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 April 1990

The Latest: the Type IV standard coach (Einheitswagen IV)

from EZ 10/89 (by R.Stamm)

For many years the SBB bought lightweight coaches. These were used, on the cascade principle, first in IC trains, later on expresses and eventually on locals before withdrawal. This system has some grave disadvantages: cascaded coaches are really only ideally suited to one of their roles unless rebuilt. At the end of the 1970s, in an attempt to win new customers, the principle was abandoned, and special types of coach designed for each traffic. Market research and SBB specification indicated the following requirements:

- Maximum soundproofing

- Air Conditioning / fixed windows

- Good use of space / long coach

- Adjustable seats in first class

- Convenient doors

- Limited running into other countries

Working on these ideas, the Swiss rail industry led by SIG of Neuhausen developed designs for a whole new family of coaches. The first SBB order for 40 1st class coaches was placed in December 1979.


The body shell is electrically welded steel, as is the underframe
which is based on two U-section longitudinal members. The drawbeams are designed for later fitting of automatic couplings if required. The roof profile is very high, allowing space for the air-conditioning ducts. Special attention was paid to the fitting out of the body; the floor is made of hard-wearing 19mm thick plywood, covered with a soft carpet. In the vestibule, a glass-reinforced polyester trough contains a special dirt-trapping mat. The complete interior is made - as much as possible - from fire-resistant materials. The windows are double-glazed and cannot be opened, except for two hinged upper-parts in each compartment which can be opened by train staff in case of failure of the air conditioning. The four external doors are power-operated, opening and closing by pushbutton, when unlocked by the guard. The vestibule doors are also powered, but the door between smoking and non-smoking sections swings by hand.

Newly-designed seats are fitted in both classes. Thanks to the length of the coach - first internal-service type longer than 26 metres - the seat spacing in second class is improved, although still not quite as great as in first class. Each coach has only one toilet; however, one does not make any wasted journeys, as there is a light which can be seen throughout the coach indicating whether the WC is engaged. (Early deliveries showed a red light only when engaged, later builds have a green light for vacant as well.)

The Family

It was planned from the beginning to build the type IV standard coach in A (1st class), B (2nd class) and WR (restaurant) varieties). First to be ordered were 40 type A; soon after their introduction in 1981 it turned out that this was the right decision. Passengers loved them, and demanded to know why they were not provided in all express services. Second class coaches were ordered in 1980, and a prototype series of four restaurant cars in 1981. Since then, 494 type IV cars have been ordered by the SBB, most of which have now been delivered.

In the course of these deliveries, various changes have been made
to the design. The first series of first class coaches had bright metal window surrounds, later changed to black rubber. Also on early
examples the yellow first class stripe was omitted on the doors; these are also the only ones with an external handrail by the doors, although some have since been removed. Changes have also been made to the interior. 19 firsts (10-73110 to 128) and 36 seconds (21 73140 to 159 and 194 to 209) have the so-called mixed seating layout. In aircraft style, some groups of seats face in the same direction. This was not popular, and later batches reverted to the traditional back-to-back arrangement. From 1987 first class cars have been delivered with a telephone booth at one end, and four older examples have been so fitted. Two seconds of the 1984 delivery have been modified with a children's play area at one end, and four (84 72002 to 5) were delivered new in 1986 with
this feature, this time in the middle of the coach. These "Family
Cars" are denoted on the outside by a large teddy bear, and their
workings marked in the timetable.

For the Pope's visit in 1984, B 21 73114 was rebuilt as a Salon car.
This can be recognised by its white interior and externally by the
violet band over the windows. Two further Salon cars were built new in 1987; these have a different window layout from the Pope-coach, and have replaced the Mark I salons built in the 1950s. In the case of the Reseaurant cars, the prototype series was not multiplied further, but in 1986 a new design was ordered, embodying a new catering concept based on airline methods such as the use of the microwave oven to heat pre-cooked meals. To gain space, these cars have no end vestibules or doors, and so can only be entered from the adjacent coach.


It was decided to design a new colour scheme for the type IV series, and various experimental schemes were tried. Finally it was decided to use the existing SBB green for the window area to match existing stock, with stone-grey lower panels. Restaurant cars have a red window area instead of green. First class cars have a UIC-recommended yellow stripe over the windows, Salon cars the same in violet. A newly-designed logo is carried, with the railway initials in three languages and the Swiss cross with arrows. Pictograms are displayed near the entrance doors to indicate non-smokers, telphone, invalid seats etc.

The Relatives

The BLS has also purchased type IV coaches, initially seven A and
eleven B type cars. These are used in Brig - Bern - Zürich expresses, the mileage over the SBB balancing that worked by SBB vehicles over the Lötschberg line. These cars carry BLS blue and cream colours and "Lötschbergbahn" lettering. Internally, the colour and design of the seats is different, the seats being upholstered in woolen material. The tables under the windows are larger, some of those in the groups of four seats being ideal for card games.

Having gained experience with the type IV design, the BLS has placed a further order to be delivered in 1991 after the the last of the SBB order. Two other companies - the SOB and BT - have also placed orders, very surpisingly, since the type IV is a heavy vehicle and both these companies normally operate on the principle of short, light trains. However, as part of the "Bahn 2000" plan, BT and SOB trains will run through to important centres more than at present.

Certainly it can be said without exaggeration that the 536 EW IV coaches have been highly successful in increasing the comfort and pleasure of InterCity travel.

Railways of the Valtellina

from EZ 10/89, by Dr. H. Rohrer.

The boundaries of the countries of Europe were rewritten at the end
of the eighteenth century by the activities of a certain Herr Napoleon. The RhB celebrated its hundredth birthday in 1989; but for the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Sondrio and Chiavenna would have been celebrating as well as St Moritz and Tirano. The Veltlin (Valtellina in Italian - the Italian province of Sondrio) was until 1797 part of the Graubünden and came under Swiss rule, but the 19th century brought standard guage railways built by the Italian  "Strade Ferrate Meridionale - Rete Adriatica" (RA). The first line in the province was the 41 km from Colico, at the upper end of Lake Como, to Sondrio, opened on 15.6.1885. Connection was made at Colico with the lake steamers. The 27 km branch from Colico to Chiavenna opened on 9.9.1886.  The line along the shore
of Lake Como to Lecco and the south did not open until almost a decade later, namely 1.8.1894. In 1905 the RA and with it the lines in the Veltlin, was amalgamated into the Ferrovie del Stato (FS).


The Valtellina lines became world famous when they were electrified
on the three-phase principle by the Hungarian firm of Ganz in 1901.
Apart from the Swiss local line from Burgdorf to Thun and the American B & O which used electric locos only to assist steam engines, this was the world's first full-scale main line electrification. Ganz was at that time the only company in the world prepared to risk such a project. Power was supplied at 300 volts, 15 Hz. Test running began on 26.7.1901, while regular service continued by steam. On 4.9 (other sources have 15.10) 1902, regular electric services began from Lecco to Sondrio and Chiavenna. Power came from a hydro-electric station built by Ganz and Schuckert on the Abba river near Morbegno. After being operated by Ganz for two years, in 1904 the system was taken over by the RA company, and extended in 1914 from Lecco to Monza, junction for Milan. The voltage was later increased to 3600 V, and the frequency to 15.8 and then 16.66 Hz. The table [p.28] shows the original Ganz motive power.

This electrification system was later extended all over North and
part of central Italy and continued in use until 1976, despite the
inherent disadvantages of the classical three-phase system. From 16 to 19.10.1905, a Swiss government railway electrification study commission visited the Valtellina line and also the (then) third-rail DC line to Porto Ceresio on Lake Lugano; on the basis of this the three-phase electrification of the Simplon tunnel by the SBB was approved.

In 1952/53 the FS converted the Valtellina lines to DC working, bringing standard FS electric railcars to Sondrio. At first, 1940s-built ALe 883 class (formerly Rapido) units were frequently seen; today services are worked push-pull by modern E632 and E633 locos, along with the latest thyristor-fitted railcars of types ALe 724 and ALe 582.

The Upper Valtellina Line

On 29.6.1902, the 26 km extension from Sondrio to Tirano was opened by the private Ferrovia Alta Valtellina (FAV - Upper Valtellina Railway). his line was worked by four 0-6-0 tank engines until it was electrified in 1932 on the same three-phase system as the FS line. The four electric locos (E 440.1-4, wheel arrangement D) were built by CEMSA in Saronno using parts of the FS E 471 class twin-frequency three-phase prototypes. The first of these, E 471.001 hand been tested by FS but not accepted, and thus E 471.002-004 were never completed.

In January 1968, electric working of the FAV was abandoned, as the
FS could no longer supply the three-phase power, and some of the oldest FS diesel railcars placed in service. On 30.3.1970 the FAV company was taken over entirely by the FS, but no immediate changes resulted. Later in the 1970s, however, the old track was relaid and the line was re-electrified, DC electric operation beginning on 29.5.1980. Today, all station signalling is remotely-controlled and services are worked by modern stock, mostly working through from Milan. The best train of the day is the "Freccia del Bernina" which covers the Milan-Tirano run in just three hours to make connection with the RhB "Bernina Express".

Other Lines

On 1.7.1908 another ralway came to the Valtellina, in the form of
the Bernina Railway from the border to Tirano, much of it built as
street tramway as it remains today in places, especially the town
section through Madonna di Tirano. Another interesting transport system in the area was the long-closed trolleybus line from Tirano to Bormio (40 km) which at one time also had trolley-lorries to carry cement during the building of a hydro-electric dam.

News Items from EZ 10/89

New SBB Diesel Locos

SBB have ordered three prototypes from the Robert Aebi company of a new class of three-axle diesels of type Em 3/3 for engineering duties. The 900 kW (1220 HP) machines, max. speed 80 km/h, are the first SBB locos to be officially called "kleinloks", and will enter service in 1991. They will be the equal in power of the Bm 4/4 type nos. 18401 - 18446, and more than twice as powerful as the 30-year old Em 3/3 type. 18801-18841.

Brünigbahn locos for sale?

The Luzern - Stans - Engelberg (LSE) is interested in buying at least
two of the SBB Deh 4/6 class motor baggage vans. They would be used (with rack gear removed) in local push-pull service between Luzern and Stans.

Standard Gauge wagons on the Appenzeller Bahn (AB)

For some time only one train each way on the AB has been rostered
to convey standard-gauge wagons on Rollbock bogies; this is also the only scheduled duty of the ex-SGA railcars ABDeh 4/4 1 - 5. The times of this train are as follows. Train no. G1821: Gossau dep.  8.00, Waldstatt 8.18 - 8.27, Appenzell arr. 8.58. When required, departs 9.22 for Wasserauen arr. 9.34 and returns 9.56 as train G1834, arr. Appenzell 10.09. Departs (as required) 10.36 to Gossau, arr. 11.28, dep. (G1847) 12.20, Appenzell arr.14.18. Train G1854: Appenzell dep. 14.55, Urnäsch arr. 15.30, dep. 15.52, Gossau arr. 16.36. If the service to Wasserauen is not required, train G1834 sometimes runs earlier to Gossau.

Originally published 1990. This edition April 2009