The two-car express railcar with the operating number 877 is considered to be the prototype of the “Flying Trains” of the SVT 137 series. The Kruckenberg rail zeppelin, completed in 1930, attracted a great deal of attention in the world public, but with its propeller and low capacity it was by no means suitable for everyday use. Thus, the SVT 877 was created as usual with drive via the wheels, whereby SVT stood for “Schneller Verbrennungsmotor-Triebwagen” (Fast Internal Combustion Engine Railcar). It was also known as the “Flying Hamburger” and served directly as a template for the production models of the SVT 137 Hamburg design.
The vehicle consisted of two permanently coupled parts, each of which had a non-powered bogie at its front end and rested on a common, powered Jakobs bogie in the middle. It was the first streamlined rail vehicle in the world and also the first whose body was developed in a wind tunnel. It can be distinguished from the later series of railcars by the roof that is pulled down at the ends.
A diesel-electric powertrain was developed jointly by Maybach and Siemens-Schuckert-Werke for propulsion. This consisted of a 302 kW Maybach GO 5 diesel engine for each half of the vehicle, which each drove an axle of the middle bogie with a suspension traction motor. In addition to the too small crankcase, the mounting of the engines caused problems, since they were mounted within the motor bogie and were therefore insufficiently dampened. In the later vehicles, these shortcomings were countered by revised engines and mounting them in the car bodies.
A speed of up to 175 km/h could be reached during test drives, and certification was given for 160 km/h. In order to be able to brake the vehicle quickly enough at these speeds, a new type of magnetic rail brake was installed. In addition, the air brakes did not work on brake pads on the running surfaces of the wheels, but were designed with drum brakes. The stopping distance from top speed to standstill was 800 meters. On December 19, 1932, the “Flying Dutchman” set a new speed record of 142 minutes on the 286 km route between the Lehrter train station in Berlin and the Hamburg main train station. In planned use, this distance was covered in four minutes less. Regular operations initially ended in August 1939.
After the war, the vehicle was used in France for four years and returned to the Bundesbahn in 1949. There it was modernized and equipped with Scharfenberg couplings. From now on, the vehicle, now designated VT 04 000, could be used together with its successors, which were also designated VT 04. It was decommissioned in 1957 and today only half of one of the two car bodies remains in the DB Museum in Nuremberg.