Consider the following scenario: You have been standing in front of the closed gate at the local level crossing for five minutes. A commuter train and a cargo train have already passed, but the gates seem unimpressed by what has happened so far and are still not lifting. Suddenly, a small, humpbacked vehicle approaches.

A Volkswagen T1 trolleybus rolls leisurely past you. The previous impatience dissolves into pleasure. The corners of your mouth will also form into a smile - or will they? Even in the wild, a T1 provides an immediate, cosy and warm feeling but on the railway? Rather extraordinary.

Gallery: VW T1 van without steering wheel for the train tracks

The specialists at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Oldtimer (VWNO) have announced the recommissioning of the Klv-20, a bite-sized abbreviation for the rather unwieldy term "small car with combustion engine". For the upcoming event "Bulli & Coffee" on 2 June 2024 in Hanover on the occasion of the "International VW Bus Day", VW has restored the "Draisinen Bulli" without steering wheel from 1955 and is now presenting it as an illustrious newcomer to the VWNO collection.

This somewhat special VW bus only travelled on rails. In 1954, the German Federal Railway or Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) had to purchase new compact service vehicles for the tracks. However, instead of developing something new, the post-war period was characterised by pragmatic thinking. The company simply combined the popular transporter with a railway chassis.

VW Ur-Bulli without steering wheel for the track

Without further ado, two companies were commissioned to build the Klv-20: Martin Beilhack (Rosenheim) and Waggon- and Maschinenbau GmbH Donauwörth. They each built 15 Transporters for rail transport within a year. The vehicle shown is from the Beilhack conversion company.

For around 20 years, these vehicles were used for inspection and repair work by railway and signalling authorities before they were decommissioned in the 1970s. The Klv-20 is now one of only a few vehicles still in running order. Tobias Twele from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Oldtimer describes the first trip along the trolley line in Lengenfeld unterm Stein as follows:

"There aren't many variants of the Bulli that we haven't seen or driven before - this trolley is definitely one of them. That's why it was a very emotional moment for us when we drove over the 24 metre high viaduct with the team for the first time.

In total, we travelled over 32 kilometres on the tracks on our first trip, five kilometres of which were through tunnels, and we climbed 154 metres in altitude. We crossed the impressive 244 metre long Lengenfeld viaduct countless times."

VW Ur-Bulli without steering wheel for the track

The Klv-20 is powered by a Volkswagen industrial engine with 28 PS. This was integrated into a chassis with a hydraulic lifting and turning device. With this, only one person should be needed to lift the tracked van on the spot, turn it and put it back on track, instead of having to reverse to the starting point. What a flexible little fellow. The Transporter body was put over and adapted to the regulations for railway traffic.

The history of the Klv-20 is also well documented. Its first place of use was the Plattling railway depot in Bavaria. After retirement in the 1970s, it travelled via the Palatinate to where it was acquired by a railway collector in Hesse in 1988. The trolleybus is now part of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Oldtimer collection in Hanover.

So the next time you are impatient at a railway crossing, keep your composure. After all, a Transporter without a steering wheel could come chugging past and sweeten your day with the sight of it.