After decades of procurement of the six-coupled freight locomotive of class VII a (previously X d), the Karlsruhe mechanical engineering company developed the VII d as a successor model. In line with the general trend in the 1990s, the new locomotive had a two-cylinder compound engine.
The first delivery from MBG Karlsruhe consisted of only two locomotives. These had a Belpaire firebox and inside valve gear, but the production locomotives used a Crampton boiler and the usual outside Heusinger valve gear.
A total of 59 units were delivered from Karlsruhe, but there were also 34 more from Maffei and 16 from Maschinenfabrik Esslingen. The model was initially the most powerful six-coupled freight locomotive in Germany. On the main line of the Baden State Railway, which has a gradient of 0.53 percent over a length of 6 km, freight trains weighing 500 to 630 tonnes could be transported at 20 to 30 km/h. However, as time progressed and more powerful locomotives appeared, the use of the VII d increasingly shifted to level routes.
In the preliminary renumbering plan of the Reichsbahn, the VII d was still listed as the series 5386 and 539, but it met the same fate as other older freight locomotives. With its low speed, it was no longer suitable for local freight trains and tank locomotives were preferred for shunting service. Thus, all engines were decommissioned by 1925 and not a single one got the new numbering.