In the mid 1930"s competition threatened the steam locomotive: Fast, diesel-powered rail cars dominated high-quality long-distance travel. Consequently, the steam locomotive industry produced modern, high-performance locomotives that reached speeds of up to 200 km/h or 125 mph. The German State Railroad bought a whole train for service between Berlin and Dresden. It was pulled by the class 61. Henschel built two prototypes of this class with totally different designs. Road no. 61 001 had a 4-6-4T wheel arrangement and two-cylinder running gear. Road no. 61 002 was built in 1939, and the German State Railroad equipped it with an additional trailing truck axle and cylinder. Naturally, both locomotives had streamlined bodies.
While other streamlined locomotives hauled conventional trains, the German State Railroad placed special streamlined cars in service for express train service between Berlin and Dresden. They were built by Wegmann, like Henschel, a company based in Kassel. Interestingly enough, there were no cars with 1st class seating. To compensate, 2nd class had a comfort level like 1st class according to the press. The appellation "salon car" ("parlor car" in the USA) was totally justified. The first and last cars both had a rounded end with large panorama windows. Passengers in the last car were thus offered an excellent view of the route the train had just passed over.
When the 1936 summer timetable went into effect, the German State Railroad started express service between Prussia and Saxony. Two pairs of trains were run daily. The fastest train completed the journey in one hour and 40 minutes. At this speed it surpassed the previous record holder by 28 minutes. In the afternoon, however, the turnaround time between the D 54 and D 57 was tight at only 32 minutes. The German State Railroad also had to consider that replacement locomotives of other classes did not reach the top speed of the class 61. If the class 61 was not available due to scheduled or non-scheduled service, class 01 or 03 Pacifics assigned to Dresden took over the consists. Instead of 175 km/h or 109 mph, these locomotives only reached 130 to 140 km/h or 81 to 87 mph. Consequently, the German State Railroad soon loosened up the timetable slightly.
Express train service ended, when the war started. From that point the cars served the military, the locomotives spent most of their time inactive. At the end of the war road no. 61 001 remained in the British Zone. By 1951 it was stored as a fragment class. In 1952, it was taken out of service, and it was scrapped in 1957. Road no. 61 002 became part of the German State Railroad of the Soviet Zone. It hauled passenger and express trains out of Dresden. After it was retired in 1958, its main frame, pilot truck wheels and driving wheels remained intact in the high-speed experimental locomotive, road no. 18201.