Plan B

[BLS, Brig, Bözberg, Birsfelden, Baumschulbahn, Brugg and a few other letters]

John Jesson. Pictures from Roger Ellis, Steve Tinsley, Boyd Misstear & John Jesson

In memory of the young man who lost his life in the rockfall near Gurtnellen.

The best-laid plans can go wrong. So it was for the little group that had planned to spend a couple of days on the Lötschberg north and south ramps, followed by 5 days on the Gotthard. As a result of the rock fall that blocked the Gotthard, the second part of the plan had to be re-calculated.

The first part went as planned, Roger leading a group on walks on both the North and South Ramps of the Loetschberg.

As can be seen, the weather was overcast for the Loetschberg walks. The Bietschtal bridge needs no introduction, while the Crossrail train is seen at Blausee-Mitholz.

The sun did appear, though, together with this interested spectator.

Being based at Erstfeld, we had ample opportunity to see how the SBB coped with bustitution during our travels. Really, they did well, although they had to be reminded that Erstfeld needs more than just an hourly S-Bahn service. Soon after the start of our stay, it was back to half-hourly, a connecting shuttle running between Flüelen and Erstfeld.  This was formed initially by a single RBe 4/4 railcar, but later was a 3-car NPZ.

On a wet Tuesday evening, the single-car shuttle from Flüelen arrives at Erstfeld.

A footpath climbs up alongside the tunnel mouths. From a little way up, there is this view of a trio of BLS 465s about to enter the tunnel.

The engineers train, with Sersa, ex-DB V100, “Grettli 2” has just emerged from the closed northbound bore with a couple of mobile cement mixers and is waiting to cross into the yard.

A bit further up the path, it is possible to get a view from almost directly above the northbound tunnel mouth. Unfortunately, tree branches tend to get in the way.

A 610 unit is featured here with part of the town of Brig in the background, while there was almost constant shunting going on, performed mainly by a Cargo 843, but with assistance from an engineers machine and a couple of BLS Re 4/4s. Note the track on the right that seems to disappear downwards. It does, joining the MGB track to give standard-gauge access to a factory a short distance away.

A westbound IR approaches the tunnel from the Brugg direction.

After leaving Schinznach, we drove to the other end of the Bözberg tunnel and the former station of Effingen. From the rising path near the tunnel mouth there is a view over the whole station, showing part of the “S” curve.                                                                 

……a short engineers train in one of the sidings (the loco was refuelled while we were there) and a trailer for livestock.  Could it possibly be for pigs?

On Friday we split up. One to continue his holiday elsewhere, two to the Verkehrshaus and three to Basel. Of the Basel trio, one raided the model shops while the other two went to Birsfelden, one of the Basel harbours.

Shunting was being done by Bm 4/4’s.

Saturday was about the only day when “B” did not appear in the activities. By now down to four, two went to Gelterkinden to pursue the purchase of some N-scale Swiss signals followed by a lineside session, while the remaining pair took advantage of glorious weather to visit the reservoir at Ritom. Two of the freights seen passing Gelterkinden after an expensive model shop experience.

(We are working on some technical trickery that automatically edits this sentence in the interests of domestic harmony.)

However, the station yard at Göschenen was never designed to cope with 7+ buses at one time, so got a bit crowded. MGB trains were using track 13 to allow free passage between the buses  

and the SBB and, most of the time, transferring passengers crossed the tracks to get to and from the island platform, rather than having to use the subway.

A somewhat busy station yard at Göschenen on Wednesday morning. Our train to Brig waits in Track 13 and orange-jacketed staff are on hand to guide passengers.

So, how did a half-dozen delinquents and layabouts – sorry, fine upstanding members of the SRS – pass the time. Obviously, a Plan “B” was needed and, by coincidence, the letter “B” featured prominently. This started with a trip to Brig and, more specifically, the north entrance of the Simplon tunnel, which is an easy 1km walk from Brig station, suggested by Boyd.

The new access to Brig for the MGB is difficult to photograph, although there are periodic holes in the fence where fire hydrants are located. However, it is just possible to get a head-on shot where the line dives under the SBB lines.

On the way back, we passed several Glacier Expresses, including the set containing the old, blue, “Gourmino” restaurant car.

We then moved on to Schinznach Dorf station, at the eastern end of the Bözberg tunnel, which produced another Ae 6/6, bereft of Swiss crest and front number plate. The station building has gone, but the goods shed remains (as a bar) and still boasts the enamelled station name sign. A restaurant close by appeared to have a narrow-gauge railway that was called the BEB and looked to be about 800mm gauge.

Another Ae 6/6 completed the trio of liveries, this one on an eastbound engineers train.

A pair of BLS class 485s head south into the

Simplon tunnel. This train had presumably come over the old Lötschberg route, as the banker, a 465, was still attached.

The same ground-level viewpoint produced a pair of grubby Crossrail 485s and, several times, a rather cleaner 11112  on the Brig – Iselle car shuttle.

Thursday was Bözberg day with the minibus, ably driven by Herbie, who is now firmly convinced we are a bunch of nutters. The Bözberg is the area between Frick and Brugg – there are no stations left open as the communities are far better served by bus and the main road is some distance from the railway, which runs through wooded hillsides and the 2,5km Bözberg tunnel. It is an area where road transport is essential.

First port of call (after dropping in at the Victorinox factory in Schwyz) was close to the former station of Villnachern. Engineering work was taking place on one line, so everything was over one line, some using the crossover. During our sojourn here, three consecutive loco-hauled trains were hauled by green locos, one each Ae 6/6, Re 6/6 and Re 4/4 (albeit with an ICN between two of them). What are the chances of this happening, I wonder?

This is a busy freight route, so there were several more freights. Here, an Re 4/4 on a loaded car train.  

This freight had the interesting combination of one BLS and one HGK 485.

A few odds and ends from Effingen: the old notice between the tracks……

……semaphore signals in the garden of a house,

                                     a bear carved out of a tree trunk……

To get to Ritom involves a bus from Airolo to Piotta (not Piotta Nord, as the SBB timetable would have us believe) then the single-car funicular alongside the old water pipes. The funicular gives great views along the valley and, as can be seen by the view from the top station, is by no means a constant gradient.

A view of Ambri from the funicular. The large building is the ice hockey stadium. Passing through the former station is one of the ersatz IC services – a set of EW-II’s with an Re 4/4 at each end.

It is a 25-minute walk from the top station to the dam with a strange sight on the way (I did not know that the “Society of British Bedstead Men” operated in Switzerland – with apologies to Flanders & Swann), then another 1¼ hrs to Cadagno di fuori. This small summer community is accessible by road and has a café and, horror of horrors, a parking meter!

The Ritom lake as seen from the dam end and the Cadagno end.

Our final day, Sunday, the remaining three stalwarts managed a double “B”. First was a visit to the Schinznacher Baumschulbahn but, when changing from train to bus at Brugg, a plume of smoke was seen. Investigation revealed that Brugg depot was having an open day, so that was our afternoon “B” (to replace the siesta). At the Baumschulbahn, our loco was German Feldbahn 0-8-0T “Taxus”.

It was good to see that the little 0-4-0T “Molli”, that used to grace the platform at Turgi, has been rescued and is now painted light brown. The SchBB Garrett is behind.

“Taxus” brews up outside the workshop...

…and awaits departure with the first of the days trains.

The  600mm gauge  line runs through the grounds of a huge garden centre, crossing over itself a couple of times, running  through  one  of  the greenhouses  and taking nearly 25 mins for the journey.

Back at Brugg, we joined the half-hourly steam shuttle between the station and depot. This was worked by SLM No.1 with a single EW-I, restored by Club 1244, the group that owns SNCF 141 R 1244. Also running trips between the depot and station (although not using the station platform) was ex-Uetlibergbahn No.3, a steam railcar with vertical boiler

SLM No.1 waits to leave with another trip to the depot, while this loco and the UeBB railcar are seen side-by-side.

              In the depot, Eb 3/5 5819….  ….and “Limmat” & B 3/4 1367.

There was quite a lot in the depot including most of SBB Historics steam fleet, a fair number of which were in steam. As well as the station shuttles, there were steam-worked trips from Brugg to Othmarsingen, on which the A 3/5 705 was being used. Other locos included a couple of older electrics (Ae 4/7 & Ae 3/6I) and the SNCF Mikado.

During the afternoon, the steam railcar had been turned and had picked up a K2 van.

In the roundhouse was Eb 3/5 5811 undergoing restoration and several stalls selling photographs, memorabilia and so on. One stall took this a stage further by dressing in period costumes and posed for us with 5811 as a backdrop.

Of course, and very importantly, refreshments were available.

One of the oil lamps on the railcar with reflections in the highly polished paintwork.

The S12 service from Brugg to Seuzach was in the hands of the new Stadler 511 units and it was noticed that the destination display might not appear on a photograph. This time, it did.

Finally, this sign was chalked up in the workshop of the Schinznacher Baumschulbahn. In English?!

All-in-all, Plan “B” was a success, but the call of the Gotthard will probably mean another visit in August.