How are your Czech language skills? Not particularly brilliant? Mine neither! Nevertheless I did hope that the Czech word “Laminátka” would be some sort of cognate to the English adjective “laminated”. Surprisingly it indeed was. You may wonder what in the world this has got to do with trains. Well, this:

Behold the world’s first locomotive made out of plastic:

CSD ( Československé státní dráhy) Class 240/499 Electric Locomotive                       Photo by Martin Hlauka.

Produced by Škoda in Plzeń, Czechoslovakia, starting in 1966, the locomotive body was manufactured from glass fiber reinforced plastics. Apparently using this material was an experiment on Škoda’s part and was abandoned after about 95 locomotives had been built. A production run of another fifty locomotives of the type followed, but were produced using steel bodies. I can not find anything on the Internet on why the glass fiber reinforced plastic method was discontinued (at least not in English or German). Anecdotely this material seems to be ideally suited for the railroad environment. It is very corrosion resistant, virtually maintenance free and has a high tensile strength, as well as a high energy absorption rate. It can also by easily molded into just about any shape. Given the looks of this locomotive that may have been one of the reasons for trying it.

I would be very interested to know if anybody has any more information about this. Please leave any insights and comments in the comment box on the bottom of the page.

Two of the “Laminâtka” pulling a freight service.                                                                                                                                                    Photo by Juraj Streber

Here are a few technical details regarding this class just for the real foamers among us. Straight from Wikipedia.


One can argue about the esthetics here, but it definitely is an interesting looking locomotive. I certainly find it eyecatching. As somebody already said in the 3rd century B.C. ” beauty is in the eye of the beholder…” or, as English dramatist John Lyly said in 1588: “…as neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose, as the stalke to the rynde, as the earth to the roote.” Apparently PIKO Spielwaren GmbH thought so too. Just a few weeks ago PIKO shipped an HO model of the CSD Class 499. I received mine just last week from Reynauld’s European Trains. It is a beauty.

Photo by PIKO Spielwaren GmbH

My model came with a DCC decoder and sound ex-factory. The detail is extraordinary. Even the underside of the model is highly detailed:

The printing and the color separation is superb:

The locomotive roof has two functioning pantographs. The loco can run with power from the rails or through the pantographs. Of course, with a built in DCC decoder, running power through the pantographs is not advisable and also not necessary.

The cab ends have the windshield wipers already attached, as well as the brake hoses, draft gear and electrical connectors. Some of the other HO model train manufacturers do not do that, probably to save a few pennies. I like it since I always have a devil of a time attaching those things to a model and usually make a mess of it:

The model has extensive light functions. The head lights can be switched to a “bright” light setting or to a “dim” setting. The third headlight above the cab can be separately switched on. The cab interiors also can be illuminated, so can the machine room as seen through the six windows on the top of the locomotive body. Red tail lights will be lit, depending on the direction of the locomotive. The loco also has running gear illumination.

Close coupling mechanisms are standard. The couplers can easily be changed to the manufacturer of one’s choice, since the coupler pockets are NEM standard.  Particularly in terms of coupler mechanisms I wish US manufacturers would finally get their act together and adopt a similar standard.

The locomotive runs well, but like so many other sound equipped train models the noise gets to be annoying after a while. Fortunately, it can be toggled on or off by pushing F8 on one’s DCC controller.

I have included a link to a video from PIKO. Not surprisingly it is in German only: PIKO video. 

Here is one of my videos. It was done with my phone — sorry about having my finger on the lens:


















All photos by Ralf Meier, unless otherwise attributed (Sony a7C and iPhone 12 Plus)


  1. Zdenek says:

    Under this link you can find quite comprehensive article about Laminatka with many photos, unfortunately for you, in Czech language. Perhaps google translator can help. Or i can help with some details as i’m native Czech however i’m very weak in English railway terminology. This is my favorite locomotive as i grew up close to railway these locomotives run. I like its design. These locomotives still can be seen on railways around Brno but unfortunately it all belong to CD cargo company now so it is no more running trains with people and the company repainting it to company’s blue color design that completely destroys locomotive’s genius loci.

    • Trainphilos says:

      Thank you for the information. I am going to run it through Google Translate and we will see what happens. I do totally agree with you that the original livery scheme is really looking nice. Blue just does not do the locomotive justice!

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