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 - January 1992

Lucerne's Goods Lines

Based on P.Pfeiffer, Normalspurige Privatbahnen der Schweiz

1. Sursee - Triengen (ST)

The ST was originally meant to be part of a through Surentalbahn, which would have run from Sursee to Aarau. The first concession was issued in 1872, for a line from Aarau to the Aargau - Lucerne cantonal border. A further application of 1893 for an extension from Suhr via Schöftland to Sursee failed because of opposition from the communities in Lucerne and disagreements between the two cantons about track gauge and financing arrangements. Eventually the metre gauge tramway from Aarau to Schöftland opened in 1901 (See Notebook, March 1990).

It was 1912 before the standard-gauge line finally opened in the upper part of the valley from Sursee to Triengen (8.9 km), with the assistance of the Deutsche Eisenbahn Gesellschaft of Hannover. The middle part of the valley never got a railway: a concession for a narrow-gauge extension from Schöftland to Sursee was granted in 1963, but the line has never been built and, it seems, never will be. We tend to see the Swiss system as a model of public transport integration, but this valley is one of those places where logic fell victim to inter-company squabbling as happened so many times in Britain.

The company began operations with two steam locomotives and a small collection of rolling stock. In 1917 the company obtained a post/baggage steam railcar FZm 1/2 no. 11, which permitted more economical working. These three items of motive power worked the line until 1960 when they were replaced by two ex-SBB E 3/3 'Tigerli' tank engines. After tests with various kinds of Swiss and foreign diesel units (including a DB railbus), a four-wheeled disel-electric loco, Em 2/2 no.1, was purchased in 1965 and thenceforward worked all the passenger and freight trains, with the steam locos as reserve power. The depot is at Triengen.

On 26 September 1971, passenger traffic was transferred to a road bus service, which runs through from Schöftland to Sursee. A number of industries continued to depend on the ST for freight service, in fact after 1970 freight traffic increased enormously, and in 1976 a second, rather more powerful, locomotive was obtained, becoming Em 2/2 no. 2. This enterprising railway has also developed a tourist passenger operation using its two remaining steam engines and historic coaches, which has been an economic boon to the upper Surental. Coaches used on the steam service are open-platform lightweight steel Bi types bought from the BLS group; one has recently been rebuilt as a salon car, no. SRi 31 (Loki 12/91, p.10). Sursee is well-placed for such an attraction, being served by an hourly express on the Lucerne-Olten main line. The town of Sursee itself (pop. 7645) is well worth a visit, with pleasant lake views and some historic buildings. Beromünster, Seetalbahn branch terminus, is only 25 minutes away from Sursee by bus.

2. Kriens - Luzern - Bahn (KLB)

The KLB was originally built as a link between the factories in the Kriens area and Lucerne station. The track was laid in the street, and steam tram locomotives were used, equipped with normal couplings for goods wagons and central couplers for passenger cars. Later, normal locomotives were obtained, and one of these runs today in tourist service on the Oensingen - Balsthal line.

In September 1900, the Lucerne city tramway network opened its line to Kriens. The city bought the KLB company, which continued to operate as a freight carrier only. Between Kupferhammer/Eichhof and Kriens, three-rail mixed gauge was laid to allow the metre-gauge trams to share the track with the standard-gauge freights. In 1926, a DC electric locomotive, Ee 4/4 no. 1, was obtained from the Wohlen - Meisterschwanden line and worked the freights using the tramway overhead power supply. In 1961 the Lucerne tramways were replaced by trolleybuses; it was intended to move the KLB to a new route away from the street, but all attempts to do this have failed and today the little train still rolls through the streets of Kriens. Indeed, tourists returning from Pilatus by trolleybus may occasionally catch a glimpse of this fascinating service. In places, traces of the third rail which carried the metre gauge trams may still be seen.

In 1968, the electric locomotive became life-expired and a diesel locomotive was bought second-hand from the Jülische Kreisbahnin Germany, retaining its running number V 34. As traffic increased, a more powerful locomotive was needed, and in 1979 a bogie diesel (Em 4/4) was obtained from Romania and given the next number, 35.

This is the company's only motive power, so if it is out of action a replacement must be hired in; in 1986, for example, Em 2/2 no. 102 of the Bremgarten - Dietikon saw service on the line.

Traffic for the KLB leaves Lucerne as an SBB train running on the mixed-gauge section of the Brünig line from Lucerne yard to the exchange sidings at Rösslimatt, hauled by an SBB Em 3/3 or Bm 4/4 diesel. Normally there is a morning and an afternoon working each day. The KLB locomotive takes over the wagons and first shunts the factories and warehouses around Rösslimatt before continuing to the sidings at Kupferhammer where further marshalling takes place to serve the Kriens industries, including the Bell machine works and, most important of all, the Eichhof brewery.

3. Postscript: Alcoholic model review.

The Eichhof brewery, like many others, runs its own rail vans to carry its product. I well remember seeing these on my first visit to Lucerne in 1969; in those days they were white, but recently a yellow livery with red lettering (perhaps adopted to be different from other companies?) has become standard. My first Swiss model, bought on that trip, was a Liliput wooden van in Eichhof white which still makes an occasional guest appearance today.

No Lucerne area layout would be complete without an Eichhof van, so I was very pleased indeed on a visit to Bernie Victor's emporium to discover a modern van in H0 made by the Swiss firm of AKU (cat. no. 1058). These must have originally been sold as kits, to judge by the instruction leaflet in the box, but these imported versions are ready-to-run apart from some detail parts - a plastic brake platform handrail, and also the corner grab rails which are made of brass. One needs a very flexible friend to buy these wagons at £25 each, but this is a good model of a fairly simple vehicle. The lettering is perfect, and the couplers are in NEM pockets, slightly spoiled by a rather inadequate centering spring which may cause problems in service with my Kadee couplers. Also available from AKU is a typically SBB general purpose van, type Gms, with the 'Southern Railway' shaped roof (cat no. 1075).

A Load of Rubbish on the MOB

from Loki 12/91, by Urs Jossi

The trend in recent years in Switzerland is towards rail freight rather than road; an excellent example of this is the service which for a number of years has been moving the garbage of the Saanenland to landfill sites at Wimmis and Kiesen. The major part of this journey is by environment-friendly rail transport. In the local dialect, this material is known as Ghüder, rather than the German term Kericht.

Why by Rail?

In the mid-1970s, the community of Saanen realised that their existing rubbish tip at Dorfrüti would soon be full, and sought assistance from the cantonal authorities. The solution was provided by the company Abfallverwertung AG (AVAG) which has contracts with 143 communities, including Zweisimmen and Interlaken. The nearest AVAG disposal site is, however, some way from Saanen and the community would be required to buy two or three more refuse lorries, and associated drivers and loading staff. The rail alternative was seen as not only very convenient but also better for the environment.


In 1978 the new service began, carrying the domestic refuse of the Simmental by road to Zweisimmen, where the special AVAG road/rail containers were loaded on to wagons of the Spiez - Erlenbach - Zweisimmen (SEZ) for the journey to Wimmis, where they were transferred to road for the final short trip to the landfill site.

The MOB, supported by the local authorities, has in recent years spent large sums to make its metre-gauge line accessible to standard-gauge freight wagons using the Vevey Bogie system, and rubbish traffic has become very much the mainstay of this service. The first train ran on 18 December 1985, and today around 10,000 tonnes of refuse per year are carried, keeping these heavy loads off the area's busy roads.

In Detail

The local dustbin lorries empty their loads directly into the 7.5 metre long AVAG containers in the rail served depot at Saanen-Oey. When loaded to its maximum of 11.7 tonnes of garbage, each container is transferred to a specially-designed four-wheeled flat wagon of the SEZ, type Lgkkmm, which is mounted on Vevey Bogies. A daily working by an MOB GDe 4/4 locomotive takes the wagons to Zweisimmen, where they are removed from the Vevey Bogies and continue their journey by the SEZ freight service. If there are wagons to be moved on public holidays, they may ride to Wimmis on the back of the SEZ local passenger train. At Wimmis, a crane is provided to transfer the containers to road lorries for transfer to the nearby dump at Steinigand.

At present, Wimmis is also used as transshipment point for another disposal site at Türliacher/Jaberg, which is actually much nearer to Kiesen station on the Thun - Bern line. In the long term it is intended to install crane facilities as either Kiesen or Thun to reduce the road mileage of this traffic.

The MOB and SEZ, along with a few other lines, have pioneered this rubbish traffic, and it is to be hoped that many other lines follow the environmentally-friendly example.

The Wagons

The SEZ has six of the "Ghüder-Wagen". They are coded Lgkkmm and numbered 42 62 441 8 000-005. No. 0 and 1 date from 1977, no. 2 from 1979, 3 from 1983 and 4 and 5 from 1985, but all are in fact excellent examples of recycyling, being rebuilt from SBB low-sided wagons type Km, built in 1931. The rebuild included the strengthening of the underframe and the fitting of locating devices for the container. A brakeman's cabin on one end completes the transformation.


To model this service, one could use the Rollböcke bogies from Bemo [not really the right type], and the same maker's MOB GDe 4/4 locomotive. SEZ - BLS group - motive power is available from Hag and various limited-run manufacturers, but at present there is no model of the wagons or their containers. Some scratchbuilding and model-bashing is needed here.

Over the Border: the Centovalli, Pt. 3

From Loki 12/91, by Bernhard Studer

Part 3: Rolling Stock of the Locarno Tramway

The Locarno tramway ran from 1908 to 1946 with a fleet of three trams, Ce 2/2 no. 1-3, which were rebuilt electrically in 1923 to the DC system. In 1946, two further cars were obtained from the Alstätten - Berneck line of the Rheintalische Strassenbahn. Ce 2/4 no. 4 and 5 rode on maximum-traction bogies in A1-1A formation. They were overhauled and electrically rebuilt before entering service in Locarno. All five cars surived the withdrawal of the tramway service in 1960. Ce 2/2 2 became the station shunter at Domodossola, until it was scrapped in 1966. The other cars became service stock, and were reclassified as Xe 2/2 or Xe 2/4. Xe 2/2 7 (ex- Ce 2/2 1: not 7 as given in Swiss Express) has retained its original body, and is being restored as a working museum piece. Xe 2/2 6 (ex Ce 2/2 3) suffered a fire

in 1975 and was rebuilt with a metal body of very dubious design; it remains in FART stock. The two "Rheintalers" were transferred to the SSIF in the 1960s, becoming Xe 2/4 4 and 5. Only no. 4 is still serviceable, stationed at Domodossola. For some years, it has carried the modern blue and white colour scheme. No. 5, still in the old grey and white, is dumped out of use at Domodossola.

Stock of the Maggiatalbahn (LPB)

At its opening in 1907, the LPB had three electric motorcoaches BCFe 4/4 1-3, two four-wheeled coaches CZ2 52-52, and four-wheeled passenger/mail car CZ2 71, and 16 goods wagons. In 1910 two private-owner goods wagons were added, and in 1912 goods locomotive Ge 2/2 no. 4 entered service. On the amalgamation with the FRT, all the stock except loco no. 4 (destroyed in an accident) was taken over by the new company, and the coaches and wagons were used all over the system. The three motorcoaches, with their unique side-contact overhead collectors, continued to work all services to Ponte Brolla, until 1945 when two of them were damaged in a collision. BCFe 4/4 no. 18 of the FRT fleet was fitted with the special collectors and remained on the line until closure. Only one of the LPB vehicles, no. 1, still exists today. In 1964, its body was rebuilt in welded sheet metal, giving it a rather pleasant appearance, and as FART ABDe 4/4 1 was used on the local service to Intragna. The other two ex-LPB cars were scrapped. The arrival ofthe Be 4/8 units made no. 1 redundant, and it was transferred to the SSIF in 1979, and sold to the Italian company in 1982. Sadly, it has been attacked by vandals while stored at Domodossola, and is now in a pitiful condition.

The Swiss Path

by Charlie Hulme

The Swiss Path has been created as a permanent memorial of the 700th anniversary of the country, and is very appropriately located around the southern end of Lake Lucerne, where most of the events of 1291 took place.The full route runs from the Rütli meadow to Brunnen, divided into convenient sections. From the railway point of view, however, the best segment to walk is undoubtedly the 8 km section from Flüelen to Sisikon which follows the Gotthard line for much of the way. There are some quite steep climbs on this section; allow yourself at least four hours for full enjoyment. As you may have read, the path is marked out by cantons, in lengths proportional to the populations of the cantons in 1991, and in places the relevant cantons have added their own attractions to the path.

The route leaves Flüelen by the lakeside promenade, pasing the village shops. Look out for Karl Ziegler's shop, which sells model railway items as well as provisions and some very nice souvenirs.

The path stays with the western side of the railway for the first mile or so, mostly slightly below rail level allowing some dramatic photo angles. Climbing above a short tunnel, the path crosses to the east of the line by the point where the northbound and southbound Gotthard lines separate; the southbound track, which was built later, enters a long tunnel here and is not seen again until Sisikon. The path climbs well above the northbound line, and eventually joins the old Axenstrasse road (now by-passed) for its most spectacular section on a ledge high above the lake with short tunnels.

This Axenstrasse section is also used by cyclists: one can hire bikes at SBB stations and ride them down the old Gotthard road, leaving the railway to take them back. Here, one is in the "Grisons", and at the Axenegg viewpoint and picnic site that canton has provided a guide to the mountains to be seen on the other side of the lake. Passing into "Aarau", the way drops back down to the railway, sharing a girder bridge over a stream. Just before Tellskapelle, at a point where Aarau canton offers a selection of pictures of its old architecture in an old barn, a branch path leads up to the a restaurant on the main road. This self-service cafe has an open terrace with a superb view across the lake, and when we were there (July) the locals were selling baskets of cherries picked straight from the tree to passers-by. A detour well-worth taking.

Back on the Swiss Path, one soon arrives at Tell's Chapel, an open-fronted building whose walls are painted with various scenes from the William Tell legend. Walking right at the lakeside at this point, one soon arrives at Tell's rock - Tellsplatte (5 km). There is a steamer pier here which is served by the smaller boats; the less agile might plan to end the walk here and return by boat, as there are some nasty climbs ahead.

Continuing on the path, the railway appears again above us as we follow the lake shore, with some diversions over headlands. In the final kilometre before Sisikon, walking becomes quite hard as the path is forced to zig-zag up and down the hillside to avoid quarry workings. Do not do this in a hurry, as we did! There is a good view of Sisikon station, where a Gotthard local train may be boarded, or alternatively one can repair to the Steamer pier for onward travel. Study the boat timetables very carefully when planning such a trip, as not all boats take the same route and some useful connections at places such as Bauen can easily be missed if you are used to railway timetables.

LOKI Aktuell 12/91


The Tramont (Zürich) works of ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB) is well-known at the moment for the SBB Lok 2000, but another major current project is the ÖBB 1822 class, a two-system locomotive designed to work through between Austria and Italy via the Brenner pass. For a rail festival in its intended homeland, newly-built 1822 001-2 was hauled to Austria on 11 October by SBB Re 4/4 II 11386, returning on 14 October behind Re 4/4 I 10016. It is intended to operate this loco on test runs over the Lötschberg line.

Car-Carriers: Political Ping-Pong

The operation of car-carriers is considered to be a purely free-market SBB operation, which must make a profit or be abandoned. The Simplon Tunnel service has failed to reach its break-even target of 100,000 cars per year and is therefore proposed for abandonment. An application for closure has been filed with EVED (Eidgenossöisches Verkhers- und Energiewirtshafts- Departement = Department of Transport). According to the EVED information office, however, permission is not required to close such a service, and it is the SBB's own responsibility. The Department is only involved if a subsidy is requested.

Emergency Brake: New Idea Needed

Swiss and other railways have been concerned for some time about the current concept of the passenger-operated emergency brake. This problem has come to the fore again after the recent fire on an S-Bahn train in the Hirschengraben tunnel, when the operation of the brake by passengers prevented the movement of the train to a safer position, hindering access by the fire service and making it difficult to evacuate. The SBB has resolved to carry out tests of two alternative systems as soon as possible, with the first results expected before the end of November 1991. The S-Bahn double-deckers will be the first to be fitted with the chosen system.

RBe 4/4 Overhauls

Optimisation of the work schedule has reduced the time taken for the complete overhaul (R4) of an RBe 4/4 motorcoach at Zürich works to only 35 weeks; seven vehicles are in works at a time, and every five weeks a virtually new motorcoach is released to traffic.

Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon News

In the next month, Schindler of Pratteln will deliver four more Motorcoach and driving trailer sets, bringing the series of RBDe 4/4 cars to 22 examples. Ten EW I coaches are being rebuilt by the BLS Bönigen works to work with the new units, including the fitting of swing-plug doors. The ABDe 4/8 sets, made redundant by the new trains, are being gradually transferred to the Oensingen - Balsthal company.

"Hugo" is the name given to a new diesel works tractor, Tm 89, for the Bern - Neuchatel (BN) subsidiary. It is fitted with a platform on a telescopic hydraulic arm, which can be lifted to eleven metres above rail level. Like its predecessor Tm 88 "Giraff", it was built by Robert Aebi AG of Regensdorf.

RBDe 4/4 729 and ABt 796 have been experimentally fitted with cab air-conditioning, and are recognisable by their roof-mounted compressor.

Steam Trains Daily

Readers may not be aware that the Von Roll factory at Rondez, near Delémont in Jura Canton, still uses steam for shunting its rail system as it has for 90 years. The two locomotives, one of which is in steam each weekday, are equipped with the Brown rocking-lever drive system and give their drivers very little cause for complaint. No. 4 was built in 1900 by SLM of Winterthur, works no. 1267. Sister loco no. 5 (SLM 1670), first saw the light of day in 1905.

Mohrenkopf Rebuilt

Only 14 examples were built of the four-wheeled three-domed silo wagon [carrot-head, or some sort of cream cake?] - 4 prototypes and a production run of 10. One of the latter, Uckks 21 85 910 3 119-8, has received an experimental rebuild. Rust-free materials have been used in the air-flow loading and unloading system, but due to the cost it is unlikely that further vehicles will be so treated for the present. The rebuilt wagon is in flour traffic between Basel Co-op mills and Zürich.

Am 4/4 on the Mountainside

The single track branch from Vevey to Puidoux-Chexbres has gradients of up to 40 per mille [1 in 25]. The normal service is maintained by a BDe 4/4 and trailer. On 29, 30 and 31 October, however, special trains of eight EW IV coaches and a restaurant car were worked up the hill. This 380 tonne load exceeded the rated load for an Re 4/4 II on this line, which is 305 tonnes. A pilot electric locomotive could not be used, as the electrical supply on this branch does not have the capacity, so ex-German "Warship" style diesel hydrauilc Am 4/4 18465 acted as pilot on all three days.

ICE to Zürich

From Summer 1992, the Eurocity Helvetica between Hamburg and Zürich will be rostered for a Deutsche Bundesbahn ICE high-speed unit (Zürich arrive 14.23, dep. 15.37). From October 1992, a second working over the same route will be introduced, the unit spending the night in Zürich from 20.17 to 09.45.

Another Line Closure

The Senseltalbahn (STB) proposes to close the section of line between Laupen and Gümmenen, replacing the passenger service by a bus from 1993. In recent times, trains have been carrying an average of seven passengers per journey. There is no freight traffic over this link, and the passenger service is currently worked as a shuttle, mostly independent of the rest of the STB between Laupen and Flamatt which is worked as a through suburban service to Bern and Thun.

First published 1992 - this edition April 2009