In the 1930s, the German steam locomotive industry found itself increasingly under pressure from modern express DMUs. Starting in 1933, Henschel designed the Henschel-Wegmann train, in which both the locomotive and the four passenger cars were streamlined. The class 61 tank locomotive developed for this purpose was only produced twice in different versions, but it proved its efficiency and would probably have been mass-produced without the outbreak of war.
The 61 001, completed in 1935, was a 4-6-4T engine with two cylinders, designed to be as light as possible. For example, the supplies were just large enough to bridge the planned route from Berlin to Dresden. The design as a tank locomotive was chosen so that it could be placed onto the other end of the train at the end of the route without turning, so as not to have too great a disadvantage compared to the express DMUs in this respect. A special feature was the paintwork, which was silver-cream-violet in the same colors as the cars.
Instead of the usual long-tube boiler, a boiler based on Robert Garbe's principle was used, which provided for a long and narrow firebox. When using the usual alloys, this enabled a pressure of 20 bars and also withstood very high evaporation rates for certain time spans without damage. With the 2,300 mm large driving wheels, the locomotive reached up to 185 km/h, so that it was certified for 175 km/h.
Although 61 001 proved to be very efficient, the two-cylinder powerplant resulted in rough running at high speeds. For this reason, road number 61 002 was built in 1939, which had three cylinders. In addition, the rear bogie was extended to three axles in order to be able to increase the slightly too small supplies.
The cars, which were also lightweight and approved for speeds of 160 km/h, could cover the 176 km route Berlin – Dresden in just 108 minutes, which under today's conditions takes more than two hours. The train was able to reach its top speed with the four cars within six minutes. After a break from the beginning of the war, the 001 was only used as a heating locomotive, but the 002 was used again for express service from the end of 1940.
After the war, road number 61 001 came to the Bundesbahn, where the one-off was stationed in Bebra and, after the cladding was removed, was used until an accident in 1951. After that it was not refurbished and scrapped in 1957.
Road number 61 002 stayed with the Reichsbahn in Dresden and was increasingly used there for test runs at high speeds, since the repairs were too expensive for regular traffic. In 1961 it was converted to a tank locomotive, road number 18 201, which received a new boiler and parts of the test engine H 45 024. It reached speeds of up to 182.5 km/h and is still in regular use today.