The Diesel Locomotive Classes 215/225
From the mid-Sixties on the progressive retirement of steam locomotives led to an increasing demand for powerful diesel locomotives. The latter had to be able to run at higher speeds as well as enable the transfer to electric train heating. MAN had just developed a more powerful motor with 2,500 horsepower but it had still not tested enough. There was also still not enough experience with electric train heating on diesel locomotives. The class V 168 (from 1968 on: 215) was conceived as an intermediate solution to cover the urgent need for locomotives. This was version of the V 168 lengthened by around 400 mm / 16 inches, which was then supposed to allow the optional installation of different powerful motors. Steam heat with Vapor-Heating design heating boilers were retained for the time being, but it had to be possible to convert the locomotives to electric heating. In 1968, Krupp delivered ten pre-production units with the road numbers 215 001-010. They served as test beds for the new 2,500 horsepower motor from MAN. With the installation of hydrodynamic brakes the maximum speed on road number 215 005-010 was increased to 140 km/h / 87.5 mph. One-hundred-forty regular production units of the class 215 followed between 1969 and 1971. With the exception of road number 215 071-093 and the last 20 units, all of the locomotives were equipped with the reliable 1,900 horsepower motor. The exceptions had an improved 2,500 horsepower motor installed in them.
Ulm was a significant base for the class 215 right from the start. In 1973, this Upper Swabian railroad junction was home base for 62 of the 150 units. The 2,500 horsepower locomotives with high numbers found a new home from 1988 on in Oberhausen-Osterfeld, where they had to replace the two-motor 221 units in heavy freight service. From 2001 on the class 215 was really in for it. Sixty-seven units were sold to DB Cargo by the middle of 2003 and they were designated as the class 225. As a rule, the steam heating equipment was no longer needed and was replaced by heat retention devices. Yet the release of more powerful class 218 units made the existence of the class 215 even more difficult and the latter class disappeared more and more from the rails. By the end of 2015, the last units will have been withdrawn from service.
The last regular service for the class 215 ended with DB Regio Hessen in April of 2003. Unscheduled use still took place for a couple of months after that with DB Regio Rheinland, and then they were gone. In June of 2003, DB Autozug (Auto Train) bought 16 class 215 locomotives from DB Regio, among them the last operational units. Fourteen units were rebuilt similar to the class 225 and were designated as the class 215.9. Until their retirement in 2008, they ran the "Sylt Shuttle" auto trains as double m.u. combinations between Niebüll and Westerland on the Isle of Sylt. The "old" class 215 was thereby history starting in the middle of 2003.