Sometimes, large projects (and the restoration of a historical express train most definitely is a large project) begin rather unexpectedly, might require small adjustments along the way and are oftentimes somewhat dependent on luck and coincidence. The story of how the Maybach Foundation took on the restoration of the SVT 137 856, “Type Cologne”, is no exception.
Our story begins at the turn of the millennium when the “Förderverein Diesel-Schnelltriebwagen (SVT) e.V” was founded in Delitzsch (Saxony). At the time, the most important task tackled by the newly-founded association was the reconditioning of the SVT “Cologne” – one of the last completely preserved examples of the high-speed Reichsbahn-railcars revolutionizing the transportation & logistics infrastructure of the mid-1930s. The fact that railway mobility was amidst a paradigm shift was obvious even to contemporary witnesses: “Imagine this: On one track there’s a steam locomotive that smokes and soots – and on the other there’s a high-speed train rushing by at an incredible 160 kph,” says Hans-Joachim Eitze, chairman of the Förderverein Diesel-Schnelltriebwagen (SVT) e.V.
The SVT-association wanted to bring this iconic artifact of cutting-edge technology back to life. But even for experts this venture constituted a logistical, technical and – most importantly – financial challenge. In 2011, the association managed to make the SVT Cologne towable. As luck would have it, at that time the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen was hosting the exhibition “Water. Street. Rail. Air: Mobility at the Lake of Constance”. The train’s visit to Friedrichshafen was a complete success: More than 7,500 visitors attended – amongst them a lady from San Francisco: Irmgard Schmid-Maybach, daughter of Karl Maybach, the dominant figure responsible for the development of the train’s diesel engines. Irmgard Schmid-Maybach immediately expressed her interest in the train.
Andreas Hoffmann-Daimler, great-grandson of Gottlieb Daimler, who was later commissioned by the foundation to repair and redesign the train, met with members of the Förderverein on behalf of the Maybach family in Berlin. The meeting’s original purpose was to discuss the possibility of a donation, but “the euphoria and the lifeblood of the association swept me away from the very first moment” remembers Andreas Hoffmann-Daimler. He quickly realized how decisive Karl Maybach’s role in the development of the SVT trains had been.
During the very first meeting, it was quickly uncovered that all sides were interested in collaborating on this exciting project. Soon after Ulrich Schmid-Maybach, grandson of Karl Maybach and founder of the Maybach Foundation, was invited by the SVT-association to visit and examine the train – he immediately shared the passion and interest that had previously affected his mother Irmgard, as well as his colleague Andreas. In 2014 the Maybach Foundation eventually took the SVT “Cologne” into its possession. Even though the train itself transferred from one owner to another, the knowledge and deep affection for the SVT “Cologne” were never compromised. To this day, the association and the Maybach Foundation continue to maintain a regular, friendly exchange of expertise: Siegfried Fuchs, a member of the association, is represented in the project’s circle of experts and provides continuous advice and support.
Photo: Christiane Schleifenbaum
Ulrich Schmid-Maybach und Andreas Hoffmann-Daimler in front of the SVT “Cologne“.