High-Speed Train

Germany - Scott #B981 (2006)
Germany – Scott #B981 (2006)

I’ve been enamored of different modes of transport for my entire life. While watercraft, particularly the classic transatlantic ocean liners, have always been my favorite type of vehicle, trains are a close second. I have memories of visiting the railyards of Dallas, Texas, with my father and sister at a very young age to look at the steam engines kept on the back lots and flatting pennies on the tracks. In mid-1994, I got up at the crack of dawn and drove hours from Albuquerque to Chama in the northern New Mexico mountains just to attend a first day of issue ceremony for a set of U.S. stamps picturing steam locomotives (Scott #2843-2847). Of course, the main attraction of the trip was watching the steam engines of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad depart the village station on their way north to Colorado. On my travels throughout the world, I have always strived to take at least one trip on each nation’s national railway if they have one. In Southeast Asia, the majority of the rolling stock is quite ancient and Thailand has at least one steam engine still in use. I do prefer the older locomotives but there certainly are some interesting modern railcars too.

The train pictured on a 2006 semi-postal stamp released by Germany is a type manufactured by Siemens labeled the ICE (DB Class 403), one of two types of their Velaro family of high-speed EMU’s — electric multiple-unit train consisting of self-propelled carriages, using electricity as the motive power. Based on the ICE 3M/F high-speed trains built by Siemens for the Deutsche Bahn (DB), the Velaro is sed in Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, China, Russia and Turkey.

German Velaro D at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof.(Central Station). Photo taken on September 14, 2017.
German Velaro D at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof.(Central Station). Photo taken on September 14, 2017.

Deutsche Bahn were the first to order Siemens high speed trains; it ordered 13 of these units in 1994, the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) 4 units. The trains were delivered in 1999 for service. The trains were labelled and marketed as the Velaro by their manufacturer, Siemens. pain’s RENFE was the first to order Velaro trains, known as Velaro E, for their AVE network. Wider versions were ordered by China for the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail (China Railways CRH3) and Russia for the Moscow–Saint Petersburg and the Moscow–Nizhny Novgorod routes (Velaro RUS/Сапсан). Since December 2013, the latest generation, Velaro D has been running in its home country, Germany.

In July 2006, a Siemens Velaro train-set (AVE S-103) reached 250.8 miles per hour (403.7 km/h). At that time, this was the world record for railed and unmodified commercial service trainsets.

The EMU’s commissioned by the Deutsche Bundesbahn in the 1970s operated as an early predecessor of the Intercity-Express high-speed trains. The units were mainly used for InterCity services and again by the Lufthansa airline in the 1980s. Due to the distinctive design of its front section, the unit was nicknamed the “Donald Duck”. They were designed for operational speeds of up to 220 km/h, a speed which was also attained in extensive test drives, but they were limited to 200 km/h in regular DB service.

An ICE 3 (DB class 403) on the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line, probably at 300 km/h. This train was headed for Munich, near the south entrance to the Euerwang-tunnel. Photo taken on March 31, 2007.
An ICE 3 (DB class 403) on the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed railway line, probably at 300 km/h. This train was headed for Munich, near the south entrance to the Euerwang-tunnel. Photo taken on March 31, 2007.

After the development and introduction of the E03 highspeed-locomotive, Deutsche Bundesbahn ordered the railway industry to propose designs for an Elektro Triebwagen (highspeed electric multiple unit) capable to operate with 200 km/h on the planned InterCity network. On May 24, 1970, Deutsche Bundesbahn decided to order three prototypes and ordered various German companies to build the trains. Linke-Hoffmann-Busch built six driving cars, designated as class 403.0, MBB built three coaches (class 404.0) and three dining cars (class 404.1). The bogies were built by MAN and the electric equipment was built by AEG, BBC and Siemens. All axles of the train were powered and the train featured a tilting mechanism as many new developments in the early 1970s such as the British Advanced Passenger Train. With the twelve cars built three prototype electric multiple units consisting of 1 drivingcar + 1 coach + 1 diningcar + 1 drivingcar were formed.

The first train was handed over to DB on March 2, 1973, and trial runs were carried out between November 28, 1973 and August 8, 1974. The tilting mechanism was shut-off because it did not fulfil the expectations. The revenue service started on September 29, 1974, as InterCity Riemenschneider, Nordwind, Südwind, Albrecht Dürer and Hermes on the line between Bremen and Munich. Due to the lack of suitable high-speed tracks the trains were able to reach their maximum velocity between Munich and Augsburg only. The impossibility of reacting to fluctuating passenger numbers soon made the trainsets prohibitive and impractical. They were removed from IC services in 1979 and replaced by Class 111 locomotives, when the IC ’79 scheme introduced the 2nd class on previously 1st class-only IC services.

In 1981, Lufthansa wanted to replace the very expensive Düsseldorf – Frankfurt shorthaul flights by rail transport. Deutsche Bundesbahn agreed and eliminated their problem, the Class 403 not bringing revenues, at once. Trials on the proposed route, the West Rhine Railway, were carried out on February 13 and 16, 1981. The trains were re-fitted to Lufthansa standards and got a grey-yellow Lufthansa livery. Instead of a kitchen, airplane like on-board galleys were installed. The seats were replaced by DC-10 business class seats. On March 28, 1982, the ET 403 were recommissioned as the Lufthansa Airport Express, a shuttle service connecting the airports of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt along the picturesque West Rhine Railway via Bonn Hauptbahnhof. Usage ended in 1993 due to increasing corrosion of the aluminum sheets. All trains were finally sold by the Deutsche Bahn in 2001 and have fallen into disrepair. The technical concept of separately driven cars was resumed in the design of the ICE 3, also classified as Class 403.

The front lounge of an ICE 3 (2nd class). Photo taken by Sebastian Terfloth on March 3, 2008.
The front lounge of an ICE 3 (2nd class). Photo taken by Sebastian Terfloth on March 3, 2008.

The design goal of the ICE 3 (Class 403) was to create a higher-powered, lighter train than its predecessors. This was achieved by distributing its 16 traction motors underneath the whole train. The train is licensed for 210 miles per hour (330 km/h) and has reached 228.66 mph (368 km/h) on trial runs. On regular Intercity-Express services they run at up to 190 mph (300 km/h), the maximum design speed of German high-speed lines.

Because the train does not have powerheads, the whole length of the train is available for passenger seats, including the first car. The lounge-seats are located directly behind the driver, separated only by a glass wall.

The 50 sets were ordered in 1997 and specifically designed for the new high-speed line between Frankfurt and Cologne. They were built by a consortium led by Siemens and Adtranz (now Bombardier Transportation).

On April 11, 2017, Deutsche Bahn announced a modernization program called ICE 3 Redesign for its 66-unit ICE 3 fleet to be completed by the end of 2020. The renovation involves replacing the seats, tables, and floor coverings. The six-seat compartment rooms are eliminated from the second class section as to increase the number of seats and to add more luggage compartments. In addition, the number of disability seating has been increased to two; however, no integrated wheelchair lift has been installed, and still no disability seating is offered in the first class section. The seats in some Bordrestaurant have been converted to the red bench seating while Bordbistro receives the new stand tables. The cabin illumination is provided by LED lamps, providing more illumination, while the reading lamps are eliminated. The seat reservation panels are moved from the walls above the windows to the seat headrests per EU directive on accessibilities: the new panel has bigger and more visible white lettering and Braille. The yellow LCD information monitors in the antechambers are replaced with larger full-color LED monitors, showing the map, train number, speed, and other pertaining information. The new smaller monitors are attached to the ceiling above the aisle throughout the cabins.

DBAG ICE 3 in the near of Cologne main station. Photo taken by Rolf Heinrich on December 17, 2015.
DBAG ICE 3 in the near of Cologne main station. Photo taken by Rolf Heinrich on December 17, 2015.

However, the modernization program has been met with severe criticism from the passengers due to lowered comfort and colder ambience. The redesigned cabin appears to be sterile and uninviting. The cabin illumination is toward bluish white rather than warmer white and cannot be dimmed during the night journeys. The new seats are uncomfortable for the journeys longer than two hours, especially for the tall passengers. The first class seats have thinner cushion and less luxurious leather upholstery. The seat reservation panels are oriented in a way that the passengers must lower their heads to read the LED display.

The Intercity-Express is the highest service category offered by DB Fernverkehr and is the flagship of Deutsche Bahn. The brand name “ICE” is among the best-known in Germany, with a brand awareness close to 100%, according to DB.

There are currently 259 trainsets in six different versions of the ICE vehicles in use, named ICE 1 (deployed in 1991), ICE 2 (1996), ICE T (1999), ICE 3 (1999) and ICE TD (2001–2003, back in service 2007) , ICE 4 (2017, formerly named ICx).

ICE Route Map, 2015
ICE Route Map, 2015

Apart from domestic use, the trains can also be seen in countries neighboring Germany. There are, for example, ICE 1 lines to Basel and Zurich. ICE 3 trains also run to Liège and Brussels and at lower speeds to Amsterdam. On June 10, 2007, a new line between Paris and Frankfurt/Stuttgart was opened, jointly operated by ICE and TGV trains. ICE trains to London via the Channel Tunnel were planned for 2018, however DB has stated it is awaiting new class 407 rolling stock before it can run the route. DB received its certificate to run trains through the tunnel in June 2013. While ICE 3M trains operate the Paris-Frankfurt service (with the exception of trains 9553/9552, which operate with TGV Duplex equipment and are cross-crewed with both SNCF and DB staff), SNCF’s TGV runs from Paris to Munich (via Stuttgart), with mixed crews on both trains. German and Austrian ICE T trains run to Vienna. On December 9, 2007, the ICE TD was introduced on the service from Berlin via Hamburg to the Danish cities of Aarhus and Copenhagen.

Klein & Neumann designed the 2006 set of four sheet stamps and one booklet pane of stamps picturing German trains, released on October 12 of that year (Scott #B977-980). These were semi-postal stamps printed by lithography. The first four stamps had traditional gum and were printed using the lithography process, perforated 13¾ x 14. These were released in sheets of 10 without a watermark.

Scott #B981 was also printed by lithography but has self-adhesive gum. The 55-euro cent + 25-euro cent multi-colored stamp was issued in booklet panes of 10 and has die=cut perforations of 11.


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