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 February1995

The Sensetalbahn

Compiled by Charlie Hulme from various sources.

The lower valley of the Sense river, to the west of Bern, is an area which seldom occupies the writers of guide-books, although its chief town, Laupen, which lies near the confluence of the river with the Saane / Sarine, does have a castle. The area managed to avoid being served either by the main east-west SBB main line or by the Bern - Neuchâtel railway. In 1898, therefore, the local community prepared plans for a line connecting Flamatt on the Bern - Fribourg line with Gümmenen on the Bern - Neuchâtel, serving Laupen on the way. Not much happened, however, until 1902 when the Nestle company announced its intention to build a large milk pasteurisation plant at Neuenegg. Construction was taken in hand, and proceeded with interruption by flooding of the river. The first services ran on 23 January 1904, using steam traction. The line, which has always been worked by a private company, the Sensetalbahn (STB), was 11.4 km long with a maximum gradient of 36 per mille.

From the start, the STB had trouble making ends meet financially; until 1909 it ran at a loss, and its management was taken over by the Bern - Worb Bahn. In 1910 it purchased a curious four-wheeled tank engine of the 'Glaskasten' design which had been so successful in saving money on Bavarian branch lines. This could be worked by one man, as coal was loaded into a hopper above the can and could be released into the fIre as required by the driver. This STB loco has become famous in the last few years, as it provides an opportunity for manufacturers of models to offer their product to the Swiss market. In 1921, a steam railcar was obtained; this, however, was not satisfactory.

A major setback for the company in 1921 was the closure of the milk factory at Neuenegg; six years later, however, it was purchased by the Wander company to produce its patent drink Ovomaltine, which is still manufactured at Neuenegg today and generates most of the STB's freight traffic. The factory is directly opposite the station at Neuenegg, for anyone who likes to watch shunting operations.

In 1922, the company became independent again, and soon faced the problem of continual rises in the price of coal, which has to be imported into - Switzerland. In the late 1930s, the line was electrified, on the SBB standard 15 kHz AC system, the first electric trains running on 30 January 1938. Initial electric motive power comprised BDe 2/4 motorcoach no. 101, which was purchased in 1986 by the Wohlen ­- Meisterschwanden company as a spare (and heritage) unit, and experimental Ce 4/4 loco 13502 (built 1904) which was bought from the SBB, and is today preserved in the Lucerne Transport Museum as 'Seebacher Marianne.' Later motorcoaches were bought second-hand: BDe 4/4 106 and 107 (built 1939) came from the Südostbahn in 1958 and 1964. In 1965 an electric shunting tractor was obtained, but in 1969 it was replaced by a new Stadler-built diesel shunter, Tm 2/2 11.
Between 1963 and 1974, the line's infrastructure was upgraded, including the replacement of the bridges over the Sense and Sarine rivers with new reinforced concrete structures. In 1965, the last of the company's freight wagons were scrapped, and since then all traffic has been carried in wagons of the SBB and the European Pool. Since the 1970s the line has also seen summer Sunday steam trains run by the 'Dampfbahn Bern' society using small tank engines and what appear to be ex-Austrian four-wheeled coaches. A curiosity which survived until a couple of years ago was the inclusion in the timetable of a Taxi service on Friday and Saturday nights at 00.26 from Flamatt to Laupen.

In 1987, a new era began for the Laupen ­Flamatt section, with through trains running through from Thun via Bern as part of the capital's suburban system. These trains are worked by SBB 'NPZ' motorcoaches in the 2100 series, and in compensation the STB purchased four standard coaches from the SBB. These coaches are not confined to Laupen duties, and can be spotted at places like Lausanne if you are sharp-eyed; they carry the blue and cream NPZ livery with the name SENSETALBAHN in fairly small letters on the side. At the same time, two 1938-built articulated double motorcoaches of the 730 series were obtained from the Bern - ­Lotschberg - Simplon and given a thorough overhaul to become STB Be 4/6 102 Laupen and 103 Neuenegg. These operated the Gümmenen trains, as well as the alternate workings from Laupen which run only to Flamatt to connect with Bern - Lausanne trains.
Freight trains are worked through from Flamatt to Neuenegg by SBB locomotives (usually Ae 6/6 class), whence any wagons for Laupen are attached to the STB motorcoaches. For a period in 1987, BLS Ae 6/8 machines, on hire to the SBB, were a regular sight on the STB freights.

In 1989, the STB leased, and later purchased from the German Railways, one of their standard shunting diesels, no. 260 106, a powerful machine which became STB Em 3/3 12 and was allocated to the shunting at Laupen. Tractor 11 was transferred to shunt the Ovomaltine works, replacing a small tractor owned by the Wander company. In 1994, the STB took delivery of a new tractor, Tm 238 114-3 in the new Swiss standard numbering system.

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. Current allocations of these tractors are unknown to your author.
The Laupen - Gümmenen section was always very lightly-used, and for many years carried passenger traffic only until the axe finally fell in 1993 and all trains were replaced by buses; motorcoach 107 was withdrawn following this sad event. There is little to say in the customary 'description of the line' section, mainly because I can't find a description! Basically the single-track route turns north out of Flamatt, crossing a motorway before reaching the halt at Flamatt Dorf, and soon afterwards bridges the river and before arriving at Neuenegg which is the line's principal traffic centre. The train then follows the road and the Sense river to Laupen, a ten-minute journey from Flamatt.

LOKI Aktuell 2-95

Rhaetian Test Runs

In connection with the introduction of the new Rhaetian Railway (RhB) Ge 4/4 III locomotives, test trains were run from 4-7 October 1994 to make measurements of the wheel-rail interaction. The main purpose was to measure the stresses put on the track by the new units in comparison to the RhB's older machines. Strain gauge equipment, connected to was fixed to the rails above Bergun, near km 73.7, on a 120 metre radius curve. The measurements were made with a test train (comprising a loaded tank wagon, a loaded gravel wagon and a coach) with new locos 641 and 642, and also a Ge 4/4 I, a Ge 4/4 II, a 'Crocodile' and a Ge 6/6 II.

Two, not Three

In the last issue we said that the Dampfbahn- Verein Zurcher Oberland (DVZO) had obtained a third Be 4/4 loco from the Sihltal - Zurich - Uetliberg Bahn (SZU). However, Hugo Wegner, the president of the DVZO, writes: 'The DVZO has only two Be 4/4 locos, namely BT 15 (since 1988) and former BT 13, which was recently obtained from the SZU. We had an option with BT on their no. 16, but they decided not to dispose of it, so we took the chance. to obtain a sister loco from the SZU, to achieve our aim of having two electric locos of the same design.'

From BN to RVT

1946-built twin railcar BCFe 4/8 743 (later ABDe 4/8743, then 243) of the Bern ­Neuenberg Bahn (BN) was earmarked for sale to the Oensingen - Balsthal company, but they decided to take only two units, 241 and 242. The BLS group has therefore offered it to the Regional du Val-de-Travers (RVT) to which it travelled on 23 December for trials. If accepted by the RVT, it will no doubt displace their two 1944-45 bui1t lightweight motorcoaches ABDe 2/4 101 and 102.

Südostbahn News

On the early morning of 28 November, the Knie circus train arrived on SOB metals, on the way from Bellinzona to the circus's winter quarters via Arth-Goldau. For the last time, the train was powered by East German loco 155252-0, which has been on hire to the SOB, piloting red SBB Re 6/6 11611 over the steep gradients from Arth-Goldau to Rothenturm. In 1995, the class 155 win be returning to its home in Germany.

The latest winter sports craze is the snowboard, which is based on the surfboard. The clumsy size of these items presents problems when passengers taken them on to trains, so the SOB is to run a coach with speciaJly designed snowboard racks on Wadenswil - Einsiedeln trains when snow conditions are good.

Delemont Rotonde

A rotonde is a loco shed in a curved shape around an open-air turntable. In December the SBB announced that the example at Delemont is to be preserved as a historic relic; by 1997 is to be restored to its original condition, as a suitable depot for some of the SBB's historic collection.

Swiss Diesel for Spain

The Stadler company of Bussnang (Thurgau) in onjunction with ABB and SLM, has constructed a new four-wheeled diesel locomotive with rack/adhesion drive for the Spanish Vall de Núria railway, where it will be no. L1. The loco has been under test on the Brig - Zermatt Jine, and on 15 December a press run was made from Visp to Kalpetran and back.

Wagon-Restaurant Drahtwerke

The Historische Eisenbahn Gesellschaft is a society dedicated to saving historic coaches from the scrapyard. The intention is to take threatened old coaches, however bad their state, and restore them to perfect condition for use on museum railways and speciaJ trains. The HEG's latest effort is SBB coach B4ü 3933; the interior was missing, so it has been restored as a restaurant car, wi th a bar in one half and seating in the other. Since November, it may be found in Neumarktstrasse, Biel, as the 'Wagon-Restaurant Drahtwerke' [wire works] ­Denise Cosandier and Urs Kener welcome reservations on 07731 7026.

'New' EST Re 4/4 III

The Emmental - Burgdorf - Thun railway group has five locomotives of the SBB Re 4/4 III design: EBT 111-113, VHB 141 and SMB 181.

These locos, delivered between 1969 and 1983, have until now carried a standard SBB green livery, but recently the first, EBT 111, received its R2 overhaul after 25 years service and 1.9 million miles. It has emerged from Oberburg works painted in a version of the striking 'Co1ani' livery originally designed for the new Re 456 class: red and white with huge logo and lettering. It carries the number 436 111-9 in the new standard system; the opportunity has been taken to decorate the loco with the shield of Solothurn, a city which considers the number 11 holy. (St Ursula's Cathedral in the city has 11 side altars, and there are 33 steps outside.) The Bern shield will be transferred to 112 which has previously commemorated Solothurn.

Rhaetian Steam Future

From LOKI 1-95, by Bernhard Studer

The Rhaetian Railway (RhB) currently has on its books four steam-powered machines, namely the small tank loco G 3/41 Rhätia of 1889, the two 2-8-0 tender locos G 4/5 107 and 108 built in 1906, and the legendary 1911-built Bernina line steam snowplough Xrotd 9213. The last time these machines saw a lot of service was 1989, when the RhB main line celebrated its centenary.

Ride the Trains!

Since then, the RhB management has found great difficulty in marketing steam specials successfully, and has even considered selling the steam locos. A number of enquiries were received, mostly from foreign railways. However, this threat seems to have been staved off for the moment, as the RhB-owned 'Rütia Incoming' travel agency has declared 1995 as a Steam Year. Ticket prices have been reduced by 30% to make them comparable with the charges of other steam railways, and it is hoped that this will encourage visitors to travel on the trains. One thing's for sure, neither the RhB or Rütia Incoming will get any cash from people who come roaring into Graubunden by car and chase the oh-so-pretty steam trains around at high speed. Maybe these car-bound photographers and videoists should buy a steam train ticket anyway and stick it on their windscreen for show! Remember - no profit for the RhB, no more steam trains.

Matching Coaches

A stylish steam train is more than just its locomotive. Thanks to the initiative of the staff of Samedan depot, the Engadine Railway Club and the Friends of RhB Steam, in the short- to medium-term a wider selection of suitable coaches is to be made available. Several
four-wheeled coaches, which latterly served as service stock, are store at Samedan and Bever waiting in line for restoration to their original condition.

Work on one vehicle is already under way, namely 1889-built third-class four-wheeler C 32 of the Landquart - Davos railway, the last surviving vehicle from the original stock of the fIrst RhB line. One of a batch numbered 31 to 42 by the LD, it later became RhB 2002 and remained in passenger services until the early 1940s. Today, it and two slightly younger cars which are also earmarked for restoration are the last survivors of the low-roofed design of the LD era. Recently, it has been numbered Xk 9034 in RhB service stock. The body is of the simplest wooden construction; the original 8-seat non-smoking compartment retains its original interior, but the 32-seat smoking section was gutted in the 1940s for its duty as a storage van. The coach never had a toilet, and was originally oil-lit, although electric lights were later fitted.

Until March 1988, it was used by the RhB's Engadine electrical team, and has been in store since because its historic nature was recognised; the Director of the RhB personally prohibited its scrapping. Plans to restore it to run with Rätia which was transferred from the Blonay-  ­Chamby for the 1989 celebrations fell through due to shortage of workshop capacity, and it remained in store at Samedan. Sadly, the space was needed for something else and by 1993 it was looking sad at the end of a siding in Trimmis. Thankfully it has now been taken in hand and in due course will take its rightful place in the RhB's historic trains.

First published 1995 - this edition April 2009