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 Railways Manchester Notebook December 1990

Re 4/4 II, Part 4: Variations on the theme

From EZ 7/90, by Franz Eberhard, SBB loco driver

By the late 1960s, many of the expresses over the Gotthard route exceeded the maximum permitted load for one Re 4/4 II, and a pilot locomotive was required. The Re 6/6 type was being planned, but rather that wait for this a temporary solution was implemented.

"Turbo" Re 4/4 II

In 1967, the Südostbahn (SOB) took delivery of Re 4/4 no. 41.  This one-off was the same as the first series SBB Re4/4 II, except a lower gear ration, essential for the 50 per mille (1 in 20) gradient  of the SOB main line. The SBB arranged to hire this loco for testing, and ran it for a time in scheduled service over the Gotthard. The tests were successful, and in 1968 an order was placed for 20 examples  to be coded Re 4/4 III. The first, 11351, was delivered on 19 February  1971, and the final example, 11370, on 30 September of the same year; an incredible performance by the firms concerned. 11351-60 were assembled at Oerlikon, and 11361-70 in Geneva. They differ from the Re 4/4 II type only in the different gear ratio and consequent lower maximum speed of 125 rather than 140 km/h. All are fitted with train radio.

Hard Work

The class are used predominantly used singly on express passenger services, and in multiple on freights. They have never been used in push-pull service. On the heaviest freights, they often work with an Re 6/6; the second loco is marshalled within the train, with at least 300 tonnes of load between the two locos, and up to 1300 tonnes behind the second. Working singly on expresses and Huckepack services, a single Re 4/4 III is permitted 580 tonnes over the Gotthard compared with 460 for an Re 4/4 II.

The Austrian Railways have shown some interest in this SBB "super-loco". In November 1975, 11370 was borrowed for tests on the Semmering route.


11357 was used to test a cab air-conditioning system, resulting in some recognisable modifications to the cabs. The equipment failed to prove itself and was later removed. So far the class have escaped serious accidents, although there was a rather spectacular crash at Ambri-Piotta on September 1975, when a double-headed freight suffered a brake failure and ran through the exit signal at red, through the trap points and down an embankment, leaving the locos in a most precarious position. Until they could be rescued, they had to be secured by a steel cable to an Ae 4/6 parked on the track to prevent further movement! On another occasion, an Re 4/4 III was seen having a rest in Lucerne depot turntable pit ...

In 1983-5, 11351-53 were sold to the SOB, for reasons which were not understood in SBB staff circles; even I have made a few cynical remarks  recently, as the SBB are suffering a severe shortage of locomotives.

Private Re 4/4 II and III

To save themselves time and development costs, some private railways have from time to time bought "off the peg" Re 4/4 II and III locomotives. With the exception of SOB 41, all these private Re's have two pantographs, the steeper-angled cab front, and round headlamps of a larger diameter  than the SBB standard.

Südostbahn (SOB)

As mentioned above, SOB 41 was delivered in 1967. Originally it was equipped with a scissors-type pantograph, later replaced by the single-arm type. In the course of overhaul at the SBB Bellinzona works, it was repainted in SOB red, including the "cow-catcher" which was previously  unpainted metal (see EZ 2/89). It has a maximum speed of 125 km/hr, and on each end carries a shield combining the arms of Schwyz, Zürich and St. Gallen. There are no shields on the sides.

Three further locos were bought from the SBB: 42 (ex-11352) in 1983, 43 (ex-11353) in 1984, and 44 (ex-11351) in 1985. These locos retain the SBB Swiss cross shield on the ends, and on the sides the arms of Arth-Goldau (42), Rothenturm (43), and Pfaffikon (44). Maximum speed is also 125 km/hr. SOB Re 4/4s are used on heavy freight and passenger trains, on diagrams which also take them over the tracks of the SBB and the Bodensee-Toggenburg.

Emmenthal-Burgdorf-Thun (EBT)

The EBT company obtained two locomotives in 1969, which were built with SBB batch 11156-215. 111 carries the shield of Canton Bern on the ends, and 112 Canton Solothurn. In 1983, as part of SBB batch 11305-11349, three further examples were built for what was by then the EBT group: 113 for the EBT (shield of Thun), 141 for the VHB (Vereinigte Huttwil-Bahnen - shield of Canton Luzern) and 181 for the SMB (Solothurn-Münster Bahn - shield of Lebern district). All these locos are geared for a maximum speed of 120 km/h. The two older ones have had their couplers  modified to match the 1983 batch.

These locos are used principally for freight trains on Mondays - Saturdays only; they can all be seen on any part of the EBT group network. Double-heading can often be seen on the Burgdorf - Thun line. To ensure that all pantographs receive equal wear, the company has a rule that the No. 2 end pantograph should be used on even dates, and the No. 1 end on odd dates!

Mittel-Thurgau Bahn (MThB)

MthB Re 4/4 21, built along with EBT 111/2 in 1969, is unique in being  the only privately-owned loco with normal Re 4/4 II gearing giving a maximum speed of 140 km/hr. It carries the shield of Canton Thurgau on the ends.

SBB driver "steals" EBT loco

MThB Re 4/4 21 was hired by the SBB in 1969, for use predominantly on expresses between Basel and Zürich, but both EBT cousins 111 and 112 came unintentionally and unexpectedly into SBB service, without  the knowledge of the senior managements of either company, on cold snowy winter night of February 8 1976. I was driving express 643 from Bern to Basel, including international through cars for Amsterdam, Calais and Oostende. At Burgdorf, I found myself stopped in track 2 for no apparent reason. The journey so far had been without incident,  but now I discovered that there had been a severe short-circuit on the locomotive roof. To my amazement I was laconically told by the station staff that train 685, already stopped on track 3, had already suffered the same date and was to be taken over by EBT Re 4/4 no. 112. I attempted to restart my train, resulting only in a loud "Shlapf"  - obviously I was going nowhere in that engine. I asked if the EBT could spare another locomotive for me, and after some consultation they agreed to bring no. 111 out of the depot.

The two failed SBB locomotives remained at Burgdorf, and the two EBT locomotives got a chance to reach their full 120 km/hr as the two trains proceeded, with not too much delay. Meanwhile, the "thefts" had been reported to locomotive control, and a replacement SBB Re 4/4 was waiting at Olten. Despite taking part in this trading without authority I was neither reprimanded nor praised for the night's activities; at least the international through coaches made their connections at Basel!

The Bergün Model Railway: non-stop to 1991

This item, by Michael Steiner, is translated from Das Krokodil, magazine of the Albula-Bahn-Club of Bergün, issue 2/89

A model of the Preda - Bergün line is taking shape on the upper floor of the building which is to become the Bergün town museum. The room has been almost completely removated and the foundations for the track beds are already in place. If anyone wrinkles his forehead and thinks we haven't made much progress, he is completely on the wrong track: the uneven floor of the old building, with level differences of up to 16 cm, has caused great problems in making the legs and frames. There are about 100 support legs altogether, made of perforated angle-iron. The track beds are made from some 20 square metres of 21 mm thick 9-ply wood, to represent the whole of the line from Bergün to  Preda including all tunnels and bridges; the total length of run will be 56 metres. About 600 M8-size screws have been used in the construction of these track bases. Bergün station is 70 cm above the floor, and the line climbs at an average gradient of 25 per mille (the prototype is 35 per mille) to Preda at 1.72m above the floor. The gentler gradient was chosen firstly to make sure that Bemo trains could handle the climb, and also to keep Preda station and a reasonable height from the floor.

Now that the shell is complete, track laying is to begin in autumn 1989. Most of the work so far has been done by Emil Dieter (ABC committee member) and Heinrich Gerhard (Stationmaster at Preda), but any members  of the Club who may be spending their holidays in the area are welcome to help with the track and scenery.  It is planned that public running will begin in 1991; 18 trains will operate, some held in "shadow-stations" under the scenery. It is worth mentioning that the Bemo company, and their Swiss importers Bänninger of Winterthur, have not only provided all the trains without cost, but also helped financially with the building of the layout itself, a generous gesture which has greatly facilitated the work of our main builder Heinrich Gerhard.

Sightseeing by Rail: Basel to Luzern (table 500)

Adapted from Grosser Eisenbahn-Atlas Schweiz

From Basel, known for its important chemical industry and its Rhine docks - "the gateway to Switzerland", we traverse the industrial area to Muttenz (km 5), whose passenger station lies at the beginning of the maze of tracks which is one of the country's biggest marshalling yards. Muttenz parish church, St. Arbogast, has the country's last remaining fortified church enclosure. Nearby, at Wartenburg, are some castle ruins from the 13th century. After Pratteln (km 8) we turn right into the Ergolz valley, where lies Liestal (km 14), capital of the Canton of Basel Land. Liestal has a well-preserved medieval old quarter, set on a terrace above the river, and many decorated 19th century houses; in the canton museum are prehistoric finds from Muttenz and Kaiseraugst, and the drinking cup of Charles the Bold of Burgundy, captured at the battle of Nancy in 1477.

The narrow-gauge Waldenburgerbahn starts from Liestal, but we continue  east to Sissach (km 21) and Gelterkinden (km 24), which has a very interesting late-Gothic church. After Tecknau (km 28) we traverse the 8.134 km Hauenstein base tunnel which was built in 1916 to allow expresses to by-pass the steep gradients of the original Hauenstein route, then cross the River Aare before entering Olten (km 39) which is one of the country's major rail junctions. On the left, soon after leaving Olten, we see on a hill the so-called Salis castle, built in 1260 and completely rebuilt in 1870. Today, it is a popular panoramic viewpoint with a restaurant. Next to come into view is the Aarburg castle, which, along with the old and new Wartburg castles, guarded this part of the Aare valley.

After the town of Aarburg (km 43), with its triangular market-place, we enter the fertile Wigger valley. We call at Zofingen (km 48), principal town on this section, then run around the Santenberg hill to Nebikon (km 60) and skirt the Wauwil moss. The Mauen lake, on the right, has an island with a castle. Soon after Sursee (km 70) we run alongside the beautiful Sempach Lake; the station at Nottwil (km 75) is on the lake shore. On the opposite shore is Sempach, a "crumbling old town" (Ward Lock, 1937) where Arnold von Winkelried became a national hero by sacrificing himself in battle against the Austrians on 9 July 1386.  He is said to have rushed forward and grabbed as many as he could of the enemy's lances, thus making a break in their line.

Leaving the lake behind, we run through woodland to Emmenbrücke (km 91), junction with the Seetalbahn, where the Kleine Emme river joins the Reuss. The railway squeezes through a gorge along with the road and the Reuss river, then tunnels under the Gütsch hill before arriving at the famous terminal station of Luzern (km 96).

First published 1990. This edition April 2009