Europe....but without Euros!

Although I used to live in Switzerland (a few years ago now) I wasn't interested in railways so, until signing up for a weeks bashing with several colleagues in February 2002, it was an "empty book" country for me. Right up to leaving I wasn't 100% sure I'd made the right decision to head for a country which was all electric...and somewhat expensive too...with the added "novelty" that despite it being a European country, it still had its own currency, the Swiss Franc (CHF).

Where appropriate I've shown my haulage scores underlined in red. I used a Euro-Domino to get around, not bad value at £91 for 6 days - the only thing to watch is that it didn't cover many of the smaller private railways...

Sunday 24th February - Day 1

For me the trip was truncated by two days as I was booked on railtours on both the Saturdays of the week concerned! After spending most of the first Saturday thrashing along behind D1015 "Western Champion" the 5am alarm call wasn't my idea of a good way to start a Sunday!

07.00 : checked in at Luton Airport for the 08.55 EasyJet bus to Zürich (which was a winning Boeing 737-300, HB-IIJ) which was another reasonable bargain at £108 return. A late departure but railtour-like stagger timings still meant a 30 early arrival into Zürich Flughafen. Interesting landing with quite strong crosswinds - a case of slamming the plane down on the runway at the last minute after a few quite marked dips of one wing or the other.

My first recorded Swiss loco haulage was 460 084 which took me the short distance from Flughafen to Hauptbahnhof. An exchange of sms messages confirmed half my colleagues were in the Montreux area and the others were in the Bern area. With Bern being nearer that's where I headed next (460 006 providing front end power). Bumped into Richard, Wez & Chappy in the subway at Bern and the remainder of the afternoon was spent spinning between Bern and Burgdorf (11230 for 460 082 for 11225 then 11141). Plans for another round trip were put on ice when BLS no. 192 was spotted and this as sampled to Bern Bumpliz Nord (yes, there really is a station named that!).

My first Swiss EMU got me back to Bern for a bit more spinning (460 037 to Olten for 11234 back then do it all again behind 11634 followed by 11192). Time then for some more new track as the spinning headed southwards towards our home for the week. 460 058 to Thun for 460 024 to Spiez, 460 089 back to Thun then Spiz again (behind 460 010) for the nights top pairing of BLS locos 190 & 194 to Interlaken Ost. Getting dizzy with all this spinning? I certainly was!

Problem time for me - would I do freight loco 11491 back to Interlaken West...or freight loco (or was it really an MLV? Certainly looked like one!) 120 011 to Ringgenberg where our accommodation was? Couldn't do both...

11491 won the day and during the wait at West station a pizza and beers were quickly despatched at a restaurant opposite the station - or more accurately the beer was, the pizza order being to take away to save time. Dud (!) 460 006 back at Ost station and then dubiously liveried 101 968 was my first Swiss narrow gauge electric put in the book for the short leap to Ringgenberg.

Our accommodation was a self-catering chalet in Riggenberg, a typical Swiss village, very nice too. I was sharing with Wez, Richard & Chappy. The others were on the floor above us. Being late I flagged any further beer in favour of bed - it was going on 11pm by this time and I'd been up since 5am in the UK.

Monday 25th February - Day 2

I was awoken at about 6.45am by Wez who had wandered through to the bathroom for a shower. His comment (to the effect that there had been a considerable precipitation of snow during the night - or, more accurately, "f**k me, there's been a s**tload of snow dumped on us overnight!") suggested it was going to be an interesting was, there had been about 100mm of fresh snow overnight!

101 966 to Interlaken Ost then the freight NG electric 120 011 was seen on the "+1" connection back towards Meiringen.  Had to be done so it was! 120 011 to Brienz where we rioted to see a station Bert clearing snow with a contraption that looked like a hand-push lawnmower! Another new class for me as 110 005 took us back to Ost. Three out of three....and some decent snowy photos too, I like this game :-)

Back at Interlaken Ost and BLS 257 shoved us through to Zweisimmen where we changed onto the MOB line (another narrow-gauge). This line goes to Montreux through some serious scenery - particularly with the covering of snow. 8003 was in charge of our first move on the line. A wedged train the gripper pointed us to the 1st class "panoramic" coach and we enjoyed an hour or so of beers courtesy of the waitress service (11am and half-cut already...well, it was a holiday!).

At Rossiniere we began a couple of hours of spinning - 8001 to Saanen for 6002 back to Rossiniere - though being a request stop we only got off as the train had to stop for some others. Whilst there I spotted a button that looked like it required pressing to request the incoming train to stop. A local schoolboy, after we watched him post a large wodge of snow through the station post-box, confirmed he had already pressed it. 6003 to Chateau D'Eux for 8004 through to Montreux, some serious gradients being experienced on the drop into the MOB terminus.

Time for some more track-bashing, combined with some loco scratching....

11246 to Sion for 460 041 forward to Sierre and finally 460 052 to Brig. Only a few minutes here, but time enough to photograph freight sector 11435 which then took us to Thun via the Lötschberg pass - the climb out of Brig has to be experienced to be believed - very serious scenery overload occurs as you cling to the mountainside before Goppenstein. The three of us on this train (Richard, Wez & my good self) opted to enjoy the view from the restaurant car....whipping in a Goulash soup in addition to another couple of beers! Entertainment was provided by the bloke sat in the bay behind us who spent much of the journey singing at his mobile phone. Good stuff this Swiss beer...

Time for a late night spin: 460 005 to Spiez for 460 107 back then 11491 followed by 120 011 home. Not too impressed with the two dud freight engines at the end! Late finish again.

Here are some photos of the first couple of days of this trip

Tuesday 26th February - Day 3

Time for a wander over to the east of Switzerland. The "normal" morning move ("the +1 always makes at Interlaken Ost") saw 101 968, 120 011 & 101 962 sampled. From Interlaken Ost 460 067 took us to Thun for 11648 forward to Bern. The run to Zurich saw 11132, 11205 & 11146 put in the book by way of leaps at Olten and Aarau.

With an hour to kill before the train we wanted from Zurich there was an opportunity for some shameless scooping - the Zurich S-Bahn network being worked by class 450 locos on three double-deck coaches. In the rush-hour they double and even triple them up! An hour of spinning saw 450 009, 450 083, 450 014 & 450 111 caned in. Not bad considering we also got a Co-op visit in too for food! 450 060 was our escape from Zurich, to Ripperswil. From here we headed further east behind SOB 456 096 on a "Voralpen Express" rake.

At Herisau we baled in order to view the adjacent Appenzeller Bahn 1000mm gauge railway, a line with just one loco to its name! By good luck (!) Ge 4/4 no. 1 appeared on the train for Wasserauen so the line was done (had it been a unit we'd have flagged it!). Wasserauen was worth a look as the railway basically stopped at a mountain. Time for an Appenzeller Beer (not actually a beer but a spirit taken in a beer!) then back to Appenzell for a unit to St Gallen (we did this to scratch the line).

At St Gallen 11198 on a wedged EC working turned up and was our home to Zurich Hbf. Tight connection there and not happy to see 11132 on our train to Olten! Time to visit the supermarket on the station at Olten before 460 054 took us to Bern for 460 010 forward to Interlaken Ost. A final winner for the day - 101 965 being our loco for the short leap to Ringgenberg.

Wednesday 27th February - Day 4

Another day to get to grips with one of the more scenic lines in Switzerland - the run over the Gottard pass. We decided to get there by heading along the Brünig to Luzern but....

....101 964 to Interlaken Ost and the +1 DIDN'T make on this morning!! Nothing for it then but a white-worm (DB ICE) to Bern (a misformed unit no less - 401 077 & 401 590) then 460 004 to Luzern. We were lucky that our plan saw the next two trains we were on were rostered for Re 6/6 haulage and 11611 produced to Arth Goldau for 11681 forward over the Gottard to Belinzona.

One hell of a journey - well recommended! Getting off at Belinzona it is surprising to find no French or German being spoken, we were now in the Italian speaking part of the country. Time for some spinning;

11602 to Biasca
460 076 back to Belinzona
11136 to Locarno....

...where I missed the dead connection and had 30 minutes fester for 11136 back to Bellinzona. Wez, not being bothered about the track scratching, had baled early and had got back to Bellinzona ahead of me. That was well planned as he had the job of buying the beer supply for the run back north to Arth Goldau.

I arrived on a +6 only to meet Wez who handed me some change and told me to go and buy a beer...he'd explain why once we got on the train.

11681 was our loco back northwards. The beer story went like this....Wez had bought the supplies, then managed to drop one which duly smashed on the floor. Shop Ada had gone ballistic and ejected him from the shop!

Unusual event of the week then happened - we stopped at a station (not booked) and sat for 10 minutes. Various announcements were made but nothing we could understand. As a result we missed the connection at Arth Goldau, being pointed at an EMU instead. No shop move time then on 11147 back to Luzern. We scored the Brünig back to Ringgenberg with 101 965, unfortunately in the dark so we would have to come back again to view the scenery between Luzern and Meiringen.

En-route home we got a text message from Chappy to say 101 963 was on the 21.35 from Interlaken of those I still needed. He also said he'd come out to Brienz and join us on the inbound working....

...well, Brienz came and went with no sign of Chappy. We were running a few minutes late but I risked the +5 at Interlaken Ost in order to get 101 963. I arrived on almost a dead connection and had to sprint through the subway. Got to the train at dead-on 21.35 but the gripper just laughed as the train was delayed waiting an incoming connection! Severl others from our group soon appeared off the late running train....but still no sign of Chappy. 101 963 to Rinngenberg then walked back to the chalet. No Chappy! Where had he gone?

About 45 minutes later he appeared, a strange time as there were no trains due at this time. He wasn't too happy....

....turns out he'd dozed off whilst heading for Brienz. Waking up and realising their train was a few minutes late he chose to bale at the station before Brienz (Brienz West, middle of nowhere) to be on the safe side. Only when he'd done this did he find out that the train we were on wasn't booked to stop at the station he'd baled at. A check of the timetable also revealed he'd just missed the last train to Ringgenberg/Interlaken! Taking the 21.35 to Brienz he then had to pay 68CHF (about £30) for a taxi back! Oops!!

Here are some photos of the third & fourth of days of this trip.

Thursday 28th February - Day 5

Day five of my travels and time to head off in a different direction - towards Geneva in the south-east of the country. 101 965 to Interlaken Ost for white worm 401 087/401 587 to Thun and a swift change to 460 082 to get us to Bern. First loco winner of the day was 460 051 and lots of new track was scooped en-route to Lausanne.

Time here for some very obscure loco bashing - a narrow-gauge rack railway, which links the lower and upper parts of the town, passes underneath the station. The trains on this line are loco hauled! 122 took us tothe top of the hill then 121 took us to the bottom and back to Gare CFF, all in under 30 minutes!

Time then to "fill in the blanks" and scratch in the route to Montreux, 11252 out for 11227 back to Lausanne, pleasing to get the track with a pair of winners! All new track again then, 11129 doing the honours to Geneva's main station, for 460 056 to Geneva Airport, end of the line.

Up to now the day had gone really well....but then we suffered dud 460 067 back to Geneva followed by a wait as 11129 re-appeared heading north! 460 021 however rolled in next and this was taken all the way to Biel - oodles of new track being caned-in in the process :-)

460 060 next, on a double-decker rake, for the relatively short journey to Bern, another circle of required track completed! With time to spare it was time for a bit of a spin, 11304 to Olten for 11194 back. 460 006 (again!) to Spiez, 460 032 back to Thun then 460 086, doubling back to Spiez (getting dizzy yet?). A dud end to the day, 460 037 followed by 101 962. Back to the apartment for a bite to eat and a beer or three...well, it was my birthday (or as near to as you can get anyway when it's not a Leap Year...)!

Friday 1st March - Day 6

Off to Luzern vai the Brunig in daylight - and well worth it it was too - absolutely superb scenery! Loco choices not much to write home about - 110 005 to Meiringen for 101 965 to Sachseln. We did see 101 967 at  Meiringen - the only serviceable one needed for haulage as 101 961 was "OOU" on the depot. Unfortunately 967 arrived from Luzern and promptly vanished into the shed at the adjacent depot...oh well!

At Sachseln we wandered into the yard to photograph 110 001 on the train for Luzern, only to be "accosted" by a truck driver who had managed to jack-knife his trailer attempting a tight turn. Myself and Wez ended up manhandling the trailer whilst he tried to re-couple it to the tractor unit. Once we achieved the mission we were free to get our photos.

A spin between Sachseln and Alpnachdorf secured 110 001 & 110 002 before 101 962 sped us to Luzern. Time to split up as I had to head to Zurich in readiness for my later flight home. 460 062 whisking me to Zurich Hbf. At this point sanity went out the window....

....Have you ever been to Zurich? If you have then you may well know that the Zurich S-Bahn services are in the hands of class 450 locos, hauling three double-deck coaches. The next 90 minutes were spent spinning wildly either side of Hbf....

450 101, 450 062, 450 105, 450 043, 450 088, 450 080, 450 093, 450 098, 450 091, 450 084, 450 001, 450 079, 450 086 all being scratched in before I hit a spate of dud ones coming the other way!

450 101, for a final spurt, 450 039, 450 109, 450 109 & 450 081.

At this point time was starting to run short, which was a shame as about this time the services start being doubled and tripled in length for the rush-hour - yes, up to three locos on each train! I saw a pair and leapt for it, not having time to get the locos. Got off at Hbf...only to find I'd managed to have 450 014 & 450 062...both dud from a couple of days previously!!

OK, time to give up.

460 069 to Zurich Flughafen for HB-III home - landing about 15 minutes early!

Here are some photos of the fifth & sixth of days of this trip.

What a superb six days away! Despite being "all electric" I can well recommend a trip out to Switzerland bashing...good trains, virtually always on time, and wicked scenery to enjoy too! I scored 92 locos in the six days - OK I could have easily broken 100,but I wanted to do some track bashing too, of which I did quite a lot!! If you haven't been yet - think about going...

Gary Thornton.

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