Saturday 4 December 2021

Presaging Modernity: Turkey’s MT5200 Trains

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Yurdumuzu dünyanın en mamur ve en medeni memleketleri seviyesine çıkaracağız - We shall raise our country to the level of the most prosperous and civilized nations of the world. (By Mustafa Kemal Atatürk)
In recent years, Turkey has made great strides in modernising its infrastructure through the construction of thousands of kilometres of new roads, bridges, tunnels and high-speed rail. Turkey currently has more high-speed rail than countries like the United States, South Korea and the United Kingdom, and once it completes currently planned projects it is set to have the third largest high-speed rail network in the world. [1] [2] Ambitions hardly stop there, with the country well on track to becoming a high-speed rail superpower: as in addition to building the necessary rail infrastructure Turkey also intends to build the trains that operate on it. These exploits perfectly position the country to one day export its technologies and expertise to the rest of the world.

As with any success story, its accomplishments started with a unique vision and great ambitions. In the period immediately after the founding of the Turkish Republic (1923), the development of a modern rail network was seen as a major contributing factor to the development of a modern country. President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took a personal interest in the development of the railways and Turkish industrial pioneers such as Nuri Demirağ invested significant resources in the expansion of the Turkish railway network. [3] In 1927 the Turkish State Railways (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları – TCDD) was founded, incorporating the steam-engined rolling stock and railway lines of the former Anatolian Railway and the Transcaucasus Railway.

In October 1940, the TCDD placed an order for six MT5200s diesel multiple units (DMUs) from the MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg, famous for the production of heavy-duty trucks post-World War II) factory in Germany. [4] These were the first truly modern trains to enter service in Turkey, and were on par with the most advanced trains operating in Europe and the world at that time. The MT5200s were capable of attaining speeds of up to 120 km/h thanks to two 480hp 12-cylinder MAN diesel engines, and seat up to 127 passengers in a two-class layout, 103 second-class seats and 24 first-class seats. 
The first two train sets were delivered to Turkey in 1944 after some delay due to World War II. [4] Initially operating as two-set trains, it is believed that two middle cars were delivered from MAN in 1954 to transform the MT5200s (MotoTrain) into three-set trains to enable them to carry more passengers. [4] Unfortunately, little else is known about their service history or decommissioning date. What is known is that at one point both trains were repainted, with an attractive red-white paint job replacing the former dark livery. No MT5200s survive today and both trains are believed to have been scrapped in the 1960s.

German workers walk past by an MT5200 under construction in the factory in Germany. This photo was taken somewhere during World War II.

As World War II began to look increasingly grim for Germany in late 1944, it halted the export of the four MT5200 train sets that had not yet been delivered to Turkey. This was likely both due to the fact that the effort to deliver the trains to Turkey could better be spent helping its own war efforts, and because at the same time getting the trains all the way to Turkey became increasingly difficult with aerial bombings and partisan attacks on railroads, making the long journey extremely hazardous. Turkey did receive five Ju 52 passenger aircraft from Germany in 1944, which entered service with the forerunner of Turkish Airlines, possibly presenting the very last type of equipment received before relations between the two countries completely broke off. [5]

Instead of delivering the finished trains to Turkey, Germany gave three of the trains to its puppet state of Slovakia while one train set remained in Germany (where it continued to see service until 1965). [6] After Germany (and thus Slovakia) lost the war, two of the MT5200s in Slovakia were taken over by the Soviet Union as wartime compensation. Far more modern than any of the trains operating throughout the USSR at the time, the Soviets would go on to modify the trains to enable them to operate on Soviet tracks. [6] The two train sets were designated as DP-11 and DP-12 and saw intensive use on the Minsk-Vilnius-Riga route until the early 1960s. From 1964 onwards, the DP-11 was used as a test bed for new propulsion technologies, being decommissioned after the conclusion of the project in 1974. [6]

MT5200 'DP-11'' in its role as a test bed with the Soviet Railways.

The MT5200s came equipped with some advanced features for their time. Arguably the most prominent of these are the radiators that help to cool the diesel engines, which on the MT5200s were placed in a streamlined hood with horizontal grilles on the front roof of each car rather than in the middle or under the train. This design choice gave the trains' a distinct majestic look. The interior design was equally advanced and luxurious, including oil-fired central heating, adjustable ventilators, lightning, leather upholstered seats and a small kitchen where cold meals and drinks could be prepared.

An MT5200 shortly before its delivery to Turkey. Note the original dark livery compared to the later red-white paint job seen in the header image.

Although each of the two train cars was similar in outward appearance, their internal layout differed greatly. The A car had a luggage compartment between the motor and the boarding platform, followed by two second class compartments divided in their middle by a washroom with toilet. Finally, a small buffet compartment was included. The B car had a luggage compartment dedicated for the transportation of mail and valuable goods, which also came equipped with a lockable cabinet. Behind that came a second class compartment, a washroom with toilet and the first class compartment. Some photos showing the trains' interior shortly before its delivery to Turkey can be seen below.

After the conclusion of World War II, the Turkish State Railways again turned to MAN of Germany for the delivery of newer DMUs. Starting in 1951, sixteen MT5300 began to supplement the MT5200 in service. The MT5300s were an improved variant largely based on the original design of the MT5200, and could be coupled to operate in multiple sets. These DMUs were specifically designed for service on long-haul journeys such as those between Ankara and Istanbul. While steam trains still took some 14 hours to run between Ankara and Istanbul Haydarpaşa station, the MT5300 could complete the same trip in 8.5 hours. [7] As a further comparison, current Turkish high-speed trains can complete the 533km trip in only 3.5 hours.
Their drastically improved travel times set aside, the MT5300's (and MT5200's) diesel engines and transmission required frequent and delicate maintenance to prevent sudden breakdowns. This proved easier said than done in a country where experience with diesel traction was still limited at the time. In several instances, the DMUs had to be hauled by diesel, or even steam locomotives. Due to continuous problems with their engines and transmissions, the MT5300 were withdrawn from service in the late 1970s, some time before the end of their useful life. [7] During the last years of their service the trains almost exclusively operated as locomotive-hauled stock.

An MT5300 shows off its glaring red livery in the snow. The two MT5200s were later repainted in a livery similar to this one as well.

The introduction of the MT5200 was representative of a rapidly modernising Turkey at that time. In the past decade, Turkey has realised the vision once laid out by Atatürk in the 1920s, completing new infrastructure projects such as bridges, tunnels, roads, the Marmaray commuter rail line that connects both sides of Istanbul, high-speed lines and a large number of airports throughout the country. In the near future, Turkey plans on producing its own high-speed trains, with a new type of electric multiple unit (EMU) soon set to enter mass production, showing how far Turkey has come in addressing its public transport needs. In the process of becoming self-sufficient in yet another sector, Turkey could soon start exporting its railway technologies and expertise to countries throughout the world.

[3] Aviation Facilities of Nuri Demirağ in Beşiktaş and Yeşilköy
[6] TCDD MT 5200 sınıfı Mototrenler ve yurtdışındaki kardeşleri
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