Swiss Holiday 2015

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Another mountain railway beckoned us to visit on Thursday 11st June, so making our way via Bern (where two other Society members joined us, as part of their separate tour round Switzerland) to Luzern (460107 in command), where we changed onto ZB unit 130008 for the run to Alpnachstad, where we were to visit the Pilatus Bahn.

Having made introductions we were taken up the long winding and fairly steep path to the Pilatus Bahn workshops for a visit prior to ascending the mountain. We were guided round by Stefan who, amongst other things explained the unique nature of the PB’s rack system. The railway runs pretty close to the edge of the cliffs as it proceeds up the mountain at an average 35% incline (occasionally 48%), and as such it is the steepest rack railway in the world. The more conventional Riggenbach rack system was considered to be not up to handling trains climbing at such a steep rate, so Eduard Locher devised a system with the horizontal cogs engaging the rack on either side of twin rack rails. The added benefit of side rack is also that it prevents the carriages from toppling over, "when our guests from the land of the rising sun swap from one side of the carriage to the other to take photos", as Stefan succinctly put it!

Anyway back down the path to the station and we were invited to board unit 30 for the run up to Pilatus Kulm. This unit is one of the newer breed and has some driving controls in different places to the older variety. Our driver, Martin, on discovering we were from England, mentioned that he had taken a holiday in our home country recently and had visited a number of our heritage railways, including the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. The trains ascend and descend the mountain in waves of up to 5 units, the last carrying a green tablet in the driver’s window to indicate to the staff, and other drivers, on the line that it is the final unit of the group.

There is a midway point, at Amsigen, where units cross so the ascending units got there first, and cosied up to one another, to await the passage of the descending units. Once the ‘green tablet’ unit had cleared we got permission to proceed to the top. We came more or less straight back down again.

Making our way back to Luzern we continued to Gös chenen, with Re 4/4 11164 on the front. It was lovely to get a bit of what is rapidly becoming rare Re haulage. From Göschenen we made our way to Andermatt and then on to Brig. Steve had spotted an opportunity to ride from there to Speiz on the old road, rather than via the base tunnel. Not before we had dined at the Hotel Victoria in Brig though. A big surprise for our next move to Bern was to find brand new (straight out of the box) Inter City ‘Duck Billed Platypus’ 503 015 working an IR service. Well, it would have been rude not to travel on it, so we duly took our seats. 460082 then returned us to Fribourg.

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PB 22 Alpnachstad 11Jun15 Richard Morris
  Pilatus Bahn 22 stabled at Alpnachstad Pilatus Bahn station awaiting its next duty. This car was built in 1937. Photograph taken at 09:58 on Thursday 11th June. Richard Morris

PB 31 Aemsigen 11Jun15 Richard Morris
  Pilatus Bahn 31 arriving at the mid-station Aemsigen station. This freight car was built in 1954 and will spend the high summer as passenger car 29 when the bodies are swapped. Photograph taken at 11:14 on Thursday 11th June. Richard Morris

last updated: 06/11/15