The German Railway in H0


Review of double decker coaches from Hobbytrade

The Prototype

The prototype is the standard DBpza 781, DABpza 785 and DBpbzfa 766.4 double decker coaches of the DB AG. The coaches was built by Bombardier Transportation in Görlitz around the year 2000 and weighs around 52 tonnes.

The driving trailer coach runs on boggies of the type Görlitz VIII equipped with sanding hoses and other things needed when the driving trailer is in front of the train. The coaches all have automatic sliding doors that the passengers can open with a push on a button. The coaches have their doors placed at a higher level than the driving trailer coach. This puts the door in perfect alignment with train station platform giving the passengers an easy way in or out of the coach.

The gangway between the coaches is a standard rubber gangway with a door. It was made this way to enable double decker coaches to couple with single level coaches. Occationally you can see trains consisting of double decker coaches and a single level driving trailer coach (e.g. of the Wittenberg type). You can buy a perfect Wittenberg driving trailer coach (AC/DC) from Roco to go with your train.

The interior of the double decker coaches mostly consists of standard two-seat arrangement in groups or single sections. The bottom level of the coach can be specifically arranged to accommodate areas for bicycles and other baggage. The bicycle areas are also equipped with single seats.

The driving trailer coach has room for 91 passengers. The 2nd class coaches have room for 121 passengers and the 1st and 2nd class coaches have room for 31 passengers on 1st class and 63 passengers on 2nd class.

The H0 Model

For a long time I have been waiting for a perfect model of the double decker coaches. Unfortunately only similar 1:100 models existed on the market, they are very nice models, but they are not 1:87 in scale. I have a few, but important rules, one of them is that every coach must be 1:87 in scale.

Hobbytrade has made a very good set of coaches and with a very high detailing. The small company took a real bite of the market this time. At the time the coaches arrived in the stores, both Trix and Roco had announced similar models in their news catalogues. None of the announced models were ever produced, Hobbytrade wiped them all out. A good start in the international market for a small company.

The prototype runs on the Hamburg - Lübeck - Lübeck Travemünde Strand line in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The Lübeck - Lübeck Travemünde Strand line is 20.6 km (12.8 miles) long and opened on August 1st 1898. Today the line consists of a single track with overhead wires and transports passengers from Lübeck to the Baltic See ferries at the Travemünde Strand habour.

The destination signs of the coaches are permanently set to "Lübeck Travemünde Strand". This cannot be changed, but the letters on the destination signs are very small, so nobody would notice it anyway. You can use these models on all modern layouts. If Hobbytrade had made the sign say "Hamburg Hbf", the coaches would have been a bit more general. As said before, you wont notice it from a distance of 60 cm (23.6 inches), so I do not mind.

The model is a plastic body attached to an underlying metal frame which gives the model weight and good running conditions. All the models are delivered with built-in white LED interior lighting and power pickup on every coach. As the picture shows, some of the light shines through the coach body, but the picture makes it look worse than it actually is.

The coaches designed for the 3-rail system have a power pick-up shoe on every coach. Unfortunately the many power pick-up shoes makes the entire set a very heavy duty for your locomotive. If you are a 3-rail user you might want to re-fit the coaches with power conducting couplers and only use the power pick-up shoe on the driving trailer. The 3-rail users I know, have all done this, with much better result. The coaches are not prepared for power conducting couplers so you will have to be creative.

The driving trailer coach has room for a 21-pin MTC function decoder, unfortunately the driving trailer coach is not delivered with a function decoder, but we cannot have it all. When a driving trailer coach without a decoder runs on a digital layout, all the head lights light up, giving a pretty mysterious pink look (i.e. combined red and white). Adding a function decoder will solve this problem. Hobbytrade sells a function decoder to use with the driving trailer coach.

When a function decoder is installed you will be able to:

  • Turn on/off the destination sign in the front
  • Turn on/off the head light
  • Turn on/off the long distance head light

When the driving trailer coach runs on an analogue layout the headlights change over with the direction of travel (i.e. red and white). Every destination sign, both in the front and on the sides is equipped with a yellow LED and light up in both analogue and digital operation.

The interior of the coaches is amongst the finest interior I have ever seen in a model. Real seats, not just molded sections of look-a-like seats. You can insert a miniature figure in the train without having to cut of their legs. The bicycle section even has small models of single seats. When the interior lighting is turned on, the shiny look of the seats makes the interior lighting look blue. At some point I will add a layer of matt coating to the interior to make it more realistic and less plastic.

The exterior painting of the coaches is in a matt traffic red colour, which makes the coaches look like a train in everyday use and not just a plastic model.

The boggies are attached to the coach with a tap, so they are easily removed for maintenance. The wheel sets on the boggies are mounted on an isolated tube axle giving you four power pickup points instead of the standard two (i.e. wheel sets with a steel axle). The improved wheelsets gives you flicker free interior lighting.

All the coaches are equipped with close coupler kinematics (NEM) and the front of the driving trailer coach can be fitted with a coupler instead of the dummy skirt. A coupler friendly skirt is included in the box.

Running Characteristics

The running characteristics are very good although the coaches feel really heavy. To push or pull the double decker coaches you will use locomotives of the classes 146, 111, 143, 112, 118, 110 or a few others. Models of these classes usually pulls very well, so the weight is not an issue that you need to worry about. As mentioned before 3-rail users might want to reduce the number of power pick-up shoes.

The Verdict

Hobbytrade has released a true piece of art. Any modeller running German era V will want to buy these models. The models are a first class product with a lot of details and true to scale. The exterior painting has a matt look which makes the coaches look like a train in everyday use, and not just a plastic model. Of course you can do a lot of additional weathering details yourself, but the basic look is really nice.

The interior lighting is a fun feature, but I would have bought the coaches even if it was not there. I think the interior lighting is a bit too bright, it would have been better if it was a bit more anonymous. I like it, when you notice the interior lighting because it is turned off, but you do not notice it until then. That is true interior ligthing in my book.

The price is in the high end but if we want models with this kind of detail, we must be prepared to pay the costs. Producing such a model is not a cheap process. The driving trailer has room for a 21-pin decoder, which needs to be bought seperately. The headlights do work perfectly in analogue operation.

The coaches are delivered in a standard styrofoam packaging as we know from other manufactures (e.g. Roco). The cardboard box has a lid, that can be opened to inspect the coach without opening the box. When closed, the lid protects the model from sun light. Very clever idea. Unfortunately there is no room for the couplers when the coach is in the box. You either need to take the couplers off when you store the coach, or you will have to cut room in the styrofoam. I hope Hobbytrade will correct this inconvenient problem in their future packaging.

If you are looking for a train for your kid these models are not for you as they are fragile. For kids I would recommend some of the cheaper double decker coaches from Märklin. If you are a 2-rail user, remember that your Märklin dealer will change the wheel sets for free.


To build a convincing train you need at least three coaches. My train consists of all five coaches and is around 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) long including a locomotive. It is a long train, but it looks great. In the Hamburg collection, Hobbytrade released five coaches:

63100 DC / 73100 AC
DB-AG DBpbzfa766.4 2nd/bicycle 50 80 86-81 068-8

63101 DC / 73101 AC
DB-AG DABpza 1st/2nd 50 80 36-81 059-8

63102 DC / 73102 AC
DB-AG DBpza 2nd 50 80 26-81 123-4

63103 DC / 73103 AC
DB-AG DABpza 1st/2nd 50 80 36-81 058-0

63104 DC / 73104 AC
DB-AG DBpza 2nd 50 80 26-81 121-8

Hobbytrade also released sets for other cities like Berlin (the Airport coaches), Nürnberg and a set for the Schwarzwaldbahn. You can read more at the Hobbytrade website (only available in Danish and German). Hobbytrade also relased sets for the Danish State Railway (DSB), Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL) and the Metronom AG in Hamburg. All coaches in the sets are individually numbered for prototypical operation. Thank you for that, Hobbytrade!

Through my dealer I have learned that the Hamburg collection is almost sold out from the factory, if you would like to buy them, you must hurry.

This was my review, I hope you liked it! Do you own the coaches yourself or are you planning to buy them? What do you think of them? Feel free to leave a comment!

Happy modelling! :-)