These pages comprise articles from the 'Notebooks' compiled
by Charlie Hulme in the 1990s, mostly translated and edited articles
from Swiss books and magazines.
They appeared in printed, and latterly also e-mailed form, as the Web hardly existed at the time. We have converted them to this format, as they chronicle an especially interesting period in railway history, and also include useful histories of various lines.
Swiss Manchester Notebook June 1990
Luxury for the MOB
from EZ 3/90, by D. Piron
On May 1st 1906 the Montreux Oberland Bernois railway placed in service the first metre-gauge restaurant car, running only during the summer season. This vehicle was owned annd operated by the Swiss Restaurant Car Company (SSG), but in 1914 two Salon cars were built by the MOB company. AB4 no. 75 had 18 1st-class and 18 2nd-class seats, while A4 no. 83 had 36 first-class. Both cars had sheet steel bodies, divided into two large compartments with a centre gangway, and weighed 18.2 and 16.8 tonnes respectively. The AB coach was notable for its centre toilet with oval windows, a design which later appeared on standard-gauge Pullman cars.
Golden Mountain Pullman Express
Mitropa, the German equivalent of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits et des Grands Expresses Européens (CIWL) was, in the years after World War I, almost unscrupulous in its attempts to extend its operating territory outside Germany. They had already succeeded in securing the contract for the RhB and Berninabahn restaurant car services, and were negotiating with the MOB. The CIWL responded with the introduction of the famous Golden Mountain Pullman Express. This impressive description came from the name given by rich English tourists to the journey from Montreux through Interlaken to Lucerne. The service began on 14 June 1931, operating between Interlaken Ost and Montreux with Pullman Cars on both standard and metre gauge sections. The standard gauge cars were CIWL nos. 2444 - 2446, Pullmans with teak inner panelling which since 1926 had been reserve cars for the Süd Express, repainted in blue and cream for their new Swiss duties. Cross-platform connection was arranged at Zweisimmen, and the timetable was as follows: Montreux dep. 11.10, Zweisimmen dep. 13.33, Interlaken Ost arr. 15.07, with equivalent timings in the opposite direction. Despite an intensive advertising campaign, however, traffic did not match up to expectations, no doubt due to the world financial crisis, and operation ceased on 15 September that year. In summer 1932, the train ran only as required, and in September 1932 the project was abandoned.
The MOB Pullmans
Six narrow gauge coaches were used on the Golden Mountain. A4 no. 83 was rebuilt in the MOB workshops with Pullman-style interior decor and became AB4ü no. 101. The second MOB salon car was also rebuilt, becoming AB4ü 102, this time with the famous bay-windows. The four other cars, AB4ü 103 - 106, were built new with bay windows in 1931 for the CIWL by SIG at Neuhausen. These cars had oval-windowed toilets at each end, rather that in the centre as in no.102. All had steel-panelled wooden-framed bodies and were painted blue and cream. The lower panels carried the names of the CIWL and the train in yellow and a CIWL monogram. The normal train formation was two of the CIWL Pullmans (103 - 106) attached to one MOB restaurant car, two trains being in service simultaneously, one in each direction. The two MOB salons, 101 and 102, acted as reserves. Some days, however, such as the opening day, the train loaded to four Pullmans.
The MOB railcars of the day had to run in pairs to haul a train such as the GMP, so it was decided to order two locomotives with baggage compartments specially for Pullman use, which appeared as FZe 6/6 (now DZe 6/6) Nos. 2001 and 2002. They were unusual in having two-part articulated bodies carried on three four-wheeled bogies. They included seating for staff, baggage and postal space and a toilet. Livery was blue and cream to match the Pullmans - standard MOB colours at the time were grey and cream. They weighed 63 tonnes tare, and had a power output of about 1100 HP when running on 850V DC at a maxiumum speed of 55 km/h. There has always been some confusion over what distinguishes a railcar (Triebwagen) from a locomotive - 2001/2 certainly look like locomotives, although they have always been classified in the Swiss numbering system as railcars. Their modern sisters on the MOB, nos. 6001-4, however, are classed as narrow gauge locomotives (Ge) even though they also have a parcels compartment. The new SBB S-Bahn units also have a (small) parcels section but they are definitely known as Re 4/4 (now 450 in the new system) locomotives.
Later history of the GMP trains
Cars 103 - 106 were used sporadically by the
MOB until 1939 when the CIWL sold them to the Rhaetian Railway, which
painted them in
bottle-green and cream (altered in 1968 to red-orange and cream) and
numbered them A 1141 - 1144. They worked with salon car A 1161 which
was already owned by the RhB, at various times as part of the
Engadin-Express and the Rhätia-Pullman; these days they are
charter by parties. Changes have been made over the years; the doors
have been replaced by standard RhB types and the original interior
decor has unfortunately been altered to a less luxurious style. Cars
101 and 102 remained in MOB service, used for special charters. The
Mountain" lettering was kept, with the CIWL name replaced by that of
the MOB, and in 1968 101 was equipped with a bar. Since World War II
famous names such as Michèle Morgan, Lord Montgomery, the
Queen of the Netherlands and the Prince of Monaco have ridden these
cars on their way to Gstaad, Saanen or Schönried.
Recently, no. 102 has been restored to almost exactly its 1931 condition with CIWL markings and a reproduction of its original interior. It may be chartered either attached to a service train or as a complete train with equally historic car As 101 and powered by a De 6/6; both these power units are still in service today in almost unaltered condition, having given good service on freight and livestock trains in later years.
Wishing to give its passengers the best possible view of the line's magnificent scenery, the MOB ordered in 1976 a prototype panoramic car, notable for full air-conditioning and the windows in the roof. The vehicle was so successful that the management decided to build a complete train. Designed and built by the MOB itself, the cars were funded from the company's own resources.
In 1979, the Panoramic Express, formed of two first and two second class panoramic cars, began daily operation from Montreux via Zweisimmen to Lenk and return. Passengers were so enthusiastic about the new train that the company resolved to build another set of coaches as quickly as possible - by 1982 a second train was ready. The commissioning of the new "locomotives with baggage section", type GDe 4/4, the following year allowed the train length to be increased to five cars and two further cars were constructed for the purpose. Although all the panoramic cars look superficially identical, in fact there have been a number of improvements over the years in both engineering and interior decoration. One car, delivered in late 1989, is fitted with prototype bogies from SIG intended to greatly improve the ride and new electrical circuits designed to be compatible with SBB Brünig line coaches as well as those of the MOB. This is in anticipation of the planned through running between the two lines via a third rail which is proposed to be laid in the standard-gauge line between Zweisimmen and Interlaken.
The MOB's next achievement, the Superpanoramic Express, is the "four-star establishment" of the rails. Providing 90 seats in first class only, it was initially formed of a "Grande Vue" observation car, a salon/bar car and a motorcoach. The observation cars have passenger observation windows in their outer ends as well as the usual panorama features. The driving cab is above, the cab roof being 2.08 m above rail level, so that passenger observation saloon can have end windows. Various closed-circuit TV cameras are provided to assist the driver in shunting manoeuvres; one each side and one on the front between the headlights. These cameras are electrically heated to ensure that they work in bad weather.
The salon car has a particularly warm and initimate atmosphere. It has a bar with ten seats and a large lounge with armchairs and small tables which can accomodate up to 44 people. Equipment to play taped music is provided. The train is propelled by a lightweight railcar which also serves as baggage space. This exceptional train has an exceptional crew - each of the three (driver, conductor, bar-tender) is as important as the other! Each passenger on timetabled runs is offered a free drink. From its first season, summer 1985, four timetabled runs were made each Saturday and Sunday between Montreux and Zweisimmen, the train being used for charter service on weekdays. Now anyone could run his own metre-gauge "dream-train" if he could afford the minimum of 40 first-class fares plus a reasonable handling charge.
This prototype Superpanoramic ran reliably for over a year, generating a considerable increase in traffic. On 28 May 1986, an enlarged version of the train was shown to the press; this was formed Driving-trailer + Salon Car + 2 Power cars + Salon Car + Driving-trailer, providing 212 first-class seats. But the MOB was not content with its new creation: the train was given a new attraction which surprised even the most apathetic traveller - A Swiss chalet on wheels, with its typical windows and arcades! This attraction, installed in the centre part of the train, was built in collaboration with the Nestlé company. Every Wednesday in the Summer the Superpanoramic becomes the "Chocolate-Express" and offers a feast for the eyes and for gourmets on a run from Montreux via Montbovon, Gruyères and Bulle to Broc for a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory.
Thanks are due to Mr Styger, director of the MOB group.
Originally published 1990. This edition April 2009.