Narrow Gauge News 1/2001 (January)


BVZ Zermatt-Bahn

Bad weather
Massive flooding and landslides were caused at Wallis, Tessin and Oberitalien at the beginning of October by heavy rainfall. The BVZ - Zermatt-Railway was particularly badly affected: of the 44 route kilometres about 15km were badly damaged, The Rhone inundated the trackbed between Brig and Visp, at Neubrueck 100m of trackbed was washed away by a mud slide and in the Kipfenschlucht the only recently constructed junction station at Kipferwald fell victim to the floods. The comprehensive defences on the line between St Niklaus-Zermatt prevented major damage to this section. After initially being totally closed, a shuttle service was set up between Täsch & Zermatt on 18th October with services being restored between St Niklaus & Zermatt on 19th October. Several vehicles, including Deh 4/4 24, were loaded onto low loaders and transferred to the isolated track section for this service. One of the large FO diesel locomotives (HGm 4/4) was also used for the repair works. Thanks to the massive efforts of the workers and through massive support from the Railway Regiment of the Swiss Army, the entire line was re-opened on the 8th November, although running on a temporary trackbed. The clear up and reconstruction works will last well into 2001 and cost over 18 million Swiss Francs.


Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway

250,000 francs damage
The October storms also affected the DFB. An initial costing of the damage is estimated at 250,000 SFr. The rapid introduction of a working group enabled the successful diversion of the flood waters which prevented the already mud encrusted formation from being torn away. There are a few jobs waiting for the permanent way gangs in the new year with the ballast needing replacement in quite a few areas.



Brig station throat rebuilding
The relocation of the FO workshop in Glisergrund meant that the old buildings in Brig station were now surplus to requirements and subsequently demolished. The resulting space will be used partly to stretch out and narrow the BVZ and FO shared station throat trackwork. The cost of these works will cost 13.9 million francs.

"Elch" at Sedrun
The Oberwald allocated diesel loco Gm 4/4 71, named "Elch", will be used for hauling the works trains between the station and the works site at the Val Bugnei viaduct. The loco, first constructed for a Finnish sawmill in 1966, came to the line in 1980 for the completion of the Furka base tunnel and has since then been used for shunting at Obergoms.

Bad weather disrupts services
The FO was also affected by the Storms in October. At Brig the hydraulic bridge, built in 1993, had to be raised to prevent them from beeing damaged by driftwood. Buses were used to transport passengers on the Brig-Fiesch section. The FO had to be shutdown for 12 days from the 1st October as boulders were likely to fall onto the line below Mörel.


Jungfraubahn / Jungfraubahn Holding AG

New multiple units
The Jungfraubahn Holding has decided to purchase four double multiple units of series 211-214. Delivery of the first unit is scheduled for May 2002 with the rest following on a monthly basis. A total of 22.5 million francs will be invested.

Extraordinary business results
Passenger traffic for the first half of 2000 reached 300,000 passengers, nearly double the equivalent period in the previous year. Profit rose from 1.2 to 8.1 million francs. One reason for this massive rise is the Raffeisenbank jubilee events. These however led also to heavy criticism of severe overcrowding.



LEB extended
With the introduction of the Summer timetable the LEB was extended from Chauderonplatz station to the new terminus at Lausanne Flon. This is the first change to the overall length of the LEB for 128 years. Because of the extension the LEB now has a convenient connection to the Ouchy rack and pinion railway as well as the Stadtbahn TSOL.


Rhätische Bahn

Double trains on the Davos line
Regular combined trains have been seen on the Chur-Klosters line since the May timetable changes. The Chur-Davos and the Engadin-Star Chur - (Vereina) - Scuol trains run coupled together as far as Klosters. Here the trains are divided and follow their separate ways to Davos or Scuol. This method of operation, rare on the RhB, was introduced to maintain stability in the timetable on this heavily used and unstable route.

Weak demand for the Engadin express
The new "Engadin-Express" Chur - (Vereina) - Scuol - St.Moritz - (Albula) - Chur, introduced with the opening of the Vereina tunnel, has not achieved the hoped-for success. The trains are so poorly used that the number of carriages have been reduced. The St.Mortiz - (Vereina) - Landquart connection is also rarely used by passengers.

Refit for GEM 4/4
Rumours concerning the withdrawal of electro-diesel locos Gem 4/4 801 and 802 have been circulating for years, but the RhB has now decided to undertake a total refurbishment of the locomotives. They will receive, apart from new electrical equipment including diesel engine-generator units, new driving cabs that although looking like the old ones, will be longer in length. Work on 801 started in the Autumn.

New paint scheme for old multiple units
Following refurbishment of old style multiple unit Abe 4/4 30 (ex BCFe 4/4 22 from 1911), it has received a yellow colour scheme that largely follows the original independent Berninabahn design of 1943. Large scale changes were not however made, so that the technical arrangement still mirrors the other units of the 30 series. The idea for the colour scheme came from members of the 1889 Club, but was executed by the RhB in-house.

Apart from Abe 4/4 30 a second unit received a yellow colour scheme; the departmental Xe 4/4 9922 (ex BCFe 4/4 21 also from 1911). In contrast to Abe 4/4 30 however it has received a lemon-yellow colour, indicating its departmental status.

Brünigbahn post wagons taken over
Surplus SBB Brunig line wagons Z061 and Z062 have been acquired by the RhB. It is planned to convert these wagons for departmental service to replace, amongst others, service wagon X 9002 dating from 1916.

Departmental service locomotive scrapped
The first RhB thyristor equipped locomotive, Te 2/2 75 was scrapped on 27th October. Built in 1969 by Schalker Eisenhütte in Gelsenkirchen (Germany) and called "Panzer" because of its massive structure, it was the first stepless thyristor controlled locomotive on the RhB. Sister vehicle Te 2/2 74 remains in reserve for the time being.

Vereina tunnel lighting
The recently opened tunnel will be fitted with escape route lighting at a cost of 5.8 million francs. This follows the Federal Transport Ministry's edict following the fires in the Mont Blanc and Taurern tunnels. It will be financed with unspent money left over from the original construction project.

Headlamps now also for Be 4/4
Following the installation of headlamps on Ge 4/4 locomotives last year, this conversion has now been extended to include the suburban shuttle units. The first to be converted were Be 4/4 515 and the corresponding ABDt 1715. Both left the Landquart workshops in October.

New station building at Landquart
"Porta Retica" will be starting in Landquart in the new year. This project comprises the overbuilding of the station building, including changes to the square. In addition to a new 4 storey station and RhB office building, a building containing a hotel, apartments and the station buffet are also planned. The total project will cost 45 million francs, with 15 million for the station building alone. The building work will end years of dilapidation of the current buildings.

Lack of drivers
RhB drivers are constantly complaining of permanent overwork. Constant overtime and no regular days off are hitting morale. Despite the increase in demand following the completion of the Vereina tunnel, 1,998 staff have left the company through early retirement plans. The Swiss Railway and Transport Staff Association speaks of a "dramatic situation". The now urgently required additional crews will only become available after the completion of their training courses, at the very earliest Summer 2001.



Rack and pinion line retained
Following years of consultation and several audits it has now been decided to retain the Grindelwald - Kleine Scheidegg rack and pinion railway and not to replace it with a cable car. Consequently, 47 million francs investment is planned for the coming years. The timetable increases from a 30 minute service (33 minutes in Winter) to a staggered 10/20 minute service. In order to achieve this service four new lowfloor panorma shuttle trains are being ordered, identical to the concept of the BVZ Zermatt Bahn shuttle trains. In addition the track layout will be extended and a passenger information service extended. The modernisation works are planned to be completed by 2005.


Berner Oberland-News Peter Schmid
BVZ Zermatt-Bahn
Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke
Die Südostschweiz
Press service Jungfraubahnen
Press service Rhätische Bahn
Schweizer Eisenbahn-Revue

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Copyright © 2001

Author: Stefan Dringenberg, last change on 2001-03-01
(translation by Bruce Smetham and Peter Bennett)