Another European diesel-motor railcar.
Traditionally, the Hungarian State Railway, the MÁV (founded in 1868) purchased almost all of its steam locomotives from its own Machine Factory (MÁVAG). The cars, however, were produced by many private companies. These included such Hungarian firms as Weitzer in Arad (now in Romania, still producing freight cars), Rába in Gyôr (now producing only trucks and road diesel engines) and Ganz in Budapest. Some cars were bought from foreign vendors, like Ringhoffer in Prague and several Austrian manufacturers.
These car building companies tried to enter into the railcar market too. First they experimented with steam railcars, but without success. As they did not have experience with steam-engine technology, they purchased this equipment from other companies, like de Dion-Bouton (France) and Komarek (Austria). These steam engines had water-tube boilers to save weight and space. The water tube type of boiler can deliver a vast amount of steam, but it has practically no steam reservoir. The early steam railcars always suffered from steam shortage.
After experimenting with German diesel railcars from 1924, in 1927 the MÁV invited proposals for small, four-wheel railcars with internal combustion engines. All three major Hungarian car-builders participated. The winner was Ganz, mainly because they had all the technology needed. The Ganz-designed railcars were driven by a benzene (gasoline) engine. MÁV purchased a large fleet of these railcars and used them on branch lines. Entire regions were served by only these units. This was the first large scale field test of railcars in Europe, and many foreign experts visited the workshops and stations to gain information and experience about this new service.
Ganz-Jendrassik diesel engine, 1932 (Photo by Gwafton @ Wikimedia commons)
Ganz saw the engine problems and concentrated on developing a better motor. Hungary did not have a large navy, even before World War I, so Hungarian companies had no experience with diesels in submarines on which to draw. These were the basis for railroad diesel developments in most countries. A young engineer, György Jendrassik developed a new Diesel engine. This differed considerably from most foreign designs derived from submarine engines, especially as it was a high-speed (1100 RPM) engine. Most railroad Diesels at that time were slow speed Diesels, below 800RPM.
Ganz replaced all benzene engines in the early '30s in the existing railcars and developed a fast streamlined eight-wheel railcar, the "Árpád". Its 270HP engine was mounted on the front truck. It had a hydraulically operated mechanical transmission, not a Diesel-electric drive. The maximum allowed speed was 120km/h.
The Árpád interior. Photo by Hamster
Seven of these railcars were built. MÁV used them to operate an "InterCity" service to Vienna before the war. During the war they were were used by the Hungarian military command. Six disappeared in the war; the seventh railcar (#23 Tas) was used by the highest military commander to escape from Hungary when the Russians came. It was handed over to the US Army and they returned it to Hungary in 1948. It was refurbished and is now a member of the "Nostagia" stock.
The success of the Árpád railcar in Hungary brought many orders for Ganz. Similar railcars were delivered in many countries, mostly in North Africa and South America: Argentina, Peru, Chile, Uruguay. Four units were built for the Slovak Railway in 1942 (after the war, they continued their service with the Czechoslovak State Railway as the M 283 class).
In postwar Romania, the Árpád was built at the former Weitzer factory as the Astra Arad, to an altered design:
Astra Arad Serie 1000 two-section unit (Source: Blackrail)
In early 2000s, they were still in service (Photo: trains.hu)
* Text source: an artice by János Erô Jr.
Headline picture: Wolfgang Grafeneder @ DEF