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 - August 1992

75 Years of the Schöllenbahn

Based on an article in Eisenbahn Amateur 7/92, by H.R. Luthy. [Some facts vary between this article and various books on the subject, but we have done our best.]

When the Gotthard main line was being planned, it was intended to serve the Urseren valley. The tunnel would have been rather shorter than it was actually built, with an entrance near Andermatt, reached by spirals in the Göschneralp valley. Andermatt would therefore have retained its centuries-old role as a staging post on the Gotthard; however this routing was dropped because of the high costs involved, in favour of the Gotthard tunnel we know today with its portal at Göschenen.

The history of the Schöllenen railway began on 24 June 1912 at Altdorf, when the company was founded, although an engineer called Grussy from Bern had proposed a narrow-gauge rack line up the Schöllenen gorge as far back as 1890. This failed for lack of finance, but was revived in 1903 by the engineer Richard Zschokke, working with the firms Gribi & Hasler of Burgdorf and Rothacher of St. Imier as well as an engineer called Gasser. A concession for the line, which would have had Strub rack and a maximum gradient of 210 per mille, was issued by the federal government in 1904, but the proposal met with various objections from the military department, nature and history conservationists, and the community leaders of Göschenen.

Lengthy negotiations ensued, including a considerable struggle for the 3 million Francs of finance required, but eventually, with the help of Brown Boveri and a consortium of banks, construction began under engineer Zschokke. By 1912, electric railway technology was well advanced, and the line was built as an electric rack-and-pinion line, beginning outside Göschenen station and climbing the gorge-like Schöllenen valley by means of three tunnels, three stone bridges, a 210-metre gallery and a long avalanche shelter. The choice of rack system was altered to the Abt variety in anticipation of through workings to the Brig - Furka - Disentis railway with which the SchB was to connect at Andermatt.

The demands of the military, notably the requirement to match the loading gauge of the other metre-gauge lines, were met with the help of a Government subsidy, and a 1200 V DC electricity supply contract was signed with the Altdorf power station; the way was clear for construction to get under way on 23 May 1913. However, bad weather and a shortage of labour led to the start of work being postponed to Autumn 1913. Work then started, with due ceremony, and continued apace amid the threatening European political situation. When war broke out in the Summer of 1914, labour shortage again afflicted the builders; from a staff of 600 in July 1914, the builders were reduced by September to less than 70 as the Swiss army was mobilised. Work began again in 1915, using a staff of around 200 mostly recruited from Italy, but most of these were lost again when Italy entered the War, leaving only unemployable Swiss who did not take kindly to the area's harsh climate. Progress was very slow, but eventually the military authorities realised the strategic value of the line and provided assistance which carried the line through to completion. An opening ceremony was held on 11 July 1917, services beginning the next day.

The increase in expenditure occasioned by the various delays provoked a financial and political 'thunderstorm'. The Uri Savings Bank of Altdorf ran out of funds, and its president was forced to resign. The line itself got off to a bad start, as the military restricted travel in the Gotthard area because of its strategic importance. The company's concession had stipulated summer-only operation, but in the winters of 1917/18 and 1918/19 trains continued to run with Federal assistance. When the war ended, income from military traffic fell, but few tourists came at first. The hard winter was a great struggle for the line's staff; even in Autumn 1919 incredible masses of snow descended on the area. The amount of snowploughing exceeded the company's resources and on Christmas Day 1919 the snow finally won, leaving the Federal Postal Coaches to cope with passenger and parcels traffic.

In 1925, all-year operation recommenced after the construction of further avalanche shelters, and in 1926 the full length of the Brig - Furka - Disentis (Furka Oberalp) Railway opened, offering connections at Andermatt towards Brig and Disentis and heralding better days for the Schöllenenbahn. In 1928 the branch to the SBB goods depot at Göschenen was opened, and with the inauguration of the Glacier Express in 1930 the company found itself handling through coaches from the Furka Oberalp and Brig-Visp-Zermatt lines.

World War II and After

In 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War, work began on the electrification of the Furka Oberalp line. Overhead wiring was erected on the Andermatt - Oberalp section before any locomotives were available, and the wiring was energised at the SchB voltage to allow an SchB loco to be used on works trains. FO electric trains began running on 7 November 1941, and the SchB adopted the FO's high-voltage AC system. From this time the FO and SchB companies worked closely together, and a new motorcoach for the SchB was added to an FO order. In the 1939-45 war the military made much use of the line to serve their barracks and depots in the Andermatt area, but when peace returned the new generation of tourists began to drive their own cars. An improved all-weather Schöllenen road was opened in 1955, and the next year the railway's accounts slipped into the red. The logical next development was a full amalgamation with the Furka Oberalp company, which took place in 1961.

Things changed little after the amalgamation, except that the stock was gradually repainted from SchB blue-grey and cream to FO red. FO railcars of the same type as SchB 41 appeared on the line, but the 31 class locomotives which were the FO's principal power for many years were not permitted to work down the 179 per mille ruling gradient to Göschenen. The HGm 4/4 diesel locos of 1968 were permitted down to Göschenen, and have proved useful on freight and works trains. The Deh 4/4 motor vans of 1972 began a new era, however, as they made possible today's timetable with many trains through from Göschenen to either Disentis or Brig. The later Deh 4/4 cars 91-94 are also regular performers on these services. The station layout at Göschenen was rebuilt in the 1980s, but trains still leave from outside the main line station. The Schöllenen branch is only 3.75 km long, but the fare charged is for 20 km at the standard Swiss rate; an expensive experience which is, however, included in the Swiss pass without surcharge. There is little scope for the usual 'ride over the line' description, in this case. A ride over the Schöllenbahn can be summed up in one sentence: the train spends half of the ten-minute journey in tunnel, gallery or avalanche shelter, with glimpses of the Reuss river and its rocky bed, and the old and new roads with the famous 1830-built 'Devil's Bridge' over the Reuss which carries the old road, now a footpath. The whole area is redolent with history, thanks to the strategic importance of the pass; near the Devil's Bridge is a ten-metre high cross cut into the rock, commemorating a battle between the Russians and the French in 1799. Back on the railway, there is a remotely-controlled passing loop at Steinlekehr, 1.27 km from Göschenen. The branch to Göschenen goods yard runs above the portals of the Gotthard Tunnel, making a good photo if you are lucky enough to catch a goods working.

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The SchB began operation in 1917 with four HGe 2/2 boxcab locomotives built by SLM and Brown Boveri, numbered 1 to 4. Working on 1200 V DC, they had a power output of 290 HP, enabling them to push a couple of coaches up the rack section at 9 km/hr, accelerating to 23 km/hr on the level and offering a journey time of 25 minutes. For the changeover to 11 kV AC on 7 November 1941, no. 22 was rebuilt in Göschenen depot and shared all workings with new railcar 41 (see below) while the other three were sent off to Brown Boveri for rebuilding, returning in Spring 1942. In their rebuilt form, service weight was 25.1 tonnes, and maximum speed 30 km/h (adhesion) or 20 km/h (rack). On amalgamation with the FO they were renumbered 21-24; 22 was scrapped in 1976 and the others followed during the 1980s.

The first and last additional power unit for the independent Schöllenbahn company was motorcoach no. 41, which was ordered as part of a batch for the Furka-Oberalp at the time of that line's electrication in 1940. The class are typical SLM/BBC/SAAS products of the period, with the "square with rounded corners" steel body in fashion at the time. Delivered in May 1941, it is said to have entered service in August, although this cannot be the case as it was fitted for 11 kV AC only and this was not switched on until November. It seems to have been used on the RhB for a while, although details of this are hazy. Originally classified BCFhe 4/4, the 40-seat car is still on the FO stocklist today, with its first-class compartment downgraded, as BDeh 4/4 41. Indeed, all the class 41-45 are still with us, although not often used except perhaps on winter skiers' services.

Seven bogie coaches, 21-24 and 31-33, built in 1916 provided the SchB passenger accommodation. Quite short, and with flat sides and ends, they would be very easy to model, although at the moment I cannot locate a drawing. All had second and third class compartments, and 31-33 also had a central baggage section. They had closed end vestibules, with end windows so the guard could ride in the front of the train when the locomotive was pushing up the hill. Not until 1927, however, was he provided with a control of the automatic brake system. 31 and 32, along with loco no.1, were badly damaged in a depot fire in 1935; 31 received a new body, but photos show it to be the same in appearance as the old. No. 33 was rebuilt in 1943 to act as a driving trailer for the new railcar 41, and renumbered 30. The cab was added on to the end of the existing body, making it 1200 mm longer. All survived until 1968/72, and were renumbered into the FO 41xx coach series. Most were repainted in FO red, but no. 32 (and maybe others) uniquely retained the original blue-grey and cream livery until scrapped in 1972.

There were initially six assorted wagons: two vans (51-52), two opens (71-72) and two vans with removable roofs (61-62). None of these remain in service today, but the extra wagons delivered for military purposes during World War II can still be recognised in the current fleet by the cognoscenti .

Envoi - by Charlie Hulme

The Schöllenen line has a special place in my personal affections as it was my first glimpse of the 'Glacier Express' network of lines which now form a major focus for the activites of the SRS and especially the Manchester Branch. It was July 1969 when I used one of the half-price vouchers which used to be included with the Holiday Ticket to buy a day return from Lucerne to Göschenen. I did not go there to see the FO, as I was only dimly aware of its existence, but the moment I saw the red trains winding their way down the gradient I was fascinated; the slides I took on that day are among my most treasured possessions.

There was no time to travel the line that day, but as soon as I could I returned to the area and rode between Göschenen and Brig, stopping off for a memorable pizza in the restaurant at Gletsch. In those days, the old open-platform coaches were still common, and the Glacier Express was one train; none of this A B C D ... business. Since then, most of my visits to Switzerland have involved the Furka Oberalp in some way; somehow I feel at home there, although I have still never walked around the town of Andermatt or drunk from a sloping wine-glass. These days, we ride the local trains in the first-class section of the driving trailer, and watch the traffic jams on the roads, but there is no need for any nostalgia for the past - when can we ride the red trains again?

A Furka - Oberalp Bibliography

Here is a brief list of relevant books about the FO system, concentrating on works in English where possible.

1. Caminada, Paul. The Glacier Express. Disentis: Desertina, 1983. ISBN 3-86537-037-4.

Published in various language editions to celebrate the opening of the Furka Base Tunnel and the all-year operation of the Glacier Express, this is a very readable work which is very good on the journey (p.23-52 covers the FO) and company history (p.116-146).

2. Marti, Franz & Trüb, Walter. Bahnen der Alpen. Zürich: Orell Füssli, 1979. 3-280-01026-8. pages 21-60.

Mostly monochrome photos with a brief history in three languages including English, in typical OF style. Very useful sections on some of the less-documented railways such as the BVB and LSE. Orell Füssli have closed down their railway publishing division, but I believe the rights have been bought by the publishers of LOKI, so this book may be re-issued.

3. Marshall, John. Metre Gauge Railways in South and East Switzerland. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1974. ISBN 0-7153-6408-1. Pages 213-242.

Your local library should be able to get you this classic work by Bolton-based author John Marshall. Extremely good on history, with maps and gradient diagrams and small reproductions of official locomotive and stock drawings. Also includes a tantalising map and gradient of the proposed Grimsel line from Meiringen to Gletsch.

4. Heuberger, Walter & others. FO - Brig - Furka - Disentis. Basel: Pharos, [c.1981.] ISBN 3-7230-0312-5

In German, but with lots of photos and drawings. Pages 74-144 are devoted to photos, drawings and technical histories of motive power (up to and including the 91 class) and rolling stock.

5. Schweers, Hans. Furka - Oberalp. Aachen: Schweers + Wall, [revised edition] 1982. 3-921679-25-7.

A general work in German with hundreds of photographs, and track layouts of all FO stations except Göschenen. Also very good on suggested walks and notes on historic churches and such like in the towns and villages.

6. Fader, Klaus. Furka - Oberalp - Bahn. Stuttgart: Frankh-Kosmos; Thun: Ott, 1990. ISBN (Swiss) 3-7225-6339-9.

A superb all-colour photo album in 'Georg Wagner' style. Contains 140 large-format pictures, mostly taken in 1989, including a section on the BVZ. Brief historical and technical section, includes the new 101 class locos and the panoramic coaches. Essential book for any modeller, especially for the scenic angle. Perhaps because it is a sequel to the author's similar book on the RhB, the book unusually works its way from Disentis to Zermatt.

RhB Station Buildings for the Modeller

From BEMO News, Issue no. 3

The German firm of KS-Modelleisenbahnen (Karlheinz Stümpfl, Binger Strasse 6, D-6531 Waldlaubersheim) specializes in accessories for the H0 scale Rhaetian modeller, including hand-made tunnel portals and electrification equipment. Station buildings are their main range: hand-built models of as many as 23 RhB station buildings are available, of which Serneus was supplied for review.

The walls of the building are made from balsa wood, neatly scribed to simulate the boarding of the prototype. The wood is stained to an authentic dark brown. Windows, glazing, curtains, shutters, balconies and doors are all to the same high standard; plastic components are used for the roof, gutters and downpipes. The model is an excellent reproduction of the typical RhB wooden station.

The well-known firm of Kibri has released a plastic kit of the RhB station building at Surava. Although all-plastic, the moulding of the wood grain and beams is very convincing, and the colouring is very authentic. Many small details bring the model to life, such as the balcony on the street side and the modern signalling panel.

The kit represents Kibri's latest ideas on construction; the main parts are designed to clip together and ensure a correct fit. Plastic cement is still essential for the smaller details, however. A very good model, which will find a place on many BEMO layouts, the kit is available from all good model shops.

The Delle Route for Modellers

Report by Christian Zellweger from LOKI 7/8-92.

In the last issue we outlined the history of the international link between Delémont and Belfort; this time, after a round up of recent developments we look at the line today and its potential for modellers as a single track main line with an interesting selection of short trains.

International (?) Railway

Quietly, and at very short notice, the SNCF began running at the beginning of May a daily return TGV service between Belfort and Paris. Despite the existence of a the European railways telephone, fax and teleprinter network, it is said that the senior management of the SBB learned about the new service by reading the French magazine La Vie du Rail . . . suddenly the future of the connection from Switzerland via Delle was thrown back into the melting pot. Discussions took place between the SBB and the SNCF and on 25 May, only five days before the new timetable came into operation, it was announced that the twice-daily service between Delémont and Belfort would in fact continue at least until September. Thus all 340,000 copies of the public Kursbuch were made incorrect, and posters and leaflets were hastily printed in an attempt to inform prospective passengers. Under the circumstances one wonders whether the loading of the trains will increase from its previous average of twelve people per train; at present the SBB authorities are refusing to discuss what will happen after 26 September.

Re 4/4 I abroad

For the time being, then, everything carries on as before. Each morning at 08.02, an Re 4/4 I leaves Delémont with two coaches (large UIC type, one ABm and one Bm). This mini-express, train 2081, calls briefly at Glovelier and Porrentruy before arriving at the French market town of Delle at 08.35. At Delle the Swiss machine is removed from the train and is replaced by a French six-axle diesel. The Re 4/4 I couples to the front of the Ae 6/6 already attached to freight train 61918 which then departs for Porrentruy. The loading of this freight varies greatly; one day there may be a long and heavy trainload of cars, another day perhaps just a couple of car-carriers behind the two engines.

When required, the Re 4/4 I will be used to work some of the loaded car-carriers on from Porrentruy to the next station, Courgenay, where a siding serves a car-import business. After a short sojourn in the restaurant opposite the station, the driver steers his machine the five kilometres back to Porrentruy, perhaps with one or two wagons. After a two-hour break, the loco then works train 4763, the 12.03 stopping train from Porrentruy to Delle which returns at 13.01 from Delle as train 4774. Usually this working is formed of three EW I or EW II standard coaches (two B and one AB) plus a baggage van, which returns empty to Delémont as 'Leermaterial-Uberfuhrzug' 26562L.

Big Diesels

A new motorway, the N 16 'Transjurane' is under construction between Delémont and Glovelier, and rail sidings for delivery of materials have been established at St. Ursanne and Glovelier. These tracks are not electrified, so the large SBB diesels of type Bm 6/6 are employed on the several daily workings. Outward empty wagon trains are often quite long, but the loaded inward workings are necessarily short because of the steep gradients, making them another useful prototype.

Military Branch

Another noteworthy feature of the Delle line is the 4.7 km Swiss Army branch line which runs from Courtemaiche to the training grounds at Bure near the French border. This line is very steeply graded, up to 45 per mille, and even relatively short military trains have to be double-headed up the hill. At least while they are being delivered the army tanks are restricted to the rail track and cannot, as has happened sometimes during the training exercises, accidentally invade France. At Bure the Army has a shunting tractor of the Te III type which handles the lighter shunting jobs; there has been talk of purchasing an old 'Crocodile' to shunt heaver trains, but so far it has not appeared. However, the modeller could well run a model Croc for 'his' army, as models are available in Z, N, H0, 0 and 1 scales. 

Other Workings

Porrentruy station has an Ee 3/3 station pilot, and Re 4/4 II locos and NPZ units are common sights as well as the Ae 6/6 and Re 4/4 I mentioned above. Most remarkable of all, the afternoon express train 2089, 16.25 Delémont to Belfort, is hauled by two Re 4/4 II engines working in multiple pulling the two UIC coaches.

Sightseeing with the MOB

by Charlie Hulme

By request, a brief travelogue of some of the things to do around the principal stations of the Montreux Oberland Bernois line.

Chamby. Junction for the preserved ex-CEV route to Blonay. There are short workings by tramcar from Chamby MOB station to the depot and museum at Chaulin as well as steam and electric workings over the full 15-minute journey to Blonay which runs along an attractive wooded hillside. It is interesting to make a circuit by returning to Vevey on the CEV metre-gauge train, then to Montreux either by SBB, steamer (600 yard walk) od the lakeside trolleybus service. Another possibility while at Blonay is the rack line to Les Pléiades. Problem for holidaymakers, however, is that the Blonay - Chamby only runs on Summer Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

Les Avants, as well as a rather spartan self-service cafe overlooking the station with hand-carved trinkets on sale, has the MOB-owned funicular to Sonloup, about which president of the company is so proud that he has written a 120-page glossy book (Styger, Edgar & Kollros, Jean-Charles. Au Paradis des Narcisses. Montreux: MOB, 1986.) The view from Sonloup is dramatic, with the Dent de Jaman and the Rochers de Naye dominating - indeed, from Rochers de Naye the Sonloup funicular can be seen as a strange straight line on the hillside. The funicular works automatically every 20 minutes.

Chateau d'Oex is one of those much-overrated places where nothing really happens in summer (unless you can afford a hot-air balloon ride, of course!), and what there is is some way from the station. There is a cable car to La Montagnette from near the station, which has a good view of the local mountains, but is one on which your compiler has never ridden. Another possible excursion is the bus over the Col des Mosses pass to Le Sepey on the ASD (See under Gstaad, below.)

Saanen is a pleasant little town, less pretentious than nearby Gstaad. It is something of the centre for the line's freight traffic, with the garbage depot, concrete works and military depot to be served, as well as the tanks of heating oil which often arrive on the rear of passenger trains. Most of this can be observed from tables under a horse-chestnut tree outside the cafe across the road.

Gstaad is famous for jewellery, Roger Moore, etc., but it is also a mecca for the denizens of the local self-catering accommodation thanks to its well-stocked and reasonably-priced Co-Op store (and self-service cafe with terrace) just below the station. A regular bus service from Gstaad post office runs to Les Diablerets, and leads the traveller to two attractions. The multi-stage cable-car journey (table 1085) from the top of the pass (with restaurant) at Col du Pillon (note: the second cable car the bus comes to) to the Glacier des Diablerets is without doubt one of the best of its kind. The top station is in the permanent snow zone, and has brillant views over the whole area. Expensive (40 Fr. return), but well worth it. Returning to Col du Pillon, one can continue by bus to Les Diablerets station and the closure-threatened ASD metre-gauge line to Aigle, which is full of character even with its new stock.

Schönried is a small village with too many cars passing through it, but it does have two very modern cable conveyances which are interesting as much for their modern high-tech design as anything else. The Rellerligrat line (up in the village, 2 min. from the station) is a gondola system which works automatically: passengers have to climb in the cars while they are still moving very slowly. The view from the summit station is nothing special, although there is a restaurant. There is a fairly strenuous but spectacular walk from here over the Hundsrugg (dog's back) to the Jaun Pass, from which a GFM bus will take you down to Boltigen on the SEZ railway.

In the other direction from Schönried station (over the level crossing, past the sports shop, 5 min.) is the line to Horneggli, which is a two-person chairlift. Unlike the usual chairlift, however, the chairs have transparent front covers which come down in front of the passengers, protecting them from the elements. There is a restaurant and a good view of the Rüblihorn, Gummifluh, etc., and a walk for the energetic to the Rinderberg, from which an old gondola car runs down quite a long distance (over 3 miles in two sections - the longest in Switzerland according to C.J. Allen) to Zweisimmen. My main memory of this is walking along a sharp ridge, with lightning flashing all around us!

Zweisimmen is a small shopping town which is perhaps of most interest to the average SRS member because of the train movements, with trains to Lenk and Spiez and the loading of standard gauge wagons onto Vevey bogies alongside the platform. Sadly, however, there is no really good place such as a cafe terrace or even a seat from which to relax and observe the goings-on. The track and platform layout is awkward, and the light always seems to be wrong for photos. The gondola line to Rinderberg is a fair walk from the station, but if you are lucky you will get a good view of the trains from the lower part of the line.

Loki Aktuell 7/8-92

Augmented from Eisenbahn Amateur 7/92

SBB Pendolino?

Following tests and examinations of the Italian Pendolino tilting trains by the SBB and BLS, as previously reported in Loki, the Italian Railways (FS) and the SBB have now issued to the Fiat company an invitation to tender for seven such units. They would be fitted for dual voltage working (Italian 3000 V DC and Swiss 15 kV AC) and be used on the Milan - Simplon - Geneva and Milan - Simplon - Lötschberg - Geneva services. All repairs and overhauls would be carried out by the FS.

Diesel Decorated

Bm 4/4 diesel 18414, allocated to Bern depot, carries the Bern coat of arms of the black bear on yellow and red proudly painted around its exhaust 'chimney'.

No CJ Extension

In mid-May a referendum was held in Canton Jura concering the project to extend the metre-gauge Chemins de Fer du Jura (CJ) line from Golvelier to Delémont, the cantonal capital. The proposed line, which would have received an 80% grant from the Federal Government, would have duplicated an SBB facility, but serving different communities on the way and allowing CJ trains to run through to Delémont. However, 70% of those voting said 'No', so that is the end of that.

'New' DVZO Steam Loco

After an overhaul which took seven years, the Dampfbahn-Verein Zürcher Oberland (DVZO) now has a second steam engine available for service on its operations between Bauma and Hinwil. Ed 3/4 no.2 was built by SLM at its Winterthur works in 1903, works number 1489. It worked initially on the Saignelégier - Glovelier line (since converted to metre gauge) and later between Porrentruy and Bonfol. In 1949 it returned to its birthplace to become a works shunter at the Sulzer factory in Oberwinterthur. In 1972, no. 2 (the number it has always carried) passed to the DVZO for preservation. See also the December 1991 Notebook.

Boring News of Aarau

The tunnel to the west of Aarau station, built in 1857/58, not only forms a traffic bottleneck but is also too small in section to permit the passage of the double-deck S-Bahn coaches. As part of the general improvements to Aarau station under the Bahn 2000 scheme, a new parallel tunnel is under construction. First breakthrough of this new tunnel, which in places passes only 80 centimetres below the buildings above (!), took place on 21 May. The first trains are expected to use it in Spring 1994, after which the old tunnel will be closed for enlargement.

(East) German Meets Frenchman

A highly unusual meeting took place on 9 May at Interlaken Ost station between French SNCF TGV unit no. 112 and German diesel loco 346 325-4; the two posed for a photograph together (Loki p. 9) after some gentle persuasion by local BLS staff. The TGV was visiting as part of the celebrations on the completion of the double-tracking of the BLS main line, whilst the East German engine has been on hire for shunting operations (see the June Notebook.) Interestingly, both participants were in orange livery; the German diesel was yellow on its last stay in Interlaken, and has also been reclassified from class 106 (East German DR system) to class 346 (Unified German system).

Glasnost on the Rigi

The Arth-Rigi Bahn (ARB) and the Vitznau-Rigi Bahn (VRB) are both standard-gauge and use the same Riggenbach rack system, but for over a hundred years there has been no physical connection between the two lines, even though they run parallel from Rigi Staffel to Rigi Kulm. Transfer of stock has been possible, however, by means of an ancient traverser at Rigi Kulm depot, 1750 metres above sea level. Last year, however, this traverser was scrapped and a normal crossover installed at Rigi Staffel. Latest news is that at the end of May (backdated to 1 January) the two companies themselves were merged to form a new undertaking called the Rigi-Bahnen AG.

New Fuels on the Brienzer Rothorn

The BRB will in future fire up its old steam locos with normal coal instead of briquettes; locos 2, 3, 6 and 7 will have to be fitted with proper bunkers at the back of the cab, as pieces of coal do not stack like briquettes. The coal is delivered by rail from the Ruhr area in containers, transferred to road for the trip to Brienz. The new oil-fired loco no. 12 was ceremonially christened Bern on 17 June.

September 11th from 10.00 will be a special steam-friends' day, when engineer Roger Waller will talk about the new loco, and a meal will be served in the newly-restored summit restaurant. inclusive cost is 58 Francs; bookings before 20 August to Brienz Ballenberg Rothorn Tourist, Postfach 59, 3855 Brienz. Tel. 036 51 32 77, Fax 036 51 35 73.

RhB News

Since May 13 Furka Oberalp HGe 4/4 loco no. 37 has been on hire to the RhB, mostly working freight trains on the Vorderrhein route between Landquart and Ilanz. RhB loco Ge 2/4 213, one of the original electric locos rebuilt as a shunter in 1943, was dispatched in April to a scrap company in Schwarzenbach (St Gallen).

27 new flat wagons have been obtained, designed for container and timber traffic. They will be fully occupied for the time being on the spoil traffic generated by the boring of the new Zugwald tunnel on the Vereina line. 1500 cubic metres are moved each day from Klosters to Untervaz.

Bernese Oberland Group

Six 'new' coaches are being built for the Schynige Platte line by the firm of Ramseier and Jenzer, on the underframes of some old open and semi-open coaches built between 1893 and 1904. The new bodies are designed to retain the line's nostalgic style, with individual compartment doors and droplight windows.

For the Wengernalp line, it is planned to order a freight locomotive, type He 3/3, and a battery-powered tractor for shunting at Lauterbrunnen, classified Tha.

First published 1992 - this edition April 2009