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.
Much has changed since this issue was prepared: notably, and very sadly
for enthusiasts, the Beromünster branch has closed - to passengers
in 1991 and completely in 1997. Part of the trackbed has been used for
a relocation of the metre-gauge Wynental- und Suhrentalbahn line from
its previous route in the road.
The Misox line was not converted to standard gauge: it was eventually
closed by the RhB and part of it is now run by a preservation group.
Beromünster, Seetal-Bahn Branch Terminus
Translated by Charlie Hulme from an the article in Eisenbahn Zeitschrift 2/89, pages
64-9, by Heinz Weber.
The building of a railway to Münster (the name
"Beromünster" was first used for the Swiss National Radio Station
located here, and gradually gave its name to the town) was a long
drawn-out affair. By 1890 a concession had been issued for the building
of a narrow gauge line in the Wynental; however this line did not reach
Münster. The first Wyentalbahn (WTB) train ran from Aarau to
Menziken fourteen years later.
Münster and the other communities in the part of the valley
extending into Canton Luzern wanted a standard gauge line from Reinach
via Rothenburg to Emmenbrücke, giving good main line connections
and a link to Luzern, their Canton capital. Good connection with Aarau
was also desirable; meetings were held with the "Lower Wynentalbahn
Committee" with a view to building a through line from Aarau to Luzern,
but the Committee were not dissuaded from building the narrow gauge
line. There was much argument over the respective merits of standard
and narrow gauges, the decision being finally made to build a roadside
The English-financed Seetalbahn or Lake-Valley Railway company (STB),
who had opened their line in 1883 between Lenzburg and
Emmenbrücke, did not wish to see a new line built parallel to
theirs, and began construction in 1887 of a branch from a junction at
Beinwil am See to Reinach and Menziken, thus pre-empting any extension
of the Wynentalbahn by securing a foothold in this residential and
industrial area. Therefore the STB applied for the concession to extend
its line beyond Reinach, as the Reinach-Münster Bahn, which was
granted by the Government.
Thus, the threat of a competing line disappeared; building of the
RMB line itself did not start. Only when the people of Münster
threatened to press for the town to be connected to the Wynentalbahn,
which had opened in 1904, did the STB management decide to press on -
they announced that services to Münster would begin in October
1905. That was not to be, however. Further objections from supporters
of a through narrow gauge line from Reinach to Emmenbrücke,
especially from communities to the south of Münster, delayed the
start of construction. In September 1905, the State President
pronounced against the RMB and in favour of a through Wynentalbahn -
two weeks later this order was rescinded and the way was clear for the
construction of the 4 km of track of the Reinach - Münster -
On 30 September 1906, the people of Beromünster celebrated the
arrival of their first train. One day later, a regular service of
eight trains per day began. Steam working lasted only until 1909 when
the line was electrified. By this time the RMB company, which had never
owned any locomotives or stock, had been amalgamated into the STB. In
1922 the flourishing Seetalbahn company was nationalised, and since
then the SBB has served Beromünster.
The Situation today
The 8 km branch from Beinwil to Beromünster is presently served by
16 push-pull trains per day, running at an hourly frequency. Travellers
must change at Beinwil for Hochdorf and Luzern to the South and
Lenzburg on the Heitersburg main line to the north. In Menziken and
Reinach, the stations of the narrow-gauge Wynental- und Suhrental Bahn
(WSB) are not far from the SBB stations; the modern WSB trains run
half-hourly to Aarau. A direct bus runs from Beromünster SBB
Rothenburg to Luzern.
Passenger traffic on the branch is rather light; on the other hand
two agricultural cooperatives generate plenty of freight - fodder
transferred to a silo, grain, sugar beet, fertilizer, fuel,
machines, etc. The track layout is modest for a terminus, but
sufficient. Tracks 1 and 8 serve the goods shed, track 5 has a loading
ramp, and track 4 is a siding on which a few open wagons and vans are
usually kept. The station has no shunting tractor, so train engines
must perform all shunting. Passenger trains use track 2 - at one time,
before push-pull working was used, tracks 6 and 3 were used for running
The station buildings date from the opening of the line, the main
building being almost unaltered. Buildings of the same type are found
at Menziken, Seon and Baldegg. The goods shed has been enlarged, and a
warehouse built by the agricultural cooperative. The locomotive shed is
occasionally used by maintenance crews; the silo on track 5 is of
Redevlopment of the Seetalbahn has been planned for a long time. The
Reinach/Menziken area would be served by a diversion of the main Seetal
line through the proposed Erlosen Tunnel, then following the present
branch to Beinwil to regain the existing route. What would happen to
the remaining stump to Beromunster if this plan were carried out is
uncertain. A replacement bus service has been suggested, with the line
retained for freight, but another possibility would be to transfer the
section to the narrow-gauge WSB, making an end-on junction at Menziken.
Mixed-gauge could be used to retain the freight service.
Beromunster is the terminus of a quiet branch of the Seetalbahn, which
itself is a quiet backwater of the SBB. Time passes slowly at this
charming station. The hand point levers, the wire-operated entry points
and signal, the old engine shed, the station garden, the varied types
of buffer stops, and the collection of materials lying around all add
the nostalgic atmosphere.
The track layout is compact, and would make an ideal subject for the
modeller with restricted space. Being a terminus, shunting movements
will be quite interesting. Lovers of long freight trains and Inter-City
expresses should look elsewhere; short, slow trains are the order of
the day here. Freight is handled by the attractive pick-up goods
bringing a wide selection of wagons; even tank wagons can be unloaded
by attaching a hose from the extension of the goods shed. The new De
4/4 from Roco in HO scale is ideal for the passenger trains, working
with the same firm's Seetal coaches rather than the long mk 2 standard
coaches. The green version of the De4/4 currently available ran until
1956, when they were repainted in red oxide. Roco promise to make this
available soon. In N scale, Hochstrasser of Luzern model the later
re-bodied version of the De4/4, and Eriam make the open-platform
coaches; a more suitable selection than is available for HO!
The station could also be modelled as the terminus of a narrow gauge
line, as it might be in the future. From Reinach to Beromünster,
the line climbs at 38 per thousand, another feature useful on a model.
News Items from EZ 7/89
Old and New in the Seetal
When train 6007 from Lenzburg to Luzern is operated by an NPZ unit, as
is usually the case on Saturdays, a meeting takes place at
Boniswil-Seengen Station at 06.40 between the oldest and newest types
of railcar on the SBB: the NPZ crosses at this station train 6004 from
Beinwil to Lenzburg powered by a Be4/6, the last of its type in public
service. This Saturday NPZ working has another feature: at Hochdorf an
Ae3/6 I is coupled to the front, which of course becomes the rear after
reversal at Emmenbrücke.
SBB and the Freiburgers
The old joke that the people of Bern turn up their noses at the people
of Freiburg has found its way into the offical record. In the report of
a private company employed to inspect SBB trains and stations, we read
the following: "The station toilets ... were so dirty that not even a
Freiburger would want to use them." Understandably, storms of
indignation were let loose from Canton Freiburg, and the SBB was quick
to distance itself from the opinion.
New Life in the Misox?
Will the RhB line in the Misox soon be converted to standard gauge?
Yes, if the Federal Department of Transport has its way. The building
of a standard gauge industrial branch from Castione (near Bellinzona)
to Grono has been approved. The planned line would run partly on a new
alignment to permit larger-radius curves and operation by SBB diesel
locomotives. It is not out of the question that passenger trains may be
introduced later, if the extra money for catenary and signalling can be
At present, the RhB goods train (of transporter wagons), which runs
only when required, leaves Grono at about 15.00, arriving at
Castione-Arbedo around 15.30. The working starts and finishes at Grono
depot, which is just beyond the old station in the ditection of Cama.
The BVZ has ordered five HGe4/4 II locomotives of the same design
of those recently built for the Furka-Oberalp and the Brünig.
for delivery from May 1990. They will be numbered 1 - 5 and take the
same names as the steam locos which previously carried the numbers. One
HGe4/4 II will be able to haul seven bogie coaches up the BVZ
gradients, so it will no longer be necessary to detach coaches from the
Glacier Express at Brig, although crossing two seven-coach trains in
the short BVZ stations would be a problem. Also, one steel bridge will
have to be replaced and two others strengthened to take the weight of
the new engines.
As for the existing HGe4/4 I locomotives, number 11 - 15, three will
remain in service, one will be rebuilt as a diesel, and a the fifth
kept as a source of spare parts. The other HGe 4/4 I, no.16, which
is of a later body design and is fitted for push-pull working, will
also continue in use.
The MOB would like to reclaim composite coach AB 93, wich has been in
use for some years on the Resau Vivarais preserved line in France. If
it is still needed in France, the company is prepared to offer another
vehicle in exchange. One suggestion is that the MOB lends Bi 206 (a
four-wheeled coach) to the GFM in return for an ex-Brünig bogie
which could go to France.
MOB Be4/4 1001, which was one Be4/4 9 of the Lugano - Cadro - Dino
railway, has run successful clearance tests over the Chemins de fer
electriques Veveysans (CEV) to Vevey. A simlar run with a 5000 class
set was less lucky, damaging the unit's "cow-catcher". Be 4/4 1002,
ex-Biasca-Acquarossa ABe 4/4 4, has in fact been hired to the CEV.
The Red Arrow railcar, RBe4/4 202, failed soon after entering service.
A few days later, the company's other railcar, Be2/4 201, was also out
of service and a unit had to be borrowed at short notice from the BLS,
who supplied ABDe4/8 741.
A "Camelback" on the BLS
In the course of its R5 overhaul, mk 2 standard AB coach 50 63 39-33
804-4 has been fitted with a Alsthom (France) Freschor air-cooling
unit. The equipment has been fitted above the entrance doors, an
intrusion on its roof-line which has led to the nickname
"Kamelhöcker". It has been repainted in the new colour scheme
of blue over cream and put into service in Interlaken - Zürich
- Chur expresses.