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 Manchester Archive July 1993

Loki Aktuell 6-93 and 7/8-93

ICE on Holiday

From 21 to 25 April, an eleven-car German InterCity Express visited the Lötschberg Railway. As well as a technical inspection in Spiez depot, the train made a series of test runs: on 23 April from Spiez via Bern to Bümpliz Nord and Interlaken, and on the next day from Spiez via Thun and Biel to Neuchatel and from Brig via Goppenstein to Thun. In May, an ICE was working trials on the SBB between Lucerne and Olten, where it embarrassingly came to the attention of the Graffiti merchants.

SBB Locos in Germany

The RABe multiple-units are not the only motive power to begin running into Germany since the timetable change. The Ae 6/6 class are now a regular sight in the DB station at Singen, after 11442 spent some time at Singen depot during the spring to permit training of DB staff.


On 23 May, the SBB's 'Sleeperette' coaches entered service on the Basel - Vienna Wiener Walzer. These are UIC-standard second-class (Bm) day coaches rebuilt with seats which recline to 45 degrees for a low-cost night journey. Some sleeping cars have also been refurbished for the new Euronight concept, and painted in the new livery of dark blue with purple stripes and childish moon and stars.


A company called Swissmetro AG proposes to build a completely underground line from Geneva via Bern, Lucerne and Zürich to St. Gallen if they can raise the necessary 13 thousand million Francs. Air would be pumped out of the tunnels, and the aluminium allow-bodied trains would be magnetically suspended and driven by linear induction motors at a speed of 410 km/h, possibly increased later to 600 km/h. A second phase would be a north-south route from Basel to Bellinzona, connecting at Lucerne with the east-west axis. Potential investors can get more information from a display in Lucerne Transport Museum.

Vietnam Loco Overhauled

On 27 March at the Reichsbahn Aussbesserungswerk (RAW) in Meiningen, Thuringia (Eastern Germany), overhauled steam loco HGe 3/4 1 was ceremonially handed over to the management of the Dampbahn Furka Bergstrecke. The loco, SLM works number 2315 of 1913, is one of the group which were brought back from Vietnam in 1990. On 5 May it was captured by the LOKI photographer on a low-floor wagon behind BLS Ae 6/8 206 in goods train 51023 in Bern. DFB HGe 4/4 2 will follow in a few months; it is being assembled at Meiningen from cannibalised parts of three other repatriated engines, ex-FO 2, 8 and 9.

Grauholz Tunnel

On May 6 at 11.06, accurate to a few centimetres, the boring machine broke through to complete the Grauholz tunnel, an improtant link in the Bahn 2000 project, which has been completed on time and within budget. The tunnel, which has taken 41 months to bore, is 5405 metres long, 6294 metres if one includes the cut-and-cover approaches at each end. It is laid out with curves for 200 km/h running, and will allow Bern - Olten to traffic to bypass the bottleneck of Zollikofen.

LOKI Starts a War?

An Parliamentary argument which is rumoured to have been going on for some time 'behind raised hands' turned into a public slanging match at the beginning of May. Representative Otto Stich wants to save money by initially building only one of the Alpine Base Tunnels proposed by the NEAT (New Alpine Transit) scheme, whereas his opponent, Federal President Adolf Ogi, insists that both the Lötschberg and Gotthard lines should be built simultaneously. We wonder whether Mr Stich read LOKI 4-93, in which we tentatively suggested that, in view of likely industrial developments in Eastern Europe, perhaps we should be thinking about improving our east-west routes, perhaps by cutting back our ambitions for the north-south route.

New Postal Livery

In LOKI 5-93 (page 95) was illustrated a bogie postal van in a new yellow and white colour scheme. This is one of five, which will be running for the next few months in experimental livery. Three of them are lettered DIE POST on one side, and LA POSTE on the other; the other two have the French on one side and the Italian LA POSTA on the other. One four-wheel goods-type van (50 85 00-33 140-2) has also been repainted by the PTT in gaudy yellow, red and black, but this version has not found favour with the PTT management.

Re 460 News

In the spring a series of adhesion tests took place between Ossingen to Stammheim on the SBB Winterthur - Etzwilen branch line. The train, a modeller's dream, comprised 460 003, two test coaches, 460 039 and 460 033. For some of the runs, the track in front of the train was sprayed with soapy water.

On 8-9 June, three light engines coupled together, 460 044/038/013, shuttled many times between Thun and Uttigen station in the Aare valley, a test to see if the magnetic field from the loco motors would affect the axle-counters used for train detection.

460 007, which was named Junior earlier this year, has now lost the two large eyes from its cab front, but at present still retains its smiling mouth, with the unofficial addition of three gappy teeth!

Another Closure

With the start of the new timetable, regular passenger service wath withdrawn from the Laupen - Gümmenen section of the Sensetalbahn (STB), to be replaced by a bus service. As a result, 1939-built Be 4/4 107 has been declared redundant, but Be 4/4 106 (built 1939) and BDe 4/6 102 and 103 (1938) remain in stock.

On 16 May the STB arranged a photo-opportunity for enthusiasts by lining up the four old-timers at Laupen. See LOKI 7/8-93, page 95.

Ae 4/6 reborn?

In 1983 the SBB withdrew its last two Ae 4/6 locos, a type used on Gotthard locals. But soon the code Ae 4/6 will be re-appearing in the area, as the Centovalli company, FART, has decided that two of its eight new low-floor articulated units will be fitted-out as first-class only, changing their classification from ABe 4/6 to Ae 4/6.

Off to Austria

The SBB has sold four withdrawn light-steel second-class coaches to the Steiermarkische Landesbahnen in Austria, which plans to use them in school train service on the Gleisdorf - Weiz line, hauled by a newly-ordered diesel loco. The four vehicles, 50 85 29 33-346/509/542/556, were delivered to their new home in March.

New RhB Bridge

On 19 April, at Klosters, a new 6200-tonne bridge was rolled into its final position, an operation which took six hours. By 23 April, track had been laid and overhead wiring installed and the concrete bridge was ready for trains. The 72-metre long, covered, curved bridge carries two tracks, with a scissors crossover in the middle of the span. One track leads to the Klosters Tunnel and the line to Davos, the other to the Zugwald tunnel, currently under construction. This leads to the automobile-loading station at Klosters-Selfranga and from there to the new Vereina tunnel. A load test was carried out on 24 April, using two Crocodile locos and two loaded ballast hoppers, and normal traffic restarted on 25 April.

100 Jahre Thunersee-Bahn

On 1st June 1893, in the middle of an economic recession (nothing changes!) the Thunersee-Bahn (TSB) began operation. Since 1st January 1913 the TSB has been part of the Berner Alpenbahn-Gesellschaft, better known as the Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon Bahn. The centenary was celebrated in style on June 6th by the BLS, with a grand parade of historic and visiting trains between Spiez and Thun. The weather was good, and the whole event was a great success.

The following trains were presented: Steam 0-6-0T Ee 3/3 3 of the former Gürbetalbahn with a short freight; local passenger train with SBB Steam loco Eb 2/4 5469, ex-Jura-Simplon; Express passenger with BLS Ae 6/8 205; 'Golden-Pass Express' with SEZ/BLS Ce 4/6 307; Sensetalbahn BDe 4/6 railcar, ex-BLS ABDZe 4/6; BLS Ae 4/4 with 'mediaeval' express; local with BLS Ce 4/4; Express with SBB Ae 4/7; Parcels train with BLS Ae 6/8; BLS shuttle train with Be 4/4 railcar; 'Stresa-Shuttle' with BLS ABDe 4/8 double railcar and three coaches; BLS Ae 8/8 double loco with gravel train (only to Därligen); BLS Re 4/4 with the 'Tenda Express'; 'Lok 2000' (Re 460) with modern express.

Model News 

From various issues of LOKI.


Three years ago the Südostbahn (SOB) found itself with a severe motive power shortage, and placed adverts in the international railway press asking if anyone had any powerful electric locomotives for hire. A positive reply was received from the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) and two DR locos, one six-axle and one four-axle, made their way to Switzerland. The four-axle loco was of DR class 243, and only a few minor changes were made for its duty on the SOB. Most obvious was the fitting of a Swiss standard pantograph at no. 1 end, mounted the oppoosite way round from the DR pantograph. A small green panel under the driver's door carries the name 'Südostbahn in yellow. During the course of the extended hire, the class has been renumbered as part of a scheme to match the western DB and eastern DR systems. DB electric locos have 1xx class numbers, so the 243 becomes the 143, and the SOB machine has been suitably altered. The visitor is known affectionately by SOB staff as 'Trabi' after the famous East German Trabant car, and is used on freight trains as well as local and express passenger duties. These events have been a godsend for Roco, giving them a chance to release their new class 143 model in an SOB version. This will be welcomed by Swiss modellers, especially as it is a really superb model. The moulding of the bogie sideframes in particular is a masterpiece. Catalogue No. 43682.

Seetal Special

The Seetal line from Lucerne to Lenzburg is a unique part of the SBB network. Most of the way, it runs alongside the road with hundreds of unprotected level crossings, on which careless car drivers often come off worst. Rebuilding on a new alignment has been discussed for years, but so far with no result; a plan is agreed in principle, but the Government is not about to come up with the five hundred million Francs neede to carry it out. So, for the forseeable future, trains will have to continue to run at 'Bummelzug' speeds and cars will continue to get bent.

Attempts have been made over the years [since the early 70s?] to make trains more visible to motorists by painting the front ends of the motive power with reflective red and yellow stripes. In the 1980s, Lucerne depot adorned some of its green Ae 6/6 locos in this fashion for freight traffic, and the new Roco limited edition model (cat. 43535.1, 2-rail) represents 11427 Stadt Bern as running in 1985. Today, incidentally, locos in standard red without warning stripes work the Seetal freights.

Vanoli 211

In recent years, the SBB has been turning over its track maintenance to private contractors, who have been good customers for second-hand German diesels. C. Vanoli AG of Immensee operate ex-DB 211 diesels, giving Roco an excellent chance to issue a limited edition for Swiss enthusiasts. Airolo is a colourful engine, in its all-over yellow livery, and should prove popular. The model (Cat. 34644.1, 2-rail)is well-detailed and a good runner, but in your compiler's experience the fitting of the steps at each corner is rather problematic and needs care.

STL RhB Centre-Entrance Coach

The RhB heavyweight coach from this company came under attack from our readers, and the company has taken account of their criticisms in the design of its latest model. The third STL model of an RhB coach represents a centre-entrance vehicle of the series 2321 - 2333, built by SIG of Neuhausen in 1947-48. Originally, they work the Swiss Private Railways livery of green and cream. Similar coaches were built for the SBB Brünig line, and are still in service today, although the RhB coaches can be distinguished, even in their modern red livery, by their three-part doors and the location of the toilet at the end of the coach.

The first STL version represents the middle-period livery of all-over green, and in response to the criticisms of its predecessor the weight has been brought down to 110 grams. The fully-detailed interior which has become STL's trademark is up to their usual standard, and the ingenious magnetic corridor connections are again fitted, as are NEM standard coupler pockets. To encourage you to buy some soon, we are told that this green version will be replaced by green/cream and red versions, and will not be produced again.


The SBB's latest video

'What we should do,' thought Diego Marti of the SBB Audiovisual section, 'is to compile a video from old publicity and newsreel films, to show historic SBB motive power.' However, when he came to look at the material in the archives, Marti realised that there just weren't enough suitable scenes to make a worthwhile video. He therefore decided to shoot some additional material on the same theme, making use of the wide variety of preserved historic equipment on suitable scenic lines. These new scenes have been intermingled with the old to present a coherent history of SBB motive power.

Thus, during 1992, special filming runs were made, as follows:

Be 4/6 12320 (built 1921) of Winterthur depot was filmed on the Winterthur - Etzwilen line with four of the old Orient Express cars owned at the time by Intraflug AG. This scene had now become history itself, as the Intraflug coaches have been sold and have been mounted on broad-gauge bogies to form a trans-Siberian luxury train.

To help the budget, a commercially-sponsored run was made by Ae 3/6 II 10439 of Olten depot hauling a train of Feldschlösschen beer vans amid the autumn colours on the old Hautenstein line.

Ae 3/5 10217 and Ae 3/6 III 10264, two members of the 'Sécheron family, hauled a train of five historic coaches on the closure-threatened branch line from Monthey to St Gingolph. The third S<130>cheron engine, Be 4/7 12504, hauled a cement train in the Jura.

Two Crocodiles, Erstfeld's brown Ce 6/8 II 14253 and Basel's green Ce 6/8 III 14305, hauled a freight train on the Gotthard line, as did Ae 8/14 11801, one of the legendary Gotthard double locomotives.

The old 'boot' or 'flatiron' E3 3/3 shunters made an appearance, as did the world-famous Red Arrow railcar, RAe 2/4 1001, now looked after by Bern depot, which made a run alongside Lake Geneva.

Despite its modern appearance, 1939-built Bm 4/4 II diesel 18451 is an important historic loco, and a suitable scene was staged for it with some light-steel coaches on the non-electrified Sursee - Triengen railway.

We won't spoil all the fun by telling you what is to be seen in the old black and white clips, but we will mention one extreme rarity: a few seconds of the two diesel-powered Red Arrow railcars in service.

The video 'Locomemory' will be available in English from MITV: the SBB tell us that if plenty are sold, then they will be able to make further films for enthusiasts.

[The 'Szene' column of LOKI 6-93 pays tribute to various well-known video makers, including Sue Knight and John Cocking.]

Summer Steam, etc.

Steam trains will operate on the Vallée de Joux (PBr) line on 18 July, 8 & 22 August, 5 & 26 September 1993. The timetable: Le Pont dep. 13.55, Le Brassus arr. 14.38, dep. 15.10, Le Pont Arr. 16.00. Fare 15 SFr return. SBB connection from Lausanne departs 12.17, arrives back in Lausanne 17.25. Anyone in the Lake Geneva area on 29 August might well go for a photo of the preserved SNCF 'Picasso' diesel railcar XBD 4039, which is making an excursion run from Geneva Eaux-Vives (dep. 09.46) via Evian to Bouveret (arr. 12.40, dep. 15.50) and back to Geneva (arr. 17.56).

First published 1993 - this edition April 2009