Soviet engineering made outstanding tractors

100 years of history

From the era of locomotives and tractors to engine construction

Dr.-Ing habil Werner Steinmetz, Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Albert Heber, Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Wilfried Geiger

When the IFA engine plant in Nordhausen had to close its factory gates forever in 1992, an era of almost ninety years ended. It began with the manufacture of mine locomotives and crude oil engines, continued with tractor construction and finally led to the expansion of the factory as the largest East German diesel engine manufacturer. Today there are again 57 companies with 726 employees working in the current IFA industrial park. The IFA location reflects the history of the 20th century in all its facets from the early days to the present like hardly any other place.

The beginnings of mechanical engineering in Nordhausen go back to the middle of the 19th century. Since 1841, the copper and brass smith Oscar Kropff has been based on the St. John's Staircase. He can be regarded as the oldest machine builder in Nordhausen. The two-man operation became the machine factory Oscar Kropff & Co. in 1871. The company built ice machines, filter devices, fire engines and systems for the production of carbonated mineral water. Julius Fischer, another prominent pioneer of mechanical engineering, dealt with the construction of machines for tobacco processing, with milling devices, with gas engines and with wallpaper printing machines. But both companies together employed only around 200 workers in 1860. Only with the connection of Nordhausen to the railway network in 1866 did the "metal guild" continue to improve. The third and most important company, the Raven & Weydmeyer iron foundry, set up shop in Ullrichstrasse / Friedrichstrasse in 1863. Up to 400 workers produced cast parts for the railroad, e.g. also the beautiful support pillars on platform 1 of the Nordhausen train station.

Company foundation - production of motor locomotives

The big boom in mechanical engineering came at the turn of the century. The rapidly developing potash and gypsum industries in the region urgently needed machines and equipment. The shaft construction company Gebhardt & König KG was founded in 1898. As early as 1905, the same August König founded the Gerlach & König company with the manor owner Albert Gerlach. This company, which has been located at Casseler-Straße 30c since then, is, so to speak, the nucleus of the later IFA plant.

In 1907 Gerlach & König was renamed "Maschinenfabrik Montania". With 40 employees at the beginning and grown to 400 in 1912, Montania produced mining equipment for the potash industry in Bleicherode and motor locomotives from 8 to 30 HP for mine and field railways. The first crude oil and gas engines were also added to the product range.
In 1912 Orenstein & Koppel bought Montania. (Image 1)
In 1913 the 19th world exhibition took place in Ghent. 8 Benzollok`s from Nordhausen were used to transport people. The Montania locomotive, a technical innovation, was awarded a gold medal in Ghent.



Image 1: O&K AG / Montania-Werk Nordhausen 1913

In 1914, with the beginning of World War I, production was expanded to meet war needs. The factory was fully occupied by orders from the army administration. Motor locomotives for transporting ammunition and provisions, Knorr brakes for the railroad, artillery wheel hubs and underframes for machine guns. In 1916 the name was changed again. The new company name is now "Orenstein & Koppel AG Nordhausen".

Immediately after the end of the war, locomotive construction was resumed with newly developed, high-speed stationary gasoline engines from 6 to 50 hp. Even the first test samples of a 15 HP caterpillar tractor were produced for a short time. The economic ups and downs of the twenties were also evident at O ​​& K in Nordhausen: Short-time work in 1923 and temporary shutdown in 1925. Thanks to the global connections of the O & K group, the Nordhausen plant was able to quickly return to the level of the World War in the twenties connect interrupted export connections. O&K locomotives from Nordhausen have been delivered to more than 30 countries, including Java, Morocco, Argentina and the Soviet Union. (Picture 2)


Fig. 2: 11 hp mine locomotive built in 1936, delivered to Egyptian Phosphate

A total of 11,000 mine, light rail and shunting locomotives were built in Nordhausen from 1907 to 1942. Of the smallest type with a 7.5 HP single-cylinder benzene engine, 1,500 units were delivered. The light rail and mine locomotive, which was first equipped with a 33 HP three-cylinder diesel engine from 1928, was in particular demand all over the world. This was mainly delivered to France in large numbers. Today O & K Nordhausen would be called a "global player".

In 1935, Orenstein and Koppel, the Jewish owners of the O & K company, were expropriated by the Nazis as part of the so-called Aryanization. In order not to endanger the export, the name was changed to MBA (Maschinenbau u. Bahnbedarf AG) on January 1st, 1940. The construction of the Reichsautobahn brings extensive locomotive orders to the company. Up to 100 locomotives leave the factory every month. Hall 3, which was built in 1923 (today's inner courtyard of the IKL education center) is now being put into operation with its 4400 sqm production area. The workforce increases to 700 people.

Motor locomotives from this prosperous O&K era can be viewed again today in the IFA Museum. On September 12, 2013, four O&K locomotives returned from Switzerland to their production facility in Nordhausen. Rolf and Roger Wymann, the private operators of a railway museum in Kerzers near Bern, decided to entrust the four locomotives to the IFA museum on permanent loan. The fact that they made this decision despite lucrative purchase offers from Swiss private collectors speaks for the generosity of the Wymann family and the appreciation of the IFA Museum as the former location of the O&K factory. Of the locomotives handed over (L 308; H2; RL4 and RL 1C) the L 308 is the oldest. According to the sales contract, it was delivered in 1922 to a mill AG in Interlaken / Switzerland for 15,750 Reichsmarks. With a 40 HP petrol engine for benzene, alcohol, petrol and kerosene, it is built for standard gauge (1435 mm) and can tow up to 200 t of trailer load. (Picture 3)



Image 3: L 308, 40HP motor locomotive, built in 1922

In 1937, production at O&K was expanded to include tractor construction: the SA 751 farm tractor (SA: Schlepper-Acker) with a 30 HP two-cylinder diesel engine and the SB 751 farm tractor (SB: Schlepper-Bauern) with a 17 HP single-cylinder diesel engine. (Fig. 4) However, only 1,600 SA and 500 SB units are still being delivered.


Image 4: O&K farm tractor SB 751, 17 HP, built in 1937















World War II - production of tank engines

In 1939/1940 the gradual changeover to war production takes place and after Göbbel's declaration of the "total war" in 1943 the full changeover takes place. Part of the Maybach engine plant in Friedrichshafen will be relocated from Lake Constance to Nordhausen. Among other things, 12-cylinder Maybach gasoline engines with 220 and 300 hp are produced for tanks. (Fig. 5) A contemporary witness Willi Frey reports: “In a very short time we had to familiarize ourselves with the complicated technology of these high-performance engines through assembly training on repair engines. Under the direction of Meister Wiedemann, 25 motors were built daily in Hall 4 (today Nordic Solid Surface GmbH). When carburetor fuel became scarce, we had to run the test bench runs with generator gas. A separate plant for coal gasification was set up at short notice for this purpose. The series production of these engines required significant modifications during operation. The investments for new machine tools and the construction part amounted to about 5 million Reichsmarks.

The war orders could not be dealt with with the remaining core of the workforce (200 employees had received their draft order for the Wehrmacht). Opposite the company premises, for example at the current location of the AGIP gas station, a barrack town was built for a so-called foreign labor camp. The 1200 "foreign workers" who had been forcibly brought to Germany from the conquered countries with millions of people with the same fate were housed there. These 1200 forced laborers (Italians,
French and Poles) made up more than two thirds of the MBA workforce of 1700 at the time.



Fig. 5: Maybach HL 120 tank engine



In 1945 the war, which had started on German soil, returned to Nordhausen with great severity. Large parts of the city center were destroyed in bombing raids on April 3 and 4, 1945, with estimates of over 8,800 dead. However, the MBA plant was spared bomb damage. On April 11th, the American troops marched into Nordhausen. They immediately occupied the MBA plant. The following day, the workforce was denied access to the company. But at the end of May the Americans allowed Montania GmbH to be re-established. 100,000 marks of share capital were brought in. After a call, 350 specialists reported back to their workplaces within a short time. By the end of 1945, 2,375 tractor units were to be built. That was the goal that American officers had given the new management. To be read in a protocol from June 18, 1945. But it turned out differently, everything turned out worse: On June 5, 1945 the four occupying powers had determined the final border of divided Germany. Then Thuringia came to the Soviet-occupied zone from July 1, 1945.

Post-war period - Soviet secret project A4 missiles

At the beginning of 1944, the production of the V rockets was relocated from Peenemünde to Nordhausen. However, design and development offices were not set up again until February 17, 1945 in Bleicherode under the cover name "Development Community Mittelbau" EGM. In Kohnstein, the notorious Mittelbau-Dora satellite camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, concentration camp prisoners had to create underground production rooms under inhumane conditions in which rocket production was continued. By March 1945, 5,975 rockets had rolled off the assembly lines. According to SS statistics, around 12,000 forced laborers died from the inhumane working conditions. When the Americans liberated camp Dora on April 11, 1945, they took over 110 A4 rockets (the type designation of the so-called "wonder weapon" V2), the construction drawings and the majority of the rocket technicians. Only the first set of specialists around Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger had left Bleicherode to Oberammergau and then to Allgäu on April 5th, only to surrender to the Americans in Reutte in Tyrol on May 3rd, 1945. They thus had the complete rocket know-how in hand.

When the Red Army occupied the “Mittelwerk” in Kohnstein on July 5, only remnants of rocket production could be found and hardly anything of rocket development (EGM) in Bleicherode. According to Stalin's orders, however, officers on secret orders should immediately confiscate the German missile technology and transport it to Russia. Now they stood perplexed in front of the emptied filing cabinets and the remains of the rocket production, unable to recreate this technology in Russia without construction documents.

A high-ranking Soviet officer remembered a brilliant Russian missile designer Korolev, whom he trusted as the only one to reconstruct the German A4 missile technology. It turned out, however, that this Korolev had been innocently languishing in the GULAGs on the Kolyma and in Kazan through denunciation since 1938. Sergej Pawlowitsch Koroljow was quickly taken from the GULAG, put into the uniform of a colonel and sent to the SBZ (Soviet occupied zone) in Germany.

In the meantime, the Soviet military administration SMAD had brought together all the remaining German missile specialists in Bleicherode in the newly founded RABE missile institute (missile construction and development). The Soviet advertisers even managed to lure the indispensable control and measurement technology specialist Helmut Gröttrup from Witzenhausen (now American zone) to the Soviet zone in Bleicherode with attractive offers: The Gröttrup family received the "Villa Stark" in Bleicherode, the Timpe estate in Trebra with staff and livestock, also a BMW car and a riding horse for Ms. Gröttrup. Within a short time Koroljow and B. J. Tschertok, who spoke good German, succeeded in reconstructing the missile plans with the help of the German engineers. Dipl.-Ing. Oswald Kubatschka remembers: "As a 14-year-old refugee from Silesia ended up in Kleinbodungen in 1945, I was happy to be able to do an apprenticeship as a technical draftsman at the RABE institute with such top-class engineers and with the best food in this time of hunger and hardship" .

In 1945 the Soviets rebuilt the entire structure of rocket development and production in Thuringia. This new "rocket company" now operated under the code name Zentralwerke, and the name "Institut Nordhausen" also appears. The head was L. M. Gajdukow and chief engineer S. P. Koroljow. The former MBA plant in Nordhausen became a production site for Zentralwerke and was now called Montania Werk 2 / engine construction. Dipl.-Ing. Albert Heber: “According to the reconstructed drawings, the main drive units for the V2 rockets were manufactured in Hall 3 from 1946 to 1947. (Fig. 6) As a toolmaker, I built devices for the series production of the A4. ”The deputy head (chief engineer) of this Nordhausen plant was Erich Apel, who was already active under W. von Braun and later headed the GDR's State Planning Commission. So neither the Soviet nor later the GDR side were squeamish and resentful when it came to the Nazi past of important specialists. The fate of Dr. Erich Apel is shocked to this day: He shot himself on December 3, 1965 in protest against the new trade agreement with the GDR dictated by Moscow.


Fig. 6: A4 rocket engine

In September 1946, 151 engineers and technical draftsmen and 560 skilled workers were working in Montania Plant 2 in Nordhausen alone. The factory was equipped with 210 lathes, 740 additional machine tools and systems and even 2 test stands for engine testing. The total number of engineers and skilled workers working in the central plants (Plant 1 Sömmerda to 4 Sondershausen) and in the development departments is estimated at around 5,000 (the numbers vary between 2,500 and 7,000 depending on the source).

As early as October 22, 1946, the Red Army had forcibly taken the engineering elite of the “Bleicherode Object” (formerly the RABE Institute) and their families to the island of Gorodomlja in Lake Seliger in a spectacular night and fog action. On this island, which is only 1.4 square kilometers, they had to continue working on the development of missiles for Stalin's armaments and space projects until 1952. It was one of the largest military kidnapping operations that began on October 22, 1946 in the Soviet zone. It is estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 scientists, engineers and technicians were deported to the Soviet Union from all areas of German research.

But it was not until June 15, 1947 that the entire production of the Nordhäuser Montania was stopped on the orders of the Chief of Staff of the Artillery of the Red Army M.I. Nedelin moved to Kapustin Jar south of Stalingrad. There the first eleven V2 from Thuringian production were fired under Soviet direction on October 18, 1947.

For the Nordhausen plant, this meant the complete dismantling and demolition of almost all buildings. Recyclable goods, machines and spare parts were loaded onto trains going east. “For understandable reasons, we didn't go to great lengths to load the machines,” says Albert Heber, “we had to destroy our livelihood with our own hands”. After the “dismantling” ordered by the Soviets, the plant looked like an air raid. During the GDR era, the IFA staff wanted to believe that the factory had been destroyed by Anglo-American bombers.



Fig. 7: Montania factory after "dismantling"

The legendary rocket engineer in major uniform BJ Tschertok, co-founder of the secret rocket project in Northern Thuringia, commented on this exciting history of the Zentralwerke in one of his books: "Gagarin's flight (into space on April 12, 1961) began in Bleicherode" and, we add, on the ground of today's IFA industrial park Nordhausen.

During the uncertain interim period in 1947, macabre orders from the Russian command office regarding the use of the mining site were found in the archives: on April 2, 1947, the order to build a barbed wire fence around the site; on April 5th the order to set up a so-called "black-go-getter camp" in the administration building. Already on April 29th 213 "persons" then arrive from the Lower Saxony gendarmerie post who are interned in the camp. These "dodgers" had done nothing else than, for example, going from Ellrich to Walkenried over the "demarcation line" (that was the name of the border between the British and Soviet-occupied zones).

But also a completely different find in the city archives on the situation of Montania in 1947, the file S938 should be mentioned: On April 19, 1947 former Montania employees, including the former operations director Karl Sauerbrey, founded the support association Montania. Their goal: to provide material support to Montanians in need, especially their widows and orphans. Today we are deeply impressed by the sense of togetherness of the Montania team and the social responsibility that this association is evidence of.Like other associations, the support association Montania was dissolved when the GDR was founded.

New start - tractor production

Then in 1948 the new beginning. Tractors should be built again. In addition to the MBA, there was another tractor manufacturer in the city until the end of the war, NORMAG, which was founded in 1937 and later NOBAS. Their block-built tractor types NG 10, NG 20 and NG 22 were equipped with Deutz and MWM engines and exceeded the production figures of the MBA tractors. (Fig. 8) Almost 5,000 tractors of the NG 22 have been produced in Nordhausen. Shortly before the Red Army marched in, however, the company went to Zorge in the western zone. Today NORMAGs have a cult status among vintage tractors.


Fig. 8: NORMAG-NG 10

On July 1, 1948, the VEB IFA Schlepperwerk Nordhausen was founded and affiliated to the IFA Vereinigung Volkseigener Fahrzeugwerke. The entire assets of Montania GmbH went to the new VEB, so it was practically expropriated. A small economic miracle now took place in the new IFA plant in Nordhausen: By November 15, 1949, eight new production halls, a transformer station and a heating plant were built. On July 22, 1949, the Brockenhexe went into series production in Hall 14 as the first new Nordhausen tractor. (Fig. 9) The technology and optics of the two-cylinder diesel tractor with 22 hp were reminiscent of the former farm tractor.


Photo 9: Brocken witch

In the following years things happened in quick succession: for a short time ten copies of the “Mole” implement carrier were produced before production was relocated to Schönebeck, then followed the legendary tractor pioneer (RS 01/40), then in 1953 the RS 04/30 and finally a completely new development in 1956, the RS 14/30. The latter was initially given the name Favorit, but disputes over names then led to the name Famulus. The Famulus and its further developed variants were to become the flagship of the Nordhäuser tractor factory for over a decade. The basis of all manufactured tractors was the so-called EM 4 standard engine or its variant EM 2. This engine was also manufactured in Nordhausen. Tractor construction and engine construction were thus under one roof. This should be of decisive importance for the future of the plant. But first to the tractors:

The pioneer, built from 1950 to 1956 in a number of 19113 tractors at IFA SN, was produced under the name FAMO in Breslau until the end of the war. When the Red Army approached, FAMO engineers had relocated construction documents and production facilities from Breslau to Central Germany. Production could then be resumed very quickly under the new type designation RS01 / 40 Pionier, first in the Zwickau Horchwerk and then in Nordhausen. (Fig. 10) The “pioneer” shaped the image of rural agriculture in the GDR like no other agricultural machine in the 1950s. Due to the land reform in 1945/1946, landowners and so-called large farmers were expropriated. The large number of new and small-scale farms that arose in this way were without agricultural technology and had to cultivate and harvest fields by hand. Even the grain fields were mowed (“hewn”) with scythe, the stalks were “removed” by the farmers' wives with sickles and then tied into sheaves by the children with straw ropes. In order to overcome this lack of agricultural technology, the MAS (machine rental stations) were founded in 1949 at about the same time as the GDR, which then became MTS (machine and tractor stations) in 1953. These MAS / MTS took over e.g. the grain mowing for the small and medium-sized farms. Immediately after its establishment, however, the MAS only had old tractors and mower binders, e.g. from the Lanz and Fahr manufacturers, from the expropriated farms. With the Nordhausen pioneer and the new mower binder from the Zella-Mehlis meteorological plant, MTS then increasingly had new and more productive technology at its disposal. The IFA pioneer team with the Meteor PTO mower was the high-tech in the grain fields of the early 1950s. The tractor driver was the "king". He and his co-driver on the binder were spoiled by the farmers with beer and lavish sausage sandwiches. When the machine-tied grain sheaves lay in a decorative order on the stubble field, the only thing left for the farmer to do was set up the sheaves to dry in so-called “squats” or “puppets”. Always nine sheaves per squat. Even today, the Pioneer team with a mower is a must at demonstrations of historical agricultural technology.



Fig. 10: Pionier RS ​​01/40 with attached plow

The workers' uprising in Berlin on June 17, 1953 also shook Nordhausen and the IFA factory as a focus of the GDR economy. This was preceded by momentous decisions by the Ulbricht government in 1952: the cordoning off of the zone border, the forced resettlement of non-loyal residents of the border area, reinforcement of the barracked People's Police to 100,000 men and finally a two-fold increase in labor standards in 1953 by 10% each. In the case of the forced evacuation, cynically called "Aktion Ungeziefer", 143 families with 521 people were on the black list in Ellrich, for example. The "Ungeziefer" campaign began on June 7, 1952 punctually at 5:00 am in all border towns and went "according to plan", as Fritz Pabst, the head of the VPKA (Volkspolizeikreisamt), later satisfied with satisfaction.

Immediately after the second 10% increase in norms in May 1953, the first open actions against the arbitrary rule of the government took place in the Nordhausen district. There were also work stoppages in the tractor factory a few days before June 17th. In the crankshaft department, the labor standards should be checked at 2:00 a.m. Then in the early morning of June 17th the siren wailed on the nearby granary with the message “The tractor workers are on strike”! A demonstration in the urban area scheduled for 1 p.m. was forcibly prevented by the People's Police and the Red Army. The IFA factory gates were cordoned off and it was no longer possible to leave the factory. Alleged ringleaders were arrested. Some workers who were warned were able to avoid arrest by fleeing immediately to the West. On June 18, the strike at the tractor plant expanded. 1200 IFA employees went on strike and shouted slogans such as “Get away with the government”, “Release those arrested the previous day” and “Lift the state of emergency”. In the shaft construction, 400 workers declared their solidarity with the tug workers.

400 workers also went on strike in ABUS Maschinenbau (later NOBAS).
The strike leader in this company was the social democrat Otto Reckstat, an eloquent, convincing former union official. He had already been imprisoned during the Nazi era. Otto Reckstat had now become a symbolic figure and spokesman for the workers in the ABUS. That was his undoing after the suppression of the uprising. Otto Reckstatt was sentenced to eight years in prison by the Erfurt District Court in a show trial as an “agent” and “provocateur”. This upright and courageous man had the strength of character to turn down an offer from the Stasi after his conviction. He had been offered an early release from custody if he would sign an informant pledge. Otto Reckstat was released on December 21, 1956. His daughter Herta Simpson, who lives in England, had written a pardon to Wilhelm Pieck, so that the sentence was shortened to four years.

the tractor pioneer. This soon no longer corresponded to the state of the art. It was too heavy for its 40 hp. The operation of the steering, clutch and brakes were not for weak tractor drivers. The pioneer, designed as a pulling tractor, could not be used for maintenance work without hydraulics. 1957 then the further development of the Pioneer to the RS 01/40 II type resin.


Fig. 11: Resin type RS 01/40 II

The "Harz" was equipped with a hydraulic power lift. With the successful facelift, he also looked great on the outside. And the 4-cylinder engine with the soft pre-chamber combustion process and the low speed of 1250 rpm impressed with its acoustics, just like its predecessor Pioneer. From 1957 to 1958, 3,185 pieces of resin were delivered to MTS. In 1958 the decision was made to stop building the "Harz" and instead to expand the Famulus production. Technology and economy spoke against the Pioneer / Harz concept. From 1953 to 1956, parallel to the pioneer, a forerunner of the Famulus, the RS 04/30 tractor, was built, a development from the Schönebeck tractor factory. At least 7,574 RS 04/30 left the assembly line.

With the Famulus series (the name Famulus only caught on later) in 1956, the Nordhausen tractor workers succeeded in creating a modern all-purpose tractor with three-point hitch and hydraulics that fully met the requirements of the time. (Fig. 12) Until 1965 the Famulus was continuously developed under the different type designations RS 14/30, RS 14/46, RS 14/36, RT 315 and RT 325. The engine output of the 2-cylinder EM2 engine has been increased from 30 hp to 36 hp for the air-cooled version and to 40 hp for the water-cooled version. Overturn-proof driver's cab, air brake system for trailer operation and front-wheel drive front axle were further highlights.


Image 12: Famulus RS 14/36

The engineers from "Sonnenschein" (nickname for research and development) always had the western competition in mind as a yardstick. Tractors like the Allgaier from Porsche, the Unimog from Daimler-Benz and the Ferguson stood in front of the “Sonnenschein” house for comparison tests with the newly developed IFA tractors. By 1965, a total of 45,431 tractors from the Famulus series had been running on the assembly line. At least 6,404 of them were exported, also to the so-called NSW (Non-Socialist Economic System) e.g. Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Turkey, India, Egypt, Iran and Sudan. Those who worked in customer service, were "NSW travel cadres" and were allowed to travel to these countries were envied by their colleagues. Not only did he see the wide world that was barred to the common man, he also brought the much sought-after western goods with him.

In 1960 the forced collectivization, i.e. the conversion of individual farms into LPGs (agricultural production cooperatives), was completed. The tendency went from cultivating individual fields to cultivating large agricultural areas by the LPGs. The large-scale mechanization of agriculture required larger and more powerful tractors than the Famulus. At the beginning of the 1960s, the IFA SN began developing a 60 HP tractor with the type designation RT 330 on the basis of the Famulus. (Fig. 13) A little later, the first functional model of a large tractor with a frame construction called the ZT 300 was presented at the Schönebeck tractor factory.



Figure 13: RT 330 (Famulus 60)

Nordhausen versus Schönebeck - today this is a little known conflict, but back then the emotions were boiling. Even beneath the surface of the centrally controlled socialist production there was dogged competition. The author of this article still fondly remembers this argument: “There were three currents that fought one another. I still remember how one day, as a young test engineer, I was sent into the race with our star test driver Werner Meyer in the Oderbruch in Golzow for a plowing competition. It all came down to who can create the largest area in the given time. At the start were a Müncheberg test tractor, an early ZT 300 still under development, the Hungarian all-wheel-drive tractor D4 K and we with the Nordhäuser RT 330. We got up at night and secretly filled the tires with water through the valve openings to increase the tractive power . Despite the RT 330's multiple "victories" in plowing competitions, we had a problem: the service life of the transmission. When a spur gear break occurred again on the transmission test bench developed by Ossi Kubatschka, the strategy of VVB Landmaschinen und Traktorenbau (a kind of holding company) was very welcome. That was then used as a hook to end tractor production in Nordhausen. On May 8, 1964, it was said: It's over! The tractor production will be discontinued! "

Now not only one type of tractor was affected, now it affected the entire Nordhausen tractor production, the 2200 IFA runners and, last but not least, the professional future of the F.U.E. team. What new and further developments hadn't they put together that didn't go into production! E.g. the so-called tandem tractor, the drive set, the Hausmann tractor with tunnel engine (named after the ingenious chief designer Werner Hausmann). The performance of the Famulus increased to 40 or 46 hp! Then the list of model upgrade measures: in the five years to the bitter end alone, five Famulus tractor types came onto the market! In addition, the Nordhäuser put 20 functional models of the already mentioned legendary RT 330 with 3-cylinder engine and 60 HP on the wheels, the Famulus 60! Of course - it was and remained the technically outdated Famulus with the standard engine and the outdated block construction! The north houses were aware of this, but they were denied the green light in the form of sufficient investment funds for a fundamentally new tractor concept. And now all of a sudden none of this should have been true anymore!

But regardless of the drama of the RT 330, it was already a decided matter from high above that Nordhausen would be restructured from a tractor plant to a diesel engine plant. At the beginning of the sixties, the entire vehicle manufacturing sector in the GDR was undergoing a profound structural change. In 1964, truck production moved from Werdau to Ludwigsfelde, where the W 50 truck rolled off the production line from then on. In Zwickau, production focused exclusively on the Trabant. Schönebeck experienced an upgrade and became the only tractor factory in the GDR. As a result, there was an urgent need for a central engine plant that would henceforth produce diesel engines for almost the entire GDR commercial vehicle and agricultural machinery industry. The IFA plant in Nordhausen offered the best conditions for this

The restructuring from a tractor to an engine factory had far-reaching consequences in terms of personnel policy. In 1964 the "management cadre" from the general director of the VVB to the F.U.E department heads of the IFA were brought before a disciplinary committee of the Economics Council (!). They were put down in a Soviet-style show trial. Anyone who, according to the party principle of criticism and self-criticism, was not prepared to throw ashes on their heads submissively, like the construction manager Heinz Selle, was punished mercilessly. The fact that H. Selle was not yet a SED comrade fit fully into the image of the "inquisitors". Consequently, the "colleague" Selle received the highest disciplinary punishment with a strict reprimand and disqualification. One aim of this show trial was at To give the 2200 IFA runners the impression that the technical inability of the senior engineers in the redevelopment of the Famulus 60 tractor was the reason why their traditional IFA tractor factory now had to stop production in favor of the Schönebeck tractor factory. This show trial was not just a heartless humiliation of the engineers concerned, it was also demagogic and completely unnecessary.

IFA-Werk becomes the largest diesel engine producer in the GDR

In 1964 the Nordhausen tractor factory was assigned to VVB Automobilbau (Association of Publicly Owned Enterprises, a kind of holding company). Up to now it had belonged to VVB Landmaschinen- und Traktorbau. The restructuring of the future largest diesel engine plant in the GDR began, parallel to the ongoing tractor production. "VEB IFA Motorenwerke Nordhausen" was the new company name from July 1, 1965. (Fig. 14)

Although the company names have changed several times since the plant was founded in 1905, from "Gerlach & König", "Montania", "Orenstein & Koppel", "Maschinenbau & Bahnbedarf AG" to "VEB IFA Schlepperwerk", the plant at Casseler Strasse 30 c ( later Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße) was a top-class production and development location for mechanical engineering. And with the exception of war production, it was final products such as locomotives and tractors that left the factory. Now “only” diesel engines should roll off the assembly line in Nordhausen! In particular, the employees in research and development and customer service found this farewell to the tractor as a technical devaluation and restriction.



Fig. 14: IFA engine factory 1989 (model from IFA museum)

The depressive mood was intensified by the fact that VVB Automobilbau ordered the IFA plant in Nordhausen to take over the production of the outdated EM 4 engines for the H 3A and S 4000 trucks from VEB Sachsenring Zwickau. (Photo 15) Almost 500 skilled workers and engineers from Nordhausen were trained in Zwickau for several months. The first EM 4 engine was assembled in Nordhausen on February 27, 1965, and the last tractor, an RT 325, left the assembly line on November 1, 1965.


Fig. 15: 90 HP diesel engine EM 4 (cutaway model)

In Ludwigsfelde, by a resolution of the Council of Ministers of December 21, 1962, a superlative production facility had been built for the 5t W50 truck developed in Werdau. In the summer of 1965, the first W 50 was to roll off the assembly line in the new “VEB IFA Automobilwerke Ludwigsfelde”. So you urgently needed a diesel engine with a significantly higher performance than the EM 4 achieved with its 90 hp.Since a new development was not possible in such a short time, the EM 4 was "drilled out" from 115 to 120 mm cylinder diameter, thus increasing the engine output to 110 hp. This further development was mainly directed by the Schönebeck diesel engine plant and the Sachsenring Zwickau.

In 1965 this interim variant 4 KVD 14.5 / 12 went into production at the IFA MN against the resistance of the Nordhausen engineers, so that the first IFA W 50 truck actually left the assembly line in Ludwigsfelde on July 18. This event was so significant for the GDR that the village of Ludwigsfelde was now ennobled to the 629th city of the GDR.

The 110 hp compromise engine, however, turned out to be a mistake. Although from 1965 to 1967 approx. 3000 engines of this type were installed in the Ludwigsfeld trucks, unfortunately there are no more copies to be found for our IFA museum today. (It would be very informative for future engineers to see where one-sided insistence on traditional theories can lead.) All W 50s were later retrofitted by the operators with the reliable and durable 125 HP engine.


Ing.Günter Caspari was the new chief designer, previously active at the Schönebeck diesel engine plant, a stroke of luck for the plant and the 150 F.u.E. - Employee. Under his leadership, a modern 125 HP engine with economical direct injection was developed from the old Zwickau EM 4 with an uneconomical swirl chamber combustion process in a very short time. This made it possible to achieve economically significant fuel savings of around 15 percent. The type designation of the new engine: 4 VD 14.5 / 12 SRW-1. In this type formula according to TGL (technical standards, quality regulations and delivery conditions, introduced from 1955 in the GDR instead of the previously valid DIN standards):
• 4 Number of cylinders,
• V. Four-stroke,
• D. Diesel,
• 14,5 Piston stroke in cm,
• 12 Cylinder diameter in cm
• S. standing version
• R. In-line arrangement of the cylinders
• W. Water cooling
• -1 first stage of development
The advantage of such a standardized type formula was that you could see the most important design engine data at a glance. This is no longer possible today with the type designations that are very different depending on the make.


Picture 16: 125 HP engine 4VD 14.5 / 12-1, still with oil cooler in front of the oil pan

Apart from the number of cylinders and the piston stroke 145 mm, nothing was left of the EM 4 after the modernization. (Fig. 16) The only downer: a competitive combustion process with direct injection was not available in the GDR. A license agreement for the use of the patented so-called M-process had to be concluded with MAN in Nuremberg. For every engine built in Nordhausen, 50 D.-Mark license fees are transferred to Nuremberg. That extrapolated to around 40,000 engines per year or 970,000 engines in 23 years!

In 1967, series production of this most popular diesel engine in the GDR began. For more than two decades, the 4 VD 14.5 / 12 was the drive unit for all 60 variants of the truck W50, the tractors ZT 300 and 303, the combine harvester E 512, the motor grader SHM 4-120, the car slewing crane ADK 63, the Russian one SIL truck and the diesel emergency power generator 6-2320, to name just the most important users. (Picture 17 to 20)



Fig. 17 to 20: Motor grader SHM 4-120; Automobile slewing crane ADK 63; ZT 300 tractor and E 512 combine harvester

It is well known that the IFA Automobilwerk Ludwigsfelde exported its W 50 to 40 countries around the world. Little is known, however, that in the terrible Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1988, the GDR supplied both warring parties with W50s from Ludwigsfelde. During the negotiation of the supply contracts in Ludwigsfelde, the delegations of the two enemy countries shook hands. The only difference between the Iran-W50 and the Iraq-W50 was the bed. One with steel, the other with a wooden cot. Macabre irony: a vehicle captured by the enemy could immediately be used in one's own army. Ludwigsfelde proudly presented an export rate of the W50 of 70% and at the same time a record profitability for foreign exchange (ratio of currency-mark-proceeds / GDR-mark-costs). The war makes it possible. Pecunia non olet, not even in socialism!

For this war mission, the Nordhausen engine had been tested in Iraq and Mexico under tropical conditions, in sandstorms in the desert and on steep mountain drives up to altitudes above 2000 m. (Fig. 21) This NVA variant of the 4 VD 14.5 / 12-2 engine was also cold start and operational down to temperatures of -40 ° C. The responsible designer, our long-time colleague Karl Haake, had to provide evidence of these extreme values ​​not only in the cold chamber but also in practical use in the far north of Siberia.



Photo 21: W50 truck in the Mexican desert

In October 1973 the second stage of development of the engine with the type designation 4 VD 14.5 / 12-2 went into series production. (The designation "-2" given by the design department is surprisingly not found consistently in the company documents and nameplates!) The most noticeable change compared to "-1" is the replacement of the corrosion-prone and costly tube bundle oil cooler with the patented involute heat exchanger EWT in the oil pan. (Photo 22) By the way: This EWT (the author is the patent holder) managed to survive the Wende and the IFA. This IFA innovation is further produced in the Bremen company ETB as an involute exhaust gas heat exchanger for combined heat and power plants. The small oil cooler with a diameter of 275 mm made of cast aluminum became an exhaust gas exchanger with a diameter of 1,100 mm in modern V4A sheet metal construction. Such an involute exhaust gas heat exchanger is even in use in the German research station Neumeyer III in the Antarctic in the local diesel cogeneration plant.


Fig. 22: 125 HP engine 4 VD 14.5 / 12-2, with new involute oil cooler in the oil pan

For the large-scale production of the 4 VD 14.5 / 12, the largest investment program in the history of the IFA plant including its Sondershausen and Haynrode operations was completed at the end of the 1960s. The IFA engineers in planning, production engineering and process engineering (according to GDR terminology, the engineers in these areas were called "technologists") had achieved excellent results. In the newly built Hall 42, fully automatic cycle lines for crankcases and cylinder heads and machines for connecting rods and crankshafts are now in operation. They are connected to one another by efficient transport facilities and ensure a continuous flow of production from prefabrication to assembly to the test bench. The engines are shipped to the main customers in 20 foot containers by rail.

The 24 new engine test stands are top notch: each test stand box is soundproof. The engine to be tested is mounted vibration-free on a comfortable vibration foundation. The test rig fitter sits in a separate room at the control panel without being affected by vibrations or noise. (Fig. 23) If the old engine test stands of the tractor era were still equipped with the imprecise water vortex brakes, the engine power is now measured on all 24 new test stands with the precise direct current pendulum generators from the VEB Elbtalwerk Heidenau. Far-sighted in terms of energy, even expensive so-called Leonard sets are installed with which the motor power can be fed back into the power grid. However, because electricity was so unreasonably cheap in the GDR, this ecologically interesting mode of operation was hardly used.



Figure 23: Engine test bench - control panel

Astonishing from a later point of view: When choosing the production equipment for project 4 VD 14.5 / 12, the focus was on the highest technical level. What was not available in the GDR or in the SW (Socialist Economic System) was bought in the West (NSW). E.g. the cylinder head cycle line at Renault in France. When setting up the cycle line, French fitters worked for over half a year in Hall 42 during the day and later at more fun locations around Nordhausen. The preferred restaurant was the Gasthaus zur Linde in Leimbach. The landlord "Gerard" had even adjusted to French cuisine.

The number of employees in the plant rose from 2,220 in 1965 to 3,167 in 1975. In 1989, the year of the fall of the river, 4,375 people found wages and salaries at VEB IFA MN. The so-called industrial production of goods (IWP) amounted to 1.1 billion GDR marks! The highest annual output was achieved in 1984 with 57,125 engines. Compared to today's engine plants of a similar size, the proportion of in-house production at IFA was high. All large components such as the crankcase, cylinder block, cylinder head and crankshaft were manufactured in the factory. Yes, even the valve production took place in the IFA operations in Apolda, Hainrode and later in BT Apparatebau, now EATON.
which not infrequently gave cause for a smile. According to state requirements, five percent of the IWP had to be consumer goods production. Curious things like grave vases and tipping systems for cars were created, but also real consumer goods like the “Rollfix” handcart and not to forget: 264,467 bicycles with the name IFA-Touring.


Fig. 24: IFA combat group for the May demonstration in 1977

And what ideological ballast had a large GDR company like the IFA to shoulder: party leadership (BPO), union leadership (BGL), FDJ, combat group, civil defense and GST. All of them had their offices, armories (!) Etc. and a well-paid, crisis-proof “workplace” under the umbrella of the IFA. (Fig. 24)

The IFA's vocational school was exemplary. In 1977, for example, 460 apprentices, who also came from other Nordhausen companies, were trained as skilled workers with and without a high school diploma. (Photo 25) 1,065 students from grades 7 to 12 came to the plant once a week for polytechnic lessons. In the adult qualification, particularly capable skilled workers were trained to become masters and engineers in the evening course.


Fig. 25: Maintenance mechanic apprentice class with high school diploma in 1977

The patent and innovation system was also organized in an exemplary manner. Suggestions for improvement (called "innovator suggestions") were remunerated according to tables prescribed by the state. The patents were not exclusionary patents but so-called business patents and were therefore owned by the state. However, the inventors had the statutory right to patent compensation. This was all the higher, the greater the operational and economic (!) Benefit. The calculation was also based on tables that are valid throughout the GDR. If there were patent disputes about the amount of the remuneration between the inventor and the company using the patent, the district court in Leipzig, as the competent authority, usually decided in favor of the inventor. As an IFA representative, the author had to experience for himself how an inventor from Schönebeck asserted his claim for compensation against the IFA in Leipzig. At that time, the so-called impact rib on 4 VD 14.5 / 12 was a questionable invention.
The patent engineer Klaus Temme, who has worked for the IFA for many years, deserves special recognition. It largely relieved the inventors of extensive research into the state of the art. His patent descriptions are a prime example of clearly understandable technical language. Hundreds of patent applications from the IFA bear his signature.

A particularly prestigious and costly IFA institution was the BSG (company sports community) Motor Nordhausen, especially the soccer section. Founded in 1949, it was transferred to FSV Wacker 90 Nordhausen in 1990. From 1969 to 1990 Motor Nordhausen played permanently in the GDR league. (Fig. 26)



Fig. 26: Motor kicker 1967

The motor kickers were the pride of the IFA, but also a nuisance for some IFA runners. After all, they were preferred to the normal working people in the allocation of apartments, vacation spots and other social benefits. Quite a few players were just as successful in their professional careers after their sporting career. Our museum club friends Klaus Becker and Eberhard Strehler are prominent examples. The tennis section of the BSG was also able to enjoy generous funding from the IFA as its sponsoring company. Bernd Franke, current chairman of the tennis club remembers: “The IFA financed our tennis tourism to Hungary, Poland, the CSSR and even before 1961 to the FRG. And that, although only two IFA-raners were members of the tennis club! ”What was spent from the culture and social fund for the promotion of sports was of course missing in other areas such as for lucrative vacation spots. There was only one place for normal working people in the Dietrichshütte holiday home or, at best, a campsite on the Baltic Sea.


Fig. 27: Company outpatient clinic: Dentist Kurz around 1970

IFA set standards in the health care of its employees. As early as 1953, the company had built a modern outpatient clinic on the company premises directly on Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße, in which a general practitioner and a dentist had their practices. (Fig. 27) A pharmacy was directly connected. Several nurses and physiotherapists were also employed.



Fig. 28: Swimming pool

A sauna and swimming pool were added in the 1970s. (Fig. 28) The company kindergarten and daycare center were also located on the company premises. The IFA ran another kindergarten on Ammenberg.
While in 1967 the engineers of technology (TV) were fully occupied with the start of the large-scale production of the 4-cylinder engine 4 VD 14.5 / 12, the development of the successor engine 6 VD 12/11 was already underway in the main department TK (research and development) Full speed. The plan was to build the 4 VD 14.5 / 12 for four years and then gradually replace it with a new, more powerful 6-cylinder engine. Even the greatest pessimist at the time could not have suspected that these four years of production of the good old “14.5” would have turned into a whopping 23 years.

Lt. Determination of the general director of VVB Automobilbau on October 5th. In 1964 the successor engine 6 VD 12/11 with 150 HP in inclined design (GRF) was to go into series production in the first quarter of 1970 (!). It was to be used in the W50 successor truck, the W 53. But as early as the spring of 1966, the start of production was postponed by another 3 years. In accordance with the Ludwigsfeld requirements, the 6 VD 12/11 was shorter-stroke and lighter than the 4 VD 14.5 / 12 and, with 3000 rpm, it was a decidedly fast runner. A complete VD 12/11 series from 3 to 6 cylinder engines was designed. In 1967 the prototypes were already running on the test benches. Unique to the 12/11 series: From the oil pan to the cylinder head, it was a completely new engine concept. A joint development by IFA MN, WTZ K-M-Stadt, Dieselmotorenwerk Schönebeck, Robur Zittau. In 1969 the development of the 6VD 12/11 was so far completed that we could drive with a functional model in a neat coach from the private company (!) Messerschmidt from Zörbig in the Polish Giant Mountains to Karpac. (Photo 29) The entire IFA MN development collective and Mr. Messerschmidt's spouses were invited to this wonderful trip lasting several days. For most of them, this is their first trip abroad!



Fig. 29: Messerschmidt bus (self-made Messerschmidt) with IFA motor 6 VD 12/11

The bus with its built-in underfloor engine 6VD 12/11 GRF ("G" for inclined version) attracted a lot of attention everywhere because of its smoothness. (Photo 30) Sad end of such private initiatives by Mr. Messerschmidt: He had to serve several years in prison for alleged economic offenses, where he also died.


Fig. 30: 150 HP motor 6 VD 12/11 GRF, inclined version

Shortly before the development of the 6 VD 12/11 was completed, Ludwigsfelde asked for a higher engine output for the future 6.5 t truck. In 1971 the 6VD 12/11 became the 6VD 12.5 / 12 while largely retaining the engine concept. The power has been increased from 150 to 180 hp. The then operations director Robert Sternberger ensured that the engine designation was not the TGL-compliant engine formula 6VD 12.5 / 12, but the promotional engine designation "MN 106". An indication that the MN 106 is an independent development of the MN.

The GDR Council of Ministers was now calling for a separate, license-free combustion process to be developed for the new engine in order to be free from the high foreign exchange payments to MAN. The so-called hyperboloid combustion process, or H process for short, was developed in cooperation with the WTZ (Scientific and Technical Center) automobile construction in Karl-Marx-Stadt (today's Chemnitz). Domestic and foreign patents have been granted for the H process. The author and his co-inventor Hans Gärtner from the WTZ received the "Labor Banner" medal in 1976, an award which, regardless of the martial choice of words, was a purely professional recognition. While the first functional model MN 106 still ran with the MAN-M process, all 240 production models built between 1973 and 1979 were equipped with the new license-free H process. These production samples were tested in Ikarus buses, in potash shafts as a replacement for DEUTZ and Volvo engines and in the prototypes of the W50 successor truck. By the way: The Schönebeck diesel engine plant also took over the H process from Nordhausen for the 8-cylinder 8 VD 14.5 / 12.5 engine, the drive unit for the largest GDR combine, the E 516.

The W50 successor truck with the new designation L60 (L for Ludwigsfelde) was developed with a new tilting driver's cab. 25 functional models of the L60 with the Nordhäuser MN 106 were built in Ludwigsfelde by 1977. (Fig. 31) The visually beautiful L60 F 225 in Fig. 31 has an interesting vita: after the turnaround it was parked in a barn, and after 1990 the vehicle ended up in the Soviet Union in an untraceable way. It is very likely that a returning Red Army officer took the L60 with him. According to information from a truck dealer in St. Petersburg, who offered the vehicle for sale on the Internet in 2007, it covered around 300,000 km in Kazakhstan. With the refrigerated box body, good money was made in transporting food. Dr. Bernd Franke and his colleagues from FIL (Friends of Industrial History Ludwigsfelde e.V.) succeeded in 2008 in the bureaucratic and logistical feat of "bringing" the L60 back to Ludwigsfelde from St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian customs authorities, among others, caused difficulties by claiming the IFA truck as a Russian (!) Cultural asset. After extensive restoration by the FIL enthusiasts, the shapely driver's cab now shines in its old splendor.



Fig. 31: L60 prototype truck with 180 HP MN 106 engine

The mileage of approx. 300,000 km is impressive. And that without the German IFA service! As a Nordhäuser IFA runner, you can be proud of the MN106 engine, which has achieved this service life without any major repairs to the cylinder heads and pistons / liners. The Ludwigsfeld colleagues are equally proud of the reliability of the other components, especially the driver's cab, where not a single crack was found. Unfortunately, the Ludwigsfeld engineers were not allowed to equip the L60 with a similarly attractive driver's cab when it was later introduced into series production. The investment funds were insufficient for this. And so in 1987, when the L60 went into production, the old W50 cab had to be face-lifted. But more on that later. Back to the 1970s:

With the 8th party congress of the SED in June 1971, the Ulbricht era ended and the Honecker era began. This started stagnation for large areas of industry and, above all, for the entire automotive industry. The investment funds for the production of a new truck and thus also a new diesel engine in Nordhausen were becoming more and more distant. The task now was to keep the new 180 hp six-cylinder MN 106 engine constantly up to date and to meet the changing requirements of the final producers.

Under the F.u.E. - In the mid-1970s, engineers formed two factions: the proponents of the short stroke and the advocates of the long stroke. The author was one of the latter. He and his colleague H-J. In 1973 Kampmann defended a dissertation on the influence of the stroke / bore ratio in vehicle diesel engines. The result: the long-stroke engine, although heavier and larger, is the more economical engine. This means that the MN106 engine is too short-stroke for the lowest possible fuel consumption! After a lengthy dispute, the stroke of the MN 106 was extended from 125 to 135 mm in 1980. The VD13,5 / 12 engine series was born.



Fig. 32: 180 HP motor 6 VD 13.5 / 12 for truck L60


The Nordhausen plant now belonged to the IFA Kombinat Nutzfahrzeuge in Ludwigsfelde. The frustrating uncertainty began again as to whether the new 13.5 engine would finally have the prospect of series production. It would take until 1983 for the billions of dollars to be launched for the L60 investment project in Ludwigsfelde and thus also for the 6VD 13.5 / 12 project in Nordhausen. A political event occurred in 1983: The most hated CSU politician in the GDR, Franz-Josef Strauss, negotiated with Honecker in July 1983 about a billion-dollar loan from West German banks for the ailing GDR economy. Strauss made the dismantling of the mines and self-firing systems on the inner-German border a condition for the loan. As is well known, this Strauss loan made it possible for the GDR to break through the temporary refusal of credit by Western banks. Whether the L60 investment project was only possible with this is controversial among contemporary witnesses.

In 1987 the start of production of the new engine was celebrated. (Fig. 32) After all, 22,918 6VD 13.5 / 12 engines left the assembly line by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Special structural features of this modern and visually beautiful 180 hp six-cylinder in-line engine are: single cylinder heads, a prerequisite for the series principle; Pat. Novelty of the nodular cast iron pistons with hyperboloid combustion chamber; Involute heat exchanger in the oil pan with cast-in cooling water channels. The production facility for the new VD 13.5 / 12 motor series is the imposing Hall 300 on Hüpedenweg. (Picture 33)



Photo 33: Hall 300 on Hüpedenweg

The planning for Hall 300 had already begun in 1977. The building complex was completed in 1981. Another two years passed before the orders were placed with the supplier companies for the technological equipment. This was followed by the complex reconstruction of the entire engine factory for the start of series production of the new engine series. State-of-the-art production facilities were set up in halls 041, 042 and 300. The most important fully automated production lines are the crankshaft, camshaft, connecting rod production and gear production. The assembly line is designed to be flexible for 4- and 6-cylinder engines. (Fig. 34) Important for quality control: a precision measuring center of international top class. (Picture 35)



Fig. 34: Assembly line for 4- and 6-cylinder engines



Fig. 35: Precision measuring room

Both the 12.5 / 12 and 13.5 / 12 engine series were designed to increase performance through exhaust gas turbocharging. The respective turbo version including charge air cooling ran parallel to the development of the naturally aspirated engine on the test bench of the research department. Unfortunately, a license agreement already negotiated with the KKK company in Frankenthal in 1981 for the future production of exhaust gas turbochargers in the GDR had broken due to a lack of foreign currency! This meant that the series introduction of a turbocharged 6VD 13.5 / 12 had to be shelved for the time being. It was not until 1990 in the new IFA Motorenwerke GmbH that the turbo version 6 VD 13.5 / 11.8 became a reality. With 272 hp, this most powerful engine of the 13.5 series was fully competitive internationally. However, only 50 turbo six-cylinder engines were still built from 1990 onwards.

IFA innovations from Nordhausen

West German colleagues are always amazed at how great the contradiction was between backward series products such as Trabi & Co on the one hand and innovative prototypes on the other in the GDR industry. Here are two examples from IFA history: May 16, 1985 was a special day for the GDR automobile industry. The world's first vehicle with a common rail diesel started on its maiden voyage in Karl-Marx-Stadt. It was an MN 106 diesel engine from Nordhausen, equipped with this CR system in a W50 truck, which was the first engine in the world to make it onto the road. Anyone who owns a diesel car with a recent production date knows that "Common Rail" stands for the most modern diesel technology, which has only established itself on the market in the last 10 years. (Picture 36)

It is thanks to the foresight of Günther Caspari, chief designer at the IFA engine factory and chief engineer Siegfried Grünert from the WTZ Karl-Marx-Stadt that a study for the development of an electronic injection system for the Nordhausen engine MN 106 was commissioned to the WTZ as early as 1971. Dr. Ing.Klaus Matthees as head of the topic was a real stroke of luck. After the study, the first tests began with a 1-cylinder test engine and then the transfer of the CR system to the 6-cylinder MN 106 engine. The word "common rail" was still largely unknown at that time and anglicisms in the GDR were undesirable anyway. So they initially agreed on the name EDES (Electronic diesel injection system). Finally, in 1985, with the involvement of the third partner, the IFA Automobilwerk Ludwigsfelde, the crowning glory was achieved: 17,000 km of road testing of the MN 106 CR with the best results in terms of fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, among other things.



Fig. 36: Common rail diesel engine MN 106 CR

Klaus Matthees and his colleagues have registered 24 patents for the IFA Common Rail system. Unfortunately, this very successful development had to be stopped in 1986. Once again it was said: The foreign exchange for the necessary manufacturing equipment is not available. Fortunately, after the fall of the Wall, Klaus Matthees was able to save the Nordhäuser MN106 CR engine from being scrapped. The precious piece was perfectly restored by the Zwickau HORCH Museum and was on display in the Industrial Museum in Chemnitz until March 2014. We are the colleagues from the August-Horch-Museum and especially Dr. Matthees is grateful that we can now present this testimony of innovative IFA engineering performance in the Nordhausen IFA Museum.

The following is the second example of a Nordhausen innovation, in which the IFA's R&D department played a part. In Nordhausen there was the VEG (People's Own Gut) animal breeding. It emerged in 1945 from the expropriated Schreiber property and former domains. In 1967 Dr. Johann Franz was the director of the VEG Nordhausen-Darre, as the company was called at the time. Dr. Franz turned the backward VEG into a model farm within just a decade. With around 90,000 pigs, an agricultural area of ​​2,270 ha, with horse, cattle and sheep breeding, horticulture, mushroom and chicory production, the company made an annual turnover of 138 million M and a record profit of 34 million M

The biogas plant that went into operation in 1985 was an outstanding major project. With a fermenter volume of 2x8000 m3, it was the world's largest agricultural BGA at the time. Thanks to his economic successes, J. Franz even succeeded in installing a branch of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ADL) with around 30 scientists "on the kiln" in 1981. These scientists and employees, employed in three different AdL institutes, worked on research projects (called research topics at the time) on all aspects of pig breeding and in particular on biogas technology.

From 1982 to 1984 a so-called state plan topic "Mobile utilization of biogas" was worked on in the AdL branch. The head of the topic was the author W. Steinmetz: "In 1982 I went from the IFA to the AdL branch Darre` great freedom in the research work. (I only found out about the intensive spying by 2 Stasi IM in my Stasi files after the fall of the Wall). The ministries MLF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) and MWT (Ministry of Science and Technology ) Generous financial resources are available for the above-mentioned project "Mobile utilization of biogas". But money alone did not get very far in the GDR, not even in research. We needed cooperation partners in many companies who supply us with components and test parts The material procurement and the commissioning of engineering services in various GDR companies were actually the greatest challenge d W50 cylinder head gaskets opened some doors. Most important, however, were the personal contacts with the cooperating companies ”.

The project group "Mobile utilization of biogas" consisted of 6 employees. Heinz Scherbaum and Dipl.-Ing. Siegfried Gärtner. 3 prototypes of vehicles for biogas operation were developed:
• LNG tractor ZT300 with gas diesel engine, switchable from LNG to diesel (Fig. 37)
• LNG truck W50 with gas diesel engine, also switchable (Fig. 38)
• LNG car Polski Fiat with gas-Otto engine, switchable to petrol (Fig. 39)



Fig. 37: LNG tractor ZT300 (biogas plant in the background)

A new gas storage technology was used in Nordhausen, in which the biogas is converted into -161 ° C - cryogenic liquid methane "LNG" (Liquefied Natural Gas) and then stored in vacuum-insulated cryotanks in the vehicle. With the same range or operating time, these cryotanks have only 1/7 the mass of the pressure bottles for compressed biogas or methane "CNG". The LNG tractor achieved an operating time of 11.4 hours when plowing on one tank of fuel. In comparison, the CNG version of the ZT 300 only achieved an operating time of 3.6 hours. Numerous patents have been registered for the tractor concept, the pilot injection engine and the cryotank design. LNG tractors and LNG trucks are technical innovations.



Fig. 38: LNG truck W50

The IFA was an important cooperation partner for the LNG project. Ferdinand Herms developed a gas-diesel version from the 4 VD 14.5 / 12 diesel engine, also known as a pilot injection engine. His colleagues, Dipl.-Ing. Werner Korn and Dipl.-Phys. Andreas Schmelzer played a key role in the development and testing of the LNG-W50. However, nothing would have worked without refrigeration technology Niedersachswerfen (KTN) and its engineers Bernd Röhrreich and Wolfgang Müller. They manufactured the cryotanks for all three LNG vehicles and provided advice on the tank design.



Fig. 39: Polski Fiat LNG car

The biggest problem for testing the LNG vehicles was their supply with LNG / biomethane. Since the biogas plant was not yet in operation in 1984, it had to
Initially, LNG from the noble gas plant in Leuna will be brought in. Then the project team (significantly involved Dipl.-Ing.Bernd Mißbach and Dipl.-Ing. Hinrich Konow) developed their own small-scale plant for natural gas and later for biogas liquefaction (KTAB). The centerpiece of this KTAB was a Soviet-made Stirling cold gas machine of the SIF 1000 type. This SIF 1000 had previously been used in a cop station to generate liquid nitrogen for sperm cooling.

In parallel to the construction and testing of the LNG vehicles, the planning of a large-scale biogas liquefaction plant GTBA was advanced. For this purpose, the company directors Dr. Franz / VEG Tierzucht, Otto Brand / IFA MN and Wolfgang Teichmüller / KTN signed a framework agreement on October 14, 1982. The objective of this was to build a GTBA with a liquefaction capacity of 6000 m3 biogas / d per day, which corresponds to the equivalent of 3600 l / d diesel fuel. For this purpose, a vehicle fleet of 100 tractors or trucks was to be converted to LNG operation. VEB Prowa Dresden was commissioned with the overall project planning. The liquefaction process was developed by VEB KCA (now Linde) Dresden. Basic investigations were carried out at the TU Dresden / science area refrigeration technology. This ambitious large-scale project by the three Nordhausen companies TINO, IFA and KTN was no longer carried out. The change in 1989 made any alternative fuels unattractive. The only thing that still reminds of the project "Mobile utilization of biogas" is the LNG tractor ZT 300. The valuable piece was saved from scrapping by our IFA colleague Bodo Putty. We hope that the "Biogas-ZT" can soon be viewed as an exhibit in the IFA Museum as the rightful owner.

It is not without a certain irony that in these weeks - we are writing the year 2014 - an allegedly future-oriented project for a biomethane plant is being hotly debated in public. EVN has now built this system on the outskirts of Bielen. The biomethane plant planned by TINO / IFA / KTN in the 1980s was already two major process stages ahead of the Bielen project, namely methane liquefaction and its mobile utilization.

In fact, this LNG technology, which was developed in Nordhausen in 1984 (!), Is now, after thirty years, very up-to-date in Germany. Among the large number of recent LNG activities, only one study from 2011 entitled "LNG as an alternative fuel ... for commercial vehicles" should be mentioned. The client is the BMVI (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure). The study was carried out by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) with various institutes as subcontractors. But there is no literature reference in the DLR study on the GDR state plan topic "Mobile utilization of biogas"! Various publications on these LNG results from 1984 including a dissertation and a habilitation thesis would have been available to the colleagues at DLR and its subcontractors. Substantial research funds could have been saved. When the IFA Museum presented the LNG tractor ZT300 at AGRITECHNICA 2013 in Hanover, there was a real "run" on this exhibit.

VEG Tierzucht was one of the few businesses in Nordhausen that survived the fall of the Wall. Thanks to Henry Van Asten and his experienced advisor Dr. Friedhelm Etzrodt, VAN ASTEN Tierzucht GmbH is in good shape again today with its 170 employees in the four Thuringian companies. The old biogas plant from the 1980s is back in operation and has been significantly expanded. In 2014, the Van Asten companies in Thuringia installed biogas engine-powered combined heat and power plants with a total electrical output of 6 MW. This makes Van Asten the largest electricity producer from biogas in Thuringia.

The IFA engine factory after the fall of the Berlin Wall

One can say without exaggeration that the VEB IFA MN with its modern production, with world-marketable engines and with a highly qualified engineer and skilled workforce was "well positioned" in every respect. So they looked forward to reunification and the market economy with optimism.

On July 1, 1990, VEB IFA MN became "IFA Motorenwerke Nordhausen GmbH". Bicycle and valve production are each separate GmbH.Daimler Benz had already expressed its interest in a possible takeover of IFA beforehand. DB was given insight into all documents, such as personnel and production structure, site plans and technical development status. Dieter Nobis, a former works council member in his 1992 report: “The insight was total and so was the result. The professional managers had recognized: the head (final producer) is cut off and the body (supplier) is no longer viable. ”Whether the Stuttgart-based company actually pursued this ice-cold strategy with the IFA remains to be seen. The fact, however: In August 1990 the Mercedes-IFA truck L60 1318 came to an end. With this, Daimler Benz suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew its commitment to the Ludwigsfeld truck factory and to take over the Nordhausen engine factory. This meant that IFA's largest client had collapsed.
The Treuhand is now demanding viable business concepts from independent business consultants. One concept after the other is drawn up by two consulting firms that cost over DM 1 million to run. Advisors also come from federal politics, such as State Secretary Dr. Günther Krause and recommend the re-profiling to green environmental technology, primarily to vegetable oil engines. The big rapeseed oil era was about to begin.

The Supervisory Board is constituted in April 1991. In June 1991 the trust continues
Dr. Rottmann from the west as the new managing director. Dying by installments begins. 800 employees are laid off in one fell swoop. For 920 employees, zero working hours will be assigned from October. Contemporary witness Dieter Nobis also takes the Nordhausen local politicians into court: “Sad but true. The activities of the municipality for the preservation of the industrial site are more than meager. The local politicians have not understood that without industry the sack of the local authority will remain empty. ”In March 1992, as D. Nobis reports, a generous social plan, which is almost unique for Thuringia, was drawn up to“ take the wind out of the sails ”for employees. Another 1,800 (!) Employees are now being dismissed. In May 1992 it was decided that the company should shrink to 100 to 150 employees. The production halls and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities are being sold at bargain prices.

On April 1st, 1993 the privatization of this actually no longer viable residual IFA. The new company name: "Thüringer Motorenwerke GmbH Nordhausen" (TMW). No less than 110 employees of the former 4,375 IFA runners remain at TMW. With vegetable oil engines, gas engines and CHP systems, the TMW can hold its own astonishingly well on the market for some time. At some point, however, the reserves of shortened engines and engine components of the engines 14.5 / 12 and 13.5 / 12 from the IFA era will be exhausted. In 1997 the final end for the TMW came.

Fortunately, the former IFA factory site has developed into a sizable IFA industrial park with 57 companies and over 700 employees. Including the company ADAPT, which was founded in 1993 by our club friend Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Herms and Dipl. Ing. Horst Sülzle was founded. Furthermore, the IMG was founded in 1995 at Salza 8a, at the former location of the investment department, by the former operations director Otto Brand. 30 former IFA runners found a new job at the IMG. Another new establishment at the IFA location is the IKL by its managing director Achim Port. The IFA-Museum Nordhausen e.V has existed in the former IFA-Kulturhaus since 11.09.2011, which documents the 100-year history of the IFA location with a permanent exhibition of historical motor locomotives, tractors and engines.


“Was the downfall of the IFA inevitable?” Of course, hindsight is always smarter. Nevertheless, there are some mistakes and omissions:
  • Rely on help "from above" like Daimler and Dr. Leaving Krause & Co was naive and frivolous. Could one really assume that Daimler will lay off thousands of employees in its Mannheim engine plant in order to take over the largest diesel engine plant in East Germany with the IFA?
  • As has been successfully done at other East German industrial locations, contact should have been made immediately with the most important "global players" in the field of commercial vehicle engines. Companies like Daimler and MAN would only have been able to "get moving" with these major international competitors.
  • In Nordhausen there was a lack of personalities in local politics and business who had the right connections. Important experts in the IFA, who would have been trusted to take the necessary initiatives, left the IFA in 1990 for various reasons.
  • A mistake in big politics had a fatal effect on deindustrialization in East Germany: With generous severance payments and early retirement arrangements, a large part of the generation of engineers was practically lured into retirement for a whole decade. They and sometimes they were no longer trusted to make a new entry into the market economy. A momentous mistake! As it turned out, the engineers and skilled workers from the GDR were at least as good as their Western colleagues in terms of training and motivation. What engineering knowledge could the early retirees, who were so unnecessarily supported by the social systems, have brought in and created new jobs! The sudden loss of responsibility has not always had a positive effect on the health of those concerned.

Swell: