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 July 1990

Made in CH - Swiss trains in Austria

From EZ 4/5-90, written by Dr. H. Petrovitsch.

An article in EZ 2/90 described the Swiss-built rolling stock of various Austrian narrow-gauge lines; here we describe the Swiss stock purchased by two Austrian standard-gauge local lines.


When the ÖBB line from Bruck an der Mur to Graz was electrified, the Steiermärkische Landesbahnen (StLB - Styrian Provincial Railways) converted its electrical supply on the Peggau - Deutschfeistritz - Übelbach line from 220V DC to 15KV AC in 1968 to match the ÖBB system. Already, in 1966, the StLB had obtained from the ÖBB two pre-war express power cars, nos. 4042.01 and 02 and matching driving trailers of class 6042. To supplement these, in 1967 the company obtained from the Swiss Südostbahn (SOB) the unique 1949-built motorcoach BDe 4/4 no. 62, which ran in SOB service for the last time on 10 March 1967. It was then taken into Samstagern works for overhaul and repaint into StLB colours (yellow/orange/grey). On 7 July 1967 it ran under its own power to Buchs SG, from where it was taken by goods train over the Arlberg, the trip being interrupted for a while when one of its coupling hooks failed.

On 26 July 1968, the StLB changed over to the new voltage; however the ÖBB would not permit through running to the Styrian capital of Graz as had been hoped, so the ex-SOB car, now StLB ET 13, made only occasional trips off the 11 km Übelbach line. It has, however, run over the ÖBB to reach Salzburg works for overhaul.

From SBB to StLB

In 1988, to replace trailer coach EB 21 (ex-ÖBB 6042.02), the StLB obtained in 1988 from the SBB a lightweight steel centre-entrance coach, B 50 85 20-39 102, built in 1955. The ex-SOB motorcoach, previously only used at times of heavy freight traffic, came into regular use in 1988, as ET 11 (ex-ÖBB 4042.01) spent a long period in the ÖBB Floridsdorf Works with a damaged transformer.

From September 1 1988, the number of trains each way on weekdays was increased from five to eleven (seven on Saturdays, none on Sundays). Nevertheless, the future of the Übelbach branch was in doubt. Table 54 of the 1989/90 timetable carried the disturbing note "Valid only until 31.7.89, from 1.8.89 see local announcements." Since then, it has been decided to continue full operation until 1991, when the line will be reduced to freight only and operated by ÖBB diesel locomotives.

From Thurgau to Montafon

When the Mittelthurgau Bahn (MThB) was electrified in 1965, its three diesel railcars, ABDm 2/4 7 - 9 became redundant. The engines and transmission of these 1951-54 built lightweight steel cars went for scrap, but their bodies and bogies were in relatively good condition and were purchased by the Montafonerbahn Bludenz - Schruns (MBS) which planned to covert them to electric power. Because of lack of space at Schruns, the cars were delivered one at a time. During 1969, no.8 was rebuilt in the MBS works as a driving trailer no. ES 10.203, to work with electro-diesel motorcoach ET 10.103 which itself had been rebuilt by the MBS in 1965 from ex-DB diesel car no. VT 63 905.

When the conversion of the MBS from 900 V DC to 15kV AC was being planned in 1972, it was intended to make ex-MThB nos 7 and 9 into a twin-unit electric railcar for the new system, to be numbered ET 10.105 a+b. This project fell through, however, and eventually in 1977 no. 7 was rebuilt into a second driving trailer, no. ES 10.204, which has some minor differences from its sister. In 1984 both cars had their control systems modified to work not only with railcars Et 10.103 and 104, but also with motor baggage car ET 10.106 (ex ÖBB 4060.02, built 1936). Since then, some coaches have been purchased from the SBB to couple between ET 10.106 and ES 10.203 to form a push-pull train for school and works traffic. MThB no.9 was only ever used as a source of spares, and has now been scrapped.

Swiss coaches on the MBS

The MBS now has four ex-SBB coaches, numbered B4 10.308 - 311. Two steel-bodied cars came to the MBS in 1973 via the ÖBB, which had received the two coaches (50 85 20-03 175 and 249) as compensation for the scrap value of four four-wheelers that it gave to the Bern Steam Railway (DBB). The other two were bought from the MThB (no. 115/6, ex-SBB nos 7504 and 7505) in 1978 and 1979.

In spring 1990 a four-coach railcar set (ex ÖBB ET 4130.02, which from 1958 - 1965 worked into Switzerland on the "Transalpin" service) was obtained by the MBS for its few rush-hour services. The Swiss coaches are out of service, and may interest some Swiss preserved line. Later this year, the MBS will take delivery of a brand-new Swiss-built NPZ set similar to those ordered by the Le Pont-Brassus line, and the ex DB/MthB sets will be used only as reserves.

News items from EZ 4/5-90

First SBB BDe 4/4 bows out

BDe 4/4 motorcoach 1638 was withdrawn at the beginning of February, the first of its type to go. It will be used for spares to keep other units in service. Body corrosion is the problem; further withdrawals are likely in the near future. From the start of the new timetable, use of these cars in four-car formations on the Oberglatt - Niederweningen branch has become a thing of the past. The line is now part of Zürich S-bahn line 5 and operated by double-deck trains running through to Zürich and even as far as Rapperswil. The branch, known as the Wehntalbahn, was one of the last SBB lines to be electrified (about 30 years ago).

BDe 4/4 power will also be replaced on the Wil - Wattwil - Nesslau and St.Gallen - Sulgen - Weinfelden lines as soon as SBB Region III has enough new NPZ units available. The BDe 4/4s will be transferred to the Winterthur - Bülach - Stein-Säckingen line to replace Ae 4/7 locos and light-steel coaches.

Talgo to St. Moritz

The European railways and their manufacturers have recently been putting in much work on the Hotel Train idea. The first real example of this new concept is the Spanish (RENFE) Talgo Pendular train which runs between Barcelona and Bern, extended to Zürich in the new timetable. It is proposed to further extend this service to Chur and beyond to St. Moritz! The new Director of the RhB, Silvio Frascati wishes the mark the beginning of his new regime with this dramatic new idea.

Although the Talgo trains are fitted with gauge-changing equipment, they can only run on Broad and Standard gauges, so it will be necessary to transfer each coach to a lorry at Chur and take it by road via the Julier pass. The photograph shows a test run which was made on April 1st 1990. An interesting technical detail is that it has been found possible to connect the tilting mechanism of the Talgo cars to the suspension of the road trailers, allowing them to run faster round the sharp curves of the alpine pass roads.

All stations by EuroCity

The northbound EuroCity "Rossini" from Milan to Schaffhausen is timetabled to stop at all stations from Bülach to Schaffhausen, where it arrives at 23.03, saving the SBB the cost of providing a local train. Not quite the EuroCity ideal?

Berninabahn to the Schanfigg

In the last year, The RhB Bernina line has received three new motorcoaches, whilst the Arosa line, also currently DC powered, has been suffering from a shortage of motorcoaches. This winter, therefore, the nine Arosa line cars will be supported by three 80-year-old ABe 4/4 cars from the Bernina: no. 31 which has been little-used and looks rather neglected, together with recently overhauled 32 and 34. No. 30, which is also fitted to work on the higher voltage of the Arosa line, will remain on the Bernina.

A Severe Blow

A hurricane hit central Switzerland on 27 February, and is thought to have caused an electrical short which led to the destruction by fire of Erstfeld SBB depot. All the locomotives were saved by the depot staff from serious damage; some non-runners were dragged out using a diesel tractor. Erstfeld's two historic locomotives, Ce 6/8 II 14253 and Ae 8/14 11801, were unharmed.

On the Furka-Oberalp Bahn, a complete train was blown off the rails, and about 160 passengers had to spend the night in a military barracks on the Oberalp Pass.

Second Mortgage anyone? - by Charlie Hulme

This month sees some interesting new releases for affluent HOm RhB modellers. Bemo offers a model of restaurant car no. 3813 which was originally used on the Bernina line (one of two built for Mitropa in 1929, originally 161/2, now 3813/4) but has recently been in Glacier Express service. When introduced on the Bernina, these cars ran with a separate kitchen van which was always left at Camcologno so that the food supplies did not have to be examined by Italian customs. Bemo have made a beautiful little model, with wide windows giving a good view of the empty chairs and tables inside. Detailing this interior would be a fascinating task; tiny bottles of Calanda made from plastic rod, plates from the office paper-punch, hungarian goulash from Milliput, etc.

In Korean brass from Lemaco (if you need to ask the price, you can't afford it) comes RhB Bernina line ABDe 4/4 38. 325 models will be made in 1960 red livery with 1969-installed single arm pantograph and 275 in 1949-period green and cream with bow-collector. The prototype car was rebuilt in 1949 from no. 21 built in 1911, and differs from sister cars in the 30-39 series in having a baggage area.

Back in the realms of reality, two new HO plastic building kits from Vollmer are aimed at the Swiss modeller. Mountain restaurant, no. 3706, has a terrace with chairs, tables and umbrellas, whilst no. 3707 mountain dairy amusingly includes a lilac "Milka" cow along with a collection of churns etc. I find Vollmer kits rather crude-looking compared to their Kibri competitors, but these two could be just the thing for the Diorama competition!

First published 1990. This edition April 2009