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 November 1994

Bernina Aussicht

by Jackie and Andy Micklethwaite

Like the Bernese Oberland and the Valais, the Engadine offers for us the irresistible combination of snowy mountains (the Bernina Group) and railways (the Bernina Bahn).

A return trip from the Engadine to Tirano (take your passport - it's in Italy) is highly recommended. Watch for spectacular views of the Bernina mountains up the Roseg valley at Pontresina, and after Morteratsch station, by the infamous Montebello level crossing. But it is at Alp Grüm that the railway engineering becomes equally spectacular, twisting back and forth with 180 degree turns down the precipice to Cavaglia, and again down to Poschiavo. And the excitement hasn't finished - there follows the competition for road occupancy between train and road vehicles along the lake to Miralago, and the open spiral at Brusio. Tirano itself is, however, a let down. We did find some old frescoes (badly neglected) and the old market place (deserted) complete with a standard metre measure, but would recommend taking the first available train back out, and up to Poschiavo, a far more attractive town to wander around.


If you are wanting a walk for train-spotting, then the Albula walk (Preda - Bergun) is recommended, but if travelling to Preda by train, study the timetable carefully as connections are few and far between. The obvious section of the Bernina railway to walk is from Bernina Hospice to Alp Grüm, or vice versa. However, the frequency of service (1 per hour each way) is not going to excite the trainspotter - the flowers might excite the flower enthusiast though! There is a path from Alp Grüm to Poschiavo - we haven't walked it, but it looks a long way and without frequent railway interest.

The classic "not to be missed" walk in the Engadine is from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard. Unless you happen to be camping at Punt Muragl, take bus or train (Punt Muragl Staz if coming from St. Moritz) or (if you must) car and ascend the funicular from here to Muottas Muragl. After savouring the view, follow the path which contours along the valley side above Pontresina (and is consequently almost level) which leads to Alp Languard. There are distant but spectacular views up Val Roseg into the Bernina mountains, and the flowers are almost as spectacular. From Alp Languard, a chair lift can take you down to Pontresina from where a bus can return you to Punt Muragl or to your starting point (the station at Pontresina is on the other side of the valley from the town). Energetic walkers can use an alternative terrace path but first have to climb to the Segantini hut. They could also walk down to Pontresina through the attractive woods.

Another valley not to be missed is above Morteratsch. It's an easy stroll from the station up to the snout of the glacier. There are signs which indicate the glacier's end in years gone by which show how it has receded and bring home the reality of global warming. You can (in the absence of the Health and Safety Executive) scramble on the glacier - not recommended as large chunks regularly break off and fall into the river. The more energetic should walk up the valley above the glacier to the Boval mountain hut, a delightful walk with superb views across the Morteratsch glacier to Piz Palu, and with the attraction of refreshment at the top!

Superb mountain views are also to be found at the Fuorcla Surlej. To get here, take the bus to Silvaplana-Surlej, and the lower section of the Corvatsch cable car. It takes under an hour to walk to Fuorcla Surlej up a jeep track, again with refreshment when you arrive. The energetic can walk down into Val Roseg and down to Pontresina. All should consider an excursion to the top of the cable car for the extensive views down the Inn valley, across to the Bernina Group and further afield to the Oberland and Austrian Alps. A walker's ticket on the cable car covers uphill on the lower section and return on the top section. Walking down from the top station is best left to experts!

Snowy Peaks

The Diavolezza cable car takes you right into the snowy peaks - it is quite feasible to sit here and watch the glaciers moving, or the flowers growing, or something similar. A delightful place, if busy ­a quiet corner can usually be found away from the restaurant. The walks from here are limited. Munt Pers is a good hill to climb, but other walks are into the realms of mountaineering - if you want to try it, the local mountain guides take a walk down the glacier to Morteratsch every day.

Another fine vantage point is Piz Nair - take funicular and cable car from St. Moritz. There is a wide variety of walks from here. We walked down to Samedan but a shorter walk would go back to Celerina. There are views not only of the mountains, but also of the railways, but it can be frustrating to see a special or relief train and not be in a position to find out anything about it as it is some thousands of feet below!

Another walk from Alp Languard heads off towards Piz Languard (the energetic might as well go to the top) and crosses into the Val Dal Fain, with a descent to Diavolezza or Bernina Suot stations. This walk takes you into quite remote country - we had good views of marmots and ibex, as well as some sightings of rare flowers. In the same area, a walk up Val Minor to Lej Minor can be turned into a pleasant, not too energetic circular walk, which circumnavigates Piz Lagalb. For more remoteness, the energetic could try the walk from Muottas Muragl over the Fuorcla Muragl into Val Pruna and down to the station at La Punt - long but rewarding.

Away from the railway, the lakes around Sils offer a more pleasing and less bleak landscape. There are good walks in Val Fex, a round trip can use the Furtschellas cable car. The Engadine high level walk is also recommended - it runs from the Maloja Pass to St. Moritz along the valley side. You can start or leave at various places along the way. If you just want a pleasant stroll, try the walk from Pontresina to St. Moritz via the Staz lake.

Transalpin 2: The Model

From LOKI 9-94 & 10-94, by Rene Stamm

4130: Kleinbahn HO

The Austrian firm of Kleinbahn, which has always sold its products solely through its own chain of shops, was quick to produce a model of the first Transalpin train while it was still news, in 1958. This was achieved by using the company's existing model of the 4030 class and changing the livery, which was fair enough because the prototypes differed mostly in their electrical equipment and interior fittings, neither of which feature in the model in any case. Translucent windows were fitted, to hide the lack of interior fittings and the fact that both bogies of the power car were fitted with standard Kleinbahn motors driving through worm gears. In the usual Kleinbahn style, the model is wired to run in the reverse direction to all other manufacturers' products for the same setting of the controller.

The bogies and main chassis are zinc alloy castings, whilst the body is a plastic moulding. For their time, Kleinbahn models were well-detailed with good livery and lettering, but as was the custom the 4130 is shorter than scale, being scaled at approx. 1:110 for length. Over the years some changes were made to the model, notably the use of plastic for the chassis of the centre car and driving trailer and the substitution of printed lettering for the raised 'Transalpin' legend on the car sides. In 1974, the Transalpin version of the model was discontinued, to become a prize item for modern collectors; the 4030 suburban version remains in the range, however.

4010: Kleinbahn HO

The second type of Transalpin set was modelled first by Kleinbahn, first issued in 1976 and a well-detailed model for the period. Like the same firm's 4130, it is scaled at 1:110 for length, and the set as sold comprised a power car, two centre cars and a driving trailer. An additional coach was available (cat. no. 379) for modellers wishing to run a full-length train. The power car body, and all parts of the trailer cars (including the wheels) are good-quality plastic mouldings. The livery is also well done, in blue and cream with the modern GBB loco and no 'Transalpin' nameboard.

Interiors are fitted to all coaches, and the driving cab of the power car features an HO-scale driver. The weight of the power car's die-cast chassis is supplemented by a lead weight, giving ample adhesion weight for the two powered bogies with their separate motors; traction tyres are not needed. Power pickup from the overhead wire is possible, controlled by a switch under the power car floor.

In 1992, a second version of the model was released in the red/cream Inter-City livery. The models can only be obtained direct from Kleinbahn through their shops in principal Austrian towns or by post from Kleinbahn at Gatterederstrasse 4, A-1230 Wien, Austria. Kleinbahn also sell darkened-metal wheelsets which we recommend as replacements for the plastic wheels fitted as standard to the trailer cars.

Klein Modellbahn HO

In the 1980s, the two Klein brothers who were previously partners in Kleinbahn decided to go their separate ways and produce their own ranges. This was the origin of the Klein Modellbahn range. The Kleinbahn 4010 also appeared in the Klein range for a few years, but as Klein Modellbahn carried out its policy of producing exact scale models for 'serious' modellers, the 4010 was dropped from their catalogue in 1990.

Lima HO

In the 1970s the Lima company set about producing models of the most famous expresses of every country in Europe. As part of this policy, the Austrian 4010 was announced in the 1977178 catalogue, and appeared as an available new item in the next year's lists. At first glance, it is a well-detailed model, but to keep production costs down Lima did make some compromises. In particular, note that not every type of coach was correctly modelled; the open second and the compartment composite were not modelled. The power car was modelled at scale 1:87 length, but the coaches were shortened to 1:100.

All vehicles have plastic-moulded body, chassis and bogies, and are fitted with an interior moulded in a neutral colour. All wheels have metal axles; one bogie of the power car is driven by Lima's pancake motor, and two wheels have traction tyres. The livery is well, done, although with perhaps a certain roughness about the blue area. All the lettering is readable through a magnifying glass; the model represents the 1970s period, and thus carries the modern OBB logo. The four-car set was catalogue 149730; there was also a version with a facility to collect current from the pantograph, as 149730GP. The model was withdrawn from the Lima range at the end of the 1980s.

4010: Roco HO

Roco's latest product was launched in June 1994 with a blaze of publicity including a tour of the model's three main markets, Austria, Switzerland and Germany by a the last-remaining Transalpin-liveried set, made up to seven coaches, and culminating in a visit to the Oensingen - Balsthal- Bahn (OeBB, rather than OBB!) for the official Swiss launch of the model. Especially for this tour, the OBB produced wooden replicas of the 'Transalpin' nameboards which had originally been fitted to the sides of the power car.

As expected of a Roco model, the 4010 is visually perfect, and also has some interesting technical innovations. The pickup wiring is taken through the train by specially-designed close couplers, and so arranged that if your layout has computer control with dead-sections adjacent to the signals, the train will stop in the right place even when the power car is leading. The model is also fully equipped for the fitting of the common types of digital control module, and for an interior lighting set which is available separately. The basic set is sold as the power car, restaurant car and driving trailer, with the other trailer cars sold as an extra item. This version represents 4010.05 in 1960s condition with the Transalpin boards and pre-computer numbers as it would have been when running into Switzerland; modern-day Austrian modellers should wait for a later version.

Swiss News

Some cuttings are to hand from recent issues of Swiss News which cast some new light on recent events. It seems that from next year, SBB fares will be subject to VAT, leading to an increase of 6-7% in ticket prices. Crime is very much in the news: 75 staff have been recruited to act as armed security guards on Zürich S-Bahn trains, patrolling in pairs and concentrating on late-night services.

Even more remarkably, a young man was recently sentenced to 15 months in prison by a Bern court for unauthorised driving of trains. With no training at all, he drove trains from Bern to Zürich at least 11 times. According to him, he simply bought a copy of the SBB rule book which, he says, ' no problem.' He studied the book intensively and spent time in the staff canteen, mentioning that 'it was important, so people see your face ... also important is that you say "Du" to everybody and have a leather bag firmly clenched under your arm.' To get on to the Intercity, he told the scheduled driver, 'I'm in training and I was sent here to get more practice.' His first ride went without a hitch; after 30 days of driving, he was caught - not because of a mistake but because someone recognised him at a station.

March 1994 was a very bad month for accidents; a very bad case occurred at Däniken, when a track engineers' rail-mounted crane was swung into the path of a passing train. Nine passengers were killed and twelve injured in the devastated coach. Three staff have been charged with manslaughter and bodily harm. In the same month at Affoltern, fIve tank wagons loaded with petrol derailed and exploded, firing flames 300 feet into the air and burning down three apartment buildings. Many cars were burnt out, power had to be cut off, 120 people were evacuated, and further smaller explosions occurred after petrol leaked into the sewer system. The only serious injury occurred to a woman who was rising a horse when she was hit by a manhole cover thrown into the air by the explosion; two other people were slightly hurt. The accident was said to have been caused by a loose axle bearing which became dislodged 5 km before the actual derailment.

Model News

From LOKI 10-94

Lima HO

Lima have released a much-improved version of their SBB four-wheeled twin-silo wagon, coded Ucs. The prototype wagons, built in the 1960s, have themselves been improved over the years with new colour schemes and better suspension,

and many have been given an internal coating to the silos to carry food products. A number have appeared in yellow livery, others are painted silver, whilst others carry a more standard light grey; the new SBB logo has been applied to wagons in all three colours.
The new Lima model has an accurate chassis with brake-shoes in line with the wheels, new brake platform, ladders, buffers and handrails, and other improvements to make it a much more satisfactory model that the previous Lima item. Three versions are currently available: the 'Lima Collection' set of two in silver livery and black underframe as used for salt traffic, has catalogue number 2515K The yellow wagon with black underframe (2516K) and the all-grey model with logo and initials SBB CFF and SBB FFS (2517K) are available singly.

Liliput HO

Production of the Liliput range under the heading 'Liliput by Bachmann HO' is now getting into full swing. Standard close-coupling fittings and sprung buffers are standard equipment. Recent releases of the bogie tank wagon show versions and liveries not issued in the old Liliput range. Especially interesting to the Swiss modeller is the model in grey livery as an SBB-registered privately-owned wagon of ETRA AG of Zurich. This is a well-detailed model (although the handrails are understandably rather thick) with a perfect representation of the company's logo and lettering for the present-day period.

More colourful are the Austrian version in white ELAN livery, and the German Texaco tank of the 1970s period in green with side, rather than end, access ladders. Also new are versions of the Eaos-type bogie open wagon for the ÖBB and SNCF in brown and the Dutch NS in blue.

Aku/Born HO

A joint product between these two small Swiss firms is a kit for a brakeman's cabin to fit the Liliput model of the SBB K2-type four-wheeled van, as recently re-released by Liliput. If required, Aku can also supply the van ready-fitted with the cabin.

Aku has also issued a set of three wagons to celebrate the fJIm's tenth birthday, comprising a Feldschlosschen beer van, an SBB K3-type van with EUROP markings and brake cabin, and an SBB M6-type low-sided wagon with cable load. All are suitable for Era III, and have close-coupler fittings. Two versions of the set (cat. 1100 and 1101) are available, with different wagon running numbers.

Closed Lines in the Montreux Region

From Schmalspurparadies Schweiz, by Schweers & Wall.

Vevey - Montreux - Chillon - Villeneuve (VMCV)

The Vevey - Montreux - Chillon line was the very first electric tramway in Switzerland. The origins of the idea cattle from a group formed in 1879 to exploit water power from the Montreux river, who suggested an inclined lift from Montreux to Glion and an air-pressure powered tramway from Montreux to Vevey. At the time, however, engineers were developing mobile electric motors, and at an exhibition in Berlin in 1879 Werner von Siemens demonstrated an electric rail vehicle. The system was demonstrated again, this time with overhead-wire supply in 1881 on an exhibition line in Paris.

The promoters of the Vevey - Montreux line altered their proposal to adopt this new idea, and were granted a concession in 1884, although it was 1886 before the company 'Societe electrique Vevey - Montreux' (SEVM) was formed. Two years later, services began on the section from Vevey station square to the Chateau de Chillon. Like other early lines on the Siemens system (the 1882 Paris line, the Charlottenburg - Spandau of 1882 in Germany and the 1883 Mödling ­Hinterbrühl line near Vienna) the VMC used twin overhead wires which delivered direct current at 450 volts. Original rolling stock comprised 15 four-wheel trams with open upper deck, joined in 1895 by a further eight cars without the upper deck.Track gauge was one metre.

The line was single track with passing loops and followed the Cantonal main road, mostly to one side of the carriageway, for all its 10.4 km length. The depot, workshop and offices were at Clarens, roughly at the centre point of the route. An unusual feature was the level crossing with the double-track Simplon main line at Territet.

The extension from Chillon castle to Villeneuve (2.6 km) was built in 1903 by a nominally separate company, although it was operated by the VMC. The CBV (Chillon - Byron - Villeneuve) owned three small, four-wheeled trams which were fitted with pole collectors to pick up power from the two-wire overhead. Passengers had to change cars at Chillon. At Villeneuve terminus the CBV had its own two-track depot. In 1913, the SEVM organisation absorbed the CBV, and the full route was modernised. The power supply was converted to the tramway standard of single-wire overhead working at 600 volts DC. 22 new trams took over the service, later supplemented by eight trailer cars which enter service in the period up to 1930.
By the mid-1930s, competition from road vehicles began to create fmandal difficulties for the company, and the trams were blamed for causing traffic congestion in the town centres. In 1952, the Montreux - Villeneuve section was closed and replaced by buses, followed in 1957-58 by the remaining section from Montreux to Vevey, replaced by trolleybuses which also took over the Villeneuve section and remain in service today. Of the trams, there remains trailer no. 57 of 1930 on the Blonay - Chamby museum railway, and tram no. 4 of 1888, which was been restored to original condition by the Lucerne Transport Museum as a reminder of Switzerland's first electric tramway.

Clarens - Chailly - Blonay (CCB)

In the early years of the century, there were various proposals for lines on the Clarens ­Blonay axis, including a 1904 plan for a branch of the CEV railway from Blonay to Clarens. In the end, however, a tramway project supported by Director Zehnder of the Montreux - Oberland Bernois company. A company was founded in 1905, although it was 1911 before the line opened for traffic from Clarens railway station to Blonay. In 1915, a short extension was opened, to the lakeside at Clarens steamer pier, establishing at the same time a track connection with the VMCV tramway. The line was metre-gauge, with 5.4 km of route, and worked on 750 V DC power.

The CCB was not a pure street tramway; 40% of its line was on its own right-of-way. At Fontanivent, the line served the MOB station, while looping up the hillside. At Blonay, the line ended in the street outside the CEV station, with no track connection. There were some significant engineering works; three viaducts, shared with the road, crossed the Clarens river, and there was an 81-metre tunnel on the loop below Fontanivent.

Motive power for the line's whole existence comprised three heavy, four-wheeled motorcoaches (Ce 2/2 1-3), which with their three headlights and centre buffer-couplers were actually railway vehicles which matched the running standards of the MOB, rather than trams. In 1930, they were joined by three trailer cars, obtained second-hand from Geneva. The line had no workshop or depot, except a small shed at Fontanivent which is now used by the MOB. It was worked by the MOB, which supplied its electricity and maintained the stock at Chernex works.

The CCB was a fmancialloss from the beginning, but it was propped up by the MOB company and by subsidies from the local authority. The short section in Clarens from Place Gambretta down to the steamer pier was closed in 1943, but the rest of the line struggled on until 1955, when the equipment became life-expired and there was no capital available, so the CCB ceased to exist on 31 December 1955.

Trait - Planches (TP)

For a few years, Montreux had a real curiosity in the form of the rack-and-pinion tramway from Trait to Planches. A lawyer living in Les Planches, a village above Montreux, obtained a concession for a funicular from the Montreux district of Trait in 1890. The line was not built, however, and in 1895 the concession was transferred to the SEVM company, which already owned the Vevey - Chillon tramway. The SEVM altered to the plan to a rack and adhesion metre-gauge street tramway working at 450 volts DC, which opened on July 6 1898.

The line was only 392 metres long, and climbed at a gradient varying from 128 to 140 per mille. The track was unique, in that the teeth were fitted between the left-hand running rail and its check-rail. The single tram (no. 24 in the VMC number system) was driven by three motors: one for each axle and a third for the single rack gear.

For fourteen years this car shuttled up and down, with a financial deficit increasing annually, until 11 November 1912, when it derailed at the lower terminus. Nobody was hurt, but the service never recommenced. Plans for reopening came to nothing, and in 1918 the concession expired and the track was lifted, bringing to an end the short history of this very short line.

LOKI Aktuell 11-94

Ultra-Modern Fireman

Märklin's contribution to the new wave of advertising locos was unveiled during the 'Model & Hobby 94' exhibition in Bern. And it is going to be hard to follow! A basic black livery with white ends is enlivened by the work of English neo-realist painter Graham Reynolds, who now lives in Hamburg and must have been a fan of Eagle comic and its cutaway drawings. The loco sides have been 'cut away' to reveal the fireman shovelling coal into the firebox and the driver oiling the motion.

No. 460 017-7 entered service in its new guise at Lausanne depot at the beginning of October, and will be seen on Simplon, Lötschberg and Geneva - Zürich expresses. The Marklin HO model will he released during 1995; presumably Roco will now have to create a 'Roco' advert-loco so they have something to model. Time will tell...

BLS Re 465

A second unveiling at the Bern exhibition was brand new Bern - L6tschberg - Simplon locomotive no. 465 003, resplendent in blue livery. The BLS has no plans to accept advertising on its locos; instead it will advertise itself by naming all eight locos after places and tourist attractions in the company's area, thus:

465 001 Simplon/Sempione
465 002 Gornergrat
465 003 Jungfraujoch - top of Europe
465 004 Metroalpin
465 005 Niesen
465 006 Lauchemalp / Lötschental
465 007 Schilthorn
465 008 Niederhorn Beatenberg
On September 5, 465 001 made its first run under its own power: a 200 metre journey on the ABB works sidings in Zürich. On 22 September it ventured out on to the main line as far as Limmattal marshalling yard, coupled to SBB Re 4/4 II 11385 in case of trouble. The 'Angstlok' was not needed, however. The pair made a second run the next day as far as Killwangen, this time testing the remote control connections between the two machines; no fundamental programs were found, and longer test runs have been continuing since. The name Simplon/Sempione has been chosen as a counterpart to SBB loco 460 001, which was named Lötschberg on 8 May 1992 to commemorate the completion of the Lötschberg line double-tracking project.

At the end of September, sister loco 465 002 was undergoing tests at ABB Oerlikon works, and 465 003 was virtually complete but not yet ready to run under its own power; it was towed to the Bern event. The whole class is scheduled for delivery by March 1995, in time to enter timetabled service over the Lötschberg in the summer timetable. With a power rating of 7000 kW (9500 HP), the Re 465 is the most powerful series-production four-axle locomotive in the World. The SBB version, the Re 460, is rated at 'only' 6100 kW.

V 200 meets Re 4/4 II

The classic V 200 diesel-hydraulics of the Deutsche Bundesbahn were once a familiar sight on Swiss territory at Schaffhausen in the days when this was a locomotive-change point for international trains. Later, the Singen ­- Schaffhausen line was electrified and Singen became the change point. Today, the V 200 locos are all withdrawn except for V 200 116, which has been restored to original livery as a working museum piece. On 16 September this machine visited Singen again on a special train from Karslruhe to Konstanz via the Black Forest line.


At present there are no working examples of the German streamlined steam locomotive still in existence, although 05 001 in the Nuremburg museum retains its cladding. Various surviving 01 pacifics, however, once carried streamlining which was removed during World War II and new boilers fitted. Plans have been hatched to return two locos to their streamlined form; 01 1081 which belongs to the Ulm railway club and

01 1102 which has spent many years on a plinth at Bebra. The design for 01 1102 involves a rebuild at Meiningen works including a new high-pressure oil-fired boiler designed by SLM of Winterthur, as well as a new streamlined casing.

Brief Items

Around 2000 seats removed from withdrawn SBB coaches have been sent to Eastern Europe by the charity 'Hiob International' and are now installed in Russian and Polish churches ... The Südostbahn has begun painting its older coaches in all-over advertising liveries: an ex-SBB restaurant car now tries to sell Läkerol sweets ... Four centre trailers are now under construction at Schindler Waggon for the Mittel-Thurgau-Bahn's pink NPZ units.

First published 1994 - this edition April 2009