[NL / Expert] Railcolor Classic: Dutch class 1600/1700/1800 electrics in open access operation [updated]

Railcolor Classic is our category about ‘classic’ locomotives in fresh paint. This time we take a good look, a very good look at the Dutch class 1600/1700/1800 electrics originally built for the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). Over the years, many of these locomotives, known for their distinctive French design, switched careers and became of value to open access operators in the Netherlands. Several machines, of course, got new colorful liveries, which we will show you one by one. Sit back and enjoy!

This article was first published on 12.09.2018 and updated on 21.09.2019 with Strukton’s 1824 (Nicole) electric.

First, let us give you a brief introduction to these Alsthom/GEC-Alsthom locomotives:


The Dutch national railways or Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) ordered 58 Alsthom locomotives type 1600 in 1978 and 1981. All locomotives were delivered in the early 1980s.

In 1989 and 1991 NS ordered 81 similar looking electrics from Alsthom, which delivered them between 1990 and 1994. These class 1700 electrics are around 10 years younger and technically an updated version of the 1600s.

The 1700s with the lowest numbers were predominantly used in combination with DD-AR double-decker trains, semi-permanently coupled and in push-pull mode. These locomotives and cab-cars had automatic couplers on one side. The other 1700 electrics were used for regular trains.

NS is being carved up, renumbering and Railion

In 1999 NS was carved up. Separate businesses for passenger transport (NS Reizigers – NSR) and freight operation (NS Cargo – NSC) were created.

The 37 1600s for NSC kept their numbers (1601-1637), the other 21 machines for NSR had their number raised by 200, ending up in series 1800. In 2000 NS Cargo merged with DB Cargo and a new company name was introduced: Railion.

In 2002 fourteen locomotives (1623, 1624, and 1626-1637) were transferred from Railion to NSR. So the 1600/1700/1800 series ended up like:

  • NS 1601-1622 > NS Cargo in 1999;
  • NS 1623–1624 > NS Cargo  in 1999 > NSR 1823–1824 in 2002;
  • NS 1625 sidelined after a collision in 2002 in Venlo (NL);
  • NS 1626-1637 NS Cargo in 1999 > NSR 1826-1837 in 2002;
  • NS 1638-1658 > NSR 1838-1858 in 1999;
  • NS 1701-1781 > NSR.

Locomotives in open-access operation

Over the last ten years, NS/Railion sold 25 of its 1600s to other companies. Many returned to service for various (new) rail operators, some were used for spare parts and eventually got scrapped. We show you the 16 liveries that have been applied to these ‘open access’ 1600s in the Netherlands. Some liveries do still exist, other color schemes disappeared again. Some locomotives had multiple liveries over time, other machines stayed NS-yellow until the end. In the infographic below we combined owners, operators, liveries, and numbers into a visual ‘multi locomotive history’:

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