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 September 1990

Re 4/4 II, Part1 - Life with the Prototype

From EZ 6/90, by Franz Eberhard, SBB locomotive driver

Editor's note: No more remarks like "another boring Re 4/4 II - yawn" after reading this article! It was not easy to translate - I hope I haven't made too many bloomers.

When Bo-Bo locomotives no. 11201 - 11206 were delivered, they were the first on the the SBB with a maximum speed of 140 km/h, only one pantograph (except tractors and railcars), and an improved suspension to give better adhesion. The exterior was reminiscent of the Ae 6/6 type, although considerably shorter. At first it was not certain whether the 20-ton axleload units would be able to run safely at the high speeds required by the R classification, so the first ones were only referred to as 'Bo-Bo', but soon gained the official classification Re 4/4 II which they retain today.

Mechanically, the Re 4/4 II consists of a load-bearing body riding on two identical bogies. The body is supported on crossbeams which at first rode on rubber springs resting on the bolster of each bogie; later the rubber springs were replaced by steel coils. Special traction bars carry the haulage and braking loads from the bogies to the body and thus to the buffer beam.

These linkages are designed to reduce the tendency to transfer weight to one bogie when under load. In the middle of the machine room is the oil-cooled transformer, which has a pneumatically operated 32-step tap-changer for power control. The motors are cooled by a forced air system; when the pantograph is raised and the main controller is switched on, this operates at "weak" position, changing st "strong" when the controller is above step 5 or speed is greater than 15 km/h. Cool air is brought in through the grilles in the roof curves at each end.  To keep dirt out of the machine room, a small amount of the air is fed to the machine room where it keeps the air at a slightly higher pressure than outside. This air passes out through the grilles in the roof curve at the centre of the loco, which is why these centre grilles always look cleaner.

The drive system is the well-known Brown-Boveri quill drive. No.

11206 was built as a test bed for new types of rectifier, being converted to normal in 1965.

The older engine drivers of the day were skeptical and very shocked at the layout of the cab of the prototype Bo-Bo. In place of the customary handwheel was a control handle with only three power notches and one braking position. Sanding equipment was completely lacking, as was a transformer step indicator. There was only a traction motor ammeter, coupled with the so-called current difference meter, which gave the difference between the highest and lowest traction motor currents. The skeptics were, however, doubtful whether a single Bo-Bo could work the heavy Arlberg Express from Basel. Indeed,  the high power output (especially on the ++ controller position), and the automatic wheelslip protection which automatically cut off power to a slipping axle, caused many problems in wet weather and when there were leaves on the rails, leading to late running on the Bözberg north ramp. The author suffered many crises at this time, wishing that these engines were only used in fine weather and crying out for some sand ... When more locos were delivered, however, the crews accustomed themselves to the new machines, and today few drivers would be without their Bo-Bo. I should add that all the Re 4/4 II class have now been fitted with sanders.

Major Variations The six prototypes, later renumbered 11101-06, were followed by 11107-11155 which had a 10cm longer body (14 800 mm over buffers) as a result of strengthening in the buffer beam area after it was found that the welded beam could be bent by minor shunting impacts. Of the prototype and first production series, 11103/6/8/9/12/13/33/41 were modified for Swiss-Express duties by fitting automatic couplings with air connections (AZDK) and painting in the well-known Swiss-Express livery. Also, twenty of these early locos were later fitted with a single-arm pantograph in place of the original scissors-type.

From 11156 onwards, two pantographs of the single-arm type were fitted to each loco. Moreover, the cab was enlarged, increasing the length to 15 410 mm. 11196-201 were equipped at no.1 end with a different type of pantograph designed for DB and ÖBB overhead wires, for use when working through to Lindau. In autumn 1989, 11195 was altered to this type to replace 11197 which was badly damaged in an accident at Bregenz. 11299-304 were fitted with a radio system, used in tests from 1975 to 1982 on the Turgi - Koblenz and Lavorgo - Bodio sections. 11305-249 are fitted with a rear-view mirror on the right-hand side, as are 11371-397 which also were delivered from works with rectangular lower headlights.

Six examples (including 11245/55/66) have an experimental type of rear-view mirror fitted to the window of the driver's door. 11239 is the only one to carry a shield - Porrentruy. This happened when the new Canton of Jura was formed, and an Ae 6/6 in the Canton series had to be given its name.

Like the Swiss-Express engines, 11158-61 and 11249-53 excited attention when they were delivered in TEE red and cream livery, which 11249-53 of Bern depot still carry. Even more sensational was the painting of 11181 in an artistic scheme designed by artist Daniel Bourret (see EZ 6/89). The red era began with 11178, painted experimentally in November 1983; eventually a slightly darker red was standardised, 11112 being the first to receive this. Locos from 11377 onwards were delivered in red.

11315 and 11343 have a cream side stripe, and several have been observed with the warning markings on the ends required for working the Seetalbahn. Before being painted red, various Bo-Bos were decorated and embellished for the working of special trains - see the EZ publication "75 years of Bern Depot", page 68.

Some unusual specimens are 11169, rebuilt with a later-type body after an accident at Bümpliz; 11167 with a later-type cab at one end only (accident at Eiken); and 11113 which is in red but with the new SBB emblem on the front. Current modification programmes are creating more variations; the UIC standard connecting socket is sometimes in the centre between the cab windows, sometimes slightly to the right of centre. At the request of shunting staff, who have to reach the UIC socket, some Re 4/4 IIs have been fitted with an ugly handrail and extra step.

Also, some locos are having their round lower headlights replaced by rectangular ones. 11172, 11282 and 11312 have been broken up after accident damage.

Multiple Working The Re 4/4 II class can work in multiple with classes Re 4/4 III, Re 4/4 IV, Re 6/6 and RBe 4/4, up to a maximum of twelve working traction motors. From a driving trailer, up to three Re 4/4 II or III locos can be remotely driven. On a locomotive working chart, D51804 would show that train 51804 was worked by two engines in multiple; the prefix DD indicates a triple-header, all worked by one driver. This a great benefit to the operating authorities, as it saves staff on heavy trains and for movement of light engines; incidentally, the negative side of this is that young probationary drivers find it more difficult to amass the 300 days driving needed to become a fully qualified driver. Light engines working coupled together and pilot workings to Stein-Säckingen and Effingen were very useful for this purpose.

These days there is not really sufficient time to make a thorough check of both locomotives in a double-headed train before starting, but this rarely causes problems. However, every now and then instructions are issued to drivers to be sure of the traction and brake power attached to the train, as such unfamiliarity has sometimes led to trains becoming divided.

Another reminder sometimes seen in staff notices is to remember to release the handbrake of a push-pull driving trailer before starting, to avoid severe wheel flats! I will never forget the time I attempted to drive two engines out of Basel depot which someone had forgotten to couple together, although the brake pipes and control cables were connected. All went well while running slowly within the yard, but as I accelerated out towards the main line, testing the automatic train protection system, things came unstuck right outside the windows of the depot offices and staff hostel, the separation happening before the eyes of the depot inspector. I certainly took some stick for that! Much use was made of Re 4/4 IIs in multiple on the Gotthard line, until the Re 6/6 class was built. From 1982 onwards, the Bo-Bos were made available for push-pull services, for which the driving trailers were fitted with current limiting relays. Later, it was found that these were not effective over 40 km/h. Mostly, locos are only used on these duties if no RBe 4/4 or RBDe 4/4 motorcoach is not available, as an extra coach (and baggage van as well in the case of the RBDe 4/4) has to be added to the train to give the same capacity. Their only regular push-pull workings today are with standard Mk 2 stock on the Zürich Airport - Luzern - Bern - Genève Airport axis, and at off-peak times between Luzern - Olten - Basel.  Maximum load for an Re 4/4 II in push-pull mode is eight coaches (nine if they are Mk 3 standards).

Between 1977 and 1980, locos 11155 and 11166, 11274 and 11157 were experimentally fitted with automatic couplers (AZDK), and thus were compelled to work together in pairs. These have now been converted to normal, but the careful observer can still spot differences; 11155 has an extended buffer-beam and 11157 has two different openings for the coupling hook. Later, these auto-couplers were fitted to the Swiss-Express locos, as listed above.

Reliability and Problems Generally, class Re 4/4 II has given reliable service. Despite increasing train speeds and weights - IC services on the east-west axis often load to 600 tonnes - failures in service are rare. The worst problem in recent years has been explosions in the tap-changing gear, which can cause severe damage and even fire. The tap-changer holds 75 litres of cooling oil, compared to the transformer's 1740 litres. So far, no solution to this problem has been found; therefore, for safety reasons no-one is allowed in the machine room unless the power is switched off.

Nevertheless, while I have been working on Re 4/4 IIs (1963 - 1966 assistant driver, since 1967 driver) I have only once had to request a replacement loco, and have never experienced a serious failure, although sometimes I have worked expresses with only three axles powered.  In 1989 alone, I have driven 144 different members of the class.

News Items from EZ 6/90 and 7/90

New RhB Tractors

Many stations are equipped with shunting tractors that are insufficiently powerful for today's requirements. The RhB has received the first five of a new type of 336 kW (457 HP) Tm 2/2 diesel tractor, to be numbered 85 - 89, the first being due for delivery in June 1990. They have a hydrodynamic transmission capable of changing gear while under power, and are fully equipped with safety devices for main line running when required.

Radio remote control equipment is fitted; weight is 24 tonnes, maximum speed 50 km/h, and the cost of each 750,000 Fr.

Montreux Oberland Bernois Stock Changes

Composite coach AB 93 is back on the MOB; it is being overhauled at Chernex works and will enter service in the autumn as a third "nostalgia-coach" (see July Notebook). DZe 6/6 articulated loco 2001 is also to be overhauled after some years in store, and will probably enter service in spring 1991. Railcar BCFe 4/4 11, (built 1905) lately in store at Lenk, is also to be refurbished as a working museum-piece.

Four new locomotives have been ordered; based on the RhB Ge4/4 III type, they will be capable of running on both the DC power used on the MOB and the high-voltage AC of the BLS (Zweisimmen - Interlaken, to be converted to mixed gauge) and SBB Brünig lines.

Of the railcars bought from the VBW (now RBS) system in 1988, only Be 4/4 72 is actually in use; as MOB Be 4/4 1004 it is stationed at Zweisimmen for early morning and late-night workings to Lenk. 37 and 38 have suffered shunting damage, and 36 is stored at Fontanivent with four damaged motors awaiting re-winding. 71 was broken up for spare parts at Chernex works in February. 73 was renumbered 1005, but derailed at Montbovon due to a loose tyre and is now stored at Montbovon depot.

Two new double railcars have been ordered for the Rochers de Naye line. They will be similar to Bhe 4/8 301-303 built five years ago, which will be adapted to run in multiple with the new cars.

Thus the 50-plus-year old Bhe 2/4 railcars are being gradually ousted; in fact no. 202 has already been cannibalised for spares at Montbovon works.

Open platforms on the Waldenburgerbahn

Despite the recent modernisation of the WB, open platform coaches of type Bi are still in daily use on school trains. Train 11 from Waldenburg to Liestal is normally formed of an old BDe 4/4 railcar no. 1,2 or 3 hauling four Bi coaches. The railcar returns with one or two of the coaches as train 12 to Waldenburg, the other coaches being attached to a modern unit as later train 14.

Afternoon train 66 from Liestal is formed of an old railcar alone; all other workings are handled by the four 1986-built railcar/trailer sets. The only remaining postal van is DZ 70, which is attached to trains 6 and 37 (Mon-Fri) and 50 and 79 (Mon-Sat).

New Brig-Visp-Zermatt locomotive

The BVZ took delivery of its first HGe 4/4 II locomotive on 12 June. It is of the same type as the new power on the FO and Brünig lines.


First published 1990. This edition April 2009