Swiss Railways Manchester 1990s archives

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 Notebook for Manchester - April 1991

Erklärung der Bezeichnungen

Most members will know something about the Swiss classification scheme, but perhaps not everyone realises some of the less obvious points. Most important: there are actually two separate systems, one for locomotives and another for coaches, which includes motorcoaches and wagons and uses the letters specified by the UIC European standard. It is not enough to just talk of a Be 4/4, as this could be either an electric locomotive with a maximum speed of 80 km/h or an electric motorcoach with second class seating.

There is a particularly blurred boundary between locomotives which have some baggage accomodation and motorcoaches with baggage accomodation only. As there are no locomotives these days in class D (max. speed 45 km/h) the code De 4/4 in practice is always the code for a motor parcels van. Notice also that the locomotive system indicates narrow gauge by a leading G, but the coach system has no equivalent, so one cannot tell if ABe 4/4, for instance, is a standard or narrow gauge motorcoach. To muddy the waters, however, the locomotives recently built for the metre-gauge MOB and GFM lines incorporate some baggage space, and in theory should have been either Ge 4/4 (loco system) or De 4/4 (coach system), yet they actually carry the code GDe 4/4. Who said the Swiss were methodical?

The fitting of rack drive to power units is indicated by H (loco system) or h (coach system). Strangely, there is no code for a non-powered coach fitted with a rack wheel for braking. A narrow-gauge locomotive capable of working exclusively or partly on the rack is always shown by HG, but in the coach system the order of the small letters is used to make a distinction. Bhe 4/4 would be an electric second class motorcoach with rack drive only, such as on the Gornergrat or Jungfrau, whilst a Beh 4/4 would be able to work on either rack or adhesion systems, such as on the Furka Oberalp.

Until 3 June 1956, there were three classes of passenger accomodation: third class was indicated by C. On 1 January 1962, to match the European standard, the F previously used for baggage accomodation was altered to D. On the same date, coach codes with no small letters were assumed to mean a bogie coach with closed platforms; exceptions are indicated by a superscript number for the number of axles if less than 4, and an i to indicate open platforms. D3, for example, indicates a six-wheeled baggage van (the last of these on the SBB was recently scrapped) and ABi is a coach with first and second class seating and open platforms. Before 1962, the norm was a four-wheeler with open platforms, and a bogie composite coach with enclosed platforms would have been coded AB.

News Items

from SBB Magazin 2/91 and Eisenbahn Zeitschrift 2/3-91

Catering Cars

From Spring 1992, SSG restaurant car service will be withdrawn from the Gotthard and Basel - Chur routes, which will have Minibar trolley service only. An EW III restaurant car has been internally rebuilt as the "Grotto Ticinese", and is running in trains 1671 and 254 between Basel and Chiasso.

SBB rolling stock

A third series of double deck cars, comprising 45 driving trailer seconds, 25 seconds and 35 composites, has been ordered. The Deutsche Bundesbahn intends to order some of the same type. 1954-built RIC standard first class coach 51 85 17-70 113 has been rebuilt as a sleeping car for lorry drivers on Huckepack trains, and is now numbered 60 85 99-30 550; others of the same class will follow. Motorcoach RBe 4/4 1454 has been damaged by fire and will not be repaired. A coach for use by parties of disabled people is being created by rebuilding a redundant restaurant car. It will enter service in May, and will have a hydraulic wheelchair lift, 29 normal seats and spaces for 16 wheelchairs.

Brünig News

From 1993, locals between Luzern - Giswil and Meiringen - Interlaken Ost will be worked by four car push-pull sets not equipped with rack drive. Deh 4/6 motor baggage vans 903/4, 910/12/14 will be rebuilt as De 4/4 II to join 913 which has already been rebuilt as prototype. Six AB composites will be rebuilt as ABt driving trailers, and twelve coaches fitted with through wiring, door circuits etc. The latter task will be carried out by Meiringen works. Deh 4/6 907 was sold to the Luzern - Stans - Engelberg company in January. Sister 905 will follow in May, and in the autumn both will be converted to De 4/4 for adhesion-only working. Note that the centre bogie is being removed in these rebuilds.

Uncertain Future for Line 701

The SBB wishes to withdraw the passenger service over the 17 km Laufenberg - Koblenz section of the Stein-Säckingen - Winterthur route. Passenger numbers are very low, and a bus would give a "better service" to some of the villages which are a long way from their stations. Another section of the route, from Eglisau to Zurzach (19km) has similar problems.

The four expresses each way over this route between Basel and Winterthur appear to have been deliberately handicapped in the June 1991 timetable to make them less useful and help the case for closure. There will be a wait of 5-7 minutes in Stein-Säckingen, no stop at Eglisau, but a stop at every station between Blach and Winterthur.

The other sections of route 701 have a more secure future: Stein-Säckingen - Laufenburg is included in the Basel S-Bahn proposals, Koblenz - Zurzach is also served by route 702, and Blach - Winterthur is part of the Zrich S-Bahn network.

Gruyère - Fribourg - Morat

The bridge over the Hongrin near Montbovon is to be rebuilt this year to separate road and rail traffic. Ex-SBB coach Bi 245, built in 1931, has been rebuilt as bar-saloon car Brsi 245 for use in Belle-Epoque trains. GFM bus drivers are to be equipped with Sadamel computerised ticket machines which can issue any sort of ticket to any of 600 places; later the service will be extended to cover every station in Switzerland.

Metro Locarno

On 17 December 1990 the Centovalli railway opened its new 2703 metre tunnel under the town of Locarno to a new underground terminus. There is a new station with crossing loop at San Martino (km 7), but Locarno Piazza Castello will in future be served only by bus. From the Summer timetable, 10 minutes will be saved on the Domodossola - Locarno journey, and 20 minutes from Bern and Lausanne to Locarno because of improvements on the Simplon line. When the new low-floor ABe 4/6 units are delivered in 1993 (eight for the Swiss company, two for the Italian), a further 15 minute acceleration will be possible.

Montreux Oberland Bernois

DZe 6/6 2001, one of the two articulated locomotives built in 1932 for the Golden Mountain Pullman, has been rebuilt with a new body. The other example, 2002, will retain its historic appearance for use on nostalgic charter trains with historic saloons AR 101 and As 102, complemented by ABi 93 which has returned from France.

Régional Val de Travers

A new common logo has been adopted for RVT and CMN trains, which will also be carried by the area's buses. New RVT equipment to be delivered in May includes an RBDe 4/4 railcar of the BLS design, no. 107, and two driving trailers ABt 205 and 206. Three second class centre cars no. 305-7 will be delivered in 1992. RABDe 4/4 104 and its driving trailer have been sold to the GFM. A preservation society, the interlingually-named Verein Vapeur Val de Travers, is restoring German pacific 01 202 for use on specials.

ASD: No Future?

The Aigle - Sépey - Diablerets line, which was recently re-equipped with new trains, is again under threat of closure. The National Government has already refused a grant, and now the community of Ormont-Dessous, which includes Le Sépey, has decided against further financial support for the line.

The short double run over the branch to Le Sépey has always been made without any signalling to protect the trains, and it has been ruled that signalling must be installed as soon as possible. The management are investigating the possibility of closing the branch and running between Aigle and Les Diablerets only; not only would this save the cost of the signalling, but an hourly service could be maintained by just two railcars, with one as spare and for school trains. The present timetable requires all four available units, so another will have to be found when overhauls are needed.


Nuremburg Fair Announcements from BEMO Post, Issue 2

Train Sets. An RhB pickup goods set (7254 100) will include a locomotive [photo shows Ge 6/6 II, caption says Ge 4/4 II and article has Ge 4/4 I !!], coach, two open wagons, and an oval of track with two points to make a loop. This is meant as a beginner's set at an "attractive" price. 7258 130 will be a Bernina-Express set, composed of Ge 4/4 II 628 Celerina, with one first and three second class coaches in red with dark grey window band. These coaches will have different running numbers not available in any other way. [We have ways of making you buy ... ]

Motive Power. Railcar 504 will be released in present-day livery with modified ends and roof. The Tm 2/2 tractor will be issued as no. 19 with roof-mounted exhaust.

Rolling Stock. The open four-wheeled observation car as used on the Bernina (and lately Arosa) lines will be issued in three running numbers, 2097 2099 and 2100, so the modeller can run more than one in the same train. The model of 2099 will come equipped with 25 passengers. The Bernina Express coaches in read and grey will be available as B 2645 and A 1272. For Glacier Express fans, there will be first class coaches BVZ A 2072 and FO A 4065 to go with the second class examples already in the range. Various goods wagons will be available as boxes of four with different running numbers and various detail variations such as spoked and disc wheels and white tyremarkings. Wagons sold in sets will be the van, steel-bodied open, timber wagon, cement wagon (new livery with blue andorange pipes) and Cargo Domizil van. The latter set will contain two vans with German/Italian wording and two with German/Romansch. The spoked wheels will be available separately in packs of 10 axles.

HOm at Nuremburg

Plans of the smaller makers, from EZ 2/3-91

D + R The Berninabahn motor baggage van is in production and will be available soon, as will a superb model of the RhB post/baggage van DZ 4231/2, which will sell for SFr 56.20 with close-coupling fitted; standard couplers are included in the pack. The company also offers accessories such as a flashing tail-light and a coach detailing set. The new catalogue shows the next production will be the Furka Oberalp panoramic car. Elfer plan some Centovalli units, and the new Bernina 51 series railcar which should be released this year. Haberl & Partner make buildings for the Chur - Arosa line; this year the Langwies Milk Depot is promised. Just released is San Vittore station from the Mesocco line. An electronic sound effects system is planned - church, farm, station and town centre sounds will be available. Lemaco offer St. Gallen - Gais - Appenzell motorcoaches and RhB Bernina ABe 4/4 31-34. Narr This new firm promises some exciting detailing items for April delivery. These include etched kits for RhB litter bins, a 16-part cast kit for Filisur station coffee machine, a range of plastic cows' heads to fit the ventilators of Bemo vans, and for later delivery a boxed set of RhB platform trolleys with different running numbers; one in each box has an authentic bent wheel. Schumacher specialise in customizing BEMO locomotives. Super-detailed versions of the RhB Ge 2/4 and FO Ge 4/4 tunnel loco will be available, plus the RhB Ge 4/4 I and Ge 6/6 II backdated to their original condition. The Ge 4/4 I has side windows and the end doors with drop flap and handrails. The company also produces tunnel portals based on specific RhB prototypes; this year the east end of Giarsun Tunnel and the west end of Magnacun Tunnel (both Scuol line) and the south portal of Bergnerstein Tunnel on the Albula main line.

Spieth This firm, whose main business is in etched plates etc., is to produce an RhB inspection cycle as used at Filisur. This will be available as a kit (good grief) and ready-made. Later will follow a kit for the Chur station crane, and RhB gradient and level crossing signs. STL models are made in Switzerland, with plastic body and metal bogies with sprung axles. The RhB open platform bogie coach will be ready in April, with four different running numbers, and scheduled for Autumn is the heavyweight RhB steel coach, which will retail for 85 SFr.

EZ joins ME

Editorial from EZ 2/3-91, by Christian Zellweger

We have always tried to be the best magazine of our kind. However, one can try too hard, with unfortunate results. In my years as an engineer I would have laughed at such an idea. This could definitely never happpen, I would have said in a tone of conviction. What a mistake! In the four years since I founded Komet Press and began to publish EZ, with the support of my friends, colleagues and business partners, I have always tried to be the best. I have enjoyed the role of photographer and chief editor, but as publisher and company owner I was getting into trouble. Worse still: the photography, research and editing were taking second place to the other tasks. Permanent stress, with no time for contact with friends and colleagues became the normal state. However much satisfaction one gets from doing the whole thing, it is too much of a burden for one person. "Well", I hear you say, "Why not employ someone else help you?" I could do this, but would you be willing to pay 50% more for the magazine? A way out of this dilemma appeared in the form of an initiative from a competitor, whose principal satisfaction came from the business side. He presented my with an interesting proposition: He would be "my" publisher if I would be "his" editor. A tempting offer; more time to do what I wanted, and life would be fun again! A perfect deal. Therefore, both EZ and our former competitor "Die Model Eisenbahn" have now appeared for the last time, and a new magazine, "Loki" will appear for the first time at the end of March or the beginning of April. "Loki" will cover both model and prototype railways as before, and Martin von Meyenburg (editor of ME) and I will work together on its production.

First published 1991 - this edition April 2009