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 Notebook June 1994

On Shanks' Pony: The BLS Erlebnis-Pfad

From LOKI 6-94

The Lötschberg line is today - especially for goods traffic - the most important source of traffic for the Simplon route. The density of traffic can be well appreciated by `ordinary' walkers as well as railfans on the newly-opened section of path on the north ramp of the Lötschberg. The 'Erlebnis-Pfad' or experience-path has its origins in paths used by staff during the double-tracking works which have been carried out on this line over the last few years. At the suggestion of the 'Berner Wanderwege' and with help from the various firms working on the doubling, a proper public way has been produced.

The path was opened in August 1993 by Swiss President Adolf Ogi, and is available from May to October each year. It is very steep in places; the climb to Kandergrund includes a steel stairway which is definitely not suitable for wheelchairs, small children or pets. Strong shoes should be worn, and weatherproof clothing. There are no kiosks on the path, so walkers will need to take their own food and drink. Seats are provided at three places on the walk, and there are information displays about the various bridges and tunnels, the train service, signalling and power supply, as well as an explanation of the way the line makes a double loop around Blausee-Mitholz. The path begins at the station (sadly no longer open to passengers) and the first of the 37 information displays is in the waiting shelter. To reach the station, use the BLS bus service to the stop known as 'Mitholz, Balmhorn.'

One should allow one hour as the basic walking time, although reading the displays and, of course, watching the trains, will take much longer. The path is marked by special brown waymarkers, and in places intersects some normal paths with yellow markers. An explanatory 96-page booklet can be bought for 10 Sfr. at Kandersteg and Frutigen stations. For experienced walkers, the path can be included in a longer 5-hour walk of around 5 hours from Kandersteg station to Frutigen station. As mentioned before, the walk ends with the climb of a long metal staircase to reach 'Kandergrund, Altels' bus stop, also on the BLS Frutigen - Kandersteg route. A final few words from the BLS management: keep to the path, and above all do not trespass on the railway! The line is very busy and trains can appear very suddenly around round curves or from tunnels.

The 1994-95 Timetable

Report from Eisenbahn Amateur 5-94. Warning: the following is depressing, as it chronicles the local service reductions caused by the reduction in state subsidy, which is blamed on the 'Recession.'

Monthey - St.Gingolph (Table 100.2)

The basic passenger service has been transferred to buses, but Canton Valais has been persuaded to support four return trains on Mondays - Fridays. There will be one train in the morning, one at midday and two in the evening. The bus service, which will be worked by the Montreux Oberland Bernois railway, replaces the previous service from Monthey to Vouvry. Buses will be hourly on weekdays and two-hourly on Sundays. There will be no bus when the train runs, and the last bus will be at 21.00. Journey time is twice as long, although some of the bus stops are better sited that the stations.

Lyss - Solothurn (table 415)

The Lyss - Büren an der Aare section will retain rail service, making use of the Broye line train from Lausanne which until now has stood for nearly half an hour in Lyss station. Büren to Solothurn will be replaced by a bus of the 'Busbetrieb Solothurn und Umbegung' (BSU) undertaking. Connections will be made at Solothurn into the RBS and SNB trains and the Biel - Olten SBB locals. Unlike the Solothurn - Herzogenbuchsee closure of last year, however, the service frequency will not be improved.

Gotthard Locals (Table 600.2/3)

Although there will still be a few local trains as far as Flüelen, so Altdorf station will remain open, the complete local service between Erstfeld and Göschenen will be provided by buses of Auto AG Uri. Throughout the year there will be at least one bus per hour each day, connecting with express trains from Arth-Goldau.

Hourly postal buses will run between Airolo and Bellinzona, connecting with express trains.

Laufenburg - Koblenz (Table 701)

The train service is replaced by a bus financed by Canton Aargau. This comprises a basically hourly bus between Döttingen and Schwaderloch with rail connections towards Baden, a bus between Laufenburg and Koblenz with connections to Zurzach, and a Brugg - Etzgen - Laufenburg bus with connections to Basel; Eglisau - Stein am Rhein travellers face very bad connections.

Sumiswald - Wasen (EBT)

This branch service sees nearly every train withdrawn, replaced by a bus between Sumiswald and Wasen.

Service Reductions

To meet an overall target of a 2% mileage reduction, many local services see reductions of various kinds, such as cancellation of the first or last train (every day or at weekends), reduction to two-hourly frequency, or the omission of one or two trains during the day. This applies to the RhB and the other private lines as well as the SBB; for example Ilanz - Chur, St. Moritz - Poschiavo, and Poschiavo - Campocologno all lose their last trains of the day.

Miscellaneous Changes

The BLS locals from Spiez to Interlaken run immediately behind the expresses, without connection from Brig, but with a connection into BOB trains. Most Zweisimmen - Spiez fast trains continue as stopping trains to Interlaken. Lötschberg south ramp locals serve all stations.

On the Montreux - Oberland - Bernois, the Panoramic Express now requires a supplementary fare even in second class.

'Timetable Changes'

The Official Timetable book itself has changed this year, for the first time in twelve years. The pages are slightly bigger at 138 by 205 mm, and the Helvetica typeface is replaced by a fashionable Frutiger font. The rail and ship tables are now in upright format, as the bus pages have been for a few years. The numbering system remains basically unchanged, although several tables have been split up. Cable cars, ships and foreign lines all have their numbers increased by 1000 to free 1000-1999 for S-Bahn tables, previously lumped under 690. There are no longer any tables fitted in amidst others, as 501-504 used to be inside 500. The foreign lines volume for Summer 1994 retains the old typeface.

Some lines which have previously been shown in simplified form now have a proper table with all times at intermediate points, e.g. Lausanne - Ouchy, Bex - Bévieux. In other cases, halts previously only mentioned in footnotes are shown in full (OC, YSteC, CMN). The Basel tram lines to Pratteln and Aesch no longer appear, and Table 223 (Bern - Neuchatel - Le Locle) now also includes the expresses via Biel.

There are also differences in the types of line used to mark the columns, and the numbered note markings. Some symbols have gone, such as the crossed circle for air-conditioning, and some new ones appear: a rocking horse means that the train includes a 'familiewagen' and PA stands for Panorama Car. August 1st now officially has a Public Holiday service, and midnight is shown as 0.00 instead of 24.00.

LOKI Aktuell 5-94 and 6-94


The Mittel Thurgau Bahn has ordered four three-car NPZ railcar sets, plus two additional driving trailers. Delivery is now in progress, in time for the start on 29 May of the new S-Bahn service to be worked by the MThb across the German border to Konstanz, Singen and Engen. The first driving trailer entered service on 17 March. The livery chosen for this new stock is most unconventional, and clashes badly with the colours of earlier stock. The interior also differs from their SBB cousins, with upholstered seats and pink headrests. It is planned to overhaul some older coaches to match, including the fitting of swing-plug doors and removal of asbestos insulation.

New Appenzeller Loco

Is it a locomotive or a railcar? Strictly speaking, the new machine delivered to the AB's Herisau depot on 16 February should be classed as a railcar, as it has over 5 square metres of luggage space. However, the definitions have already become blurred, as the SBB's Re 450 S-Bahn locos also have a baggage area. Thus the newcomer has been classed as A Ge 4/4 loco and numbered 1. It is primarily intended for use on freight trains on standard gauge wagons on transporter bogies, and is currently permitted to work on the Gossau - Appenzell - Wasserauen line. It is not rack-fitted, but when the new Riethüsli tunnel is finished, plus some curve easements at Teufen and Gais, it will also be used from St Gallen to Gais. Principal technical details of the newcomer, built by Stadler, ABB and SLM: length over couplers 14,850 mm, service weight 48 tonnes, power rating 1000 kW, maximum load on 37 per mille gradient 200 tonnes, maximum speed 75 km/h.

New Sensetalbahn Tractor

Shortly after Easter, the STB took delivery of a new tractor, Tm 238 114-3. Built by Stadler, it is built to the same design as the BLS group's 95-98 series, and is fitted with remote control equipment.


For many years trams and railway wagons in advertising liveries have been a familiar sight. More recently, coaches such as the MacDonald's restaurant car have appeared, and now the ultimate: the SBB Re 460 in advertising guise. Apparently the SBB is charging 180,000 Francs per year for this facility, which can be set against a cost of only 15,000 SFr. for painting the loco and restoring its original livery at the end of the contract. This compares with 142,000 Sfr. for 10 colour pages in the Neue Züricher Zeitung, or 30,000 Sfr. for a half-minute advert after the news on German-Swiss TV.

The first company to take advantage of the offer is the Agfa photographic company, whose loco (Re 460 015-1) sports an orange and white striped livery with the company logo and the words AGFA FILM in metre-high letters. The loco made its debut on 4 May, with a special excursion around lakes Biel, Neuchatel and Murten with 400 invited guests aboard a 10-coach formation of 3 Panorama cars, 3 Salons and 4 Club cars. The traditional bottle of champagne was smashed against the loco, which was named Dübendorf II by the Mayor of Dubendorf, headquarters of Agfa's Swiss operation. It has to be Dübendorf II because this otherwise undistinguished Zürich suburb already has an SBB locomotive (Re 6/6 11618) named after it! 460 015-1 will be used mostly on Intercity trains between Geneva - Lausanne - Bern - St Gallen and Geneva - Brig. It is understood that the SBB hopes to see another 12 or so advertising locos in due course.

Of course this sort of thing is a gift to the model manufacturers, and Märklin have already announced their version in H0.

White Lady

Another colourful sight on SBB tracks is Re 4/4 II 11238 of Bern depot, which has been turned out by Yverdon works in white livery to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the SEV - the Schweizerische Eisenbahner-verband or Swiss Railwaymen's Union. Large red lettering of 75 SEV appears on the sides and ends of the loco, which is expected to remain in this livery until the end of 1995.

The Hag company will producing a limited edition model in H0, which can be ordered by LOKI readers at the special price of 650 Sfr.

RhB Flexibility

The main lines of the Rhaetian Railway are electrified at 11,000 volts AC, the Bernina line is 1000 V DC (originally 750 V) and the Chur - Arosa section works at 2200 V. The Arosa line has a very heavy winter sports traffic, and to deal with this old Bernina motorcoaches ABe 4/4 30 to 34 were fitted years ago with switchgear to allow them to work on the Arosa line when needed. This 'helping hand' approach is, of course, not efficient as the Bernina cars have to be hauled from St Moritz to Chur , and a single car cannot haul more than two coaches up to Arosa.

The RhB is planning to convert the Arosa line to the standard AC system when the proposed tunnel into Chur station is built; this will mean that locos from the main system can be used and the unusual visitors will no longer be needed. [Photo in LOKI 6-94 p. 94 shows 31 and 34 double-heading a train at Chur station, 20 March 94.]

Final Summer

Two BDe 4/4 II motorcoaches 1301 and 1302 were built in 1956-57 for the suburban service from Geneva to the La Plaine, last village before the French border. This line forms part of the main line from Geneva to Paris, and was electrified on the DC system for the benefit of French locomotives. If you want to sample the rare traction of 1301/2, do it soon, as they are to be withdrawn this year, to replaced by new units currently under construction at Vevey Engineering.

Ae 3/6 I: The End

Since 28 May, Ae 3/6 I locos are no longer in regular service on the SBB. There are two working preserved machines, however: green 10664 owned by the 'Lake Zürich Right Bank Railway Club' and the SBB's own brown-liveried 10601.

More Kolibris

Delivery has now begun of the fourth series of NPZ (Neue Pendel Zug) or RBDe 4/4 motorcoaches and matching driving trailers. These new sets can be recognised by a subtle change in the livery (blue cab sides instead of grey) and the air-conditioning equipment on the cab roofs.

BLS Re 465

On 28 April the first new Re 465 for the Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon group, number 001, made a public appearance when it was transferred from the SLM factory in Winterthur to the ABB Tramont works. Mounted on temporary bogies, the mechanically complete loco, in full blue livery, was hauled with three wagons out of the SLM works to the SBB exchange siding by the company's Unimog, registration no. ZH 178643. Earliest date for entering service is now estimated to be October 1994.

First published 1994 - this edition April 2009