The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

German Model Railroading Epochs

German model railroaders have long divided railroading history into several epochs, with Roman numerals. While these epochs are, naturally, based on the German timeline, they are applicable to wide parts of Europe.

Epoch I is the time from the first railroads to the foundation of the Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1920. This is known as “Länderbahnzeit”, since the early German networks were not private, but were run by the states (Bavaria, Prussia, Württemberg) as opposed to the Empire. Passenger trains were usually and engines sometimes colorful. In Britain, this would be the time before the Grouping Act of 1923. In France, it lasts till 1938, when the SNCF was founded.

Epoch II is the “Reichsbahnzeit” from 1920 to 1949. The Reichsbahn painted their steam engines universally black with red wheels, electric engines and coaches dark green. In Britain, this epoch would refer to the time of the Big Four between 1923 and 1948, but with the difference that the general character of Epoch I was retained here.

Epoch III starts with the foundation of the Bundesbahn in 1949 and ends with the UIC numbers in 1970. There were few livery changes. Electric express engines were now painted blue, as were first class coaches, the new diesel engines were red. Some commuter trains had unpainted aluminum coaches. Steam engines were still widely used.

Epoch IV starts with the new, internationally standardized, UIC numbers (UIC stands for Union Internationale des Chemins de fer, or International Union of Railways). Trains, in general, became colorful again, the Austrian railroad, for example, changed the dark green for a new orange/ivory livery. This is the great time of the TEE (Trans Europ Express).

Epoch V starts 1990 with the unification of the East German Reichsbahn and West German Bundesbahn, and its subsequent privatization. Trains become even more colorful, and are often used as advertising surfaces.

Epoch VI starts, once again, with a new numbering schematic, and is otherwise of little interest.

The reason I write about this here is that I found this system of epochs quite useful for a lot of things that have absolutely nothing to do with railroads. I might use it sometimes and wanted to have a place to link to that explains it.


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