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 - May 1992

TEE à la USA

The story of the NS-SBB diesel TEE trains, (Part 1) from LOKI 4/92, by Franz Eberhard and René Stamm.

With their powerful acceleration and impressive elegance, the diesel TEE trains built jointly by the Netherlands Railways (NS) and the SBB were the embodiment of the Trans-Europe Express concept. Their somewhat lumpy-American looks were very much in keeping with the times. Although their hour is long since passed, the roaring monsters live on in the memories of railway enthusiasts and on countless model railway layouts.

Five sets were ordered in October 1955, the motor coaches to be built by the Dutch firm of Werkspoor, the trailers, including the driving trailers, by SIG of Neuhausen in Switzerland. The electrical equipment was ordered from Brown Boveri. The whole class was to be operated as a pool, but for legal purposes three were owned by the NS (numbered DE 1000 to 1003) and two by the SBB (RAm 501 and 502).

Some Technicalities

Each four-car train was composed of a power car, a compartment car with side corridor, a restaurant car and a driving trailer with open passenger saloon. The complete train weighed 225 tonnes and offered 114 seats, plus 32 in the restaurant car. The four cars were close-coupled, giving a total length of 97 metres. Each end of the set was equipped with Scharfenberg automatic couplers, and two sets could be worked in multiple when required. The maximum permitted speed was 140 km/h; 168 km/h was reached during testing of one of the Dutch sets in 1957, but within Switzerland a limit of 110 was enforced due to the relatively high 19 tonne axle loading of the power car.

The body of the power car was of tubular integral construction; behind the driver's cab was the engine room, and behind that a baggage compartment and a staff compartment (with toilet) intended for the conductor, customs personnel and a travelling technician. The general appearance of the cab bore a clear family resemblance to the familiar Dutch 'dog-head' units built by the same firm. The 2000 total horsepower was supplied by two four-stroke diesel engines, each with 16 cylinders in V-formation. The engines are water-cooled, with radiators in the roof having electrically-powered ventilation. Automatic devices were provided to close down the engines if the cooling water temperature exceeded 85 degrees C, or if the level or pressure of the cooling water or lubricating oil pressure fell below a set level. Each of the high-speed (1400 RPM) diesel engine/DC generator sets powered two of the four motors, which drove the outer axles of the American-style six-wheeled bogies by means of a Brown Boveri quill drive. Auxiliary power was also provided by an additional small 8-cylinder diesel driving a 380V 50Hz three-phase AC generator.

Between the bogies were four fuel tanks, with a total capacity of 4.5 cubic metres. Two compressors supplied air pressure for the Oerlikon air brakes which acted on two brake shoes on each wheel. The SBB standard safety control was fitted but not the SBB automatic warning system; therefore a second driver had to be carried while running on SBB metals. Late in 1957, the French AWS system was installed.

The coaches were also of integral construction, in the same style as the SBB Light-steel type, fitted with sound and heat insulation and fully air-conditioned. Between the panes of the large double-glazed windows were individually controlled venetian blinds, and indirect lighting was provided by fluorescent tubes. The interiors of the Swiss and Dutch trains differed only in slight variations of colour scheme. Behind the cab of the driving trailer, a sleeping compartment for the train crew was provided. The bogies had coil spring primary suspension, and torsion bars between the bogies and the body.

In Service

The first RAm unit was shown to the press at Bern in May 1957, and entered regular service on 1 June. Initially the class worked the Edelweiss between Amsterdam and Zürich (902 km), the Etoile du Nord between Paris and Amsterdam (540.3 km), and the Oiseau Bleu between Paris and Brussels (308.9 km). The five-day diagram was:

Day 1: Zürich - Amsterdam

Day 2: Amsterdam - Paris Nord, then Paris - Brussels Midi

Day 3: Brussels - Paris, then Paris - Amsterdam

Day 4: Amsterdam - Zürich

Day 5: Spare, or under maintenance at Zürich

The new trains allowed considerable acceleration of the services they worked; for example the time between Zürich and Amsterdam was reduced from 14 hours 3 minutes to 10 hours 3 minutes.

In May 1964, the Amsterdam - Paris - Brussels part of the diagram was allocated to other stock, and the RAm diesels moved to TEE L'Arbalète between Zürich and Paris (613 km), which continued to Autumn 1969. The SBB sets were then placed on the TEE Bavaria between Zürich and Münich (354.4 km). While working this train on 9 February 1971, RAm 501 was driven at excessive speed into a curve near the town of Aitrang in Germany, and left the track. 26 people were killed, 24 seriously injured, and the train damaged beyond repair.

The Edelweiss between Amsterdam and Zürich was withdrawn from 25 May 1974. During their European working lives the RAm sets travelled enormous distances. The original diagrams involved a monthly run of 21,800 km for each unit, and by withdrawal RAm 502 was calculated to have run about 4 million km. More about the prototype sets in the next issue.

The Model

Multiple-unit trains are usually composed of several different types of car, which leads to very high tooling costs for any manufacturer producing a model, leading in turn to a high sales price and limited sales quantities. It is not surprising, then, that there are few such trains in the ranges of most makers. It is all the more pleasing, therefore, when such a model of a complete train does become available.

Märklin H0

In 1965, at the height of the TEE era, Märklin released a somewhat shortened model of the Dutch/Swiss diesel train. The model was sold as a three-car set numbered as SBB RAm 502 (catalogue no. 3070). The compartment coach was available separately as catalogue no. 4070. All four coaches have well-detailed plastic bodies, and the windows are nicely flush with a good representation of the aluminium frames. The coaches are coupled by a special close coupler, and a three-way wire runs through the train via the corridor connections to supply the interior lighting and the reversible headlights. The power car drives on all wheels, two of which are fitted with traction tyres. The underframe of the power car is a metal casting, to increase the adhesion weight. A 12 volt DC version was also released under the Hamo label, cat. no. 8370.

Perhaps because of its high purchase price, the model did not achieve high sales, and the manufacturer was forced to look for ways of reducing costs. The original model was withdrawn from sale in 1970, and re-issued a year later in a simplified form. This second version lacked the original highly-detailed lettering and markings, and had only the large TEE lettering. The window-frames were no longer silvered, and the interior lighting omitted, with the result that the wiring between the coaches was reduced to two-way. The three-car model was cat. no. 3071, and the extra coach no. 4071. Production of this model ceased in 1989, but examples can still be found in shops from time to time.

Local Rails of Lausanne Pt.3: Trams Old and New

Based on Schmalspurparadies Schweiz, by Schweers & Wall, and the article by W.J. Wyse in the February 1992 issue of Light Rail.

Trams Old

Of the closed rail systems around Lake Geneva, the Lausanne Tramways (Tramways Lausannois - TL) were the most significant, a metre-gauge network, 650 V DC electric, with a route length of 66 km at its greatest extent. The tramway organisation was not founded until 1895, later than those of Geneva and Biel, with the result that electric operation was used from the start. The system was planned in advance to serve all principal areas, and the network began operation in 1896 with 11 km of track: a circular route around the city centre and branches to Lutry, Chailly and Pontaise. By 1903, further branches from the central circle, had been built to serve La Rosiaz, Prilly, La Sallaz, Ouchy, Montoie and Renens.

In 1899 a new company was founded, the Régionaux Electriques du Jorat (REJ), which bult a suburban line from an end-on connection to the TL at La Sallaz out to Moudon (22 km) with a branch from En Marin to Savigny (5 km). At Moudon, the line ran into the forecourt of the SBB station, which is on the secondary line from Palézieux to Murten and Lyss (table 251). These lines were worked by bogie cars, while the TL was still using four-wheelers; the REJ was incorporated into the TL in 1910, but continued to be operated with a separate fleet. In 1906/07 the TL itself built a long suburban extension to Cugy and Montheron and some new links within the city. On the opening of a new branch to Pully in 1912, the network was complete, except for a couple of short extensions to existing branches in 1933. The nerve centre of the network was at Place St. Francois, except for the long suburban routes which used Place du Tunnel as their terminus. The main depot was at Prélaz on the Renens line near the LEB Chauderon station.

The network of 66 km was short-lived, however, as in 1938 the Ouchy and Pully lines were converted to trolleybus working, Lausanne being the first Swiss city to use this new form of transport. In 1939 most of the inner-city lines were converted, followed after the war by the long route to Montheron. After a period of stability from 1951 to 1961, the decision was taken to close down the remaining system. The city lines were converted to trolleybuses and the long ex-LEJ routes were handed over to the diesel bus. The last trams, between La Rosiaz and Renens, ran on 6 January 1964. A remnant of track on the Renens line remained in use until 1970 for goods working by the LEB - see part 1. The TL system, as might be expected in such a hilly town, had some difficult sections: steepest gradient was 11.3 per cent (1 in 9) and sharpest radius 14 metres which scales to about 6 inches in H0.

A number of Lausanne cars saw service on other lines in various guises; some remain in Lausanne as LEB service stock. Perhaps most famous are the two 1913-built four wheelers bought by the TL in 1919 from the Geneva - Veyrier line and numbered Ce 2/2 28-29 by the TL. Rebuilt in 1945-48 with a centre carrying axle, both were sold in 1963 to the Bex - Villars - Bretaye company, where they became 17 and 18, joining BVB cars Be 2/3 15 and 16 (built for the BVB 1945) on the line's local services. In 1979 no. 18 was withdrawn and passed to the Blonay - Chamby preserved line, where it has been restored as TL 28. The other car has also been recently withdrawn by the BVB. The three bogie cars built new by Vevey Engineering in 1954 for the suburban lines, BDZe 4/4 191-193, were sold on closure in 1963 to the Trogener Bahn, (October 1990 Notebook) where they became BDe 4/4 3-5 (in reverse order). In 1978 the TB sold them to the Stern & Hafferl company for use on the Gmunden - Vochdorf line in Austria where they remain today as 23.105-23.107. (see Eisenbahn Zeitschrift, 2-90.) Some of the trailer cars were also sold to the Traogener Bahn and also to the Forchbahn, where they may still exist.

Trams New

The TSOL (Tramway de Sud-Ouest Lausanne, also known as Metro Ouest) was conceived in a study made at Lausanne's Technical University (EFPL) around 1983, but building work did not begin until 1988, when 12 cars were ordered. The 7.8 km (4.9 mile) line opened for normal traffic on 2 June 1991, although grand openings and other festivities took place the weekend before. Whether it is a tramway or a railway is hard to say; it looks much like a roadside railway on the Seetalbahn model, but the trains are very tram-like, although standard-gauge unlike most Swiss trams. The TSOL runs from Lausanne to Renens, terminus of the last of the old lines, although the route is completely new.

The power supply is a simple 'trolley wire' electrified at 750 V DC; a strange feature is that each articulated car is actually an electro-diesel, having an 88 kW diesel generator set, giving a classification of Bem 4/6. Presumably, this is in case of a power failure, but it also means that the tracks in the depot at EPFL need not be wired except for short lengths used for testing. Each car has four axles motored, giving a total power of 376 kW (500 HP) per 41-tonne car. The 30-metre long vehicles, numbered 201 - 212, have 66 seats and 169 standing places, giving them a great overall similarity to the Manchester Metrolink trams. Another resemblance to Manchester lies in the use of high platforms, around three feet high, no doubt intended to improve access for wheelchairs etc. Cars can be worked in multiple when required. The line also has a small diesel loco apparently bought second-hand from the Chemins de Fer Departmentaux of France.

The line starts from an enclosed station at Lausanne Flon, at right angles to the Lausanne - Ouchy terminus. It a single-track line with loops at most stations, over which is worked a ten-minute frequency of service from 05.30 to 20.00, reducing to 15-minute until midnight. There are many level crossings, mostly protected by traffic lights only but with barriers at a few busier places. There are also some concrete viaducts (and a tunnel in one place) over motorways and the SBB main line. The TSOL line ends in two bays at the west end of Renens CFF station on the main line from Lausanne to Geneva, the trams facing towards Lausanne. There is a connection to the main line, intended to be used when the cars are being sent to Vevey to overhaul.

It is intended to extend the TSOL in the future, the most likely extension at present being across the city to a park-and-ride station at Pully. However, the company has also shown some interest in developments in the Karlsruhe area of Germany, where dual-voltage light-rail vehicles are in use which can run on DB suburban routes as well as the city's light rail network. Such cars could perhaps run beyond Renens to Morges; time will tell.

A Holiday in Furka-Oberalp Land

Partly based on a feature in TT Revue, July 1991

The town of Brig is well-known to SRS members as the meeting-point of the SBB, BLS, FO and BVZ railways, and its position as the last station in Switzerland before the entrance to the Simplon tunnel. In this article we will look at Brig, and the area around the Furka-Oberalp line as far as Fiesch, as a holiday area; a change from the Bernese Oberland.

Brig itself is an ideal resort for the railway and mountain lover, especially as it is the terminus of the overnight train from Ostend. It is a busy little town with plenty of department stores and restaurants as well as the interesting buildings of the old town, including the sixteenth century Stockalper Palace. The Hotel Victoria and the Hotel Europe Garni both offer rooms with an excellent view of the FO/BVZ station, and the former also has a pleasant restaurant with a good choice of food for the unpretentious traveller. Also worth a mention are the thermal baths at Brigerbad, a short postbus ride from the station square. Not only can one enjoy the experience of swimming in the naturally warm water (swimming caps compulsory), but the BLS main line makes an attractive backscene as it climbs the hillside behind.

Crossing the Rhone river, the FO train makes a complete U-turn to its first station at Naters, a suburb of Brig with some interesting buildings of its own; the Romanesque church tower, the town hall and a number of traditional wooden houses. Naters is at the lower end of a valley which leads to the resort of Blatten (bus 145.35) which in turn has a cable car (table 1325) to Belalp, a viewpoint over 2000 metres above sea level with a breathtaking outlook over the Aletsch Glacier, of which more later.

Aletsch Viewpoints

This part of the Rhone valley is well provided with cable cars, serving the farming and holiday communities which lie on the ledges along the northern side. Riederalp, reached by cable cars built in the 1950s from the FO station of Mörel, lies on a sunny terrace at over 1900 metres altitude. The car-free resort (a holiday for your lungs!) has 3500 tourist beds, whose occupants can enjoy the swimming pool, tennis courts. minigolf and 9-hole golf course. In the local museum, guests can see demonstrations of cheese-making and other local crafts. The main summer attraction, however, must be the many miles of mountain walking tracks. Tired walkers can make use of the little electric bus which runs every hour in season between Riederalp and Bettmeralp.

One hour's walk along the terrace from Riederalp is Bettmeralp, which can also be reached by cable from the specially-built FO station: Betten FO. Above Bettmeralp is a gondola which will take you to a couple of hundred metres below the summit of the Bettmerhorn mountain (2856 m), again with a classic view of the glacier. Above Betten, the FO train has to climb hard, including a spiral tunnel at Grengiols, to overcome one of the steps in the valley floor which are so common in glacial valleys, before reaching Fiesch, a pleasant village where the hungry traveller can observe activity in the station from the open terrace of the adjacent restaurant.

The station is also the starting point of a bus service (610.15) run by the FO company to the ancient villages of Ernen and Binn, the latter reached by a road tunnel. Ernen lies on the route of the old road through the valley, and was once the capital of the area known as the Goms. Now bypassed, it has an interesting collection of traditional wooden buildings. The main attraction of Fiesch for mountain-lovers, however, is Eggishorn, reached by a two-stage cable car from Fiesch. Despite the opening up of the area by the cable car, Eggishorn today remains much as it was described by H.A. Berlepsch in his 1859 Swiss Tourist Guide: "The summit of the Aeggishorn, 9053 feet above sea level, is a chaotic pile of huge granite boulders: the view is wild and sublime".

Eggishorn Silver Jubilee

The Eggishorn cable car celebrated its 25th birthday in 1991. A committee was first formed in 1957 by a group of enterprising Fiesch residents, but it was 1963 when the company known as Fiesch-Eggishorn AG was founded. Its first president was Imhasly Alois (Goms people quote their names this way), also mayor of Fiesch. Three years later, on 2 July 1966, the first section of the line from Fiesch to Kühboden came into public service. The upper section, from Kühboden to Eggishorn, opened on 9 March 1968. The undertaking also operates a number of ski lifts in connection with the main lines. The demand for the route increased to such an extent that in 1974 a second line was laid parallel to the lower section, and by 1988 both sections had been re-equipped with larger cabins. In 1990 a new, larger, restaurant was opened at Kühboden.

There is no doubt that the line has given a great economic boost to the Fiesch area. Although the Jungfrau Hotel on the Eggishorn actually opened in 1856, and the Hotel du Glacier and Hotel des Alpes in Fiesch were built around the same time, agriculture was the main source of employment in the the area before the Second World War, with some workers also employed in the hydro-electric industry. When the FE began operation it had a staff of six in summer and 9 in winter, but today there is a permanent staff of 24 with extra casual workers in the winter, and an annual wage bill of around 2 million Francs.

The Eggishorn is the only point from which one can see the whole length of the Aletsch Glacier as it curves down from the Jungfrau region, a view which is particularly spectacular at sunrise. Therefore, on July and August weekdays, the FE provides special early 'Sunrise Runs'. On summer Sunday mornings, the company takes of advantage of the two parallel runs on the lower section to bring down the returning Sunrise Special extra slowly and serve breakfast to its passengers! The service is also popular with the pilots of hang-gliders, and it is also possible to parachute from Kühboden by taking a run at the cliff edge. Walkers form the majority of summer passengers, of course (guided walks can be made on the glacier itself), and in winter skiing takes over. Many different runs are available, but the company has met with opposition from the Green movement to its plans for further pistes.

A New Walk by the Aletsch Glacier

A new walking route has recently been created, starting at the Bettmerhorn cable-car summit, walking alongide the Aletsch Glacier, around the Eggishorn and finishing at the Kühboden station of the Fiesch-Eggishorn system. It is a mountain walk (red/white waymarkers - good footwear and some experience needed) and should take around four hours. Buy a 'Wanderkarte' map from a local shop.

To reach the starting point, alight from the FO train at Betten FO station and take the cable car to Bettmeralp, which climbs a thousand metres in a few minutes, swinging high above the infant Rotten river (as the Rhone is called in these parts) and the villages of Betten and Egga. Bettmeralp has developed from a farming and cheesemaking village into a flourishing resort with 4000 guest beds. There are no ugly concrete blocks here, however, and cars are nowhere to be found. We must walk to the other end of the village to find the base station of the goldola car which will lift us to 2643 metres altitude, just below the summit of the Bettmerhorn mountain.

After a few steps, the panorama of the Aletch Glacier comes into view, dominated by the Fiescherhorn mountains to the North East. To the west, the Aletschhorn (4195 m), Nesthorn (3824 m) and Bietschhorn (3934 m) rise to the heavens, whilst to the south-east we can see down past the resorts on their terraces into the Rhone valley itself. On a clear day, the white tip of Mont Blanc, 200 km away, can be picked out. The conical peak of the Matterhorn is also on view, flanked by the 4000-metre peaks of the Mischabel group.

The newly-created path does not cross the glacier itself, as there is too great a danger of falling into a crevasse. Thousands of rocks have been rearranged to create a path along the very edge of the ice. Out view is dominated by the 2 km wide glacier, with its distinctive twin streaks of moraine. With a surface area of 86 square km (in 1850 it was 150 square km) and a length of 25 km, the Aletsch is the largest and longest glacier in Europe. It begins amid the 4000-metre mountains of the Bernese Oberland, and flows down to the Massa gorge at around 3000 m. Far from being just a rigid block of ice, the glacier flows downhill between 100 and 300 metres each year.

As one rounds the ridge of the Eggishorn, the Eiger and Monch can be seen rising out of the Konkordiaplatz, and we come upon the 'postcard-idyll' of the Märjelensee lake. This lake was once larger than it is today, and blocks of ice could frequently be seen floating in it. Today, it is best seen in the spring when it is swollen by glacial melt waters. Climbing gently across the Märjelenalp, we see the surrounding mountains reflected in the crystal-clear water. Passing above the Vordersee, a lake which has been dammed to provide a drinking water supply for Riederalp and Bettmeralp, we come to the mountain hut, originally built to house workers on the Stausee dam, which acts as a refreshment station. Refreshed, we continue around the steep, flower-covered flank of the Eggishorn, with the Fiescher Glacier below us, until we reach Kühboden and the middle station of the Eggishorn cable car marking the end of the spectacular four-hour walk.

LOKI Aktuell 4/92

BLS News

The Lötschbergbahn is to order, as a follow-on order to the 99 locomotives of type Re 460 for the SBB, eight of its own class Re 465. There will be a number of electrical differences, in particular the separately-excited motors, producing a more powerful machine than the SBB version. Mechanically, they will be very similar to the SBB class, and will be capable of multiple working with most types of SBB and BLS power. Latest reports indicate that the BLS has got itself into something of a tight spot regarding this order. The manufacturers have informed the BLS that the proposed delivery dates (1994-95) could only be met if a firm order was placed by the beginning of April.

To clarify some questions, and to give some experience to BLS drivers, SBB 460 003-7 was borrowed on 22 and 29 February and worked various expresses between Bern and Brig as pilot loco to various other types, i.e. BLS Re 4/4, SBB Re 6/6 and SBB Re 4/4 IV (see photos, LOKI p. 6/7).

In 1990, the BLS bought three Dd2 type bogie baggage vans from the French Railways (SNCF), which became D 50 63 92-70 060 to 062. Another four similar vans are to be obtained this year.

More on Délemont - Delle

As reported in the March Notebook, from June 1 1992 there will be no more trains between Delle and Belfort, the SNCF providing a bus service instead. Opposition to this closure is mounting in both countries. The Regional authorities have suggested that the Chemins de fer du Jura (CJ) purchase a diesel railcar and provide a Porrentruy - Delle - Belfort service.

SBB Re 460

On 28 January 1992, 460 003-7 became the first of the new class to be officially accepted. Six days earlier it had performed the customary acceptance run as pilot to an Re 6/6 on a heavy freight from Zürich to Sargans.

Also in January. 460 001-1 was dispatched to the testing station at Vienna Arsenal where extremes of climate can be simulated, down to minus 50 degrees centigrade and a wind speed of 230 km/hr. Another example, 460 002-9, is at the DB's Münich testing station, where a rolling road enables locos to be run up to the equivalent of 300 km/hr on rollers. These tests must have been convincing: the SBB has announced that the 460 has been passed to run over the whole European network at up to 230 km/hr, its maximum design speed. However, the tests have suggested as many as 450 minor changes, which will be incorporated in new locos as built, and retrospectively into nos. 001 to 004.

Panorama Problems

The new SBB Panorama Cars seem to have been born under an unlucky star. Not only was one badly damaged in a shunting accident at Zürich carriage sidings at 03.30 on 28 February, but a dispute has arisen over the fare to be paid by travellers. The plan is to begin service in June in Chur - Amsterdam, Zürich - Venice and Geneva - Milan expresses. The SBB's idea was that first-class ticket holders could travel in the panorama car on payment of a special Panorama Supplement. The DB and NS, however, already charge a Eurocity Supplement and are not happy about extracting another extra charge from passengers. No decision has been reached yet, but the SBB have decided to reclassify the cars from SRm to a more normal first-class code of APm.

New Old Restaurant Cars

Following the decision of the Schweizerische Spieswagen Gesellschaft (SSG) to withdraw from catering service on the Gotthard line, the contract will pass to Minibuffet AG (MBAG) from 31 May 1992. SSG will continue to provide service on the east-west main lines, using a fleet of ten WRc cars. MBAG, which already runs the "Cheese Express" cars, is to have a 'new' fleet of 14 cars, consisting of:

The four prototype EW IV restaurant cars (WRm 61 85 88-94 000 - 003) which will work Ticino - Gotthard - Dortmund expresses.

The six EW III ("Swiss-Express") cars (WR 50 85 88-34 000 - 005) which will become "Grottos" in Basel - Zurich - Chiasso trains.

Four older cars will be kept in reserve and for special services.

All the cars are being overhauled at Olten SBB works, with modifications designed for MBAG (including the installation of a bar), and painted in a new livery of light grey with a dark red window band, broken by a huge diagonal violet band which runs around the kitchen area, and even across the roof. The bogies of the EW IV cars, which will be required to run up to 125 miles per hour in Germany, have been fitted with extra roll-dampers. The cost of all this will be around seven million Francs, shared between MBAG and the SBB.

The first rebuilt car is already in service: 61 85 88-94 001 is working in a two-day diagram on the EC 7/8 Tiziano, which it shares with an unrebuilt car.

Low Floors Catch On

The first of the low-floor twin-unit railcars for the Regionalverkehr Bern-Solothurn (RBS), the Wynental- und Suhrentalbahn (WSB) and the Bremgarten - Dietikon (BD) will soon be delivered. The combined order from the three railways has reduced the cost of each car by about 15% and enabled a total of 23 cars to be ordered for the price of 20. The standardisation relates to the modular technical construction and general appearance, but the three railways can still specify their own livery and seat upholstery.

The cars are deigned to give maximum usable passenger space. 89% of the floor space is available for passengers, with electrical equipment mounted on the roof wherever possible. Toilets and baggage area are not provided, the wide entrance vestibules serving to carry bicycles etc. as well as standing passengers, and simple heating and ventilation is fitted instead of full air-conditioning. The seats are quite closely spaced; the idea seems to be to carry as many people as possible by making them stand.

The lower central part of the floor is only 39 cm above rail level, the usual height of the lowest step on a conventional car, which will no doubt be appreciated by mothers, people in wheelchairs and so on. The new cars have a maximum speed of 90 km/hr, and feature ABB's latest DC electrical equipment which offers 10 to 20% energy saving compared to the traditional design, and much of the braking energy can be fed back into the overhead line for use by other trains. The body is made from aluminium alloys, with glass-fibre reinforced plastic for the cab end mouldings. Other novelties are the air-sprung bogies built by SIG of Neuhausen, and the electro-hydraulic disc brakes. A fully-automatic coupling is fitted.

The new railcars will be delivered to the three lines during 1992 and 1993: seven for the WSB, eleven for the RBS (eight of which will include a first-class section) and five for the BD. The Bremgarten - Dietikon has very sharp curves, down to 30 metres radius, but thanks to the modular construction it has been possible to build shorter cars for this line. The RBS is hoping to raise the finance to order centre cars to make up eight of their sets to three vehicles.

Simplon Car-Carrying Ends

In LOKI 12-91 [Notebook 1-92] we reported that the car-carrying service through the Simplon Tunnel was under threat. Four months later, the die is now cast: neither the SBB, the Federal Government nor Canton Wallis is prepared to support the carriage of private cars and their contents through the SBB's longest tunnel. Despite extensive negotiations, the three parties have failed to reach any agreement on subsidy of the loss-making operation. The existing state subsidy expires next year, and the SBB has stated that it will withdraw the facilities on 3 January 1993. The BLS has stated that the through Kandersteg - Brig and Kandersteg - Iselle trains will cease before this, on 31 May 1992. From this date, the BLS will start a summer-only night service through the Lötschberg Tunnel; the wagons released by the withdrawal of the Simplon service will be used as a reserve for use at busy times.

First published 1992 - this edition April 2009