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 1992
Kiestag: Ballast Recycling in the Bernese Oberland
From Loki 3/92, by G.Lauper and C.Zellweger
After an official inspection on 16 November 1990, the Bernese Oberland's newest private railway began operations. The line, serving the Kiestag company's site at Hondrich South, between Spiez and Hondrich - Emdthal, has a loading and unloading point at the end of its 1 km-long route which includes a 233 metre-long viaduct crossing the Kander river. Adjacent to the main line interchange sidings, the line's locomotive depot is actually the first 30 metres of the old single track Hondrich Tunnel, which was replaced by a new double-track bore in 1986. Sole motive power is a class 260 diesel-hydraulic shunter once owned by the Deutsche Bundesbahn.
The site receives spent ballast, delivered by the BLS pick-up goods, and also block trains of spoil from government roadworks. The company processes the stone for further use, and some of it can be loaded back into the same wagons, reducing unprofitable empty wagon mileage. In 1991, 162,000 tonnes of material were delivered to the site; the BLS supplies between five and ten thousand tonnes of its own spent ballast each year, and there are plans to receive ballast from other parts of the country. Manager David Schüpbach estimates that the four trains per day serving Hondrich are avoiding about a hundred lorry trips. The branch cost ten million francs to build, but seven million of this was received as subsidies. H0 Modellers can reproduce the Kiestag operation, thanks to Friho of Lenk who offer a repainted version of the Roco class 260 in both DC and AC versions, and are planning a similar version of the Märklin model with Telex remote uncoupling. The Liliput range includes a side-tipping wagon of the type used to deliver the stone.
Over the Border: The Centovalli Pt.6
Rolling Stock, from Loki 3/92, by B. Studer
The original passenger stock of the Centovalli comprised eleven bogie second/third class cars BC4 (later first/second class AB) 101 - 111 and a first class salon car A4 201. Of these, 108 - 111 were initially owned by the Swiss FRT; today only 110 remains in FART owenership, as 108 has been scrapped and 109/111 sold to the Italian SSIF. In the course of time, most of the cars have been changed in various ways, leaving just no. 104 in something like original condition. AB 102 and 104 were modified and downgraded to second-class only in 1982 to carry wheelchair-bound pilgrims between Domodossola and Re, and in 1986 the salon A 201 was extensiviely overhauled by the SSIF for service as a 'Luxus-Nostagiewagen'.
In the late 1940s, through the offices of the Zürich firm of Pfingstweid, four second-hand coaches were obtained from Groningen in Holland. These vehicles, originally built in 1914 by Beynes of Haarlem, were rebuilt by the FRT and SSIF, including the provision of removable seats so that seriously-ill patients could make the pilgrimage to Re in the hope of divine intervention. BC4 71 and 72 became FRT stock, while 73 and 74 were allocated to the SSIF. Increased use of automobiles, as well as the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council, reduced the pilgrim traffic, and the 'Dutchmen' became little-used except in service trains. In 1972, all four became Italian property until 1986 when they returned home to Holland and the care of Brabant Rail, a Dutch preservation society.
In 1963, along with the ADBe 6/6 motorcoaches, the FART obtained four second-class coaches of the common design based on the SBB EW 1 standard as delivered to a number of metre-gauge lines at the time. No. 120-123 were originally used on through trains from Locarno to Domodissola, but these days are seldom seen on this duty. Final passenger car to mention is first class coach A 130, which was obtained by the FART in 1967 from the closed Lugano - Tesserete line. This car, which outwardly resembles B 71-73 of the Appenzeller Bahnen, was modernised in 1969 and has seats for just 36 passengers.
Goods and Service Stock
When the Centovalli route opened, only the Italian SSIF needed to buy freight stock, as the Swiss FRT had the use of the existing stock of the Maggiatalbahn. Most of the Italian stock was fitted with covered brake platforms, a feature uncommon on Swiss narrow-gauge lines. Two types of covered vans existed, coded F and G, the G type being suitable for livestock transport. Open wagons, code L, and twin bolster wagons, code B, were also obtained. Over the years, these wagons have been rebuilt in all sorts of ways; today they are almost all different from each other. In 1924, a special wagon was built to enable SSIF motorcoaches to couple to standard-gauge wagons when shunting the three-rail mixed gauge track in Domodossola yard. This vehicle still exists, although no longer used.
The SSIF increased its stock of wagons by many second-hand purchases. Examples came from the Brünig, the closed Ferrovia Intra - Premona and the Belgian Zeeuws Vlaamosche Tramweg Maatschappij. Redundant wagons from the FRT were also transferred to the SSIF. On the Swiss side, after World War II the old LPB wagons could no longer cope with the FRT traffic demands and a number of 1900-era wagons were obtained from the Brünig line. In 1949, ten bogie flat wagons were obtained from Holland, and rebuilt to FRT/SSIF requirements by the Cattaneo company of Giubasco; some of these remain today on the SSIF. After the closure of the Maggia valley line, Centovalli freight traffic dwindled. Goods service was finally withdrawn in 1982, and most of the wagons broken up.
From 1951 to 1986, the FRT/FART owned a 'Rollschemel' transporter wagon which was used to carry standard-gauge wagons between the SBB station and the Locarno gasworks. The 1.2 km route was the shortest transporter wagon working in the country until it ceased on the closure of the gasworks in 1985. The wagon, Ua 801, was scrapped a year later.
Today, the FART fleet of goods and engineers' wagons comprises just fourteen vehicles. Covered vans can often be seen attached to local trains for cycle transport purposes, but the other vehicles are only rarely seen. Most interesting is weed-killing unit Xa 2031, which has a unique history. It was built in 1916 as a weed-killing and road-spraying motorcoach, Xe 2/4 101, for the STI tramway which ran along the shore of Lake Thun. (Later converted to trolleybuses and now motorbuses, but still STI.) In 1953 it was bought by the FRT and became Xe 2/4 31, used for weed-killing and also for spraying the street sections in Locarno. In 1966, the life-expired electrical equipment was removed, and it was renumbered Xa 2031.
[End of Series]
Local Lines of Lausanne Pt.2: Lausanne - Echallens - Bercher
From Schmalspurparadies Schweiz, by Röhr, Schweers & Wall
Let us say right away that the LEB has one really big place in the history books: it was Switzerland's first narrow-gauge line! Today it is a very busy commuter hauler, bringing well over a million passengers per year from the suburbs to the city of Lausanne, capital of Canton Vaud. It is a route of varied character: starting on the edge of the city centre, it runs for a while as a tramway along a busy arterial road, then changes to a local railway through the newer northern suburbs. Beyond Echallens, the surroundings become quiet and countrified, with little to remind the passenger of the bustling City.
The area known as the 'Gros de Vaud', centred on Echallens, was in the nineteenth century the 'larder' of Lausanne. The region's agricultural products were taken to market in the City. On Sundays, however, the flow of people was reversed as the Lausannois sought relaxation in the countryside.
The heavy traffic between Lausanne and the Gros de Vaud attracted its first proposal for a rail connection in 1865. In 1871, a traffic census was taken at Cheseaux, half-way between Lausanne and Echallens. On a normal weekday, 212 horse-drawn vehicles, 122 people with handcarts and 310 pedestrians were recorded; enough to prove the need for a railway. For financial reasons, however, it was decided to build it as a narrow-gauge line along the road. To determine the gauge to be used, visits were made to the Ghent - Antwerp line in Belgium (metre gauge), the Bröhltalbahn from Hennef to Waldbröl in Germany (785 mm) and some sugar-carrying lines in France (600 and 700 mm).
The gentlemen of the railway commitee were especially taken with the 5 km line between Raincy and Montfermeil not far from Paris, built in 1869 to test the Larmanjat monorail system (see postscript). Fortunately, however, the Swiss Federal Authorities would not issue a concession for such an eccentric idea and insisted on a conventional railway, fixing the gauge at 1000 mm. The concession for this format was issued on 20.7.1872 and the Lausanne - Echallens company (LE) was founded on 17.5.1873.
Construction began in Spring 1873. The thrifty builders managed to obtain some rails and sleepers from the Mont Cenis Railway in France. This 1100 mm gauge line with centre Fell rail had closed in 1872, on the opening of the standard-gauge route through the Mont Cenis Tunnel. The first section of the LE from Lausanne Chauderon to Cheseaux opened for traffic on 5.11.1873, and the second half to Echallens on 2.6.1874. The second hand items from Mont Cenis, however, turned out to be a bad bargain. The sleepers were too short (1.5 metres), and the rails were made of inferior steel and badly worn. Soon after the opening, many expensive repairs had to be made. The first two locomotives were also bought from the Mont Cenis company, and first had to be regauged and rebuilt to the LE loading gauge; no.1 never entered service at all, and no. 2 only came into use after much difficulty. The burden of service fell on locos 3 and 4, which were built new for the LE by Schneider/Creusot to a design prepared for the contractors building the Gotthard line. All the initial rolling stock was also bought from the Mont Cenis.
It was not long before prposals were made to extend the line; a plan of 1875 suggested a line from Echallens via Bercher to Cugy-Montet on the Payerne - Yverdon main line. This made no progress, and a later proposal contented itself with an extension only as far as Bercher, location of a Nestlé condensed milk factory. A concession for this was issued on 1.7.1886, and a company known as the 'Central Vaudois' was founded on 14.12.1887. No problems were experienced in construction of this 8.5 Km extension, and it opened for traffic om 24.11.1889. Although a separate company, the Bercher line was worked from the beginning by the LE.
The first tramways in the city of Lausanne (Tramways Lausannois: TL) opened in 1894, and the route to Prilly opened in 1899. This line was connected to the LE at Chauderon, allowing the LE trains to reach the city centre at Montétan. In 1903, the TL opened its route to Renens, which also gave access to the SBB goods depot there; the LEB ran its freight traffic through the streets to this interchange. Echallens was a terminal station, and through trains to Bercher had to reverse; a major improvement came in 1908 when the line to the south of Echallens was re-aligned to make it a through station.
The Central Vaudois company ran into financial trouble, and was amalgamated with the LE on 1.1.1913 to form the present Lausanne - Echallens - Bercher (LEB). The CV had been cheaply built, to say the least, with 20 kg/metre rails and sleepers 1.1 metres apart; after the takeover it was gradually rebuilt with more standard material. A major setback in 1921 was the closure of the the milk factory at Bercher, which had been the line's major freight customer. The working of the old steam locomotives through the streets of Lausanne led to increasing complaints by the residents about noise and smoke, which combined with the high price of coal led the management to consider electrification. A report of 1930 suggested the purchase of diesel-electric railcars, but the Cantonal bank would not lend the money; eventually in 1935 erection of overhead wires began, and from 1.1.1936 all trains were worked by electric traction.
In 1952, the SBB opened its new goods yard at Sébeillon, which like Renens was served by the Lausanne tramway, so the LEB goods trains could run from here, a 1 km shorter length of street running. In 1964 the last trams ran in Lausanne, but the Chauderon - Sebéillon section was retained for the LEB goods traffic until 1970 when all freight was transferred to lorries which interchange traffic at Chavornay on the SBB Lausanne - Yverdon line. The LEB therefore gained another unusual feature: it is not connected to any other line even by an interchange siding. [Quiz question: name some others.]
The LEB celebrated its centenary in 1973 by bringing back steam locomotive no. 8 (built 1910) which had been serving in a Biel timber works since 1945, to haul a special service. Since 1977, no. 8 has been kept permanently at Echallens depot, and works between Cheseaux and Echallens on summer weekends.
The Line and its Working
The LEB Lausanne terminus is in the Place de Chauderon, the station tracks and rather antique timber-built offices lying in the angle between the Avenue d'Echallens and the Avenue de Morges. Swinging out into the Avenue d'Echallens, the single track runs in the street as far as Prilly (2.2 km), thence on its own right-of-way following the Yverdon main road to Assens (10.8 km). At Echallens (14.2 km) is the line's headquarters, depot and workshop. Beyond here, the line diverges from the road and runs through the undulating, lightly wooded landscape of the Gros de Vaud, reaching a summit at Sugnens (17.5 km). Bercher terminus (22.8 km) lies in open country below the town, and presents the classic picture of a country terminus, complete with grain silo.
The line is electrified at 1500 volts DC, the original
motorcoaches being BDe 4/4 21-24. Until the tramway system was
abandoned, the street section was wired for a reduced voltage of 600 V,
which LEB cars could use without problems except reduced power. After
World War II, the line was transformed from a 'lokalbahn' to a suburban
line. A further BDe 4/4 car motorcoach (no. 25) was obtained in 1947,
and in 1964/66 the fleet was further augmented by two modern units, Be
4/4 26-27, which are similar to those delivered to the BTI, SNB and OJB
around the same time. Traffic continued to increase, and the old cars
began to show their age, so in 1985 three more new units were
delivered. These new cars, featuring the new 'square' look, are
numbered 30, 32 and 34, working with semi-permanently coupled driving
trailers 31, 33 and 35 to give a classification of Be 4/8. These new
sets were built by Vevey Engineering to the same design as the new
units for the Nyon - St.Cergue - Morez, although with a slightly
increased length. They are named
Today, the LEB runs a regular interval service (timetable 101), half-hourly to Echallens and hourly to Bercher. It is an interesting comparison with smaller British cities to observe that the first weekday train leaves Echallens for Lausanne at 05.11. The last train from Lausanne is at 00.10, terminating at Echallens unless passengers for stations beyond are aboard, in which case the crew will continue to Bercher, arriving at 00.48. Trains usually cross at Cheseaux, Romanel and Echallens, all other intermediate stops being by request only. Increasing motor traffic since the 1950s has created problems for the street-running section, and many ideas have been suggested for its elimination. Current plans involve a tunnel, which would replace the ancient Chauderon station by an underground establishment, and extension, partly in tunnel, to Flon where it would interchange traffic with the LO (see last issue) and the new TSOL (watch this space.)
The Victim as Culprit
A reply to the editorial by R. Stamm in the last issue, by Loki reader Thomas Dähler of Münsingen,
I must say I was rather taken aback by your editorial 'Who's Next?'. I have always collected Lima models; originally I was pleased by their low price, and made my own improvements to a number of the early models. Recently, I have been even more pleased by the newer, high-quailty models. After giving the matter some thought, I would like to challenge Mr. Stamm's interpretation of the facts.
Lima sold 50,000 of the awful Swiss-Express Ae 6/6, but only 4,000 of the (in my opinion) perfect RBe 4/4. The customers have not rewarded Lima's efforts. It's all the customers' fault. But is it so simple? Let us take an example from another market. An S-type Mercedes will not sell as many examples as the Fiat Panda, and the manufacturer must take this into account right from the start or he will soon be in the red. Presumably the Lima management were not so naive as to ingore this, and took a deliberate decision to move into a different market, with the consequent commerical risk. That they have carried this through should be a cause for unqualified praise rather than implied criticism. Whether the price was correctly calculated in this particular case, I cannot say, but 4000 sales in one year - a considerable number of which will have been the Märklin system version at over 300 Francs - will have raised around a million Francs, which does not seem such a miserable sum. Let us suppose, however, that Lima expected more buyers; why have they not been reaching for their purses?
My interpretation: not because the consumers demanded higher standards, but rather that the quality of the improvements made by Lima has not been fully recognised. The model press must take some of the blame for this; the new-generation Lima models have been received at best with a patronising goodwill, at worst with uncalled-for finicky criticisms, whereas old-established manufacturers have received less censure for bad models. Lima was not welcome in the closed circle of high-quality manufacturers, and the various 'new models' columns have not treated Lima products fairly in comparison with other makes. Lima prices are said to be high, yet no-one mentions that Märklin, for example, are asking over 40 Francs for an ugly model of an EW II coach made from 25 year-old tooling ...
When an industry has to 'trim down', as a customer I am
regretful. If a model as a reasonable price/performance ratio, and
meets my (very wide) collection parameters, I will always buy one, or
even several over a period of years; the name of the manufacturer is
only one criterion. In the end it makes no difference whether the name
Lima, Liliput or Herpa is printed on the box. All I want is for
manufacturers to be well-run companies with good managers and happy
staff, who get pleasure from making good models. What I do not want is
a manufacturer who compains about low sales figures, yet for months on
end is unable to supply a model listed in his catalogue. Finally, I
hope that Lima continues to serve the model railway world, in defiance
of all the prophecies of doom.
Loki Aktuell 3/92
Last year, motorcoach BFe 4/4 11 of the Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen - Mürren was restored as a working museum-piece. For fear of mishaps, the 1913-built car has been little-used during the winter season, but on 18 January one of the three modern cars needed repairs. The peak service requires three units, so old no. 11 was pressed into service. Also rarely used are the company's rotary snowclearer Xrot m 25 (built 1956) and snowplough X 26 of 1925.
The SBB plans to improve its 24-hour house-to-house small load
delivery service. By the end of 1992, the work of 20 of the present
Northlander News Pt.2
As already reported in Loki 1/92, the Canadian
US Army invades Switzerland?
The Lugano firm of Reggiana SA has purchased a diesel train previously used by the United States Army in Germany to transport high-ranking personnel. The two-car set (power car 608 801-7 and driving trailer 908 801-4) will first be dispatched to Rastatt carriage works for new interior decoration and furnishing for a maximum of 40 passengers. Rumour has it that is to be used between Interlaken and Zweissimen as a luxury connection with the MOB's Superpanoramic Express, although it does not seem very sensible to use a diesel train on an electrified line. Other possibilities under discussion are a programme of round trips in Germany, and usage as a mobile information and training centre.
Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon Facts
The BLS fleet grew by 66 items during 1991. Newly delivered were:
Disposed of during the year were ABDe 4/8 railcar set no. 745 (to the Oensingen - Balsthal Bahn as their no.245) and the 'Restobar' catering car (to the Bodensee - Toggenburg). Ordered during 1991 were four electric + battery tractors of type Tea, for delivery in 1993. A further RBDe 4/4 and ABt set is expected during 1992. Planned, but not yet in production, are the new main line locomotives of type 465, based on the SBB 460 class.
At Kandersteg, a new 60-metre workshop for the overhaul of the car-carrier wagons is under construction. Built in the local timber style, it is expected to be ready by May 1992. Holligen depot at Bern, which dates from the turn of the century, is to be rebuilt in stages, for completion in 1995. The station at Belp, also ninety years old, is inadequate for the current service of 100 trains per day, and certainly could not handle a proposed increase to 170 per day; between 1993 and 1996 the station and its layout will be completely rebuilt, including a 35 cm high island platform. By 1998, it is planned to modernise the station at Spiez.
From 31 May 1992, fast food becomes even faster with the introduction of two new catering cars built for the well-known McDonald organisation. These cars will operate on the Geneva - Basel and Geneva - Brig routes; Urs Hammer, managing director of McDonald's Switzerland, believes that these lines with their many stops and short journey times are ideal for the fast-food concept. McDonald's have made a point of ordering from Swiss and European companies: the car bodies (based on the standard type IV design) are from Schindler, the bogies from SIG, the electrical equipment from ABB, the bread rolls from a bakery in Zuchwil, the beef from a supplier in Oensingen . . .
Versatile Bm 4/4
Diesel locomotives no. 18401 - 18446 are being fitted with high-pressure air pipe connectors as they pass through works for R3 overhauls. This enables them to shunt coaches with air suspension, such as the Zürich S-Bahn cars, and also to provide power for air-operated carriage doors when necessary.
New GFM Railcar
At the beginning of February, the Gruyère - Fribourg - Morat company took delivery of its first motive power to be fitted with modern electrical equipment. BDe 4/4 121, built by Vevey Engineering, is the first metre-gauge railcar for a private company to be fitted with asynchronous motors and the latest type of thyristor control. 121, and its sister still under construction, will be used in local passenger service and for the haulage of standard-gauge freight wagons on transporter bogies.
Em 831: Power Package
In the last few months, while all eyes have been on the new Re 460 'Lok 2000', a less glamorous new locomotive class has entered service in the shape of no. 831 000 (type Em). This 54 tonne six-wheel diesel workhorse has a maximum speed of 80 km/h, and can pull a 750 tonne train at 50 km/h. Up to three locos can work in multiple if required. Unlike earlier 6-wheeled locomotives of types Em 3/3 and Ee 3/3, the new loco does not have connecting rods, power is transmitted from the motor by a stepless transmission and flexible shaft. Although with a power rating of 900 kW (1200 HP) it is more powerful than the Em 3/3 diesel (440 kW) class 831 is to be officially classfied as a 'Kleinlokomotive' - this appears to be a ploy to allow it to be driven by people who are only passed to drive tractors. The so-called 'Bauchladen' [tea-tray?] can be worked from the ground when required using a portable radio-control unit which will operate the coupler as well as the motor and brakes. 54 machines are on order from Robert Aebi AG of Regensdorf, 19 for the traffic department and 35 for the engineers.
SBB: Old Railcar News
At the end of 1992, the last of the 1927-built (1961-66 rebuilt) Be 4/6 railcars will be withdrawn and scrapped, with the possible exception of no. 1613, which is still in quite good shape. Painted in a multicoloured livery, 1613 has been touring the country's schools.
The rather newer BDe 4/4 railcars have now also a limited life ahead of them. No further major repairs or R3 overhauls are to be authorised, with a view to withdrawing the last examples from public service in 1995. Some may survive to replace the Be 4/6 class as staff transport to marshalling yards etc.
News From Nuremberg
The Nuremberg Toy Fair seems to offer little in the way of really new models of Swiss equipment from major manufacturers, no doubt partly because of the recession. However, another problem seems to be developing, in Britain and Germany as well as Switzerland: there is nothing left in the current scene that has not already been modelled. Roco and HAG (H0) and Kato (N) have staked their claim on the SBB Re 4/4 460 loco, and that's the lot apart from increasing the range of liveries. The small Weinert company is to produce the class 831 shunter in H0 (see above), and after that there is only the vintage type of machine which is going to have much less appeal to the wider market. New rolling stock includes an N gauge SBB Panoramawagen from Minitrix, although surpisingly there is no mention of an H0 version from anyone, and Hag have apparently been given exclusive rights to produce the McDonald's coach. A very interesting item from a smaller maker, Aku, is to be the SEZ garbage-container wagon as worked over the SEZ and MOB.
In the H0m world there are virtually no RhB locos left to model: STL of balcony coach fame are promising the 2-8-0 steam loco as well as a heavyweight coach and a centre-entrance ditto - will they ever come out? Bemo are to fill a big gap by releasing some RhB bogie oil tanks, but for motive power they are turning to the rack lines with a model of the HGe 4/4 which is capable of being sold as either SBB or FO. The long-awaited model of the older FO HGe 4/4 seems to have been postponed again. The biggest gap in the market is the 1940s-period motorcoach, as per the MOB 3000 series, FO 41 class and several other lines: it is hard to make a convincing MOB layout with only one motive power item available!
First published 1992 - this edition April 2009