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 - June 1991

The T2S Sleeping Car: prototype and model

From Loki 4/91, by René Stamm.

In 1971, a pool of sleeping cars was set up by eight European railways, intended to standardize the rolling stock and also the fares structure. Previously, the service had been provided by various companies, and obsolete rolling-stock and different charges for the same service were the normal order of things. This situation was neither customer-friendly nor conducive to uncomplicated operation. The pool system, marketed as TEN (Trans-Euro Nacht/Nuit) allowed the railways to attempt to compete with increasing air and road traffic.

The Orders

In 1972 the Pool Organisation commissioned from Eurofima (the European organisation of rail manufacturers) a new series of sleeping cars. The chosen design was the Type T2S sleeper, vehicle code WLam, which was to be built by a consortium led by Schlieren and composed of Schindler and SIG of Switzerland, Fiat and Casaralta of Italy and Jenbacher of Austria. Fiat and Jenbach were involved in the design, and produced some components, but the main construction was carried out by Casaralta of Bologna in the case of the 33 cars for FS Italia, and the two Swiss firms for the remaining 30. Five were built for the SBB, 16 for the DB, 2 for the NS (Holland), 2 for DSB (Denmark) and 5 for Austria. The bogies for all the cars were Minden-Deutz type M6-1A built in France by AFN.

Despite the complications of this decentralized production plan, the cars were delivered on schedule at the rate of two per month from January 1975. The success of the design is shown by the fact that the FS ordered a further 80 cars for internal Italian services, delivered between 1982 and 1989.

Technical Details

The T2S cars are of lightweight steel construction. Each end incorporates two crush-columns to protect the passengers in case of any collision. The bogies are suitable for speeds up to 160 km/hr, and and fitted with quiet disc brakes. If magnetic rail brakes are installed, the speed can be increased to 200 km/hr. Two axle-driven 12.5 kW generators supply power at 110V for the air-conditioning and, via a solid-state convertor, the lighting, razor points and other accessories. When stationary, power can be taken from an external 380 V 50 Hz supply, or from a locomotive via the standard train heating connections. Car heating is by warm water, heated either electrically or by an oil burner. The Danish cars are also fitted with steam heating. Fresh air is heated to 20 degrees and distributed to individual controls in each compartment. In the car roof is a 1200 litre water tank, supplying hot and cold water to each compartment, the toilets and the attendant's office.

Each of the 17 first class compartments has two beds, which fold down for daytime use, a seat for two people and a washstand. In a cupboard beneath the washstand, and not well advertised to passengers, all TEN sleeper compartments carry a chamber-pot, apparently meant for use by children, but no doubt welcome to anyone who has consumed an excess quantity of Cardinal on his last night in Switzerland. The compartments are not roomy hotel suites, of course, but they offer a pleasant and comfortable environment. Connecting doors can be unlocked to make each pair of compartments into a family room. Hot and cold drinks are served by the attendant, whose office is equippped with refrigerator, coffee-maker, and cupboards for china and glasses. Only one end of the car has external doors; at the other are two toilet compartments. The whole passenger area is sound-proofed and insulated.


Most of the 63 cars were delivered in the same colour scheme, irrespective of ownership. The dark blue TEN livery clearly owes much to the earlier Wagons-Lits company colour, and gives the cars a rather royal look. Each car carries the TEN emblem in white; the Swiss cars have Trans Euro Nuit on one side and Trans Euro Nacht the other. At first, the German cars were painted in the red of the DSG company, but with the TEN emblem. These have been repainted into standard blue on overhaul. The running numbers of the SBB cars are 71 85 75-70 450 to 454.


Of the five SBB cars, two normally work between Schaffhausen and Naples, and two between Geneva and Nice, with one as reserve. DB cars work into Switzerland in EC 470/471 "Komet" between Hamburg and Basel. Other international services worked include Paris - Nürnberg, Paris - Frankfurt, Avignon - Hamburg (all DB cars). Vienna - Venice (ÖBB), Munich - Genoa, Paris - Rome (FS) and Amsterdam - Innsbruck (NS). The DSB cars have no fixed allocation, and are used in various services.

Sadly, one of the T2s cars no longer rides the European rails; German cars 407 were 408 were involved in a bad accident at Landquart on 30 October 1975. 407 was repaired, but 408 was damaged beyond repair and had to be scrapped.

T2s: the Models

Fleischmann 8117 is lettered as an SBB T2s, but is actually a model of a T2 sleeper, easily recognisable by the characteristic upper and lower windows on the compartment side resulting from the T2 design's overlapping compartments. Nevertheless, it is a good-looking plastic model, 165mm long, with flush windows and the facility to fit a lighting unit. The Lima T2s, issued in 1975 and withdrawn in 1985, was under scale length at 138 mm and lacked the characteristic roof corrugations. The 1989 catalogue of Minibahn showed an accurate model of an SBB T2S, but it had not appeared when the Lima-Hobbytrain partnership was dissolved. The same scale-length model appears in the 1991 Minitrain catalogue as an FS vehicle; it may be released in Swiss livery later.

HO scale

Jouef released their T2s in 1980, as an SBB vehicle (cat. 5784), notable for the time in being a scale-length model. It is still available, and is well-detailed and neatly lettered; the only drawback is the lack of close-coupling linkage. The 1990 catalogue shows the same coach in FS livery (5785). A red German version (5793) has been made. Lima released the T2s in 1978 as the SBB type (cat.9237), and had since released the model lettered for all the other owning railways. The model is slightly under scale length, and like the N version missing the roof corrugations; at present only the DB, FS and ÖBB versions are available, and have new bogies introduced in 1986 with smaller couplers, but still no close-coupling system or NEM standard sockets. These newer bogies are available as Lima spare part no. 70-9214-517.

The Märklin catalogue included the SBB T2s (cat. 4182) from 1986 to 1989; currently only an ÖBB version is in production. However, the Swiss Märklin company had some SBB versions in stock in February 1991. The model has interior details, and can be fitted with lighting, but will need new wheels to run on standard 2-rail layouts. It is a good representation, although underscale in length and lacking in close-coupling facilities. Tivoli-Hobby of Zürich have an advert in Loki offering the Jouef and Märklin models, and also a Roco N gauge (cat. 24266) which is not mentioned by Mr. Stamm - is this another type of car?

Riding the Wagons-Lits

It seems appropriate to insert here a few notes for those who would like to travel to Switzerland by sleeping-car. Until a few years ago, one had a choice of several overnight routes to Switzerland; my usual route of the 1970s was from Calais via Vallorbe, including the run round the Paris Grand Ceinture from Nord Station to Gare de Lyon and the stop at Vallorbe with a glimpse of the Joux Valley train with its De 4/4 followed by the run alongside Lac Leman. The train used to include through cars to Istanbul or Athens (Direct Orient!), but Venice was the furthest I ever reached. I will not discuss today's Venice - Simplon - Orient Express, as I doubt whether many SRS Manchester members really enjoy 'dressing for dinner' and all that; anyway, the VSOE does not go via the Simplon!

Today, not counting overnight ship services, there is really only one real through service with a sleeping car from the port, and that is train 499 at 20.53 from Ostend, which includes one sleeping car to Brig (via Basel, Bern & the Lötschberg - arr. 08.59), as well as couchettes to Brig and Chur (arr. 08.47). Until very recently, there was also a sleeper from Ostend to Lucerne, Lugano and Chiasso which was one of the T2 types, including two-berth compartments accessible to second-class ticket-holders. The Brig car, however, is one of the traditional types in which second-class travellers are placed in sex-segregated three-berth compartments, so that one must buy a first-class ticket to get proper two-berth privacy. Mind you, first class abroad is only 50% more than second, unlike the ridiculous situation in Britain. The connecting train for this service leaves London Victoria at 13.00, so it is easily reached from Manchester - the ship sails from Dover Western Docks for easy access from the station, and at Ostend one can walk easily from Station to Ship. Alternatively, it is possible to travel Dover - Ostend by Jetfoil, although the present timings only save half an hour. The bottom line is that a first class return from London to Basel with sleeping car berth will cost you £236 per person, plus £26 for a Saver (Second Class!) from Manchester; more than the air fare, of course, but a really Great Railway Journey. To me, there's nothing quite like the feeling one gets stepping down from a dark-blue coach at Brig station, admiring the nice brown engine, looking for a connectiing train to continue the adventure ...

The Trambahn Meiringen - Reichenbach - Aaresschlucht (MRA), 1912 - 1956

From Schweers and Wall, Schmalspurparadies Schweiz Band 2.

This little line in the Bernese Oberland was built to serve two wonders of nature. In 1888 the romantically wild Aare Gorge had been mad accessible by the construction of galleries and wooden footways. The Reichenbach Falls, which fall 500 metres in seven cascades, was served by a funicular built in 1899 from Talboden to the upper waterfall. A tramway from Meiringen station to these two attractions was first suggested in the 1890s, but the people of Meiringen resisted, fearing a loss of trade for the local horse-cab operation. As a result, the Commune applied for a concession itself. which was granted in 1906, and then did nothing until the powers expired in 1906. Private interests then applied again, and after much debate construction began in 1912, in the hope of completion in time for the summer season. However, due to delays in the delivery of materials, service did not start until the end of August, using two trams hired from the Albisgütlibahn in Zürich.

The line started at Meiringen station, ran through part of the town, then crossed the Aare and curved round by the lower station of the funicular to a terminus at the entrance to the Aare Gorge, a total length of 2.773 km. It was metre gauge, with a maximum gradient of 39 per mille, a minimum radius of 20 m, and electrified at 500 V DC. The depot lay inside the terminal loop at Meiringen. The hired cars were returned on delivery of three four-wheeled power cars and four open-air trailers in spring 1913. The line was born under an unlucky star: the First World War took away its traffic, then after a period of relative prosperity in the 1920s it was hit again by the world financial crisis of the thirties. About thirty journeys per day were made, and tickets included the funicular and entry to the Gorge. Profits were never enough to keep the stock and track in good condition, and by the 1950s the line was in a bad state.

For the 1957 season, it was decided to try a replacement bus service, which proved quite adequate and the line never reopened, having last run on 16 September 1956. The bus service still operates 11 times per day (table 470.60) over the same route each summer, worked by Aare Gorge Ltd., and the ancient funicular (RfB - table 1460) is still worked by an operator almost as ancient for those wishing to pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and/or Moriarty. The survivor can escape by walking from the top of the falls to a nearby inn where one can catch the post bus to Schwarzwaldalp and Grindelwald.

News Items from Loki 4/91

RBe 4/4 Facelifting

The RBe 4/4 railcars were originally built for fast trains, but these days are predominantly used in local service. They are now beginning to emerge from overhaul at Zürich works painted in the same livery as the modern "Kolibri" units. 1433 was the first to be treated, re-entering service on 22 February. It retains its original round headlamps, but future overhauls will be fitted with modern rectangular lamps.

Double-loco Overhauled

60-year old museum loco Ae 8/14 11801 was being overhauled in Zürich works at the beginning of the year. Among other tasks, the white-metal motor bearings are being replaced and the Brown-Boveri drive units sealed to prevent oil leaks which contravene environmental regulations.

V200 diesels 'return to Germany'

The only non-electrified SBB line is the freight-only link from Etzwilen to to the German town of Singen, which bridges the Rhine by a lattice-girder bridge at Hemishofen. This bridge is no longer in the best of condition, and last year the large Bm 6/6 diesel-electrics were banned from it as too heavy. Since then, a Bm 4/4 has been used, but these smaller locomotives have often run into difficulty on the 13 per mille gradient on the approach to Etzwilen.

It was decided to try the Am 4/4 (ex DB V200) diesel-hydraulics on the service, and in the third week of March 18462 and 18466 arrived from Bern depot. Tests were made with a 1000-tonne train (126 axles), including checking of noise levels, before they entered service on the regular freights. Despite an engine failure during these tests, the Am 4/4s lived up to expectations, and will be very kind the to the Hemishofen bridge, with a loading (measured in tonnes per metre of wheelbase) 34% lower than the Bm 6/6 and Bm 4/4 diesels.

Cargo X

In the future, the SBB intends to run a very fast, regular freight service between major Swiss centres; a pilot service starts on 3 June 1991 between Zürich, Bern and Lausanne/Renens. The trains will run at a maximum speed of 120 km/hr, almost as fast as an Intercity. They will be formed of 12 flat wagons able to carry ISO and Pool containers, swap-bodies and roll-off containers (ACTS system). At the terminals, cranes or heavy-duty stackers will effect an efficient transfer to and from road vehicles used for collection and delivery to customers. In fact, Cargo X is the British Freightliner system which was pioneered in Britain in the 1960s.

Wandering Double-deckers

Some of the SBB double-deck coaches used in the Zürich S-Bahn traffic have been recently tested on various other railways, from the neighbouring SZU (Sihltal - Zürich Uetliberg) to the far-flung Swedish Railways, who are considering them for the Stockholm - Uppsala service.

Oensingen - Balsthal News

The OeBB management have decided to purchase three twin-unit railcars from the BLS, to replace the three three-car sets obtained from Germany in 1985. The first will enter service in late-autumn 1991.

The End of Fama/Utz?

Although they announced new models at the Nürnberg Fair, it appears that the Utz range is to cease production, although there has not yet been an official announcement. The O scale metre gauge rack railway range was originally launched by Fama, later taken over by Utz, and since last year has been sold by Klein of Weinheim under a new name - Golden Train. Bankruptcy proceedings are under way, and the firm has ceased trading.

First published 1991 - this edition April 2009