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 April 1995

Austrian Cousins: UIC-X coaches of the ÖBB

From LOKI 4-94 by Dr Helmut Petrovisch.

In LOKI 2 and 3/94, (March 1994 Notebook) we described the SBB's UIC coaches; here we complete the story by describing the related vehicles built (or completed) under licence at Jenbach, Tirol by Jenbacher Werke AG for service in Austria. Two types were built: a single example of a Komfort-Wagen (lounge car) and a batch of couchette cars. Their bodies correspond to SBB types, but they ride on Minden-Deutz bogies with rail brakes.

Komfort- or K-Wagen

The body shell of the unique K-Wagen SRmz 5181 89-80 600 was built in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Am 51 85 19-70 series. It was then transported unpainted to Jenbach for finishing. Unlike the later couchette cars, this vehicle corresponds in all body details (except the fixed windows) with the SBB type, including the galvanised doors and the ventilation grilles over the doors. The Jenbach company, which initially owned the vehicle, invented the livery of light blue with a golden-yellow band and ÖBB logo, and light grey roof.

Being air-conditioned, the coach was boldly provided with all fixed windows. The air heating was arranged to work from a steam heating supply as well as electric power; the cooling system is electric, with power provided by an on-board generator set coupled to underfIoor batteries, in SBB style. The idea was to provide a truly luxurious saloon: the 26.4 metre long coach had just 18 seats, later increased to 24. Each of the five standard-sized and two double compartments had armchairs, wardrobe, washbasin and refrigerator. The compartments have no windows on the corridor side, and the modern decor features leather upholstery and, in the toilet, flowery tapestries.

The car entered service in 1970 at a special supplementary fare on Vienna - Munich expresses, and was an immediate flop. Various design problems were shown up, such as the inadequate air conditioning and the lack of a telephone. Maintaining the supply of drinks to the compartment fridges was an administrative headache, as well. In 1972 the ÖBB bought it, and used it in charter trains and other specials until 1989; at some time it received a new orange livery. Since then, it has been stored outside Simmering awaiting a proposed refurbishing as a coach for party groups.

Licence Couchette Cars

Following the basic design of the SBB 51 85 50-70000 to 049 batch, built between 1974 and 1972, Jenbach built 30 ten-compartment couchette cars in 1976 under licence from the Schlieren company. Their OBB numbers are Bcmoz 51 81 50-70 000 to 029, and they differ in various details from the SBB type. The bogies are the Minden-Deutz type MD 36, there are no ventilation grilles above the doors, the window of the attendant's compartment is different and there is a folding step below the folding entrance doors. The bogie change necessitated a modification to the body side panels above the bogies.

The original livery, including the doors, was ultramarine blue (RAL 5002) with an off-white stripe (RAL 9001) below the windows. The roof above rainstrip level, including the roof ends, was also off-white. These white roofs were no doubt intended to keep the interior cool, but in practice they just got dirty and from 1982 they were repainted in shadow-grey (RAL 7032). From 1987 to 1989, some received a new livery in Blue and ivory in matching style to the ÖBB red and grey Intercity coaches; from 1990 the standard livery became agate-grey with blue around the windows. In 1981-82, Jenbach built a further 60 couchette cars, Bcmz 51 81 59-70 000 to 059, but these are a different design, similar to the Eurofima standard, with nine passenger compartments and four washroom/WCs. These were not built under licence, and therefore fall outside the main theme of this artic1e.


The Liliput version of the K-Wagen is basically a repaint of the SBB Am, and so has incorrect sliding windows and inaccurate underfloor details. It does run on correct Minden-Deutz bogies, however. It was available in blue and orange, and has become quite a rare item. The same firm's ÖBB couchette car was an even worse effort, being a repaint of the twelve-compartment SBB second-class day coach.

A similar situation applies in N gauge, where the SBB eleven-compartment second class coach has been offered by Hobbytrain, complete with the typically-Swiss SIG bogies.

SBB Gs Van, part 2 - The Model

From LOKI 3-94, by Rene Stamm

Last month we covered the history and variations on the SBB's type Gs four-wheeled van, which was built to European standard specifications. This month we consider the models which are or have been available.

Lima N

An SBB Gs van as such is not available in N scale. but three years ago Lima did offer the postal Z2 variant. as are-livery of the Gcrman Gs van and therefore with incorrect plainsides and missing tbe end brake platform found on the real PTT vans. This was Lima catalogue number 0458: versions bave also appeared in tbe colours of Ovomaltine (cat.0459) and Henniez (cat. 0461) although tbere is no prototype for such colours on these vans.

Suco HO

This Swiss firm produced an HO model of the van (then classified K4) back in the 1950s. This was plastic with metal wheels, and featured correct Swiss details such as planked sides and shiny doors, although it was built to 1:100 scale length. Today, this model is very much a collector's item and will cost between 40 and 60 SFr. if you can find one at a swapmeet.

Fleischmann H0

For three years or so the Fleischmann range has included a Swiss Gs, for sale in Switzerland only as cat. no. 5310 CH. This is a very good model of the correct Swiss type, and the aluminium-coloured doors slide open to reveal a stack of crates inside, moulded as part of the floor. NEM standard coupler pockets are fitted, with close-coupling feature. A recommended model, although hard to get in the UK.

Jouef HO

This French firm offers an SBB Gs van which is in fact a disguised SNCF French version, detectable by the doors which are a model of the plywood style, although painted aluminium. Standard coupler pockets are fitted, although without close-coupling. The ends feature two rather unlikely tail lamps, presumably intended to appeal to tbe junior market, but the lettering is good quality. including the modern small red and white SBB logo. Catalogue number is 625500.

Kleinbahn / Klein Modeltbahn

This was an all-plastic (including wheels) model. and after the demise of the Buco company was the only model the only model of the K4 available. Built to 1:98.7 scale length, this was definitely a Swiss type, although let down by the lettering which took the form of a raised moulding and was never brought up to date. When the Klein brothers went tbeir separate ways, the model was sold by both ranges, but has been out of production since 1993. Catalogue number was 305.


This (then) Austrian firm released a model (cat. 23550) of the SBB Gs in 1966, but this was no more than a repaint of the plywood-sided German variant and therefore very obviously wrong. Some time later a version in green 'Aproz' livery appeared (cat. 22950), still the wrong type of van but at least the livery was authentic. Both went out of production some years ago.


Twenty years ago, Lima produced its first SBB Gs offering, a repaint of the company's Italian Railways variant and therefore with incorrect planked doors, painted as aluminium. Body and underframe are plastic; wheels were originally plastic but later metal. It was produced in 1970s livery (cat. 3166), with the new logo (cat. 3166), and fictional Henniez (3108) and Ovomaltine (3154) liveries.

Although perhaps inexact in details, it was certainly cheap. A PTT green version as a Z2-type (missing the brake platform) was also produced: this is still in the range as cat. 303102. as is the Ovomaltine version. cat. 303154.

In 1993. Lima upgraded their Italian Gs model, improvng the details and taking the opportunity to make the doors replaceable so they can also offer a correct SBB version. Standard close-coupler pockets are fitted, and the livery features the current SBB logo. A selection of details is included for the buyer to attach. The models are sold in packets of two with different running number, catalogue 303640K. and can be recommended.

Märklin HO

In 1991 Märklin released a special set with a diesel loco in the orange livery of the Orbe - Chavornay railway, and three vans. The vans are lettered as SBB - two Gs and one Gqss - ­but are repaints of tbe Märklin German van. However, this is less obvious than it might be as the lines of the planking have been printed on the plain sides. One of the vans features a working flashing tail light, picking up power from the (stud contact) track.

The vans have not been made available separately.

Roco HO

Roco have released various versions of the SBB Gs in recent years, all with correct SBB features, although the plastic mouldings are perhaps not up to the latest standards, being made from old tools originally created by tbe Rowa company. The original catalogue number was 4376, later altered to 46267. A version in old K4 guise was only ever available in the now-withdrawn Crocodile goods train set,cat. 43043. In the current Roco Swiss catalogue, the SBB Gs
is shown as cat. 46254.

In 1994, special editions for Roco Club members were the
Gqss and Gqss-tz variants, supplied with the heating and multiple control plugs for the buyer to attach. The Gqss-tz appeared with two different running numbers, cat. 9405A and 9405D, and the Gqss came in four versions 9406 A to D. These all have different numbers, and the French/German "for freight: the railway" slogans on the doors except for 9406D with has German and Italian.

Röwa HO

In its day, Rewa became famous for the accuracy of its models, and the K4 van (cat. 2054) was no exception. Sadly the firm went into bankruptcy. and its tools were sold to Roco. At some stage, however, the same tools were used by Trix to produce their version, catalogue no. 3668.

LOKI Aktuell 4-95

Facelift for Ae 3/6 I 10664

As mentioned before in this column. SBB Ae 3/6 I 10664 is now in the care of the Lake Zürich Right-Bank Railway Society SilK": taking it over in 1990. The Society has been well aware that its major deficiency as a museum-piece is that small 'pigs-eye' headlamps  had been fitted by the SBB in place of the original large ones. These things are very expensive to buy, but finally on 14 February the old machine appears with the correct brass lamps as well as an original folding fall-plate. It is kept at Rappersil depot

Ae 4/7 10976

SBB Ae 4/7 locomotive 10976 is now classed as a working museum exhibit, and has been given an R2-overhaul at Zürich works to make it fit for its new starring role. This loco is from the 10973-11002 series, built by Oerhkon: rumour has it that another example from the 10901 - 10916 series built by Brown Boveri, will also be preserved. The 10939-10951 and 1100911017 batches, which were built by Sécheron, will probabJy be scrapped as they have been disfigured by the fitting of multiple-working equipment. Carrying the painted overhaul date 14.2.95, the celebrity loco is allocated to Lausanne. It has the old brass headJamps, and cast metal number and builder's plates, but (as yet) is missing its fall plates. Its public debut was on February 14, a photo-call at Rapperswil alongside 10664 (above) and Be 6/8 III 'crocodile' 13302 which nelongs to Horgen Model Railway Club.

New Radio Test Car

On 12 February. the SBB's new test car, X 60 85 99-73 109-8, rebuilt from second-class coach Bm 51 85 22-70-026-0, made its first test run from Bern to Thun and return.

The coach body is all-over yellow, and for this test run someone had the clever idea to provide the yellow Danzas advert, Re 460 018-5, as matching traction. The coach is now at Oberwinterthur for the installation of its electronic equipment.

The Lokoop Story

Increasing freight traffic in recent years has left the Sudostbahn (SOB), and the Mittel Thurgau Bahn (MThB) short of suitable powerful locomotives. However, the financial state of these companies would not permit the purchase of new Swiss-built locos, which carry a price-tag of 7 millon Francs each for four-axle main-line machines. The two companies devised an unconventional solution to the problem; seeing the surplus of locomotives in Germany following the unification of the country, they formed a company called Lokoop AG, with its headquarters in Weinfelden, to buy twelve second-hand East German locos of class 142 (ex-242). The company has an option to purchase a further eight.

The locos were part of a large class built for the old Deutsche Reichsbahn in the 1960s and 70sfor mixed traffic duties. All were overhauled and fitted with the necessary equipment for Swiss operation such as the Signum cab signalling system. Under the new Swiss standard classification scheme, they are class Ae 476. The class has already entered service on the MThB, still in their old German livery. Before Ae 476 locos can enter service on the SOB, they will have to be fitted with electrical rheostatic braking, an essential for the 50 per mille (1 in 20) gradient of the SOB main line. This fitting has already been tested last year using loco 142 042, which was bought by the SOB direct from Germany. It should also be relatively easy to fit the class with type-IIId multiple working equipment, allowing them to work in multiple with most types of Swiss loco, motorcoach and driving trailer. The price of a freshly-overhauled Ae 476 is said to be no more than 600,000 Francs.

At least three of the Lokoop locos are to receive the fashionable overall advert paintwork: two advertise the Zürich and Thurgau Cantonal Bank, with the slogan 'Your money works for you' illustrated by a man whose body is a pile of coins, busy painting with side of the loco from white to blue (can you picture it?)

Re 465 for the SBB

As expected, the SBB has placed an order for ten new locos of class 465, the improved version of the Re 460 'Lok 2000' developed for the Bern ­Lötschberg - Simplon company. The Lötschberg tunnel is currently being modified to allow the passage of 4-metre high road trailers on Huckepack wagons, and the new locos will be used to haul an additional 14 such trains planned for the Simplon - Lötschberg route. The BLS already has 10 locos of this type, and it is intended that the new batch will be owned by the SBB but leased to the BLS.

Automatic Identification

The UIC (International Union of Railways) has chosen the 'Dynicom' system developed by Alcatel Amtech as its European standard system for rolling-stock identification. It has already been adopted by the organisation in charge of tracking containers. A small transponder fitted to a wagon can transmit the wagon number to a trackside antenna as the train passes, requiring only 17 milliseconds for the transmission, and communicate directly to the railway's stock control computers. This will save much manual effort currently expended by rail staff on handwriting of train consists.

Old Shell, New Kernel

Observers of the Bodensee - Toggenburg line may notice a strange-looking coach lettered 'revvivo' - this is a 40-year-old EW I coach which has been experimentally refitted by Schindler Waggon with an interior made from environment-friendly fibre-based materials. Schindler are believed to be developing a complete coach body made from these materials, to be presented to the world this summer.

Second-Hand Locos for the SBB?

The German class V200 diesels which were bought by the SBB in 1986, and became Am 4/4 18461-18467, have not been popular with SBB staff, despite their stylish looks, and are soon to be scrapped. 30 new diesels are on order, but the possibility of additional second-hand machines is also being investigated. A likely candidate is the German class 215 diesel-hydraulic, 141 of which were built for the West German Deutsche Bundesbahn in 1970-71. These are already a familiar sight at various Swiss/German border stations.

Old NO.7: 125 years!

In 1996, the Vitznau - Rigi - Bahn (VRB), Europe's oldest mountain railway, and locomotive builders Schweizerische Lokomotiv- ­und Maschinenfabrik (SLM) will be holding a joint celebration. H 1/2 rack steam loco no. 7 of the VRB, which began construction in the late autumn of 187t1, was SLM's very first locomotive! Still in existence, it has SLM works number 1 in a number series which had reached no. 5712 by 7 March 1995.

No.7 entered service in 1873, and was withdrawn in 1937. It has spent many years in the Lucerne Transport Museum, but with financial assistance from SLM the old-timer is to be restored to working order and will steam again up the Rigi in Summer 1996.

First published 1995 - this edition April 2009