The Henschel HS 160 was one of the more popular urban transit coaches during the post-war period in old West Germany. It shared many innovations with its North American counterpart at the time, the GM Old Look bus. Both used a stressed steel semi-monocoque body with aluminum panels to save weight, and incorporated a variable air suspension system versus stiff-riding steel springs. It differed, however, in the broad number of variations offered (diesel, trolley, articulated, and touring).
Henschel and Sons was one of Germany’s oldest transportation conglomerates. It began manufacturing railcars in the 1840’s, and by the beginning of the twentieth century was the largest provider of steam locomotives in Germany. In 1925 it began constructing trucks and buses. During the war, in addition to various rail assets, heavy-duty trucks and half-tracks, it was one of two companies building the feared Tiger tank. It also branched out into aviation, with perhaps its HS 129 ground attack aircraft being its most noted model.
After the war, it refocused on trucks, buses, and railway applications. The 160 was a follow-on to its first post-war model, the HS 100 bus. The 160 came in standard European sizes; either 11 or 12 meters (36 or 39 ft) in length and 2.5 meters wide, with front, middle, and rear doors. The diesel model used a 9.3 liter (567 cu in) Henschel 6U 1115 inline six cylinder mounted underfloor (on its side) putting out 158 hp, with a ZF six-speed manual transmission.
The popular trolley bus came in the same sizes, with a Siemens 120 KW electric motor using 550-750 volts DC.
A larger articulated model was introduced in 1958, with an overall length of 16.5 meters (51 ft). Carrying capacity was 50 seated, 120 seated and standing. Several of the trolley bus artic versions in the Trier area were re-engined with diesels when trolley service was discontinued in 1970, and continued to provide many more years of service.
As was typical in Europe, an intercity touring model was developed off the main urban transit platform.
This nicely restored model currently resides at a museum in Dortmund.
While discontinued in 1963, HS 160’s were a familiar sight on German straße throughout the 1970’s with one remaining in service until 1992!
I remember these from a visit to Esslingen/N in those days “West Germany”.
I recall Buessing buses in the O-bus fleet there too, but never rode on one. Looks like your title photo may be a bus in the Esslingen fleet, judging by the destination sign.
I recall the soft and quiet ride ( reminded me of the Mack C series) and also asked myself “Why can’t we have this in the USA?”
There is an interesting website at http://www.obus-es.de/.
I had a very similar reaction the first time I went to Frankfurt and realised the periodic hushed whooshing I heard outside my hotel room window was a transit train turning a corner. Back home, such a train turning a corner involved (and still involves) hair-raising, ear-grating grinding and squawking. Same when I went walking down the street and (barely) heard the very quiet diesel trucks and buses, which brought to mind American makers’ insistent bleating that noise standards are just physically, technically impossible to meet.
You’re saying that the trams in Europe negotiate tight urban turns quieter than ones in America? Really? I can’t begin to imagine how that might be. The technology is essentially the same.
My memories of European cities (prior to very recent years) is the overwhelming and pervasive smell (and soot) of diesel exhaust. And the noisy and smelly diesel trucks and cars everywhere. There’s a very good reason many cities have banned diesels from city cores, or allow only those with the most recent levels of emission/particulate controls.
Also, given the nature of European cities in their cores, they were very noisy because the noise from cars and trucks reverberated off the masonry buildings so close to the streets.
I have vivid memories of the very loud exhausts of Alfas and other cars with sport exhausts driven aggressively on the streets of Innsbruck at night when it was warm and we had the windows open.
The last time we were in Paris we struggled a bit with noise levels in our Airbnb because it was warm and we had our windows open. The bars and sidewalk cafes down below didn’t help either.
I suspect the hotel you stayed in had triple-pane windows, which are not only more energy efficient, but reduce noise levels considerably. And that they were tightly shut.
I always note how relatively quiet it is when returning to the US. 🙂
Yup, I’m sayin’. The hotel I stayed at didn’t have triple glazing—and it wouldn’t’ve mattered; it was a nice day out and I had the window open. I went out and stood there watching and listening to the trams go round the corner. It was a giant contrast to similar trams in Toronto, where I lived at the time. Then I noticed those amazingly quiet trams I was marvelling at were made by Bombardier, the same (Canadian) company who made the ones in Toronto!
Yes, European cities used to reek of diesel exhaust (and British ones of coal, in winter). That’s all gone now, at least from the ones I’ve been to. Huge improvement since the mid-’90s.
Could there be a difference in the rail track curve tightness/gauge tolerance that could account for the noise variances?
If it aint the trains, must it not be the tracks?
I’m not prepared to say it ain’t the trains. Maybe different wheels or ???
The curves seemed comparable to those back home.
It depends, but where I lived in Vienna (the notorious 15th Quarter) the trams were not particularly quiet but after a while one got used to them as background noise. Certainly the older Type Es were louder than the SGP/Siemens ULF (Ultra Low Floor). No idea about the new Bombardier Flexity Vienna (specially developed for the Vienna Lines), I left in 2015 before those were introduced. Oh and when I lived there we had the odd fart can-equipped Honda Civic, the local pimp with his AMG MB and other assorted loud boys.
We didn’t have these in Innsbruck, but I remember seeing them in Munich, and as scale models.
Another great biography Jim. For riders, big windows and thin pillars, are always a huge plus.
Put an up-to-date nose on this design, and it would have looked modern into the 1970s.
These have a very nice rounded streamline look that’s not over done. They just knocked the edges off and designed the headlights appear to emerging. As for the perceived sound difference in Germany vs US. My bet is the germans followed a more rigorous and strictly adhered to maintenance schedule. Just my two cents.
As a son of German immigrants, I noticed my parents placed a lot of value on training die kinder to strictly follow schedules. American parents seemed so much more relaxed about such things. I was always a bit envious at the greater freedom my friends seemed to enjoy. Made me a bit rebellious at home. Then I joined the Army. LOL.
Another good looking bus .
American railcar “knuckle” couplers are likely much noisier than the European buffer and chain style. European tracks are likely to be in better condition too.
Another neat looking and well engineered bus, which only made it tot he UK with the passengers already in it.
Thanks for the write up and photos