From the mid '70s MÁV constantly decreased the steam traction and increased the electric and diesel one. The diesel locomotives were considered as a long-term alternative to the costly electrification, but the oil price explosion forced to rethink the priorities. Today MÁV wants to electrify all mainlines and in some future plans they announced to abandon all lines that aren't justified for electrification. This plan however ignited a strong resistance from the villages along those lines, thus the plans were modified, they just foresee the operation for private companies - actually owned by those villages.
For long time the freight service, especially the transit traffic between the Balkan countries towards West, subsidised the passenger traffic. This changed very much after 1990: both the local and international freight transport relocated to road, and MÁV has big losses on the passenger service. The regular fare increase does not help, it just decreases the number of passengers. The forseen privatization will probably result the abandoning the branchline structure.
The best paying passenger service, the InterCity - EuroCity was introduced in the late '80s. Unfortunately the tracks aren't upgraded to offer a reasonable speed for these trains. Regular passenger train speed in Hungary is 120 km/h, just recently a few sections of the Budapest-Vienna line were upgraded to 160 km/h (100mph). MÁV has difficulties with the other requirements of this service, like punctuality and technical solutions, like air conditioning and passenger information systems.
In the late '60s it became obvious that the pre-war Ganz-Jendrassik diesel engine design has no more reserves. Instead of performing a consequent but costly development job, Ganz-MÁVAG decided to buy a licence and documentation of a French high-speed (1500RPM) diesel engine from SEMT-Pielstick. This 18 cylinder four stroke engine was rated to 2700HP. MÁV needed a 3000HP locomotive, Ganz-MÁVAG hoped to increase the power by optimizing the supercharger. This however never happened.
They designed a CoCo locomotive, M63 (nicknamed "Lizard") that had the same frame and trucks as the parallel designed 5000HP thyristor controlled electric engine V63 ("Gigant"). Their external appearance is however very different: the Diesel engine was a rather simple industrial design, while the electric loco was designed by a famous industrial designer.
Both locomotives suffered from many problems. The main problem areas were the electronic circuits that controlled all functions of both locos, and that were extremely unreliable. Another problem area was the C-truck, that was an extended version of the very well working B-truck from the M40. This was later replaced in the V63 engines by a German Krupp design truck. The thyristor control of the electric engines issued very high level of electric noise, that often fooled the signalling system.
Thus after 2-2 prototypes there were only 8 diesel engines built, and due to their low availability data they were withdrawn when the electrification forwarded enough. One single example, the M63,003 survived and can be seen in the Budapest Loco Museum. The electric loco was built in numbers, 56 all, after fixing its problems, in the late '80s.
Using the 12 cylinder 1800HP version of the SEMT-Pielstick engine Ganz-MÁVAG built a diesel hydraulic loco, the Class M41, "Rattler". According rumors this was developed by the manufacturer without a MÁV order, and MÁV did not even wanted to buy them: they did not see application field for this engine. The engine is rather lightweight, just 16 metric tons axle load, thus well suited for branchlines. It has also electric train heating equipment. These engines performed so well, that MÁV purchased more than 100 of them. Similar locos were delivered to Greece.
A small diesel hydraulic shunter was also developed, the Class M32. It performed well, but according the Communist Era industrialization plans MÁV was forced to buy switchers from Romania instead (Classes M43 and M47).
To replace diesel switchers on large switching yards Ganz-MÁVAG developed a thyristor controlled electric engine, the Class V46 ("Grasshopper"). Sometimes, like in this picture, they are even used in line service. For passenger cars only in Summer as they lack of train heating outlet. These are very reliable engines, without prototype problems. Seemingly the design engineers learned from the earlier difficulties.
The EMU sets had no traditions in Hungary. This is probably due to the difficulties to put a rather large phase converter or a main transformer into a railcar. Ganz-MÁVAG developed only recently trainsets with thyristor control for commuter (Classes BDVmot, "Worm" and the newer BVhmot) and for InterCity purposes (Class BVmot, "Silkworm"). Both of them use regenerating brakes, but the commuter version has its traction motors mounted on the body frame, while the InterCity version has them on the conventional place inside the trucks.
The old locomotives from the '60s, that still do the majority of the transport tasks in Hungary, slowly wear out. MÁV has no money to replace them, and seemingly no plans for the non-electrified branchlines. The EuroCity trains coming from Austria are partly hauled by Austrian engines. A new diesel electric switcher, Class M42 was developed, but except the prototype no other engines followed. Ganz-Electric was purchased by the Italian Ansaldo, MÁVAG had several owners since 1990. The future of the Hungarian locomotive construction is uncertain.
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This page was updated last time on 8th January 1999
© János Erö