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 December 1993

It's a Gas: a wagon portrait

from LOKI 11-93, by René Stamm

If, in the early morning, you should catch sight of a gleaming silver tank wagon being shunted into the siding of the firm Carba AG, near Liebefeld on the Gürbetal - Bern - Schwarzenburg (GDS) line, it's not a load of heating oil, but a gas tanker.

Carba AG is one of Switzerland's most important suppliers of all types of gas, especially to the food and medical industries. Carbon Dioxide, used to make drinks fizzy, was the company's first product and today it remains a major supplier. Today, however, the gas is no longer produced in Liebefeld; production had been transferred to a factory in Othmarsheim (Alsace) with transport to Switzerland in Carba's own specialised tank wagons. The central depot is in Rupperswil, and there is a regional distribution depot at Liebefeld, which is near Bern. Here, the gas is transferred from the rail wagons to road tankers or cylinders for delivery to customers. For the two-day journey from France, the gas is cooled to minus 78.5 degrees Celsius before loading, and remains cold thanks to the high level of insulation around the tank. The insulation and high pressure must, of course, be maintained during unloading.

The Wagons

A fleet of six bogie wagons is allocated to this traffic, built between 1975 and 1987 and numbered 33 85 780 9 200-3 / 201-1 and 33 85 781 1 300-7 / 301-5 / 302-3 / 303 -1.

At first glance, these gas tanks have one obvious difference from wagons which carry liquid, there is no filling manhole on top with associated ladders and walkways. The underframe is made of riveted steel sheet, and carries the braking equipment etc. as well as a cabinet containing the loading and unloading pipes. The tank itself is a twin-walled welded pressure vessel, the inner walls being made of the best quality steel for safety reasons. The space between the two walls is filled with polyurethane foam insulation. The tank is pressure tested to 20 Bars pressure [300 PSI] although the normal working pressure is 10 to 15 Bar. There is a removable hatch at one end of the tank, which can be removed to give access for testing and other work.

There is a brake platform at one end of the wagon, which rides on modern Y25 bogies of the cast-frame variant. The livery is silver-bronze with an orange 'stomach-band' and the company name in large black letters on the upper part of the tank.

Jouef H0 Model

The model railway market is not exactly flooded with SBB tank wagons, especially since Liliput products have gone off the market. However, the French firm of Jouef recently introduced a representation of the Carba gas tank. This is, it has to be said, not an accurate model as it is simply a repaint of an existing French model from the Jouef range. In fact, almost every detail differs from the original, yet the correct livery gives the model a convincing appearance and it would look good on any Era-IV Swiss layout. (Jouef Cat. No. 652500.) The unloading facility at Liebefeld would make ideal industry for a corner siding on your layout.

Note that the running number depicted on the Jouef model was correct at the time it was designed, but the prototypes (which themselves vary somewhat in detail) have since been renumbered.

The Leas Lift

A 108-year-old water-powered funicular at Folkestone, England, from LOKI 11-93, by Thomas Angeli.

The builder of Folkestone Pier had a problem: his tourist trap was separated from the town centre by a a thirty-metre high cliff. Victorian enginners had an answer: build a funicular to connect the seashore with the fashionable area known as The Leas. It was an immediate success with the ladies and gentlemen of the day, as it lowered them safely down to the beach. Such a success, indeed, that a second line was built alongside, follwed by two others in the western part of the town.

The original Leas Lift is the only one of the four still in use, and between April and September it still caters for the tourist traffic. It was renovated in 1985 to celebrate its centenary, and unlike its cousin the Marzilibahn [in Bern - prototype of a diorama described in LOKI] it has retained the water balance propulsion system. To begin a trip, a tank in the underframe of the top cabin is loaded with water (up to 1300 litres) until it is heavy enough to pull the other car up the gradient by means of the connecting rope. At the end of the journey, the water is emptied into a holding tank at the lower station, whence it is returned to the top by pipe under the power of a small electric pump.

Braking is done by hand: a man in the cabin at the upper station regulated the speed with a large braking wheel similar to a ship's wheel. If he lets go, an automatic device stops the cars immediately. It must be a safe method, as no-one has been killed or injured in 100 years of operation, according to the company's brochure.

On The Way 2: The Netherlands

by Charlie Hulme

Getting Across

The other daily North Sea Ferry from Hull will set you down (after a hearty breakfast) at Rotterdam Europoort, surrounded by freight-only rail tracks and condemned to a slightly unpleasant half-hour bus journey, relieved only by views of freight trains, to Rotterdam Central station, where you should arrive at around 09.30. If you do not want to interrupt your journey, there is a very feasible connection by the 10.12 Rotterdam - Cologne, then Inter-City up the scenic Rhine valley to Basel and to Lucerne or Interlaken before bedtime. Alternatively, you could spend a day or two in Holland and proceed to Switzerland by an overnight train; the long day journey across Europe can be tedious even for the enthusiast.

Rotterdam Central (Centraal in Dutch: in fact many Dutch words look like mis-spelled English, e.g. Trein for train, het or de for the, etc) itself is a good place for train watchers as there is no freight by-pass line and plenty of trains to see. Rotterdam city, however, is not a place I would choose to spend the day as it was destroyed in the War and has gained nothing in the rebuilding. The trams are interesting though, and one route will take you the starting point of a fascinating pleasure-boat trip around the docks.

Of course, the traditional rail route to Holland is to catch the 'Harwich Boat Train' from Manchester to Harwich, then the overnight ferry to Hook of Holland for international connections. The British train still runs, in the shape of a two-coach diesel railcar now pretentiously named the Vincent van Gogh, but on the other side the last vestiges of the famous Rheingold and its colleagues have now disappeared, with only a single through train to Amsterdam and the local trains to Rotterdam on offer.

The Network

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) is an impressive railway by any standard, and has all the attributes of the Swiss system - frequent regular-interval services, comfort and punctuality are the watchwords, with well-organised connections at junctions and expresses which join and divide in an intricate way to offer as many through carriages as possible thanks to extensive multiple-unit operation. Much of the mileage is electrified at 1500 V DC, although there are pockets of diesel operation in the North and East.

Many foreign visitors throng the cities, especially Amsterdam, but there are many small market towns which are full of history, and relaxing seaside resorts to visit - especially is you are a branch line fan like your reporter. Not that you will find many branches operated by forgotten old equipment; almost everything seems modern. Local freight traffic is much less obvious than in Switzerland, though, although some can be found, notably serving the network of domestic refuse depots with the strange-looking 'VAM Compost' wagons familiar from the Roco model. Also modelled by Roco, and due for reintroduction soon, is the 500/600 series diesel shunter, built in Britain and the same as the familiar BR class 08.

I cannot describe a whole country in one short item, so I will recommend one trip. To the north of Amsterdam lies the IJselmeer, (In Dutch, ij together counts as one letter) a large freshwater lake which was until recently part of the sea - the Zuider See. Part of this has now been filled in completely to form new land, including new towns and a new railway, but what remains is still a large area of water with some pleasant fishing ports. A regular service runs from to the old towns of Hoorn and Enkhuizen; the train will probebly be one of the characteristic NS 'dog-head' EMUs which were built over quite a long period. Some of the older ones are npow being scrapped, which is sade because they haver a certain soild 1950s charm. Hoorn is notable in being the junction for the country's most famous preseved line, the Hoorn - Medemblijk steam tram, which shares the main station at Hoorn and at summer weekend offers a combined rail/boat excursion. It also owns some very familar coaching stock: ex-SBB Seetalbahn open-platform coaches ... Hoorn town is very interesting, and a guided walk leaflet in English can be had from the tourist office.

Travel Facts

The NS has a very enthusiastic office in London which regularly advertises in the railway press and well send you an excellent brochure with details of all sorts of offers. The Euro Domino system is excellent for the 'On the Way' fan, as the three-day pass can be used on any three days in a month, such as two days on the way out and one day for the through journey on the way back. A combination of the Dutch, German and Swiss dominoes would cover all necessary travel on a basically Swiss holiday, although when working out prices remember that the dominoes are not valid on all private lines, nor on trams or ships.

SBB locos in Holland

By Hansrudolf Schwabe, from LOKI 11-93.

Alex Amstein in LOKI 2-93 describes how a total of 43 SBB steam locomotives were sent to Holland after World War II to help run their war-damaged system. He describes how in October 1946 five A 3/5 locos were worked from Basel through France and Belgium to Tilburg locomotive works. I was one of the small group of enthusiasts who, by courtesy of the legendary Alfred Moser and Dutch Railways (NS) traction engineer Ton de Pater, was able to follow this adventurous trip.

In summer and autumn 1945, five B 3/4 locos from the series 1601-1747, ex-Jura Simplon railway, eight branch line tank locos type Ec 3/4 of the ex-Jura Simplon series 6501-6512 and seven shunting tanks of the 'Tigerli' type from the Centralbahn and the Jura Simplon were sent to Holland. The transfer of these 40-49 year-old locos had been arranged before the end of the war by the Dutch Government in Exile in London. Due to shortage of time and money, the locos were not overhauled before leaving, attenstion being restricted to a clean and paint in Biel works. They travelled in four trains of five locos each, routed via Dell and Lorraine as the railways of Alsace were still suffereing from war damage.

On arrival at Tilburg works, the locos were given a quick test run before being sent to depots where they were eagerly awaited. The B 3/4 locos were given NS numbers 3001-3005, the Ec 3/4 became 5601-5608, the ex-SCB E 3/3 7801-7803 and the ex-JS E 3/3 7851-7852.

Pleasure & Pain with the B 3/4

The most curious items in this treasure-chest were the five B 3/4 moguls, known to the Dutch crews as the 'Drieduizenden' - Three-thousanders. The Dutch crews found them very hard to understand, principally because they were three-cylinder compunds on the Weyermann system, named after its inventor, the Jura Simplon's chief engineer. Built in 1896 for mixed-traffic duties on mountain lines, they had one high pressure and two low-pressure cylinders, and were rated at 875 HP; a powerful machine for their period. The high-pressure cylinder was between the frames, and drove a crank on the leading driving axle, and the steam then passed to two outside low-pressure cylinders driving the centre axle.

The three cranks were arranged to be 120 degrees apart, with the result that the exhaust beats made a most unusual 'syncopated' rhythm, which sadly appears never to have been recorded on tape. Another puzzle for the Dutch enginemen was the needle-valve lubrication system which was temperamental and could lead to bearings running hot and many dirty expeditions between the frames for add extra oil to the high-pressure machine.

The Friedmann-type boiler water injectors were also unfamiliar to the Dutch, whose own engines usually had English-style feed pumps. On several occasions crews found themselves unable to maintain the level of water in the boiler and had to drop out the fire and await an assisting engine from the nearest depot. One can well imagine the general opinion about these old Swiss engines. They were allocated to Arnhem and worked light passenger and freight trains to Zutphen and across the Betuwe, the industrial and market gardening area between the arms of the Rhine. It is said that sometimes they even reached the terminus at Geldermalsen without breaking down . . . as soon as the NS was given the chance to obtain some more Austerity-type 2-8-0s and 2-10-0s from Britain the old Swiss moguls went to the cutter's torch, the last two disappearing in 1949.

Ec 3/4 and E 3/3

These tank engines were much simpler designs, more to the taste of the Dutch staff, although their needle lubrication and Swiss style controls still caused worry. The Ec 3/4s worked branch lines in the North and North-East, around Groningen, Leeuwarden, Almelo and Hengelo. As well as their relatively low power output, their small coal capacity was a problem, relieved to some degree by enlarging the bunkers. They gave reasonable service until 1948-49, when their death-knell was sounded by the decision to replace the passenger trains by buses on a number of branch lines.

The 'Tigerli' shunters were allocated to Rotterdam Feyenoord and worked on the harbour lines of Europe's biggest port until displaced in 1948 by British-built saddle tanks of the Austerity type, as still to be seen in service on many British preserved lines.

A 3/5 600

The purchase of the last 22 examples of the SBB's newest steam express loco came after the end of the War, as the NS tried to run a service on a damaged network with a severe shortage of locomotives and stock. The main line from Rotterdam and The Hague via Utrecht to Arnhem and Nijmegen had been electrified in the 1930s, but now the electrical wiring was all out of action and the almost-new electric railcar sets useless. Fifteen 2-6-0 steam locos were ordered from Sweden, and the SBB management was persuaded to sell some modern superheated engines, the A 3/5 600 class. The price was not perhaps the cheap deal of the previous old-timers, but was considered reasonable.

The class had been introduced in 1910, and were thus in their middle age. They were similar in design to the Maffei-built Bavarian S 3/5 and S 3/6 classes, four-cylinder compounds with the high-pressure pair of cylinders inside the frames. A similar class also existed in Holland in the shape eight locos built by Maffei in 1910-14 for the Netherlands Central Railway, but these were four-cylinder simple-expansion locos. Again, the compounding of the Swiss locos gave trouble to the Dutch drivers, who had to adopt a different driving technique when working the 3700 class as the type became on the NS.

Thus it was that a type which had given years of good service on the best trains between Zürich and Geneva, and later on the Jura lines, gained a reputation as fairly useless when in Holland. Nevertheless, they worked trains of up to 500 tonnes at 100 km/h, on flat land far from the hills of Switzerland for which they were designed, until 1948 when electric working was able to resume. Some of the class had been overhauled soon before dispatch from Switzerland, and it was 1952 before the last example was withdrawn.

In Spring 1948, I worked as pilotman and fireman on no. 3518, ex-SBB 642, from Utrecht to Rotterdam, and will tell you of my experiences in a later issue of LOKI.

From BEMO Post: Hints and Tips


A complete list for collectors of all BEMO models ever made is now available for 3.00 DM, order number 0800 000. Also new is a revised edition of the book of RhB track plans, enlarged to include Bernina and Arosa line stations.

A Model to Visit

When in MOB country don't miss the Fromagerie le Chalet in Chateau d'Oex, which as well as its cheese culinary specialities offers a model railway layout based on the Montreux Oberland Bernois railway. 

Panorama Cars

Latest release from BEMO is the new FO/BVZ Panoramic coach. The principal details of these cars appear in the August 1993 Notebook, but BEMO Post gives more data on numbers and workings.

The running numbers of the prototypes are As 4021 - 4030 (Furka Oberalp), and As 2011 - 2014 (Brig - Visp - Zermatt). The Montreau Oberland Bernois is also taking delivery of a slightly modified design, As 153/154 and two matching driving trailers ARst 151/152. In the 1993-4 timetable, the FO & BVZ cars can be found in train 905 (Glacier Express K) and 902 (Glacier Express B) attached to a standard first-class car of the A 1253 - 1256 series (BEMO model 3268 - for window-hanging photographers!) and an RhB heritage restaurant car WR 3810 or 3811.

The BEMO model has the correct SIG 90 bogies, as also fitted to the recent Bernina coaches, and is fitted for installation of the new BEMO close coupler and interior lighting. Internal detailing includes separate tables, seats and partitions. First models to be released are FO AS 4022 and 4027 (cat. 3088 202 and 207) and BVZ 2011 and 2012 (cat. 3088 501 and 502).

Fresh Air

Have you noticed how RhB baggage vans often travel with their side doors open? The BEMO model of the D4 bogie van has workable sliding doors, but the older D2 model needs some work by the modeller to produce this effect, as described below by BEMO Post reader Herbert Aurenz.

Tools needed: a razor saw, a needle file and some fine emery paper. Materials: One BEMO van, cat. 3265 xxx, a piece of L-section brass 1 x 1 mm, 70 mm long, and a piece of 0.5 mm diameter brass rod 50 mm long. I also cut a block of wood 26 mm wide, between 25-50 mm high and ca. 90 mm long, to fit inside the body during operations. Paints: a match for the body colour, plus handrail yellow and floor brown.


1-5. Dismantle the vehicle, and remove the window glazing. Then make the cuts shown in the diagram in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, each cut beginning at the end marked A and ending at the point marked E. The close up sketch shows how cut 3 must be made below the door slide rail.

6-9. Scrape off the door handle and riveted strip from the left of the door opening. Try not to disturb the paint on the rest of the van side. With the file, tidy up the opening in the van side, and remove the remains of the lower door slide rail. From the door, file off the lower slide rail, but leave the riveted strip. Using the file and emery paper, work on the back of the door to thin it down and make it lie flat on the van side.

10-11. Make a replacement piece of 1 x 1 angle for the left-side of the door, c. 23 mm long, and fix it in position. Similarly, make a lower slide rail using a 36 mm long piece of the angle. Touch up any damaged paint on the door and body. Make the horizontal safety rail for inside the door opening, and a replica of the door handle removed in step 6, using the 0.5 mm diameter rod painted yellow, and glue them in position behind the door opening. Attach the door window to the door with plastic solvent and glue the door to the van side.

12. Remove a 35 mm wide piece from the top of the underframe, and replace it with a piece of wood or some plastic planked sheet to represent the visible part of the floor, and paint it brown. When dry, add some model luggage and a Preiser figure to taste, and re-assemble.

LOKI Aktuell 12-93

Mallet News

The society called 'La Traction' in Delémont has placed in service Mallet loco E 206, brought from Portugal and overhauled in the east German works at Meiningen. The loco, G 2/3 + 3/3 in Swiss terminology, has the unusual 2-4+6-0 wheel arrangement. A second Portugese loco, E 164, an 0-4+4-0 Mallet, is also being overhauled at Meiningen.

Tea on the BLS

The BLS group has ordered four new shunting tractors for delivery on September 93 - January 94. Classified Tea as they are electric-powered with auxiliary batteries for use when away from the overhead wire, they are numbered 245 021 to 024 in the new unified system, and are equipped for radio control by a person at the trackside. They will replace diesel tractors at various locations on the group's lines: Weissenbühl (GBS), Bümpliz Nord (BN) and Zweisimmen (SEZ). At Zweisimmen the new machine will also shunt the refuse loading terminal at Galgenbühl, 2 km north.

Vereina Traffic

Each day, the RhB runs ten to twelve trains taking spoil from the Vereina tunnel excavation between Sagliains and the disposal site at Zernez. The train is usually hauled by one of the specially-purchased Gmf 4/4 diesels 242 and 243 and comprises 5 or 6 bogie wagons.

More New Steam?

Following the success of its new design of rack-railway steam loco, SLM of Winterthur proposes a larger design, of 2-10-2T wheel arrangement, with all the advanced features such as fully-isolated boiler, one-man operation, etc. A power output of 1100 HP is envisaged, at a maximum speed of 70 km/h.

Chaos in Brig

On 24 September, the worst storm of the century hit the town of Brig, leaving the narrow-gauge station area under water. The Furka Oberalp and Brig - Visp - Zermatt railways were unable to move all their locos and rolling stock out of the way in time and many items (57, from FO, BVZ and RhB) were submerged in the 3 metre-deep water, mud and rubble. Millions of Francs worth of damage done to the fixed equipment also, and the two railway's works were overwhelmed with the task. Other railways and the locomotive industry have joined in the repair work; thus FO HGe 4/4 33 returned to its birthplace, SLM Wintherthur, after 53 years. along with two of its sisters. Other damaged motive power included two FO motorcoaches and BVZ twin railcar ABDeh 8/8 2041. Until 10 October, all FO trains terminated at Naters.

The Simplon pass road was also damaged, and rail car-carrier service was temporarily re-instated between Brig and Domodossola, the unloading ramp at Iselle being no longer useable. The restored line of the Dampfbahn Furka Bergstecke was also breached near Realp.

Mittel Thurgau Bahn

The MThB has hired old Ae 4/7 loco 11018 from the SBB; it has been given the MthB logo on the noses and the full name on the sides. A 3-car 'Chiquita' set was tested on the line during October, in preparation of the MThB's expansion of services into Germany.

Nothing to Go On

Because of the risk of someone being stuck in the loo during a fire, it has been decreed that from January 1994 the toilets of S-Bahn trains running without conductors will be locked out of use. A storm of protest is expected. [I hope I have translated this right!]

Postscript -  by Charlie Hulme

As I type this in Manchester on the evening before the December meeting, it is is a strange thought that at 11.14 this morning I was boarding an LEB train at Lausanne Chauderon. I have not flown to Switzerland since 1982, so I usually take a day or two over the journey. Mind you, air travel is still boring, but at least now you can go by train at both ends.

First published 1993 - this edition April 2009