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 Manchester Archive April 1993
Belgian Tourist: SNCB loco in Switzerland
from LOKI 3-93, by C. Hertogs, the
late W. Ritschard & R. Stamm. (The prototype section of this
article originally appeared in the sister Belgian/Dutch magazines
From the 1950s, railway electrification spead extensively across Europe, but unfortunately different countries chose different supply systems and voltages. Belgium opted for 3000 volts DC, but its neighbours had other ideas: the Netherlands Railways (NS) was 1500 V DC, France (SNCF) 25 kV AC 50 Hz and Germany (DB) 15 kV AC 16.66 Hz. To speed the operation of international trains, the Belgian Railways (SNCB) over the years have collected 51 multi-current locomotives of various types, Classes 11, 12, 15, 18 and 25.5. Thus time-wasting locomotive changes at the border stations of Aachen, Jeumont, Qu<130>vy, Muscron, Roosendaal and Maastricht have been largely eliminated.
The DB was the first European national railway to introduce a multi-current locomotive, the E 410 class of 1966. These five locos could work in Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Italy, and not surprisingly became known as 'Europaloks.' This German dream was, however, rather too ambitious for the electrical technology of the time, and the E 410s never realised their full potential, despite many modifications.
The SNCB Locos
The first Belgian 1600 class, a four-current loco, also appeared in 1966. Eight, 1600-1608, were built by BN, rated at 3560 HP. They were so successful that in 1974 SNCB decided to show off is own European loco and astonish the railway world by making a journey across Europe. Thus, on 13 May 1974 no. 1601 worked a trial train over the 743 km from Brussels to Spiez, hauling a sleeping car, a first-class buffet car and 15 couchette cars. 1601 powered the train alone all the way, over the metals of five railways (SNCB, CFL, SNCF, SBB and BLS). As far as Luxembourg it worked on 3000 V DC. In the station of the capital of the Grand Duchy, it switched to 25 kV AC for the rest of Luxembourg and across France to Basel, whence 15 kV AC was used across Switzerland to Spiez.
The run went without the slightest hitch, so for the rest of
the summer of 1974
In the Oberland
After the arrival of the first test train on 14 May 1974, 1601 worked a train of six SBB light-steel coaches from Spiez to Bern and back for staff training and familiarisation purposes before returning to Brussels in late afternoon with its trial train (minus sleeping car.)
The first loco to make the revenue-earning run on the
The working continued through the summer of 1974, but attracted little attention from photographers, as the only chances to photograph the train in the dark were while it was stopped at Basel or Spiez, and the loco spent the day ensconced in Thin depot. However, at one stage in June 1974 the loco was borrowed during the day for evaluation by the BLS and SBB as well as for driver training, and photographer Willy Ritschard (who sadly died in December 1992) was lucky enough to catch 1602 double-heading an express in the Aare valley with SBB Re 4/4 11191.
Only One Summer
Although the same power supply as the German and Austrian systems, the Swiss lines use a different geometry of overhead wire, requiring a special pantograph head. Four of the 16 class, 1601-1604, were thus modified. 16 service trips were made in Summer 1974, although on 13 July 1602 failed while still in France between Mulhouse and Basel. 1604 never the made the run.
At the end of the summer, the Belgian locos were declared to
be unwanted guests - 'Persona non Grata' - on Swiss metals. It had
been claimed that interference from their electrical machines was
disrupting the SBB signalling and safety systems, especially between
Basel and Pratteln, a problem which some drivers had also reported with
BLS engines. The Belgian authorities, for their part, suggested that
the problem was perhaps due to a lack of experience on the part of the
SBB drivers; certainly no problems had occurred on the BLS between Bern
and Spiez. The class 16 locos continued to work the
In 1981, the SNCB decided that no further workings into Switzerland would be needed, and the special pantographs were removed, the last evidence of a short-lived but fascinating era. [The class are still familiar to those of us who travel from Britain to Switzerland by rail, however, as they are often seen at Ostend on expresses to Cologne.]
So you want to run the
The model is well up to Märklin's high standard, with a detailed plastic body. The buffer beam is nicely detailed with screw coupling and various cables, unlike the Märklin SBB Ae 6/6 issued in 1991 which suffers from baldness in this area. Three pantographs are fitted, and there is good roof detailing. All the windows are flush fitted, and the cab door handrails are separate wire parts. LOKI would like to hear from anyone who has converted the model to 2-rail, for publication in a later issue.
French manufacturer Jouef also produced a SNCB 16 class in the mid-seventies, which was sold in Belgium as a set with two shortened Eurofima coaches.
Aigle to Champèry
Railways of Aigle, part 2. Based on Schweers & Wall.
The Aigle - Ollon - Monthey - Champèry (AOMC) serves two cantons; it connects Aigle and Ollon on the right (Canton Vaud) bank of the Rhone with the industrial town of Monthey on the Valais side, and its mountain section links Monthey with the winter sports resort of Champèry in the Val d'Illiez at the foot of the Dents du Midi range. In contrast to the Aigle - Leysin, the AOMC has always been surrounded by controversy; its birth was attended by much argument, reports and counter-reports, and more recently the Aigle - Monthey section at least has been under threat of closure. Nevertheless, the upgrading of its infrastructure has recently been completed, and modern motive power has been obtained second-hand from the Birsigtalbahn, which has converted to tram operation.
In the last years of the nineteenth century, when Leysin and Le Sepéy were planning rail links with Aigle, the people of the village of Ollon did not want to be left out and proposed their own line. The first suggestion was a tramway from Aigle to Ollon, which was soon amended to include a rack-and-pinion extension to the mountain resort of Villars. This plan was thwarted by various difficulties, so its proposers turned instead to the town of Monthey, where a group of citizens were planning a connection to the main-line station at Aigle.
The Monthey committee applied for a concession to build a narrow-gauge line from Monthey market place via St. Triphon and Ollon to Aigle, but the interests in Ollon complained that their station was to be on the edge of the village. Eventually, in 1900, a concession was obtained for a revised route which satisfied the objectors, but it was to be 1904 before the Aigle - Ollon - Monthey (AOM) railway company was actually founded. Still more difficulties lay ahead, including problems buying land in Monthey and arguments about the route to be taken through the village of Collombey. Finally, on 2 April 1907, the line opened for service between Aigle CFF - Ollon - Monthey Place du Marché.
The line through the Illiez valley to Champèry was originally an independent company. The inhabitants of the valley saw the efforts in Ollon and Monthey, and decided to have their own railway. The first project of 1899 was for a pure adhesion line from Monthey to Champèry with a branch line from Val d'Illiez station to Morgins. The concession actually issued in 1900, however, was for a shorter and cheaper route involving some rack assistance. Like the AOM, the Monthey - Champèry - Morgins (MCM) company struggled with a number of problems, especially regarding the proposed street running in Monthey and the location of Champèry station. Building work did not start until Summer 1906, and it was 1 February 1908 before services began on the first section from Monthey CFF via Monthey Ville to Champèry. The line to Morgins was never built.
So for many years the two separate companies worked into Monthey, with little in common except track gauge and supply voltage. The MCM ran by agreement over the AOMC for about 700 metres from the junction to Monthey Ville. At the beginning of 1922, the AOM abandoned its separate station at Monthey Place du Marché and terminated at Monthey Ville.
On January 1 1946 the two railways merged to become the AOMC. By 1948 complete closure was being proposed, but did not come about and in 1951 a modernisation programme began. Four new motorcoaches, capable of working over the whole system, were obtained; in the 1960s track renewal began, but again the threat of closure began to loom. Various reports offered a series of proposals: (1) complete closure; (2) complete retention; (3) Immediate closure of the valley section and - after road improvements - closure of the mountain line; (4) A new direct route from Aigle to Monthey not serving Ollon, and (5) Closure of the valley section and a building of a new line from Monthey to Bex. The only thing that actually happened was the closure of the 0.5 km section through the streets from Monthey Ville to the main line station at Monthey CFF, which died in 1976 under pressure from the local authority who wanted more room for the great Motor Car.
The rest of the system seems safe for the present. The valley section has been largely rebuilt on its own right-of-way away from the road, and modern second-hand motorcoaches from the Birsigtalbahn now handle the traffic. In 1976 the AOMC joined the other Aigle lines in the Transports Publics du Chablis; once before, from 1940 to 1946, the MCM company had been managed jointly with the ASD.
Of the six metre-gauge tracks in Aigle station square, the AOMC uses the two nearest to the town. There is no release crossover for running-round purposes, but trailers can be propelled back on to the rising gradient of the main line and allowed to run back into the other track if required. The line leaves the station on a sharp S-curve, crossing the Aigle - Sépey - Diabelerets on the level at right-angles. Leaving the town, the line follows the edge of the Rhone flood-plain through St.Triphon-Village (km 2.1) to Ollon (km 3.7), then turns south-west to adopt an almost straight course across the valley.
The wandering course of the AOMC is well-illustrated by the fact that after passing a halt at Villy, we find ourselves at St.Triphon Gare (km. 6.8), the point where the line crosses the CFF at its St.Triphon station. At one time there were interchange sidings here, and standard-gauge wagons could be loaded onto transporter bogies for transport on the AOMC. Shortly afterwards the line joins the road for the bridge over the Rhone, something of a traffic bottleneck which forms the border between Cantons Vaud and Valais. The lattice girder bridge is only just wide enough for the train to pass a car, and an interesting road sign tells lorry and bus drivers to keep at least 70 metres apart.
Crossing the CFF St.Gingolph branch, the line turns sharply again to run through the main street of the village of Collombey, the station here being known as Collombey-Muraz (9.4 km). Collombey also has a station on the CFF line, although this is likely to close in the near future. The mountain line from Champéry joins on the right before the halt of Monthey En Place, and we enter the (since 1976) terminus of the line at Monthey Ville (km 11.2). A bus (timetable 126.15) now provides the connection to the CFF station at Monthey, as part of a network of feeder buses centred on Monthey and operated by the AOMC company.
The mountain line to Champéry retraces the same route for a short distance through Monthey-En Place before branching left and climbing the left side of the scenic Illiez valley through a series of stations and halts, on mixed rack and adhesion power. The river in this valley is the Vièze, a tributary of the Rhone. The three rack sections (Strub system) help the line to overcome a height difference of 620 metres. The original terminus in Champéry (12.2 km from Monthey) was in the lower part of the town, but in 1990 the line was extended beyond this station (now known as Champéry-Village) about half a kilometre to a new terminus adjacent to the lower station of the Planachaux cable car, also operated by the TPC.
Technicalities and Motive Power
Both the AOM and MCM worked on 750 volts DC from the beginning; the official voltage today appears to be 850, although it appears to have been 900 V in 1954. It is therefore impossible for AOMC cars to work over the AL and ASD, which use a higher voltage. The ruling gradient is 50 per mille on the adhesion sections, steepening to 135 per mille on the rack sections of the Champéry line. The depot for both lines is at Monthey, and the fleet livery is red and grey.
The valley line, the AOM, started operation with three
motorcoaches CFZe 2/4 1-3, built in 1907 in Germany by Rastatt and
Alioth. They became AOMC 101-103; 101 and 103 were scrapped in 1957 but
102 was still active on engineering service duties in 1977. A further,
more powerful, motorcoach, numbered CFZe 4/4 11, arrived in 1910 and
worked until 1971. In 1969, three 1949-built motorcoaches were obtained
after the closure of the Sernftalbahn in Canton Glarus, as described in
the May 1991
Turning to the MCM mountain section, one steam engine was used in the early days, in the shape of an HG 2/2 0-4-0 tank built in 1888 by SLM for the Brünig line as Jura Simplon Bahn 952, later SBB 1002. It was aqcuired by the MCM in 1908, presumably for works trains, snowploughing etc., was hired to the ASD while it was being built in 1913-14, and sold in 1915. The original electric motorcoaches were BCFeh 4/4 1-2, CFeh 4/4 3, and BCFeh 4/4 6, built by SLM/SIG/Alioth in 1908-9. All these remained in stock until 1957; no. 6 is now in the collection of the Blonay - Chamby museum line.
The first new motorcoaches bought by the merged AOMC were BDeh
4/4 11-14, 500 horsepower 40-seat cars built by Schindler and Brown
Boveri in 1954. These were designed to work between Aigle and Monthey,
with a maximum speed of 50 km/h adhesion and 18 km/h rack. Unless the
published records are wrong, these four cars and old no.102 must have
worked all the services of the AOMC from 1957 until the arrival of the
second-hand adhesion-only cars in 1969. They are still in stock today,
and have been named after mountains: 11
Traffic and Tourism
The AOMC today works its passenger services on the regular
interval pattern, starting around 05.30 and ending when the last train
from Aigle arrives in Monthey at 23.27. Freight traffic is not operated
on the valley section, as there are plenty of CFF stations around, but
there is a daily (Mon-Fri)
Tourist guide books have little to say about Monthey (although it is a pleasant enough place with an old covered bridge over the river), and Champéry is just a one-street winter sports town; clearly the mountain views are the highlight of the area. There are said to be some good mountain walks from the top of the Planachaux cable car. An interesting sideline might be to alight from the Champéry train at Troistorrents and catch the AOMC bus which hairpins up to Morgins, terminus of the one-time proposed branch line. The chalets in this area are more elaborately carved that the usual Valais style, and are said to resemble the Bernese Oberland style; our old Ward Lock guide says that the people are an unusual race believed to be descended from the Theban legion, whatever that was. From Morgins, hard by the French border, there is a superb view of the Dents du Midi mountains. The road continues into France over the Morgins Pass, leading down into the Abondance valley. This is the only pass over these Chablais mountains, but as far as we know there is no bus service.
Heavy Lump: the STL coach under fire
An objective review, by Herbert Cadosch, from LOKI 4-93.
The RhB heavyweight coach model in H0m by Swiss firm STL has certainly been caught in the crossfire of the critics. HOm fans and magazines both agreed that there was a real need for model of this coach. However, the joy of this new release is dampened when one unpacks the STL model, which represents the B 22xx series in a choice of red, green, or green and beige.
In my childhood I admired the prototype coaches every day; at the time they formed the RhB's principal expresses, hauled by the famous Crocodile locomotives. I remember to this day the stately progress through the spectacular scenery of the Albula line. Sadly, the moment I saw the STL model I could see that it did not match up to my memories of this nostalgic vehicle. So what are these faults?
The problems become clear when the STL model is compared with the brass version by Ferro-Suisse, which is undoubtedly an exact scale replica. The STL coach clearly sits too high on its bogies, and the curve of the roof has been flattened, presumably to compensate. Some of the body detailing is faulty as well: the rivets are much too coarse, the windows are too deeply set, and the ribs on the roof are too coarse and overscale. The paintwork seems too thickly applied, perhaps the wrong sort of paint or unsuitable spraying equipment.
The overscale height means that the coach looks wrong when marshalled with other models, as the corridor connection (with its fancy magnetic coupling) is too high to match Bemo and Ferro-Suisse vehicles. An experienced modeller can lower the coach with a few hours of careful work (see photos in LOKI), but you are still left with the incorrect flattened roof.
As soon as one picks up the STL model, the thought occurs that even the six-axle drive Bemo Crocodile is going to have problems hauling a sizeable train of them. In fact, the plastic STL coach is heavier that the all-brass Ferro-Suisse version! Tests have shown that the Bemo engine can only pull three STL heavyweights up a prototypical gradient of 35 per mille; the same loco could move nine Bemo coaches on the same grade. The wheel spring units and pickups for the interior lighting are heavy in themselves, and the weight can be reduced by removing the metal plate fitted in the bottom of the body.
There is no doubt that the interior detailing, with its individual seats, is of very high quality; it is a shame that the rest of the model does not live up to this high standard. I hope that the criticisms I have offered will be taken in constructive spirit, and that the STL company will ensure RhB light-steel coaches and other future projects from this company are free from such defects.
Appendix by C.H.
On reading the above, I was moved to consult my library for prototype data to confirm the author's criticisms which, sadly, seem to be very justified. The prototype is the batch numbered B 2221 - 2232, built by SIG in 1929-31 as third-class cars. Today they are used as one-off strengthening coaches and in mixed trains, but if you really want to model a 1930s Albula express you will have to try some kitbashing to provide other classes of accommodation. There were first class side-corridor cars A 1151-54 (1151-53 were built in 1913), salon car As 1161, and some interesting composites AB 1615-1620. These were built with 32 third class (wooden) seats, 11 second class and 6 first class, classified ABC4ü and numbered 615-620. The principal difference between the STL model and these other varieties is the window size and spacing in the 1st/2nd class sections. There were also three restaurant cars in the series, WR 3810-3812, originally operated by Mitropa, and some four-wheeled baggage vans (D2 4061-3) with the same body profile.
LOKI Aktuell 4-93
(Starting with some items from 3-93 left out last month.)
Wohlen - Meisterschwanden
On 13 December 1992, the WM's reserve railcar BDe 2/4 3 (the "Friendly Freiamter" - ex-Sensetalbahn BDe 2/4 101) visited all stations on the line to distribute information about the new tariff union which has been set up in Aargau Canton. [A tariff union is an agreement between all transport operators in an area to share total revenue in return for interavailability of tickets.] During the day the siding at Hilfikon was used for crossing and overtaking by the service train, a movement which will not be possible in future as the siding is to be removed as part of a road improvement scheme.
End of the "Chiquitas"
On 7 January the last of the four RABDe 8/16 four-car railcar sets nos. 2001 - 2004 was taken out of service. These trains gained the nickname "Chiquitas" (a brand of banana), because of their original yellow livery and the noticeable sagging of the light-alloy bodies. They have been technically troublesome since they were built in 1976; the type was not perpetuated, and now it has been decided to give up the struggle. Interested purchasers should apply to the SBB, Bern ...
SBB Locos on the DB
For many years, SBB motive power has seen regular use on German rails, notably on the Schaffhausen - Singen and St. Margrethen - Lindau (via Austria) routes. To familarise more German drivers, a series of special runs took place from 3rd to 11th Febuary on the Black Forest line between Singen and Villingen. One each of classes Re 4/4 II, Re 6/6 and Ae 6/6 took part, with a test train of vans including an old DB "Convert" coach.
As predicted in issue 2-93, the SOB borrowed SBB Re 4/4 IV loco 10102 from 8-12 February for tests on its steep (50 per mille or 1 in 20) main line gradient with a view to purchasing the four members of this class, now considered non-standard by the SBB. Tests took place on passenger trains, piloting the East German loco 155 252, and on the line's heaviest freight train (eight loaded bogie cement tanks = 640 tonnes) with SOB Re 4/4 III 44 as train loco in case of problems.
Providing that Cantonal finance is forthcoming. the SOB intends to buy four NPZ (Neue Pendelzug = New Shuttle Train) units like the SBB type to replace its five ABe 4/4 motorcoaches which date from 1939/40.
Re 460 Abroad
The much-announced, but for various reasons never implemented, high-speed test runs with an Re 460 in Germany are now planned for this Summer. The Norwegian Railways have shown interest in the type as well as the German DB, and it is likely that one will visit Norway when the traction equipment and software has been fully optimised in service. It would be a bad thing for Asea Brown Boveri if a loco 'died' so far from home.
Dampfbahn Furka Bergstrecke
The line's HGm 2/2 diesel loco is to be rebuilt and overhauled, and possibly also equipped as a snowplough. Realp depot has been connected to the public electricity supply, and is now a fully functional workshop. The overhauls of the two original FO steam locos which were brought back from Vietnam are now progressing well in Meiningen works in former East Germany; the boilers and many other components are already complete.
RFe 4/4 news
The SBB introduced its lightweight motor baggage vans RFe 4/4 in 1940, to work with the contemporary light-steel coaches at up to 125 km/h. Numbered 601 - 603 in the old SBB system, they were not considered a success. One was sold in 1944 to the Bodensee - Toggenburg, and the other two to the Südostbahn (SOB). One, now SOB De 4/4 21 (ex-SBB RFe 4/4 603), caught the eye of the LOKI photographer in early March (LOKI 4-93 p.93) while on duty with snowplough X 40 62 94-35 650-0.
Zürich Tram News