Switzerland Railway April 2013
As we’d enjoyed our trip to Switzerland so much in January a quick return offered itself up as a trip away for my girlfriend’s birthday. Having planned it quite well to get between the places we’d visit there were some cracking opportunities to get some Re420’s in, among other stuff.
As our journey from Doncaster to Montreux was throughout by train in January, and it didn’t go too well, this time we opted to fly to Zurich with Swiss Air, and a far better option it was.
Our 8 day Swiss Passes were booked through Switzerland Travel Center (STC), only 3 weeks before we went, via their website, and the tickets arrived in the post 2 days later.
All our hotels were booked through Booking.com before we went. I did have to do quite a bit of hunting about though, especially in Zurich as the prices were way too high; this ultimately resulted in us spending a couple of nights in Neuhausen instead, which really wasn’t an issue.
All booked up and ready to go, all we had to do was get ourselves there……..
Wednesday 24th April 2013
Having spent the night at the Heathrow Ibis Hotel we had a leisurely enough morning before our 1150 flight to Zurich; which I’d already checked in online for and printed the boarding passes. The flight was fine and on time into Zurich, despite a 30 minute delay ex Heathrow.
Zurich Airport was a breeze and we were soon heading out of it and down to Zurich Airport station. Although we were staying in Neuhausen the plan was to cover both the rush hour Re420 pair turns ex Basel (1647 & 1747 Basel – Chur). The bonus was we were earlier that expected into Zurich HB and made the 1500 non-stop to Basel, unfortunately there was no bonus Re420 vice Re460 on the train.
The run across to Basel was pleasant, the train was empty towards the front and the weather was nice outside too. There was plenty to see en-route with the various yards/depots, especially outside Zurich where Re420s were scattered about everywhere and along the route Cargo ones were stood with trains in various places. At Sissach two Ae 4/7’s are visible in a siding near the station, No’s 10943/10948. As we approached Basel, at Muttenz, there were two ex Austrian 2143’s visible on the Swietelsky shed, No’s 2143 014 & 025.
Having had a decent journey across to Basel and been hoarded up the narrow steps up from the platform, with the rest of the passengers off the train, we soon found ourselves heading back down the steps onto the same platform for IR 1785 1647 Basel – Chur, where Re420’s 11154/11200 had already backed onto the train. It was full by departure but as we only went to Liestal for the next Re460 back into Basel it was harmless enough for a rush hour train.
IR 1787 1747 Basel – Chur was already having the engines backed on by the time we got down onto the platform for it. Re420’s 11215/11125 having the honours. While photting those I found Re420 11135 waiting to depart with the 1729 commuter to Stein Sackingen, from the bay platform at the Zurich end of the station.
As we’d got down onto the platform in plenty of time we managed to get seats on board easily. Again the train was full on departure at 1747, but not standing. It emptied out en-route and we had plenty of space by the time it arrived into Zurich, having enjoyed the same scenery, yards, locos and weather on the way back to Zurich.
With only 13 minutes until our 1905 Zurich – Stuttgart to Schaffhausen we were soon ambling up the platform to wait for it when Re420 11130 arrived with the stock, which only had a booked 10 minute turnaround off IC 281 1556 Stuttgart – Zurich, and very efficient it was too. Cargo Re421 421392 was backing down in no time at all, the stock was cleaned and 11130 knocked off all in 6 minutes flat! As we departed an Re420 was visible, having backed onto IR 1787 1747 Basel – Chur replacing the pair we’d had in, unfortunately it was behind another train an I couldn’t see which one it was.
The run to Schaffhausen, via Rafz, is a nice run, or should that be amble? The Rhine Falls are clearly visible on the right hand side as the train curves round into Schaffhausen from Neuhausen; this would be taking up most of our morning the following morning and the water looked to be flowing well.
Our digs for the night, which is what they really turned out to be, were at the Edelweiss Hotel back in Neuhausen, where we arrived off an EMU and made the short walk to the hotel in a few minutes. It turned out that there was actually nobody else staying at the hotel at all, which was good for us, what wasn’t though was the fact that nobody spoke any English. Thankfully my limited German got us checked in and sorted for the night, including a time for breakfast the following morning. Although the Edelweiss (no website, all bookings through booking sites) was a hotel it had more of a budget type vibe about it even if the price tag for the night didn’t! Still it had a decent room with en-suite, heating and a large bed. Unfortunately though the heating made quite a noise, all night.
Gen for Wednesday 24th April 2013
11130 IC281 1556 Stuttgart – Zurich HB
11135 17029 1729 Basel – Stein Sackingen
11154/200 IR1785 1647 Basel – Chur (to Zurich HB)
11215/125 IR1787 1747 Basel – Chur (to Zurich HB – was Re420 fwd)
421392 IC180 1905 Zurich HB – Stuttgart
460074 IR2128 1403 Konstanz – Biel
460083 IR1780 1416 Chur – Basel (from Zurich HB)
460116 IC578 1409 Chur – Basel (from Zurich HB)
Thursday 25th April 2013
After a typical European breakfast, served by someone different who also didn’t speak English at all, we walked the short distance to the Rhine Falls. It was a clear morning but quite cool when out of the reach of the rising sun.
The Rhine Falls can be heard before they’re seen, the thundering water drowning out anything else around with its constant rush over the falls. There’s a walkway all the way round the Neuhausen side of the falls and we managed to be early enough to walk most of the way round before the numerous buses turned up and spilled out their tourist occupants. Down at the bottom, directly opposite the Falls, there are plenty of restaurants and places to take a rest, the railway being directly above where we’d admired the Falls from the previous night as we’d arrived.
We ended up at Schloss Laufen having walked all the way back round the falls and over the railway bridge which takes trains to Zurich via Winterthur. Laufen is the prominent castle above the falls, which has a viewing platform looking down over the falls. We’d intended to have a look at it but decided not to when we got to a gate that required a ticket to get through it. Tickets cost CH5 but we didn’t have the time nor the inclination to pay to be honest and relaxed on the platform at Schloss Laufen am Reinfall station with a very, very, overpriced cold pop to cool us down after the morning walk……….
After the EMU back to Schaffhausen and a quick stroll round the old town our conveyance into Zurich was Re420 11147 on IC183 0956 Stuttgart – Zurich, which had Cargo Re421 421394 back on immediately after arrival to work IC186 1305 Zurich – Stuttgart back to Singen.
Our early afternoon move consisted of a quick out and back to Zurich Airport on EC195 1316 Zurich HB – Munich, which stops to pick up only at the Airport, with Cargo Re421 421379 out and a dud Re460 460096 back. Then we opted for lunch at one of the restaurants on the station.
Round the edges of the massive station hall that Zurich HB has are plenty of places to eat and our afternoon Italian was very good indeed and set us up nicely before a quick walk outside the station to see what Zurich had to offer, where there are trams everywhere, heading in all directions. As the sun was still our and it was nice and warm it was quite a nice stroll.
Then came the afternoon rush with an out and back to Lenzburg on the Basel line, 11130 for 11204 on the plus two, which made easily and is cross platform too so no steps to contend with. Then came a very neddish leap on one of the evening T&T Re420 sets from Zurich HB Low Level, all the way to Stadelhofen, mainly to prevent an earlier than needed start ex Schaffhausen the following morning. 420221/209 had the honours on 19163 1600 Hardbrucke – Schaffhausen.
Having arrived back into the low level courtesy of a pair of Re450 sets we a bit more of an amble round outside the station before being subjected to something that doesn’t happen often and which completely ruined the evening bash, a late departing train from Zurich HB! We were aboard 19070 1740 Zurich HB – Muri, another of the Re420 T&T sets in the rush hour, with 420213/203, and ready to depart on time when over the public address came some announcing, in German of course, none of which I understood. We eventually departed 15 late which meant we missed the 1749 S-bahn back to Hardbrucke for what would have been the third T&T Re420 set that rush hour. Thankfully, and more by luck than judgement, we took the right exit on the low level back at Zurich HB that brought us back up to the main platforms near the blocks and we made EC197 1816 Zurich – Munich with Cargo Re421 421371 out to the Airport. We were gripped on this and even though again its pick-up only at the Airport the gripper wasn’t bothered at all when we told him where we were going on our Swiss Passes.
Back at the Hauptbahnhof again we were straight onto IC180 1905 Zurich – Stuttgart with our 3rd Cargo Re421 of the day, 421394, back to Schaffhausen for an EMU back to Neuhausen and then a good evening meal at one of the restaurants on the main street in town, where we’d been the previous night as well.
We weren’t alone in the Edelweiss that night and there were only two other rooms occupied. I was quite amazed that I’d managed to arrange an early breakfast at 0645 the following morning, all in German, before we retired for the night. This time the heating was turned off but it didn’t make much of a difference as the water pipes for the system must have been in the wall of our room…….
Gen for Thursday 25th April 2013
11118 IC786 1616 Chur – Basel (from Zurich HB)
11130 IR1778 1508 Zurich HB – Basel, (then in multi with 11212) IR1787 1747 Basel – Chur (to Zurich HB)
11147 IC183 0956 Stuttgart – Zurich HB, IC281 1556 Stuttgart – Zurich HB
11149 IR1779 1347 Basel – Zurich HB
11157 IR1773 1147 Basel – Zurich HB, IC774 1400 Zurich HB – Basel
11204 IR1774 1308 Zurich HB – Basel, IR1781 1447 Basel – Chur (to Zurich HB)
11210 IR1786 1716 Chur – Basel (from Zurich HB)
11212(&130) IR1787 1747 Basel – Chur (to Zurich HB)
420221/209 19163 1600 Hardbruke – Schaffhausen
420213/203 19070 1740 Zurich HB – Muri
421371 EC197 1816 Zurich HB – Munich
421379 EC195 1316 Zurich HB – Munich
421392 IC280 1105 Zurich HB – Stuttgart
421394 IC181 0758 Stuttgart – Zurich HB, IC186 1305 Zurich HB – Stuttgart, IC180 1905 Zurich HB – Stuttgart
460040 IC838 1741 Romanshorn – Brig
460096 IC826 1241 Romanshorn – Brig
460102 IR2568 1005 Zurich HB – Schaffhausen, IR2571 1118 Schaffhausen – Zurich HB
Friday 26th April 2013
Breakfast was a quick affair and so was working it off! 25 minutes before our train was due away from Neuhausen, with a 10 minute walk to the station, the woman serving breakfast managed to get across to me that they only accepted payment in cash, which was not what I needed to hear as I didn’t have enough on me. The result being a mad dash to the nearest cash machine, which I managed to make a longer journey than I needed to by not taking the quickest route; my poor body didn’t know what had hit it when made it back to the hotel. Whilst I did figure out later from my Booking.com confirmation that the hotel did indeed only accept payment in cash I made sure my displeasure was put across while I was trying to pay and gather my breath at the same time! Thankfully the walk to the station was downhill…..
19126 0731 Schaffhausen – Zurich Altstetten rolled in on time with T&T Re420’s 420227/205, the diagrams seemingly having worked. The set we’d missed the previous night should have worked the 0631 Schaffhausen – Altstetten; of course I can’t confirm if indeed that had been 420205/227 and the turns swapped at Schaffhausen as we hadn’t seen them. All the local T&T 420 sets run via Winterthur so there was a change of scenery as we headed over the bridge, that we’d walked over the previous day, at the Falls and beneath Laufen Castle en-route.
Despite the early start on my girlfriend’s birthday (which she did forgive me for) we were in for a pleasant enough day as we made our way down to southern Switzerland and the Italian speaking area of Bellinzona, via Basel, Luzern and the Gotthard Pass.
As we made the 0836 departure for Basel we opted to do that over the 0900, until I realised it was a dud Re420 in 11199 and we made it off just in time. The conductor on the platform asked if we’d got on the wrong train; of course we did……
IC968 produced new Re420 11140 with a coach that had opening windows right behind the loco, which had less than half a dozen folk in it for the non-stop run to Basel. Re420’s 11127/11116 were just dropping onto IR2169 1004 Basel – Luzern as we arrived; we were only at Basel for 11 minutes before we were Luzern bound.
Immediately outside Luzern station is plenty to keep anyone’s camera occupied, the lake, Kappelbrucke (old wooden bridge across the water) and just the general scene up and down the waterfront as well as the stunning mountain back-drop that Luzern has. And with the sun out what more could we ask for?
We watched Luzern pass us by from the waterside restaurant of the Hotel Des Alpes while enjoying a leisurely early lunch, where the taste of apple sauce mixed with a creamy pasta sauce came as a pleasant surprise.
We didn’t walk far after lunch, only really over the Kappelbrucke to admire its paintings, but we did soak up the treats that Luzern had to offer which even included two girls walking round the block in their underwear!!!! It must have been a bet as both had their faces covered by scarves and their two mates, holding their clothes, were giggling profusely as they watched them set off on their walk of embarrassment.
Our IR2173 1204 Basel – Locarno was worked into Luzern by Re420 11199, which we’d got off at Zurich earlier. 11116 then backed on for the run to Locarno; 11127, which it had arrived with, having departed back to Basel on IR2174 0945 Locarno – Basel which had arrived with 11212!
Unfortunately as we headed towards the Gotthard Pass and Arth Goldau the sun disappeared from the sky and was replaced by plenty of cloud, the air getting quite a bit cooler. The mountainous terrain en-route was soon visible in all directions, some snow capped, while the grass at the bottom was all studded with a typically Spring yellow flower.
At Arth Goldau Re420 11201 rolled in on the platform next to us with IR2418 1134 Romanshorn – Luzern; which was quite unexpected. Having let the ICN on the express overtake us we were soon on our way again, the mountains getting closer the nearer we got to Goschenen.
At Erstfeld there were all sorts of SBB Cargo locos scattered around, Re420’s, Re430’s, Re620’s and even a couple of Ae 6/6’s dumped on shed. The latter being 11488 in green livery and 610496 in Cargo livery. There was a line of locos in the station area – Re 6/6 11683, Re 4/4 II’s 11339 & 11340, Re 6/6 11676, Re 4/4 II 11327 & Re620 620045 and Re 4/4 III (Re430) 11369 was in the yard outside the station; little did we realize at that time that we’d see 11369 again very soon……….
We got off 11116 at Goschenen to do IR2275 1409 Zurich – Locarno forward an hour later, another Re420 turn. As luck had it there was a fill-in move available to Andermatt and back, which I’d been a bit skeptical about doing, but was so glad I did.
Little MGB Deh 4/4 #54 was sat hiding behind the station in the MGB platform and with only 3 minutes to make it we had to be quick but made it easily. The train was empty for the run to Andermatt which made it all the more enjoyable. It was only 4km and took 10 minutes but it was 10 minutes of not knowing which way to look. The train immediately attaches to a rack section just outside the station and climbs what looks an impossible gradient all the way up to Andermatt, twisting and turning, travelling through tunnels, under rock breaks and offering some excellent close-ups of the nearby mountains and the waterfalls running off them as the last of the Winter snow melts. Even though the sun wasn’t out and it was quite misty the whole journey was very atmospheric as a result; one I highly recommend, even if you don’t plan to use the MGB to get anywhere else.
At Andermatt we only had 25 minutes but it was a busy 25 minutes, trains arrived and departed in all directions with Andermatt being the meeting/connecting point. The line towards Disentis is another that climbs immediately after departing the station and the sight of a train immediately above the station, seemingly stuck to a hillside, is something to behold at any time. Watching it slither down the hillside, disappearing out of sight a few times as it did so just makes you realise how simple our railways are in the UK. Yes we have rack railway but this is electrified too, climbs up seemingly impossible terrain, and isn’t stopped by a few inches of snow. This runs when there are feet of snow on the ground!
While I was in awe of my surroundings, one thing of note did occur while we were at Andermatt. MGB’s little shunting device Tm 2/2 4972 shunted a coach (loaded with folk) off the rear of 843 1414 Disentis – Andermatt, which had just arrived and shunted it onto the 1512 Goschenen – Visp. Whether this is a regular occurrence or not I have no idea.
Deh 4/4 II #92 took us back down the hill to Goschenen, the weather having changed since our ascent, it now being even mistier and more mysterious that it had been on the way up. It was quite chilly too, with the windows open so I could take photos.
IR2275 was shown on the screens as being delayed when we arrived. We’d only been on a plus 6 and ended up stood in the cold on the deserted platform waiting. It was eventually shown as being 32 late, which at least allowed me to get some photos of the MGB trains arriving/departing Goschenen, in the rain! A bonus photo also offered itself up with Re420 11114 rolled in with IR2284 1445 Locarno – Zurich HB vice Re460. That little bonus actually being more of a bonus than I’d initially realised as if it should stick to diagram it would work the 1245 Locarno – Zurich the following day, which would be our train away from Bellinzona!
Whilst still revelling in the fact that 11114 could produce the following day I wasn’t quite understanding what I was looking at as Re 4/4 III (Re430) 11369 came bowling into the platform with our late IR2275 1409 Zurich – Locarno. It then sank in as we boarded that the train was late due to a loco failure en-route and 11369 had replaced whatever had failed; an Re430 being a bit of a major bonus as far as I was concerned. The conductor couldn’t apologise enough to us that the train was 30 late ex Goschenen. I did manage to get out of him that 11369 had indeed replaced whatever had failed at Erstfeld and he was soon announcing that the train would terminate at Bellinzona due to the late running and passengers for Locarno should change there for a connecting service. One thing the lateness did actually do was scupper my plan to do the 1710 Bellinzona – Chiasso commuter out and back with its Re420. I wasn’t that bothered though as it had been a long day and sat back to enjoy the stunning scenery that the Gotthard Pass had to offer with its twisting, turning, spiralling and the general confusion it offered when you realised you’d passed something 10 minutes previous, on the opposite side of the train or valley, then spent the next 5 minutes trying to figure out how you’d got there. Again the miserable weather made the journey quite atmospheric throughout to Bellinzona.
Luckily we didn’t have to walk too far at Bellinzona with the Hotel International being right across the road from the station entrance. The crew seemed in no rush to run 11369 round and once I got my photos I wasn’t in a hanging around in the rain mood so didn’t stay to see if it actually went back or not.
The Hotel International was very nice, modern, clean and well kept as you’d expect from a hotel of its type; a world apart from the Edelweiss in Neuhausen. It had a good restaurant too, which was used by non-guests as well as guests and seemed quite popular.
We made ourselves at home before having a brief walk round town to get our bearings, all three of Bellinzona’s castles (Castelgrande, Montebello & Sasso Corbaro) were perched above the town shrouded in the cloud that was passing through the valley and being drenched by the pouring rain. They’d be our challenge for the following morning, well maybe not all of them eh?
Gen for Friday 26th April 2013
11114 IR2284 1445 Locarno – Zurich HB (Vice Re460)
11116(+127) IR2169 1004 Basel – Locarno (to Luzern), then on its own IR2173 1204 Basel – Locarno (from Luzern – 11199 to Luzern)
11127(+116) IR2169 1004 Basel – Locarno (to Luzern), then on its own IR2174 0945 Locarno – Basel (from Luzern – 11212 to Luzern)
11140 IC768 0713 Chur – Basel (from Zurich HB)
11149 IR1969 1013 Basel – Zurich HB
11157 IC479 ???? Amsterdam – Zurich HB (from Basel)
11199 IR1962 0836 Zurich HB – Basel, IR2173 1204 Basel – Locarno (to Luzern – 11116 forward)
11201 IR2418 1134 Romanshorn – Luzern (at Arth Goldau)
11204 IC282 0905 Zurich HB – Stuttgart
11212 IR2174 0945 Locarno – Basel (to Luzern – 11127 forward)
11369 (Cargo)IR2275 1409 Zurich HB – Locarno
(Replaced failed Re420 at Erstfeld – train caped Bellinzona due 32 late arrival)
420227/205 19126 0731 Schaffhausen – Altstetten
421379 EC193 0916 Zurich HB – Munich
421394 IR2565 0818 Schaffhausen – Zurich HB
460095 IR2340 1310 Luzern – Zurich Flughafen
22 – 1527 Andermatt – Disentis
52 – 1448 Andermatt – Goschenen, 1512 Goschenen – Visp
54 – 1453 Goschenen – Andermatt, 1548 Andermatt – Goschenen, 1612 Goschenen – Viisp
92 – 1308 Visp – Goschenen, 1553 Goschenen – Andermatt
101 – 1414 Disentis – Andermatt
101961 – IR3672 1306 Luzern – Engelberg
101965 – IR2219 1104 Interlaken – Luzern
101968 – IR2226 1355 Luzern – Interlaken
EMU – IR2224 1255 Luzern – Interlaken
Saturday 27th April 2013
Before breakfast I had a quick trip to Locarno on my own. Having missed Chiasso the previous night I really wanted to get Locarno in and what better style to do it in than on the 0818 Bellinzona – Locarno with T&T Re420’s, 11121 leading and 11301 on the rear.
The railway runs right beneath the foundations of the Montebello Castle as it leaves Bellinzona heading towards the Swiss/Italian border. Upon arrival at Locarno 11121 was detached and 11301 worked back with IR2272 0845 Locarno – Zurich, departing 3 minutes after the train had arrived on the inbound. The grippers on the return didn’t quite know what to make of the fact that I was sat in the front coach on the return, as I had been on the outward, and didn’t even bother to ask for a ticket.
After breakfast it soon became apparent that whatever we did that morning we were going to end up soaked by the pouring rain. Bellinzona has so much to offer and we probably didn’t have enough time to do it all but we were going to have a go.
The three Castles of Bellinzona are well worth a look, even if it is miserable, chucking it down with rain and very steep climb up to two of them! We only managed Castelgrande & Montebello. Sasso Corado is a bit too high up the hillside for the likes of me to be climibing up to; we left that to the more hard core walkers……
As luck didn’t have it, by the time we got back down to street level the rain had stopped and it had actually brightened up; just in time for us to take shelter for lunch and leave Bellinzona behind!
We were Brig bound after lunch on IR2280 1245 Locarno – Zurich, something else that luck didn’t bring us that day; it was Re460 460016 and not Re420 11114 as we’d hoped, having seen it on the previous day’s diagram vice Re460 at Goschenen. Still it got us to Goschenen and we made our plus 4 onto the 1412 Goschenen – Visp with MGB Deh 4/4 #52 which we did all the way to Brig Bahnhof Platz. The weather was slightly better for the climb up to Andermatt but still dull. The run forward to Brig was nowhere near as nice as the same journey had been in January when the Winter snow had blanketed the whole area but it was relaxing all the same.
With only 11 minutes at Brig I was surprised when the doors on the train were opened on the non-platform side, as well as the platform side, at Brig Bahnhof Platz. The station is basically in the street right outside the front of Brig SBB station so the doors opening on both sides certainly aid a quicker exit towards the main station.
Before heading off to our hotel we did a quick trip to Domodossola, Italy, and back. As SBB run the trains from the Swiss side across into Italy the Swiss passes are valid to Domodossola and are then valid directly across to Locarno also. The only reason we’d not come that way to get to Brig was due to the fact that it would have been EMU’s from Locarno to Domodossola.
Re420 11302 worked our train out and back on a push-pull set. As the weather had taken a turn for the worse again it was actually quite cold on the old stock, the windows were all misted up and the fact that the first 20km into Italy were in a tunnel gave it a more Wintery feel. The fascinating part about the journey is the fact that the train does a spiral in the tunnel, which of course you can’t actually comprehend but you do get the sensation that you’re constantly turning in one direction.
It was still raining in Italy and just as miserable as in Switzerland. The tell-tale signs of the fact that we were in Italy were visible enough, mainly as most of the trains/locos were graffiti’d. The only loco with a train was Tren Italia’s 464236 with the 1810 for Milan Garibaldi but 632028 & 656435 were stabled in bay at the Milan end of the station.
En-route back to Brig we spotted Re420 11130 at Iselle with its Auto train, having arrived with the 1713 from Brig. It was still hammering down when we set off on our short walk to the Hotel Good Night Inn and we got drenched for the second time that day!
The hotels’s reception was a very welcome sight, and we were checked in within moments, having paid up front. It was quite busy with guests and it soon became evident that virtually everyone there was part of one tour party or another, the majority of whom were going to Gornergrat the following day according to the itineraries up on the hotel notice boards. The 5th floor room had an excellent view down the valley, and it was spacious with a massive flat screen TV. All in all a good choice for two nights.
As the hotel’s restaurant was only open at weekends to cater for the tour groups we ended up walking as short a distance as we could to a decent Italian restaurant in the main square. There are plenty of eateries to choose from, all in close proximity.
Gen for Saturday 27th April 2013
11121(+301) IR2155 0818 Bellinzona – Locarno (T&T Lead Loco)
11122 Spare at Bellinzona
11124 Spare at Bellinzona attached to a set
11130 27979 1713 Brig – Iselle
11192 Spare at Bellinzona attached to a set
11210 IR2267 1009 Zurich HB – Locarno
11301(+121) IR2155 0818 Bellinzona – Locarno (T&T – Tail loco), then on its own IR2272 0845 Locarno – Zurich HB
11302 2831 1648 Brig – Domodossola, 2828 1748 Domodossola – Brig
460016 IR2280 1245 Locarno – Zurich HB (by diagram from previous day should have been 11114)
464236 20241 1810 Domodossola – Milan Garibaldi (Tren Itialia in Italy)
51 – 1508 Visp – Goschenen
52 – 1208 Visp – Goschenen
53 – 1314 Disentis – Andermatt, 1527 Andermatt – Disentis
54 – 1412 Goschenen – Visp
107 – 1608 Visp – Disentis
Sunday 28th April 2013
By the time we left the massive breakfast hall in the basement of the hotel we’d been the last in there, al the tour groups having done and gone. In fact some were on a bus outside as we set off on our walk to the station. We had a big decision to make; did we or didn’t we go to Gornergrat? Whilst it wasn’t raining it was overcast and it was quite a costly day out to get from Zermatt to Gornergrat on Gornergratbahn. We decided to make a decision at Zermatt based on the weather when we got there.
As there are no current diagrams for MGB posted anywhere I used the most recent 2012 ones as a guide to try and do a hauled train to Zermatt, and they came up trumps. HGe4/4 #3 was sat at Brig with the stock for the 0952 Brig – Zermatt, which we boarded at Visp after doing Deh 4/4 #52 in front on the 0737 Andermatt – Visp.
The run down to Zermatt follows the bottom of the valley all the way from Visp and there are various rack sections during the run, both up and down hill, with plenty to draw you from one side of the train to the other during the journey. The weather didn’t improve much but by the time we’d got to Zermatt we’d made the decision to just go for it and made a bee line for the adjacent Gornergrat Bahn station to make sure we got a seat on the right hand side of the 1136 train for the journey up to Gornergrat.
While waiting in the queue to buy our tickets our minds were put a bit at ease when we saw a big TV with a live feed to the Gornergrat observatory which had a panoramic webcam beaming back constant pictures. As we’d possibly suspected, even though it was cloudy, the cloud was broken higher up and the sun was actually shining through the gaps. Paying CH37 each for two tickets suddenly became a lot easier on the mind. That price was half price with the Swiss Passes; it’s CH74 per person for a return without!
We got our seats on the right hand side of the train, which was worked by GGB’s Bhe 4/8 EMU’s 3051/3053, and departed bang on time, immediately after a rotary snow plough arrived and shunted onto shed, covered in snow.
The 10km run takes just over 30 minutes to reach Gornergrat. The initial climb from Zermatt gives excellent views over the town as the line snakes its way up into the heavens. Once above the tree line and away from Zermatt evidence of snowfall begins to appear and before you know it you’re surrounded in a Winter Wonderland. The sun was shining through the clouds and the reflection off the snow was that bad that I had to dig my sunglasses out of the bottom of the bag. Once I could see again though I was in awe of my surroundings; not knowing which way to point the camera.
Once at the top it was clear that fresh snow had fallen overnight as the pathways had just been cleared by a JCB, which was finishing off as we alighted the train, by chucking snow over the edge of the walls down into the valley below! It was only waist deep though……
The viewing platforms allow for views in every direction, the cloud blanket and sun shining through it making the whole experience more than worth the effort. I was so glad we’d made the trip and not based our decision solely on the weather at the bottom of the world. Due to the cloud cover the one thing that everyone wants to see was hiding well and truly behind a blanket of cloud; The Matterhorn itself. It didn’t matter though and we both thoroughly enjoyed our time in the sky.
Within the confines of the building that houses the observatory is a restaurant and a couple of shops. Despite its altitude the food costs no more than it would down in Zermatt and is all freshly made upon order.
Our journey back down to Zermatt was on the 1331 departure, this time with BHe 4/8’s 3054/3052. The service is limited during the off-season and trains are less frequent. As we departed the cloud cover seemed to be thickening, obscuring more of the view as it did so. The webcam in Zermatt showed it to be a bit of a wash-out when we got back down, which really would be a shame for those arriving any time after we’d departed. It had also started to snow, which probably hadn’t helped visibility either.
Back in the real world my 2012 MGB diagrams told me that the 1539 Zermatt – Brig should be the same engine we’d had down so we were aiming for that. There wasn’t any bonus hauled train out before it either, despite HGe4/4’s #2 & #4 both being in Zermatt station. While #2 was in the platform allocated to the 1613 to Visp, the platform #4 was sat in didn’t have anything allocated to it so after a quick walk round town we treat ourselves to a nice warm drink in the station buffet to await #3’s arrival and in true Swiss style it did stick to the diagram.
After a couple of spin moves on the Visp – Brig section it was still pleasant enough, i.e. not raining, for a walk round town and up to the Stockalper Schloss, which is worth a look round. Then we tried out a restaurant that the hotel receptionist had suggested to us the previous night called Channa, on Furkastrasse just off the main square. The food was great, the surroundings nice and the menu was in English as well, which is always a bonus.
Gen for Sunday 28th April 2013
2 – 1613 Zermatt – Visp, ecs to Brig, 1752 Brig – Zermatt
3 – 0952 Brig – Zermatt, 1139 Zermatt – Brig, 1352 Brig – Zermatt, 1539 Zermatt – Brig
5 – 0939 Zermatt – Brig, 1552 Brig – Zermatt
23 – 1213 Zermatt – Visp
51 – 1512 Goschenen – Visp
52 – 0737 Andermatt – Visp, 1008 Visp – Goschenen, 1708 Visp – Goschenen
91 – 0908 Visp – Goschenen
102 – 0952 Zermatt – St Moritz (Glacier Exp)
106 – 0902 St Moritz – Zermatt (Glacier Exp)
1xx – 1113 Zermatt – Visp
EMU’s on 1039 Zermatt – Brig, 1452 Brig – Zermatt & 1639 Zermatt – Brig
3051/3053 – 1136 Zermatt – Gornergrat, 1219 Gornergrat – Zermatt
3054/3052 – 1224 Zermatt – Gornergrat, 1331 Gornergrat – Zermatt
460084 IR1725 1524 Geneva Airport – Brig
460112 IR1723 1424 Geneva Airport – Brig
Monday 29th April 2013
A change of location to Neuchatel, in the French speaking area of Switzerland, en-route back towards Geneva the following day for our flight home. Firstly we covered the 0828 Brig – Geneva Aiport, booked an Re420 on a Monday only, and it duly produced 11198. We could only do it to Visp for Re460 460088 forward to Spiez, behind it. Another journey spent mostly inside a tunnel as the train climbed towards Spiez, emerging a lot higher up than it had been down in Brig.
A quick out and back on the BLS Re425 turns was in the offering at Spiez; 169 working RE3115 0908 Interlaken – Zweisimmen and dumping us at Erlenbach im Simmental for the short wait to do RE3114 0938 Zweisimmen – Spiez back before continuing on towards Neuchatel.
Bowled! I hadn’t quite been expecting a 565 class EMU to arrive with RE3114, but it did, and on we got; me spending most of the short journey back trying to figure out quite why we’d been bowled.
The idea of heading straight for Neuchatel was so we could check into our hotel and dump the big bags before returning to Thun to have a scan round; Schloss Thun being the main reason. We did stop off at Thun en-route to Bern and managed to find the castle during the 20 minutes we had, although it wasn’t hard to spot with its turrets standing out above the town.
Bern station is a bit like Birmingham New Street, just with it’s concourse below the platform level instead of above it, and the platforms are more open so you can see across the whole station. The 1153 to Neuchatel produced a BLS Re420, 420502, as expected. The run was fast and the train empty. Upon arrival at Neuchatel we had an hour to get to our hotel and back for the 1333 back to Bern, which should be the Re420 on the other Bern – Neuchatel turn that day.
Neuchatel station is at the top of a hill, the main town being immediately below, by the lake. Of course our hotel was down at lake level, even though it wasn’t much more that about 500m from the station it took 10 minutes to amble down the steep hill to the main road. There is a transporter that runs from the station to the University, below ground, costing CH2.70 per journey if you prefer not to walk.
The Hotel Des Arts allowed us to check in at 1245, over an hour early, our room luckily being available. We didn’t hang around long but long enough to figure out the room was modern, spotless and well equipped with free WiFi included.
The walk back up the hill to the station was a bit harder on the heels than the walk down it but it still only took about 15 minutes to get there. BLS Re420, 420505 was our conveyance back to Bern on the 1333 Neuchatel – Bern, where we managed to make a late running Romanshorn – Brig forward to Thun for a much needed lunch. There are plenty of options for lunch in Thun and we opted for Italian at the Restaurant Primavera overlooking the old wooden bridge over the water outside.
It seemed that the off-season was the time to do maintenance on anything that was worth photographing in most cities. Bern had scaffolding round its main steeple, visible from the train as we’d arrived, and Thun was no exception with scaffolding round part of the castle’s turrets and a massive great crane sticking out above it; which just didn’t complement its look at all.
A walk round town and even up the steps towards the Castle offered plenty of different views of it and eventually we managed to find a point when the crane turned enough to allow a clear photo of the Castle without it spoiling the shot.
After a rather pleasant sit down to admire Thun passing by and the glacial blue water passing through it we returned to Bern, via Spiez! Spiez did offer one sight, if no new engines, BLS Re425’s 183/180 multi’d with Re465’s 465012/009 on a freight, which departed shortly after we’d arrived.
The idea of being in Bern for 1830 was to cover the one SBB Re420 turn a day out of Bern, this being IR1483 1830 Bern – Spiez, which returned empty stock to Bern. The screens at Bern had a note against them which read “Ersatzzug”, which at the time I didn’t quite understand but fully understood the moment the set rolled in for the train with BLS Re465, 465003, and a full BLS set; no SBB Re420 anywhere. Alternative train it was and we were almost on our way to an early trip back to Neuchatel until BLS Re420, 420504, rolled in to form RE3335 1836 Bern – Luzern vice Re465. A trip to Konolfingen later and we were back, courtesy of Re 465, 465006, no such bonus Re420 on the return.
BLS Re420, 420502, whisked us back to Neuchatel with the last RE of the day, the 1953 ex Bern and we were straight into the Chinese restaurant right outside Neuchatel station, which was probably the blandest meal we’d had during the whole trip and rather disappointing really.
Back down in the Hotel Les Arts the receptionist was very helpful in allowing me to e-mail her our boarding cards once we’d checked in on line and she printed them our for me. She also allowed us to take a couple of croissants for our breakfast the following morning as we had an early start on the 0653 towards Lausanne. It was a shame we’d not had a bit of time to explore Neuchatel as the waterfront area looked quite nice.
Gen for Monday 29th April 2013
11134 Spare at Brig attached to a set
11198 IR1418 0828 Brig – GenevaAirport
11302 At Brig attached to a Domodossola set
460024 IC824 1141 Romanshorn – Brig
460026 IC1079 1531 Basel – Interlaken Ost
460082 IC986 1700 Interlaken Ost – Basel
460083 IC821 0949 Brig – Romanshorn
460088 IC819 0849 Brig – Romanshorn
460105 IC1070 1030 Interlaken Ost – Basel
465003 IR1483 1830 Bern – Spiez (Full BLS set, Vice SBB Re420)
169 RE3115 0908 Interlaken Ost – Zweisimmen
EMU RE3114 0938 Zweisimmen – Spiez (Vice Re425!)
420502 RE3036 1153 Bern – Neuchatel, RE3045 1233 Neuchatel – Bern, RE3068 1953 Bern – Neuchatel
420504 RE3335 1836 Bern – Luzern (Vice Re465)
420505 RE3040 1253 Bern – Neuchatel, RE3049 1333 Neuchatel – Bern, RE3065 1753 Neuchatel – Bern
465006 RE3338 1757 Luzern – Bern (then detached from set)
183/180/465012/465009 seen at Spiez in the afternoon with a freight, all multi’d!
23 – 0843 Visp – Zermatt
96 – 0712 Oberwald – Visp, 0908 Visp – Goschenen
106 – 0739 Zermatt – Brig
Tuesday 30th April 2013
The early morning walk up the hill to the station woke us up if nothing else and at the station SBB Re420 11126 was just coming in with its load 10 set for our IR1606 0653 Neuchatel – Lausanne commuter. Re420 11197 was sat in the yard with the set for the 0753 to Lausanne and BLS Re420 420502 was sat waiting to go with RE3023 0657 Neuchatel – Bern.
We were off at Renens for a ding-ding move into Lausanne on one of the two Vallorbe – Lausanne commuters, Re420 11130 only had 5 coaches with it and was the only train we’d ended up on in Switzerland that was full and standing.
Lausanne is a bit of a magnet for Re420s in the peaks, with two more yet to arrive from Vallorbe & Neuchatel we also saw 11129 arrive/depart with 12014 0713 St Maurice – Renens and then had the pleasure of 11228 on IR1412 0725 St Maurice – Geneva Airport on the only sociable booked train between Lausanne and Geneva. The last time we’d done it we’d been gifted a bonus Re420 on a Brig turn vice Re460, this time our moves between the airport & Geneva yielded nothing but Re460’s although we did see Re420 11164 run into the far left hand platform at Geneva (as you’re looking towards the airport) on a set of stock. Unfortunately there was an EMU in the way and I couldn’t see if there were people on it so was at a bit of a loss as to what it could possibly be on.
As we made our way up from Geneva Airport station and to the airport itself I actually found myself not wanting to go home. The trip had gone to plan, the weather had been initially great and in hindsight even the rain in Bellinzona made it a memorable day, as did the snow at Gornergrat. Switzerland was growing on me and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a third trip at some point soon…….
Gen for Tuesday 30th April 2013
11126 IR1606 0653 Neuchatel – Lausanne
11129 12014 0713 St Maurice – Renens
11130 12017 0707 Vallorbe – Lausanne
11197 IR1610 0753 Neuchatel – Lausanne (sat with stock at N’tel)
11228 IR1412 0725 St Maurice – Geneva Airport
460017 IR1414 0628 Brig – Geneva Airport
460039 IC721 0936 Geneva Airport – St Gallen
460051 IR1416 0728 Brig – Geneva Airport
420502 RE3023 0657 Neuchatel – Bern