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Book Review

The German Class 52 'Kriegslok' Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2006 Title The German Class 52 'Kriegslok'
Author Peter Slaughter, Alexander Vassiliev, Roland Beier Publisher Frank Stenvalls Förlag
Published 1996 ISBN 91-7266-140-2
Format 128 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $24.95


Many of you will recall the release of Trumpeter's breathtaking 1/35 scale BR 52 Kriegslok kit and for quite a time, good luck finding one! More recently, Eduard released a four detail sets for this kit in photo-etch. I just happened to have two of the CMK 1/35 scale resin BR 52 kits, one with the Steifrahmen (box) tender (just like the Trumpeter kit), the other with the Wannen (Vanderbilt-styled) tender.

Why the fascination with the BR 52? Also referred to as the Class 52 (Klass 52) locomotive, this unique bit of World War II German engineering was the subject of a crash program to mass produce locomotives to move supplies out to all of the German combat theaters. The result was the BR 52 which could be produced in 2/3 the time of a BR 50 and required far fewer parts. Now bearing in mind that this is a large 2-10-0 long haul line engine, the Germans managed to produce over 6,000 of these between 1942 and Spring 1945! One of the more unique variants were the 178 condensing locomotives designed to optimize the consumption of water in order to transit areas where water would not be readily available.

So what is my interest in this engine? When I was stationed in Berlin in the late 1970s, we'd take the train from Berlin to Frankfurt periodically to go explore the West German countryside. On one of my first trips through East Germany, I spotted something quite unusual on the rails among the rather unique East German heavy diesel locomotives - an operational steam locomotive! In the late 1970s? Not just one, but soon I could see quite a few hard at work. Many of them had condenser tenders. Lo and behold, the WWII-era BR 52s were still hard at work some 35 years later! Little did I know at the time how many were really still operational.

When CMK released the BR 52 in 1/35 scale a while back, I just had to get one. Unfortunately, like many projects that have the best intentions, the resin BR 52 was stashed away for later. Nevertheless, I was inspired by the number of HO scale BR 52 releases by many of the European train manufacturers - some were the classic German black engines with red wheels and lower frame, but many more sported a variety of wartime camouflage schemes. This had lots of potential!

With the release of the Trumpeter kit and the subsequent sets of photo-etched details from Eduard, the time was ripe to build one of these wartime beasts. There was only one little problem - where are any good references on the subject? You'd think that something as prolific as the Class 52 would have scores of titles available on the subject, but alas, such is not the case. After a bit of searching online, I found two promising titles, only one of which seems to be available.

This title is is oriented toward the rail fan, but there is some very useful information in here for the modeler as well. Coverage starts with the design, development and deployment of the type during the war, and each of the variations made in the design.

For those of you who'd like to model a post-war Class 52, the title continues on with the service of this engine in West Germany, East Germany, Norway, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and of course throughout the Soviet Union and Russian Republics.

Coverage concludes with an impressive roster of production numbers, and a listing by country of those engines that were renumbered at some point after the war against its original number. Finally a listing of surviving engines and their locations completes the rosters in the appendices.

As soon as I picked up the title, two photos made the search worthwhile. Photo one on page 5 shows 52-001, the prototype, with the Wannen tender and something not included in any of the kits - a full-width snow plow blade under the nose. From other photos in the book, this detail was installed on the early Borsig-manufactured types.

Photo two was on the back cover and is the black and white photo above. A closer look shows it is Henschel's first BR 52, 52-002. Look under the fireman's window and you'll see the German eagle and swastika emblem. Trumpeter started to put these in their kits and then had to edit out the swastikas, and when I pointed this out in the kit review, I received a few emails stating that the Class 52 never wore the emblem. I think the photo above proves that assumption wrong...

The title has a high-quality binding and the paper and print quality is top-notch. The information will be of interest to the modeler who is a rail fan as well. This edition is printed in clear and concise English, but the title was also released in a separate German edition as well. Make certain you know which one you're ordering.

This title has been around quite a while (10 years), but with the sudden surge in BR 52 restorations around Europe and the appearance of the subject not one, but several kits in 1/35 scale, this is a title to add to your reference library.