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 November 1990

Re 4/4 II, Part 3: N scale Models


The first Arnold Re 4/4 II, released in 1969, represented a locomotive of the first series. Construction was plastic, and it was quite a good model apart from being too high and slightly too short. The excessive height was needed to fit the smallest motor available in these early days of N scale. In 1974 this model was reissued as a second series loco with two single-arm pantographs, but the first-series running number was retained. It was sold in either green or TEE red/cream, but was still out of scale in height and length.

In 1986, a completely new, exact-scale model was released. Four versions are available, all based on the second series and with appropriate features, including two single-arm pantographs (workable). The plastic body is very cleanly moulded with excellent detailing, and flush-fitted windows.  The livery is also very good, with neat and legible lettering. The version with catalogue no. 2471 has a slightly oversize number, but this fault was corrected in the other versions. The underframe is cast metal, which helps to give the model some weight. The bogies are very well made and give a good general impression. All four axles are powered, and all wheels have pickups. Directional lighting is fitted, and a switch to enable the pantographs to pick up current if required.

A new version for sale in Switzerland only is planned for the end of this year, in the form of the unique locomotive painted by the artist Bourret. To complete the range, Arnold offer an Re 4/4 III for those interested in a "mountain engine". The only difference in the model is the numbering; there are in fact no significant visual differences between the two prototype classes.


The Nuremberg firm makes three versions of a first-series Re 4/4 II with one pantograph. This is a really good-looking model. The plastic body is detailed and well-moulded; one slight problem with the green version is that the large lettering is white rather than silver. The small lettering is all there, and all the windows are flush except the small corner ones, although these are not too noticeable. The workable pantograph can be switched to collect current by a switch underneath the loco. The bogies are exceptionally well detailed, with all axles powered and picking up current. The underframe is a metal casting for adhesive weight.

It is pleasant to see that the Swiss-Express version is not just a re-spray; it has the correct enlarged buffer-beam. The green version is also available ready-fitted with a chip for the EMS command control system.

Small but Beautiful: 75 years Moutier - Lengnau

from EZ 8/9-90, by Patrick Belloncle

The little-known line from Moutier to Lengnau (table 230) opened on 1st October 1915, as part of the Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon company. During the long-drawn-out planning stages for a line across the Bernese Alps, the originators, James Ladane and later Wilhelm Teuscher, realised that a route through the Jura mountains would be needed to capture traffic from northern France to Italy. A panel of experts reported on 24 January 1904 that a Lötschberg or Wildstrubel line was a workable proposition only if there was a line through the Jura between Delle and Lyss. As a result, the building of a direct line between Münster (Moutier) and Grenchen was required by the terms of the concession granted for the building of the BLS. We should not forget that at that time the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were under German control, and the French railways did not have access to the border at Basel.

Two Bores

Around the turn of the century two ingenious projects already existed for a tunnel though the southern end of the Jura chain in the area of Solothurn, Grenchen and Biel. There was the Grenchenberg tunnel, and the Weissenstein summit tunnel (Moutier - Solothurn). Both had their vehement supporters. In Grenchen, the Grenchenberg initiative committee was formed on 21 March 1900, led by famous railway engineer Emch. Both committees deposited their plans with the Bern government at about the same time. However, an inter-cantonal argument developed, and the plans suffered a setback when the SBB explained their position in the matter.  They refuted the theory that there was a need for any new Biel - Solothurn link on the basis that it was premature at that stage. If a connection on this north-south axis were needed at a later time, the concession should be given to the SBB, who were actually planning their own line through the Jura to connect Basel harbour with the west of the country.

In the meantime, Canton Solothurn decided that both routes should be built. Therefore, both committees received their concessions. As the French Eastern Railway was interested in feeding traffic to the Lötschberg line via the Grenchenberg route, that committee merged with the Lötschberg committee in 1904. Meanwhile, there was intense drilling activity to the east; the Solothurn people thought that the if the Weissenstein tunnel was actually completed, the Bernese would not bore an expensive parallel tunnel through Grenchenberg. Thus the SMB (Solothurn - Moutier Bahn) began operation on 18 August 1908. But this did not prevent the construction of the Grenchenberg Tunnel, as the SBB reached an agreement with the BLS that the line could be jointly operated as part of the route from Basel to the west as well as a feeder to the Lötschberg. To show its goodwill, Canton Bern issued a concession for a direct line from Grenchen to Lyss via Bühren an der Aare, bypassing Biel (Metropolis of the Jura) to the south, which was in fact never built as international traffic did not develop as expected.

The estimated cost of building the line was 18 million francs, and the contact was awarded to the firm of Prud'homme, Rothpletz & Co. Surveying for the Grenchenberg tunnel began in 1909, and on 28 February 1911 the final project was approved by the Government. Tunneling began on 7 November of the same year from the north portal near Moutier; work on the ramps on both sides was already under way. In Grenchen two long viaducts had to be built over the roofs of the old town: the Mösli viaduct (285 m long) and the Oberdorf viaduct (272 m). Grenchen Nord, the only station on the line, lies between these two bridges.

World War I had begun by the time the Grenchenberg tunnel was broken through on 27 October 1914, as the work was delayed by earth tremors and water ingress into the workings. At several points the tunnel lining had to be strengthened with steel supports, and the spring water leaking into the tunnel led to a shortage of drinking water in Grenchen for several months. An expensive pumping station had to be constructed to overcome this problem. The tunnel makes up 8.578 km of the line's total length of almost exactly 13 km. The line, although BLS property, has always been worked by the SBB, although Grenchen Nord station is staffed by the BLS, which also takes care of tunnel and track maintenance. The total cost of the line was about 25 million Francs. Initially steam-worked, it was electrified along with the neighbouring SBB routes on 15 May 1928.

Political Upheaval

When Alsace and Lorraine became part of France in 1919, the importance of the Delle - Grenchenberg - Lötschberg - Simplon axis was lessened. The French Eastern Railway gained access the the St.Louis - Basel border crossing, and through trains to Italy could reach the Gotthard route without passing through German territory. Until the 1960s there remained a through international service from Paris to Bern and Interlaken, and the "Hispania Express" from Dortmund to the Spanish border at Irun. Now only the latter remains, truncated to Geneva and renamed the Euro-City "Mont Blanc": train 76 eastbound passes Grenchen at 10.07, and train 77 westbound at 18.55.  On the other hand, traffic between Basel and western Switzerland increased, and is now the line's staple traffic. Hourly expresses, alternately Basel - Geneva Airport and Basel - Biel - Lausanne - Brig pass this way, and a local shuttle operates from Biel as far Grenchen Nord; only one early morning local continues through the tunnel to Moutier. The line also carries an increasing tonnage of express freight traffic between Basel Muttenz and Lausanne Denges yards.


Abridged (drastically) from ME 10/90. by Manfred Merz

"Your magazine should investigate this matter, in the interests of all N scale modellers" - so writes Rudolf Kirchner from Ellenstadt [Germany] in his letter published on page 62 of the June 1990 ME. Mr Kirchner is annoyed by the fact that model manufacturers, especially in N scale, are issuing models of Swiss prototypes exclusively for sale in Switzerland, and only releasing them for general sale a couple of years later, if at all. Mr Kirchner is by no means the only one who has spoken or written to us about the emotive word "Exclusive". What is the motive for this practice?  Isn't the manufacturer shooting himself in the foot by not making his products available to all? Such questions may well occur to the affected modeller. To get the answers, we asked eleven manufacturers and Swiss importers for statements explaining their position on this issue.

The principal reason for the protection is that the Swiss importers, ranging from large firms like Lemaco to individual shops, contribute financially to the design and production of the Swiss models concerned in return for a guarantee from the manufacturers that they will be the only ones allowed to sell the models for a year or two, thus recouping their investment. Swiss firms feel that the market situation in Germany, in which large discount houses have a large share of the market and can make special cheap deals with manufacturers, would deprive them of income unless such measures were taken. The system has certainly produced a wider selection of Swiss models than would otherwise be the case, such as the N gauge Seetalbahn De 4/4 produced by Hobbytrain/Kato for Hochstrasser of Lucerne, and as such is probably a good thing. Modellers can always visit Switzerland to buy the models in question!

News Items from EZ 8/9-90

Gas Masks on the Gotthard

By the end of 1991, all SBB locomotives used on the North-South axis will be equipped with two gas masks for the train crew, to be used in case of any accident involving wagons of chemicals such as the highly poisonous vinyl chloride which is regularly transported over the Gotthard. 1230 masks have been bought, at a total cost of half a million francs. BLS locos are already similarly equipped.

New Huckepack and Talgo

SBB has ordered 75 new locos of type 460 (Re 4/4) from SLM and ABB to work the new Huckepack "rolling road" service across the Alps as agreed by the Swiss Govermnent. A further 19 will be ordered later for the Lötschberg. The first  "Loco 2000" - number 460 000-3 - was rolled out from the ABB works at Zürich-Seebach on 26 June, in company with a new motorcoach for the Orbe-Chavornay line.

To improve the overnight service between Basel and Vienna, SBB has ordered two 28-car Talgo hotel-trains, each with 500 places, plus 5 reserve cars. The trains will go into service in 1992 at the same time as the planned Zürich - Berlin hotel-train service which will be worked by the DB. A daytime service of the Talgo articulated trains will begin in 1993 between  Zürich and Münich. There are already two Talgo trains daily between Barcelona and Switzerland, a day service to Geneva and a night hotel-train to Zürich.

18451 at Olten

Historic diesel loco Bm 4/4 II 18451 (ex-Am 4/4 1001) has been transferred from Winterthur depot to Olten, replacing 18452 [I think - printed in EZ as 18542] which is in Biel works with defects which are beyond economic repair. These locomotives are of special historic interest as they are the forerunners of British Rail classes 24 to 27, being fitted with an earlier version of the same Sulzer diesel engine. They worked the passenger trains on the non-electrified cross-border line between Etzwilen and Singen which is now a freight-only link.

Riding a Be 4/6

These old railcars are now rarely seen in passenger service, but one is rostered for use on the old Hauenstein line, which was by-passed for express workings between Basel and Olten by the construction of the Hauenstein tunnel in 1916 but remains open for local service (Table 503). There are two return workings by Be 4/6 on Mondays, but only one on Tuesday-Friday. See EZ page 7 for photograph.

Freight on the RHB

The standard-gauge rack line from Rorschach to Heiden (table 857) carries regular freight traffic. Tuesdays to Fridays, trains 605 (07.24 from Rorschach) and 626 (17.52 from Heiden) convey a Cargo Domizil van. Additional vehicles are attached to other passenger workings as required.

Magnifying Glasses, anyone? - by Charlie Hulme

Nm gauge (N scale on Z track to represent metre-gauge) definitely has possibilities for the modeller wishing to indulge in grand scenic effects, and there are now several items of Swiss rolling stock available. Lemaco offer an MOB locomotive, and have just released the matching Panoramic coaches, first and second class, which will cost you fifty pounds (125 SFr) each ... for the same price a small German firm called Thonfeld offers a Furka-Oberalp panoramic coach built on a Märklin chassis. Thonfeld also do an RhB cement wagon (95 SFr) and a four-wheeled luggage van (96 SFr). According to their advert, they also make an FO loco, and various RhB locos and coaches. They will send a list for an international reply coupon to Tückinger Hohe 28, D-5800 Hagen 7, Germany.

A number of interesting items for HOm have also been announced. Wabu are repainting Bemo RhB vans in new colours; a thirst-enducing Calanda Brau and HG Commercial builders merchants. An old-type RhB coach, of the series B 2271-2281 built 1946-51, is to be released by STL models at the relatively cheap (!) price of 65 SFr, at the end of 1990. Ferro-Suisse are advertising an all-brass model of Furka-Oberalp motorcoach 43 with matching driving trailer. No. 43 was rebuilt by the FO after an accident near Fürgangen in 1971, and has only one cab, meaning that it must always work with a driving trailer.

First published 1990. This edition April 2009