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 December 1994

Loco-Hauled locals on the FO, 1992-93

From Eisenbahn Amateur 11/94, by Dr. Hans-Bernhard Schonborn

Traffic on the Furka - Oberalp Bahn falls into three groups: the Glacier Expresses, the Furka Tunnel car-carriers and the local passengers.

Sadly, since autumn 1992, the FO has seen no timetabled freight trains; these used to be worked by an interesting variety of motive power, including HGe 4/4 I and II locos, Deh 4/4 I and II motor baggage vans, the HGm 4/4 diesel locos and even occasionally the old BDeh 2/4 motorcoaches. Latterly, freights on the Göschenen branch were usually worked by Deh 4/4s.

A characteristic of the FO is that its timetable shows much seasonal variation. In summer, the Glacier Express service runs at least five times daily in each direction, and places heavy demands on the company's rolling-stock supply; in winter, the line concentrates on local passenger traffic and the carriage of skiers. In autumn and spring, services are reduced to allow for essential overhaul activities.

The local trains, which are the principal subject of this article, are now generally formed of a four-car shuttle train comprising a first/second class driving trailer (ABt), two second-class coaches and a motor baggage van of either the Deh 4/4 I (51-55) or Deh 4/4 II (91096) batches. Within these trains, automatic couplers of the +GF+ type are used, although standard centre-buffers are fitted to the outer ends of the set. The regular local train can, therefore, work down the Schöllenen branch from Andermatt to Goschenen as required; coaches with centre buffers are not normally allowed on this branch since their buffers may override each other on the sharp changes of gradient, and cause a derailment.

On the Brig - Andermatt section, up to two additional coaches may be attached to the rear of the train if-necessary: these are sometimes Brig - Visp - Zermatt Railway vehicles, and in
the high winter season ancient coaches with end platforms may be seen. Between Andermatt and Disentis only one added coach is permitted, and is often a Rhaetian Railway vehicle. However, other types of local train may be seen. The old motorcoaches, BDeh 4/4 41-45, running alone or with driving trailers of the ABt 4191-4194 series, have their workings, and most interesting of all there are even a few locomotive-hauled locals which can produce a great variety of rolling stock. The following data refers to the 1992/93 timetable.

Train 12, the 06.27 Brig - Disentis, was loco-hauled, and formed as fol1ows: HGe 4/4 II loco, FO baggage van (D 4341-4343 series), RhB second class coach (with rack brake wheel, B 2211-2216 series), FO driving trailer (ABt 4191-4194 series). Attached as far as Andermatt was the FO's postal sorting van, Z 100. On days when the Glacier Express was to be heavily loaded, additional coaches  were attached to train 12; first and second class coaches of the FO, BVZ and RhB could be seen at times. At Disentis, the train 'disappeared.' The locomotive returned from Disentis to Brig with train 901, Glacier Express F; a diagram which was first instituted with the delivery of the new HGe 4/4 locos in 1985/86. The RhB coach returned to Brig attached to the rear of push-pul1 train 51, 13.45 Disentis - Brig, whilst the driving trailer returned in train 20903, a relief which ran behind the Glacier Express G for party groups only as far as Andermatt, whence it became available to all passengers to Brig.

On some days, however, when this train was not heavily booked, the driving trailer was dispatched earlier on local 333, 10.30 Disentis - Andermatt, and later attached behind the locomotive of 20903 for its 13.45 departure from Andermatt to Brig.

The summer timetable had one westbound loco-hauled local, train 63, the 16.30 Disentis - ­Brig. The usual 1992 composition of this was an HGe 4/4 II which had arrived with the Glacier Express C, an FO ABt (4158 or 4159) which had formed the sole public accommodation in the party-group relief Glacier Express A, train 10902 09.45 from Brig, an RhB B (2211-2216 series) from the same source, another FO ABt which had arrived on train 900, the 08.50 express from Brig, and the baggage van which had arrived in the morning in train 12 as described above.

This train has changed its appearance in recent years. Until Summer 1990 the locomotive came from Glacier Express D, and the train was shorter, being normally composed of an FO Abt, an RhB B and an FO D. Other coaches were sometimes added, RhB AB 1561 being a common sight. In Spring and Autumn, the RhB second was replaced by an FO vehicle. One especially interesting day, 17 June 1987, train 63 was composed as fol1ows: loco 103, RhB composites AB 1562 and 1561, RhB second-class coach B 2212, RhB bal1ast hopper wagon Fd 8662, and FO baggage van D 4342.

According to the FO diagram books, locals 324 and 333 from Andermatt to Disentis and return were worked by an Andermatt-based motorcoach of the BDeh 2/441-45, accompanied on the return trip by a driving trailer as mentioned above. These trains ran from mid-June to mid-October only. The haulage power of the BDeh 2/4 is limited to one coach, and a locomotive-hauled train was often substituted. This train became a great favourite of nostalgia fans; the eastbound 324 would be formed of an old HGe 4/4 I based at Andermatt as reserve loco, with ancient coach FO B 4163, which was originally a first/second class composite.

Train 333 returning from Disentis would pick up a motley collection of anything needing to go from Disentis to Andermatt, varying from panorama cars to occasional wagons. On 15 August 1990, loco 34 left Disentis with FO B 4163 and FO ABt 4191 plus a set of five flat wagons (FO Kkp 4651-55) loaded with rails. On 8 July 1991, train 324 comprised loco 37 and RhB B 2214; it returned as train 333 with FO ABt 4191, RhB B 2212, FO B 4257 and RhB B 2422.

In summer, therefore, at most three locos are required for local passenger duties: one modern HGe 4/4 II for trains 12/901/906, a second for trains 904/63 plus sometimes an old HGe 4/4 I from Andermatt. The other modern locos are on Glacier Express duties, with one in reserve at Brig and another at Andermatt. All the HGe 4/4 I class acted as reserves: three at Brig, two at Andermatt and one at Disentis.

The Winter timetable showed four diagrams for loco-hauled locals, three on the Andermatt ­Disentis section and one between Andermatt and Brig. The following diagrams are from the 1992-93 winter timetable:

Diagram A
322 08:28 Andermatt - Disentis 09:32
355 10:25 Disentis  - Andermatt 11:45
340 12:18 Andermatt - Disentis 13:26
353 14:24 Disentis - Andermatt 15:45
366 17:18 Andermatt - Disentis 18:26

Diagram B
327 09:20 Disentis - Andermatt 10:41
336 11:18 Andermatt - Disentis 12:36
349 13:35 Disentis - Andermatt 14:45
360 16:18 Andermatt - Disentis 17:26

Diagram C
317 07:23 Disentis - Andermatt 08:28
326 09:30 Andermatt - Sedrun 10:18
runs empty as train 6326 to Disentis, except on Spring Sundays when it forms train 134 11. 00 Sedrun - Disentis. If traf­fic demands, the coaches are at­tached to an RhB train to Chur, arriving back in Disentis at 16.17. Loco works Glacier Express 903 as far as Andermatt, returning with 904, arriving Disentis 14.45.
363 16:30 Disentis - Andermatt 17:45
481 20:01 Andermatt - Oberwald
(Normal consist of Train 481: HGe 4/4 I, FO ABt, RhB B, FO B, FO D)

Diagram D
611 06:05 Oberwald - Brig 07:29
 (coaches cleaned)
582 18:38 Brig - Andermatt 20:24

Diagram A runs during the whole period from October to May, but Diagram B is cancelled in Autumn and Spring. In Autumn and Spring, Diagrams A and C are altered so that a number of trains are worked by push-pull units. The remaining locomotive-hauled workings are as follows:

Diagram A
322 08:28 Andermatt - Disentis 09:32
333 10:20 Disentis - Andermatt 11:24
366 17:18 Andermatt - Disentis 18:26

Diagram B
363 16:30 Disentis - Adermatt 17:45
481 20:01 Andermatt - Oberwald 20:36

Diagrams A and B were each worked by one modern HGe 4/4 II; two were required for diagram C. Two HGe 4/4 II were kept in reserve at Brig, and two in Andermatt, including one fitted with +GF+ autocouplers which was used on Saturdays and Sundays to work the car-carrier service between Andermatt and Sedrun. For trains 481 and 611 (Andermatt ­- Oberwald - Brig) and 582 (Brig - Andermatt) two old HGe 4/4 I locos were allocated; the others remained as spares in Brig, Andermatt and Disentis.

The HGe 4/4 I at Andermatt following diagram D was used for snowplough trains in the morning, and on busy days (such as Easter) to run reliefs for the Glacier Express on the Oberalp section.

During the Winter, it can be seen that two FO local train sets spent the night at Disentis; not only did the coaches have to spend the cold night in the open, but also one of the modern locos, as the single-road FO loco shed is already occupied by the reserve HGe 4/4 I.

Ten Years After

From LOKI 10-94, by Kurt Heidbreder and Christian Zellweger.

Ten years ago, SBB Be 6/8 'Crocodile' loco worked a special train to the headquarters of the Marklin model railway company in Göppingen, Germany. On 2 September 1994, a Luxembourg Railways (CFL) diesel locomotive became a star: at 11.41 on track 1 of Goppingen station stood a train of nine CFL coaches, headed by two locomotives. Electric loco 141 133-9 of the German Railways (DB) piloted the CFL diesel, no. 1801. The train was named the 'Modelbunn Express' - 'Eisenbunn' is the Lutzebirgisch dialect form of 'Eisenbahn.'

The CFL 1801 class loco is to be mode11ed by Märklin in HO scale, for introduction in 1995, and the Belgian Märklin Club suggested the
special train to publicise this. One of the nine coaches was fitted out as a video-coach, showing the view from a camera mounted in the locomotive cab. As CFL locos are not fitted with the Indusi cab-signalling system used on the DB, it was necessary to provide a German loco as pilot. Diesel 215 043-1 was used between Luxembourg and Merzig, where it was replaced by electric loco 141 133-9.

At Göppingen station, a ceremony was held to name 1801 Stadt Göppingen, officiated by the Mayor of the town, Herr Haller, Herr Topp of the Märklin company and 446 invited guests. Champagne was poured over a buffer, and plaques on the loco sides (each weighing 12 kg) unveiled. A buffet lunch was consumed and a special souvenir model wagon handed out - other models were on sale on the train. For the short run out of the sidings at Göppingen 1801 was allowed to work the train alone for the photographers, before picking up its pilot again and returning home at 17.30.

10 Years Ago

As mentioned above, it was ten years ago that an SBB 'Crocodile' made an appearance in Göppingen, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Märklin company, including an appearance of Be 6/8 III 13302, beautifully preserved by the Horgen Model Railway Club. In those days, the DB was less strict about all trains being equipped with cab-signalling, and the Swiss loco worked the train itself except when on non-electrified lines. A wider pantograph head was fitted at Schaffhausen station for use on the German system; this was the only technical modification needed. The loco remained in Germany for several days, working. excursions including a climb of the famous Gieslingen incline, piloted by a DB 'Crocodile' of class 194 (ex-E 94). Marklin marketed a special model package to mark the occasion, comprising 13302 and 194 155-8.

Compiler's note

The LOKI article is headed 'Ten Years After' in English and in a footnote the editor, Mr Zellweger, gives a glimpse of his cultural interests by explaining that Ten Years After were a band formed by Alvin Lee and Leo Lyons in Nottingham in 1964, a year which they reckoned to be ten years after the birth of rock 'n roll. By 1967, The group comprised Alvin Lee, Leo Lyons, Chick Churchill and Ric Lee and was one of the leading names in the British Blues revival.

A Letter to the LOKI Editor

From Ernst Schaad, Retired BLS Loco Driver

Reader Jürgen Ackermann in LOKI 9-94 asks why some Swiss locos have a white vertical line marked in the centre of their cab side windows. This reminds me of an experience from my early days on the railway 52 years ago. I spent a year at Brig depot as relief driver, taking over locos for shunting movements while the main line driver went for a break. The cramped track layout of the depot meant that for some manoeuvres we had to get permission from the signalman to move out on to the goods running lines; driving from the cab at the western end we thus had to look out backwards from the right-hand cab window to see the relevant ground signal, then, when given a clear road, hurry across to look out of the left-hand window of the Ae 6/8.

On one occasion, in the days before the white stripes, this window was so clean that I did not notice that it was not actually open when I hurried to lean out, with the result that I smashed the glass pane with my head! I confessed on the telephone to the shedmaster at Spiez, and I have never forgotten that his first question was whether I was injured. A slight scratch on the head was my only injury, but a replacement loco had to be found so that the main line driver did not have to return to Spiez in a draught.

LOKI Aktuell 12-94

BLS Re 465 Celebration

The technical details of the Bern Lötschberg Simplon railway's new Re 465 class locos were covered in our last issue; this time we will cover some more general news. The first of the class, 465 001. is named Simplon/Sempione: both the Swiss and Italian versions of the name are carried on each side of the loco, accompanied by shield-shaped versions of the Swiss and Italian flags. Surmounting the name is a representation of the stone statue of a watchful eagle which marks the summit of the Simplon Pass. This monument was built during World War II by the 11th mountain brigade of the Swiss Army while defending the country's border with Italy, and a surviving officer of the brigade, Jan Daniel Mudry, took part in the locomotive naming ceremony.

National Councillor Adolf Ogi, a native of Kandersteg on the BLS main line, made a speech at the ceremony, describing how the BLS had always been at the forefront of locomotive development. The Be 5/7 class of 1913 was the most powerful electric locomotive in the world, and the Be 6/8 (later Ae 6/8) of 1926 was among the most powerful of its era. The Ae 4/4 of 1944 was a pioneering example of the twin-bogie design, which was developed into the Re 4/4 built from 1964 to 1983. In his capacity as Energy Minister, Mr Ogi is impressed by the 40% less energy consumption of the Re 465 compared with previous machines for equivalent drawbar power. Thanks to refinements in the design, the new locos are, at 83 tonnes, two tonnes lighter than their SBB Re 460 cousins.

SBB/SOB Loco Exchange

As has been predicted for some time, the Ministry of Transport has now given its blessing for the SBB to exchange its four Re 4/4 IV prototype locos 10101-10104 with the Re 4/4 III class locos 41-44 of the Südostbahn. The SBB gets rid of four non-standard locos for which may drivers had to be specially trained, and gains four of an already well-known class: the Re 4/4 III was originally designed as a low-geared version of the standard Re 4/4 II for use on the Gotthard line, and four for the SOB were added to the order. The SOB gains four modern thyristor-controlled locos, which as a small company it can look after well in its works at Samstagern. Their higher power will reduce the need for banking of freight trains on the 50 per mille gradients of the SOB main line.

Goodbye RABe!

The refurbished former TEE multi-current train sets, class RABe, can now be found only on the Bern - Frasne trains which connect with the TGVs to Paris. Two of the five sets have been withdrawn.

Quiet Drum Brakes

The braking system traditionally used on railway vehicles comprises metal brake shoes bearing on the wheel tyres. This is a very effective braking method, but it has a tendency to be noisy, even sometimes when the brakes are off. Strict European environmental regulations are likely to outlaw such systems in the future: many modern coaches are fitted with brakes which act magnetically direct on the rail, but this is too expensive a system to fit to goods wagons as is requires an electrical supply. Research is therefore under way to produce an economical drum braking system for railway use, based on the style used in road vehicles.

Standard Signalling and Radio

At present, each of the main European railways, not to mention many of the private railways, has its own system of signalling and radio communication, incompatible with all the others. The International Union of Railways (UIC) is proposing, as a first step to standardisation, a European Integrated Railways Radio Network ­EIRENE. It is hoped that this will be in place by 1998, paving the way for a fully-integrated signalling system which would be used first on high-speed lines to allow trains and crews to cross frontiers and create an efficient passenger network.

Short News Items

On 29th October, the 100th NPZ motorcoach was named Thal-Staad-Altenrhein ... the loan of two class 460 locos to the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) has paid off for the Swiss industry, as the Norwegians have now ordered 22 of the type ... The Italian Railways (FS), on the other hand, have placed orders for 30 of the rival, German-built, EuroSprinter loco, the prototype of which was recently tested in Switzerland.

Off The Train Wire

Notes on return from a long weekend in Switzerland, 29th November 1994, by Charlie Hulme.

A wonderful time as always, staying in the Hotel Au Lac at Ouchy, a building which incorporates the lower station of Lausanne's rack-Metro. Good news is that, contrary to a statement made in another journal, the old musical box and roundabout is still very much available to entertain waiting passengers at Ouchy station, although the station-person locks it away when she goes home in the early evening. Indeed, another musical box survives amongst the modernity at Flon station as well.

Headed for Furka-Oberalp country the first chance we got, and a pleasant surprise: our train, the 12.07 Brig - G6schenen local, turned out to be locomotive-hauled by an HGe 4/4 II, in flagrant contravention of the article translated above. Surely some out-of-course situation, as such a train cannot go down to G6schenen and passengers were being told to change at Andennatt. During the afternoon we saw two other such trains, all formed of the usual set of coaches including driving trailer and additional baggage van to replace the facilities normally provided in the Deh 4/4 cars.

For something different, we alighted at Fürgangen and changed to the Httle 'Cantonal Concession' 8-person cable car which starts from the platform and takes you up to the peaceful but spectacularly-located vi11age of Bellwald. From there you can walk down an easy (if a little muddy) path for '1 Std.' to the archetypal Goms village of Niederwald, with its welcoming Three Pines pub and monument to its famous native Cesar Ritz, the man who started a hotel and a strand of history which leads down to the resignation of British MPs in 1994.  The first part of the walk runs through the forest, but towards the end it opens out to give some nice photo-opportunities of the railway.

On the CFF main lines, the Re 460 'flatirons' are now very much in use on expresses along Lake Geneva, although not exclusively. One highlight was a ride from Neuchâtel to Bern in the leading car of one of the old TEE trains, with the chance to stand behind the cab and see the view ahead on this single-track route. These RABe units certainly have a style of their own: if you get bored by the journey you can always play with the amazing powered venetian blinds inside the double-glazed windows.

Arriving at Bern in the evening rush-hour, it seemed that there had been a wedding party travelling, as there was confetti everywhere. Down in the subway, I found that persons unknown were amusing themselves by throwing confetti at everyone in sight, including me! The station police were not amused, nor, I feel, were the cleaners. Later, on the express to Lausanne, it was easy to see who had boarded at Bern: they were the ones with confetti in the hair.

Switzerland, is a great place to visit, even if there seems to be graffiti everywhere (although less on the NPZ sets than there was last year.) The Lausanne press contains few of the muggings and rapes found in UK newspapers; someone broke open a post box, but it was thought perhaps that perhaps changed their mind about a letter they posted, and someone else dressed a nude statue with paper clothes. A police spokesman said that everyone should dress up warm in this cold weather.

First published 1994 - this edition April 2009