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Skoda 43E freight locomotive (series 121) from the early 60s

Skoda 43E freight locomotive (series 121) from the early 60s
The idea of ​​a universal railway locomotive was present not only among Soviet engineers. After the whole of Europe urgently abandoned steam traction in the 50s, the Czechoslovak comrades also began to move in this direction.

True, by the beginning of the next decade they were forced to admit that the promising idea had successfully... failed. Yes, the express trains of the 140 and 141 series created by that time (in modified form they arrived in the USSR as ChS1) proved to be excellent high-speed vehicles, easily accelerating to 120 km/h.

Грузовой локомотив Skoda 43E (серия 121) из начала 60-хTwo Skoda 43E locomotives coupled. Photo by the author

Their operation in the cargo industry looked completely different. The whole point is that their essentially passenger transmission could not provide sufficient traction power to tow heavy loaded trains. Therefore, we had to move in a different way.

For each specificity - its own machine

Such results led Czechoslovak railway engineers to the logical conclusion that a special modification of the original design was needed for freight transportation. Having carried out the necessary calculations and modifications, they were able to significantly increase the traction properties of the locomotive, but its maximum speed dropped by a quarter - to 90 km/h. But this indicator turned out to be quite sufficient for towing freight trains.

So in 1960 a new series appeared from the Pilsen plant named after. V.I. Lenin. She received serial number 121 and belonged to the Czechoslovak electric locomotives of the first generation. In-plant designation of the new product – Skoda 43E

After creating a successful prototype, the Czechoslovak company began mass production, which lasted from 1960 to 1961. They were in demand among railway workers, including due to the relatively low price, amounting to less than 2 million crowns (approximately 237,5 thousand Soviet rubles at the 1961 exchange rate). After assembly, the new electric locomotives went to a number of locomotive depots located in different parts of the country:

✅ Usti nad Labem
✅ Prague Stršed
✅ Česká Trebova
✅ Ostrava
✅ Zilina
✅ Spisska Nove Ves
✅ Kosice

The last three are now located on the territory of independent Slovakia. However, the largest concentration of Skoda 43E gradually occurred in the Usti region. After the division of the country (and the railway industry), the locomotives were transferred to CD Cargo under the management of SOKV (Usti nad Labem). By the way, the photographs accompanying this material were also taken in the same region.

Four-axle Skoda 43E. Photo by the author

In the last decades of Czechoslovakia's existence, these electric locomotives were very actively used to transport coal mined in the basins located in the north of the country. Sometimes they were used in sprinkler services.

Modern use of locomotives

But everything changed in the mid-43s. Then newer models appeared in the local economy, and veterans, who had served faithfully for more than four decades, were sent to work as backup workers. Therefore, in recent years, Skoda XNUMXEs have been used only as an operational reserve.

And some of the cars were sold to neighbors from Poland - STK Wroclaw and CTL Rail. Moreover, this was done not only by Czech railway workers, but also by Slovaks. So the latter have only one copy of the historical freight locomotive left - No. 121.004-6.

An ascetic entrance to the driver's cabin. Photo by the author

Although the reliability of any equipment directly depends on operating conditions, the Skoda 43E has proven itself as an electric locomotive that will not let you down. During use, machinists highlighted several of its advantages over others created at the facilities in Pilsen:

✅ quiet operation due to improved chassis (compared to 141 series)
✅ longer resistance to slipping at start-up (than the 122 series)
✅ access to the engine room under voltage is not blocked (unlike the 123rd)

The latter could become very important in the event of an emergency requiring immediate entry into the engine compartment. In later models (for safety reasons), high-voltage devices were covered with blocked networks. But not everything about this locomotive was so perfect. There were also plenty of comments, especially regarding the driver’s working conditions:

✅ compressors and traction gearboxes are too noisy
✅ jolts while driving
✅ increased dustiness of the room

In general, there is nothing surprising in all of the above. Let me remind you that we are dealing with a design that was created in the late 50s. Everyone can find out what kind of machines and mechanisms they had then by plunging deeper into the history of railways and transport.

Technical device Skoda 43E

The 121 series is a box-type design with a pair of final driver stations and a central engine room. Access to his workplace is through the door on the left side. The control posts are located on the right side of the cabin and consist of a double control panel. The central part of the console is used to adjust traction - it contains:

✅ control controller
✅ direction lever
✅ appropriate indicator devices

On the right side of the table there are pneumatic brake levers and pneumatic system pressure gauges, on the left there are controllers for auxiliary drives, the main switch and lighting. In the rear wall of both stations there are always two hinged doors leading to the engine room.

Automatic coupler for electric locomotive Skoda 43E. Photo by the author

Thus, it can be accessed through two passages that run along the walls of the cabinet and limit the space for equipment. The layout of the elements in the engine room is symmetrical - the high-voltage system is located in the middle. And above each chassis (on elevated steps) there is a compressor-fan unit, a battery charger and a direction switch.

The locomotive body is a structure supported by a main frame welded from steel profiles. On the sides it is covered with sheets made of the same metal. There are four rectangular windows on both sides, one of which opens. The main frame rests on two biaxial bogies through skids. The locomotive has eight sandboxes (four attached to each chassis frame), with a total capacity of 320 kg. Here are some of the other characteristics of the technique:

✅ operating weight – 88 t
✅ length along bumpers – 16,14 m
✅ productivity – 2032 kW
✅ permitted speed – 90 km/h
✅ power supply – 3 kV DC

The locomotive is equipped with four traction engines of type 3 Al 4846 zT or 4 Al 4846 zT. They are serial six-pole DC motors equipped with auxiliary poles. Their ventilation is ensured using two fans.

The locomotive's 48 V on-board network is powered by a NiFe battery with a capacity of 120 Ah. Which in turn is charged by a pair of dynamos mechanically driven by cooling fans.

The Skoda 43E is still in service more than six decades later. Photo by the author

The locomotive has protection against slipping, overcurrent and overvoltage. The driver's alertness checker was installed from the factory and later replaced with an LS III train guard. The last locomotive produced (machine E 469.1085) had other facades installed from the factory, made of laminated glass and reinforced with horizontal profiles. A total of 85 electric locomotives of this series were assembled.


Photos used: photo of the author

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