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ICE Trains

Image of JOHN CHANDLER. JOHN CHANDLER looks at the trains that run on the German High Speed network.


The term ICE (pronounced Its-e) describes Germany's entry into the world of high speed train travel.

Not restricted to Germany, these trains can also be found in Austria, Denmark, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. Variants even exist in Spain, Russia and China!

About a decade after the French had started development of their TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, High Speed Train), Germany decided to jump on the bandwagon and began a series of trials in 1985 with the ICE-V test train, also known as the InterCityExperimental. On 1st May 1988, this train set a new world speed record of 406.9km/h (253mph).

Unlike France, Germany did not adopt an integrated approach from the start and concentrated on using their existing network as the core operating area for these new trains. Although designed for 330km/h, they can only aspire to this on short stretches of specially built track in Germany, travelling at 300km/h. But when in France they can let their hair down and attain 320km/h on the LGV Est from Strasbourg.

As the train has developed, a number of variations have appeared:


In its initial form, the train comprised up to 14 coaches sandwiched between two power cars, the ICE1. Still in service, this model has been adapted to run, among other routes, daily services from Hamburg to in Switzerland, requiring additional pantographs, power supply and signalling equipment.

An ICE1 Train departs Interlaken West for Interlaken East in Switzerland


ICE2 broke away from the sandwich concept to resemble many German and Swiss push-pull units by having a power unit at one end with a DVT with passenger accommodation at the other.

ICE1 and ICE2 were built to a loading gauge beyond UIC so were restricted in their operations. Subsequent versions have shrunk to within UIC gauge and are thus more versatile. They will never be seen in Britain outside of our HS1 and proposed HS2 lines as our loading gauge is even smaller!

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ICE image 03.

ICE3 changed the design completely by having no power unit with passenger-accommodating DVTs at each end; all of the equipment from the power car is distributed under the floor of each coach. This style was produced in two variants: Class 403 for domestic use and Class 406 (ICE 3M) for Multi-system use. This series constitutes what is now commonly referred to as the "Velaro".

Other developments have considered the ICE T, a tilting variation, and the ICE TD, a diesel powered version. The latter had a top speed of 200km/h and their use is restricted by the tax payable on the fuel!


ICE4 is currently in development as Class 412

Can I regularly see the ICE in England? Short answer, yes! Against their better judgement, Eurostar have dropped their original TGV style of train (e300) in favour of, what is essentially, a Velaro unit (e320). However, since their introduction in 2015, I have noted the comments in various railway magazines concerning the poorer ride quality compared to the older sets. The ICE also completed a test run of the Channel Tunnel on 19th October 2010, arriving at St Pancras in London.

Modelling ICE Trains


Piko PK47007 TT Scale DBAG ICE3 Train Set

ICE Trains are currently available in N, TT, and HO scales, from a number of manufacturers including Arnold, Fleischmann, Roco, Märklin, Trix / Minitrix, Piko, and in the Märklin MyWorld range.

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