ET 56 - An Electric "Egghead" or the Country Needs New Minds.
The German Federal Railroad urgently needed new electric powered rail cars to manage the increase in passengers during the "Economic Miracle". This was brought about by the standardization of electric operation during the postwar years and the rapid conversion to catenary operation of lines around urban areas. The decision was made to adapt the concept for the first generation of electric postwar powered rail cars from the diesel powered rail cars being developed parallel to these units. The characteristic shape of the ends of the electric trains was almost identical in design to the diesel units, which was colloquially nicknamed in a friendly almost laughing manner as "Egghead", something that railroad crews and personnel did not like so much.
An ET 56 consisted of three close-coupled units. The end cars (Eta and Etb) each had a power truck with 2 powered axles at the outer ends; the middle car (EM) only had regular trucks. While the electric part merely represented a further development of powered rail cars already proven before the war in the urban areas, the car bodies themselves were a completely new development following the principles of lightweight construction. Here too, the diesel powered rail car trains were the inspiration: For example the door and seating arrangement was taken from the VT 12, which was primarily used in commuter service like the ET 56. The firm of Brown Boveri & Cie, Mannheim, Germany was responsible for the electrical equipment on the powered rail cars, with the exception of the transformers and traction motors, which the German Federal Railroad recruited from old and reserve stock and had installed in the cars.
The maximum speed was set at 90 km/h 56 mph due to these powered rail cars being used in suburban commuter service where faster acceleration was more important than a high maximum speed.
The German Federal Railroad placed a total of seven units of the class ET 56 into service in 1952 and concentrated on the development of the ET 30, also a newly developed "Egghead".
The different paint schemes looked good on the rounded shape of the ET 56: in crimson with and without dark gray "glasses" (removed at the start of the Seventies), more or less decorative striping, and also the "ocean blue / beige" paint scheme introduced in 1975 and criticized at the time, but now rated as almost classic.
These electric "Eggheads" were gradually scrapped in the mid-Eighties; the last ET 56 vanished from the rails of the German Federal Railroad in 1986. Two years later than the newer, more modern ET 30 - unfortunately, not a single unit has been preserved.