The Park of Military History Pivka in Slovenia, which deals with the preservation and presentation of military-historical heritage with an emphasis on military technology, is one of the most visited museums in Slovenia. As the Helios Group knows the importance of preserving tradition and heritage, we responded to the request for assistance in restoring a railway composition from the Second World War, with steam locomotive type 33-110 at the front. As a specialist for coating systems for the railway industry, we did what we do best – to ensure that memories from history will long be visible in all their glory and colours.

The largest and heaviest exhibit in the Park of Military History

The locomotive, weighing 140 tonnes and measuring 23 m in length, was designed for the needs of the German army in 1943. Following the liberation, it was used for civilian transportation along Slovenian tracks, where it served until 11th April 1978, when it ended its steam traction period in the Slovenian railway hub with a celebratory ride from Ljubljana to Postojna. From then until May 2016, when it was brought to the Park, it was languishing in front of the Štanjel railway station.

Locomotive type 33-110 from 1943 before the restoration. Photo: Park of Military History Pivka

Helios ensures functional and lasting protection

The restoration of the locomotive’s corrosion protection was an interesting professional challenge. From the very beginning, the management of the Park together with the Railway Museum of the Slovenian Railways decided that the locomotive should not be restored to its original state by using materials as close to the original as possible; rather, the choice of materials was left to the Helios experts, with the aim of ensuring functional and durable protection. The question of design however, remained open. It was assumed that originally, the locomotive was dark grey with only the most essential markings in while, and not black with red and white decorative borders, as most of us envisage.

Of course, a museum exhibit cannot be restored solely on the basis of assumptions. Consequently, we took a series of probes of applied coatings on the locomotive and tender, and analysed them using microscopy in the Helios Physical Analytical Laboratory. It turned out that the original paint was present in at least some parts of the locomotive: dark grey coating in the shade RAL 7021 and an oxide red base. On the tender, there was a base in the shade RAL 9007, which was developed before WWII specifically for the German Railways’ anti-corrosion programme. The history of the locomotive’s restoration is also evident from the analysis. During the overhaul, they applied a layer of base and cover coating on the existing coatings, so that in places coatings a few centimetres thick accumulated.

Microscopic analysis of the tender (left) and locomotive (right).

The challenging and time-consuming restoration of the locomotive

According to Helios prescribed technology, the restoration of the locomotive was carried out by Granos d.o.o., a well-established corrosion protection operator for Slovenian Railways. Owing to the unfavourable weather in late autumn, when the restoration was carried out, the locomotive was sealed in a tent and sanded, and temporarily protected with the coating Shop primer E, 30 μm thick. Upon completion of the metalwork, a protective system was applied: a modern epoxy base in the very highly dry substance HELIOS 2K base E Zp HB, 100-150 μm thick, and cover coating Rezistol 2K PUR in the shade RAL 7021, 50-60 μm thick. The restoration of the locomotive finished this year with the manual application of white markings. In spring, in Ljubljana, they also started the restoration of two freight wagons, complementing the locomotive and thus forming a true military railway composition.

A ceremony in honour of the black beauty’s restoration

The railway composition was ceremoniously handed over to the museum on 14th September 2017.  It represents an important turning point in the Park of Military History’s development, as with such an important exhibit, it can now be ranked equally alongside large world military museums. The speaker at the ceremony was the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, Mrs. Andreja Katič, and a special honour was given to the Helios Group, as the gathered military, technical and railway heritage enthusiasts were addressed by Mr. Hubert Culik, CEO of the Helios Group. On the occasion, he said:

There is no future without knowledge of the past. We must therefore carefully handle the remnants of history and preserve our heritage. For the Helios Group as a major European coatings company and specialist in coating systems for the rail industry, it was our duty to come to the aid of such a project. I am proud of our experts, who carried out extensive analyses of previous coatings on the railway composition and proposed new functional and lasting protection.

Mr. Hubert Culik, CEO of the Helios Group at the opening ceremony of the railway composition in Pivka. Photo: dr. Miha Steinbücher
Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia Mrs. Andreja Katič and Mr. Hubert Culik, CEO of the Helios Group, at the ribbon cutting. Photo: dr. Miha Steinbücher