Swiss Holiday 2019

TPF 104 (with extra centre car from 101) outside the depot at Bulle. There are six of these units built by Stadler for TPF in 2015 as part of a large order placed jointly with other Swiss railways. Saturday 8 th June 2019.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum text by Richard Morris, photos by Steve Ollive

Well I suppose it did really. The IBIS hotel at Forum Fribourg was base camp for another mop up week in Switzerland, in June 2019. We used this hotel previously and found that the bus service to it was generally operated by MAN/HESS bi-mode trolleybuses, which operate within the city in trolley mode, switching to diesel power driving the electric motors once outside the city wall. So we were a bit surprised when ours suddenly switched to diesel well within the city boundary. The reason revealed to be that the road adjacent to the city wall had a huge hole in it, and we necessarily had to divert round that, but where the trolley wires did not exist. We had arrived in Fribourg courtesy of British Airways from Heathrow (the sight of a new Airbus A320 with ‘flip up wing tips’ threw your scribe such that he forgot to note the registration!), and SBB thence from Aeroport Genève to Fribourg. After checking into the hotel we popped out to Bulle to see the Transports Publique Fribourgois (TPF) depot where we discovered they had 6 new Stadler 3 car units for their narrow gauge operation. Found all of them, albeit one (104) in 4 car mode with the addition of 101’s centre trailer (the driving cars of 101 were both inside the shed). Returning to Fribourg, we found a nice Chinese restaurant just outside the station for an evening meal.

Krauss built Ge 2/2 Steam Tram No.4 “Rimini” dating from 1900 arriving into Bahnhof Chamby ready to work a train down the hill to Chamby Museum. Sunday 9th June 2019.

Sunday 9th June, our first full day, we headed off towards Montreux where the Montreux Oberland Bernois (MOB) and Montreux Vevey Riviera (MVR) lines have a number of new Stadler narrow gauge units in service. We found some of each before moving on to Chamby to visit the museum railway. Travelling up from the main line station to the museum, we were hauled by steam tram No.4 Rimini (a Krauss Ge 2/2 of 1900 for the Ferrara Codigoro Rimini system). There was plenty to see around the museum site and we also took the opportunity for a ride to Blonay and back with retired Rhatische Bahn electric loco No.81 which had been fully restored to service last year. We then made our way back to Vevey, and on to Aigle, to visit the Aigle Sepey Diablerets (ASD) line which was dis-assembled last time we were in the area so a run up to Les Diablerets and back ticked this one off. Making our way via Aigle to Montreux we wandered down to the lake shore line to find a restaurant for a meal. Only snag was that it was a jolly long climb back up two or three large flights of steps to get back to the station for our train back to Fribourg.

MOB cars 9301 and 9303 outside the depot at Montreux. These Stadler cars built in 2016 are part of the same order placed jointly by a group of Swiss Railways, but these will run with existing MOB trailer carriages. Sunday 9th June 2019.

Recently restored ex Rhaetische Bahn locomotive 81 (built by SLM in 1916) standing outside the shed at Blonay museum, ready to take up its next duty on the museum – Chamby – Blonay service. Sunday 9th June 2019.

Monday 10th June was a public holiday in Switzerland, which didn’t seem to impact rail services too greatly (other than a lack of early morning commuters!). We intended to visit Chamonix Mont Blanc, to look at, if not travel on, the railway which goes up the mountain. Although the line from Vallorcine to Chamonix is well inside France, our Swiss passes were valid for travel. On the way there travelling from Lausanne to Martigny our push/pull SBB train was being propelled by Rich’s last cl.460 (460 097). Cue a bit of a celebration from your scribe and a demand, from the rest of the party, for a round of drinks in the evening (not reciprocated later in the week when others got their last cl.460!). From Martigny we made our way up to Vallorcine on the Martigny Chatelard (MC) line, which has an unusual mix of overhead electric and 3rd rail electric capability, the trains seamlessly switching from one to the other, not to mention the rack sections too! SNCF have some identical units for their part of the operation. It is possible for the MC and SNCF units to inter-work but there was no evidence that this actually happens. Swapping to an SNCF unit at Vallorcine we arrived at Chamonix Mont Blanc in thick cloud, such we could not actually see the mountain, so we didn’t hang around long. Instead once back at Martigny we paused a little longer to check out the remaining MC units, and the Martigny Orsieres (MO) St Bernard Express trains at the other end of the station, and thence to Aigle where similarly we found some more new units on the AOMC line. We stopped off in Lausanne for an evening meal, before heading back to Fribourg, where the round of drinks was duly procured.

SNCF narrow gauge unit Z805/Z806 at Chamonix, these units

are similar to those built for TMR Mont-Blanc Express and can work between

Martigny in Switzerland and St. Gervais in France, although the line was closed

on the French side of Chamonix at the time of this photograph. Monday 10th June 2019.

TPC 543 leaving Monthey Ville heading to Champery. All trains have to from Aigle to Champery have to reverse here. This unit was built by Stadler in 2016 as part of the large order for numerous Swiss Railways. Monday 10th June 2019.

A re-visit to some other private railways between Lausanne and Genève was the order of the day for Tuesday 11th June. First of these was the Biere Apple Morges (BAM) line. We had a brief moment at Morges to observe some standard gauge wagons being swapped from their metre gauge bogie trolleys off the BAM line for onward movement onto the main line, before boarding the train to Bieres. There we ventured to have a look at the shed, and were invited in by the engineering team. It was so pleasing to see a young apprentice being involved in proper engineering skills (think he was creating a new part for one of the gauge transfer trolleys). Returning to Morges we moved on to Nyon for a ride up the line to St Cergue, and hopefully to La Cure (this last bit was not operating last time we were in the area). Found their new units and observed a deer playing chicken with the train on the return from La Cure to Nyon. Moving on then to the Genève area, we found a yard at Lancy Pont Rouge (at the end of a short commuter line from Genève). Found a few locos there which were not easily identifiable being too far away to see even with binoculars. The trammists went off then whilst two of us returned to Genève, to observe the evening peak period. Found a few new Cl.522/2 units, and a couple of freight trains wandered through. We ate in a Chinese restaurant again this evening, across the forecourt from the station, entertainment provided by several buses getting in a bit of a tangle, we think caused by one which had a technical issue!

MBC 36 (built by Stadler in 2016) in the yard at Biere. Tuesday 11th June 2019.

Wednesday 12th June was the swap day on the itinerary and so off we went to have a look at some of the Travys group operators. We made our way out to Yverdon les Bains and found some new Stadler units on the Yverdon St Croix line, but not before we had dropped off at Payerne to have a quick look at a museum site there. From Yverdon we headed for Vallorbe, stopping off briefly at Cossonay to see a funicular which rises from just across the station yard. From Vallorbe we headed for Le Brassus, not quite sure what we would find there. It is a border station with France so a mighty grand station building with six platforms which sees an hourly service from Vallorbe run by SBB, and one train in each direction per day between France and Basel. We didn’t hang around long there, but returned to some semblance of civilisation at Le Day before returning via Cossonay to Renens VD for a ride on Lausanne Metro route M1 as far as Flon Place de L’Europe (stopping off for a quick look at the M1 line depot). From Flon we walked to the Lausanne Eschallens Bercher (LEB) station for a ride up that line to Eschallens to its depot. They too have some new Stadler units, which we found. Back then to Lausanne Flon for a very short ride down the hill on Metro route M2 (with its rubber tyred trains). There was a lot of running around today so evening meal time was most welcome for a rest.

Schynige Platte Bahn 63 (originally WAB, built 1910) at Schyige Platte. Thursday 13 th June 2019.

We had a mountain to climb on Thursday 13th June (the other half of the swap involving Wednesday!), this time to the Schynigge Platte, which line we have viewed but not travelled on before. Making our way thus via Bern and Interlaken (involved a ride on a German ICE train working an internal SBB service!). At Interlaken, we boarded the Berner Oberland Bahn (BOB) unit for the run out to Wilderswil (looked like there was a music and arts festival getting into full swing on a field near the lakeside), where we then changed onto the Schynigge Platte system. Our Swiss passes afforded us a discount on the cost of this ride. The traction here is generally historic, the electric He 2/2 rack locomotives all built between 1910 and 1914. Amongst the attractions, and stunning scenery, at the top of the line is an Alpine Garden, which has been laid out for visitors to wander round and view the wonderful Alpine flowers at quite close quarters (a lot of the pathway round is sunken, so most of the flowers are at eye level). Back down to Wilderswil we boarded another BOB train to Zweilütschinen where the BOB depot is located. It also happens to be the station where the train from Interlaken splits with one portion going on to Lauterbrunnen and the other to Grindelwald. The line has seen a great increase in ridership, which has prompted them to invest in additional new rolling stock, but there is now the problem of the trains being significantly longer than the station platforms. Not necessarily a show stopper as they’re all low floor trains with only a small step down to ground level. We did wonder if they had a plan in mind whereby the trains would end up being so long that customers could walk through them from Wilderswil to Zweilütschinen, without the train actually moving! Anyway, after a visit to the depot, we made our way back to Interlaken and onto Spiez to do some train watching and have a look over the fence of the BLS depot, and thence to Thun for some more train watching and to find a meal.

BOB 325 (built by Stadler in 2017) leaving Zweilütschinen for Grindelwald, the portion for Lauterbrunnen having already left. Thursday 13th June 2019.

As is our custom, Friday was Basel day, so we hopped on a train to Neuchatel (so Steve could try and find the Stadler Flirt units your reporter got, but he missed, last time we were there!), thence to Olten and onto Muttenz. A short walk over the bridge gave us the opportunity to see what freight locomotives were about in the massive freight marshalling yard (I think we found 50 that we could identify!), and to be entertained by the hump shunter pushing wagons over the top to their respective sidings. Moving then to Basel SBB station before boarding a train out to Basel Bad, we had a look at what was about there before boarding a bus out to Kleinhüningen where there is another yard, home to two brand new Hybrid shunting locos. We found one of them but not the other. Returning to Basel SBB we spent the afternoon train watching. A little more of interest to see this time as SBB are now using some of their new Cl.501 and Cl.502 intercity units in traffic. Well alright, we found one of each type working into the station!

Railpool TRAXX AC3 187-003 (works number 34937 built 2013 and fitted with a last mile diesel module) parked up at Spiez. Thursday 13th June 2019.

BLS 485-006 (Bombardier TRAXX AC2 works number 33553, built 2003) piloting BLS 475-412 (Siemens Vectron works number 22073, built 2017) on an international intermodal train approaching Thun heading towards Italy. Thursday 13 th June 2019.

Our last day, Saturday 15th June was to return as far as Kleine Scheidegg half way up the Jungfrau, to see the new Jungfrau units (and catch up with the Wenger Alp Bahn (WAB) units we missed last time). So we made our way to Bern, thence to Interlaken (another trip on a DB ICE train working an internal SBB service – we got tripped up by the seat reservation system which gave the impression that seats were reserved when, in fact, they weren’t!). On then to the BOB for a ride up to Grindelwald, then enjoyed a walk down the hill to Grindelwald Grund, by way of the WAB depot (which we visited slightly to the surprise of the depot foreman – we asked permission but not, apparently, from the right person – oops!). Anyway up on the WAB to Kleine Scheidegg where the JB team seem to have introduced a convoluted queueing system for boarding trains up to Jungfraujoch. We weren’t going that far this time, so we stepped round it in order to see the JB trains arriving and departing. Found all the new units fairly quickly so we made our way back down the hill, but this time to Lauterbrunnen. From Lauterbrunnen we made our way through to Interlaken and thence to Spiez for another quick look at the BLS depot, and to Thun once again. Up to now I haven’t mentioned the weather. The week started off dull and damp, but conditions improved as the week went on. So we hadn’t had one of our customary central European thunderstorms, until this Saturday afternoon, that is. Heavy cloud rolling in over the mountains, crash, bang, wallop! Hail sheeting down like snow covering the platforms in a white carpet. Some of us were in a little hut at the Interlaken end of the centre platform – it had a metal (anodised steel I imagine) roof so it got quite noisy in there whilst the hail was hailing! Storm passed – hearing recovered, it was time to make our way to Bern for a last night meal.

JB 223 a Stadler 3-car unit built in 2016, arriving at Kleine Scheidegg from Jungfraujoch. Saturday 15th June 2019.

A leisurely run back to Genève on the Sunday morning before boarding our flight back to Heathrow. We had A320 G-EUYX on the return, which may well have been the aircraft we travelled out on if it was on the Genève circuit for a week or so, as it also had the flip up wing tips. As always at this point it is only right that I express, on behalf of the touring party, our very grateful thanks to Steve for organising the itinerary, and sorting out the hotel, and to Gary for the comprehensive stock list for the other operators in Switzerland. Next year, we might be trying something new. Watch this space.

Last updated: 1st November 2019