5th - 6th November 2005

Mercia Charters Limited
Breaking the Ice

In association with the Locomotive & Carriage Institution

Locos Used BLS : Tm97, 307, 205, 251, 258, 273, 235 093-2, 465 018-0, 485 020-2
Stock Used 50 63 18-33 801-5 + 50 63 89-33 837-3 + 50 63 82-33 839-6 + 50 63 18-33 803-1

Route (05/11 'The Bern & Biel Avoider'):
34035 : Interlaken Ost to Spiez (1)
34036 : Spiez to Interlaken West
34037 : Interlaken West to Moutier
33050 : Moutier to Biel
33054 : Biel to Spiez
34063 : Spiez to Heustrich-Emdthal
34064 : Heustrich-Emdthal to Hondrich Sud
34069 : Hondrich Sud to Heustrich-Emdthal
34070 : Heustrich-Emdthal to Spiez

Loco(s) Route
205 (1) Interlaken Ost - Interlaken West - Spiez (1)
273 (2) Spiez - Interlaken West
205 (3) Interlaken West - Spiez
465 018-0 Spiez - Thun - Ostermundigen - Wankdorf Jn - (via Bern avoiding line) - Amstetten - Burgdorf
465 018-0 Burgdorf - Utzendorf - Solothurn
465 018-0 Solothurn - Gänsbrunnen - Moutier - Grenchen Nord - Lengnau - Biel
465 018-0 Biel - Busswil - Lyss - Schüpfen - Zollikofen - (via Bern avoiding line) - Wankdorf Jn - Ostermundigen - Thun - Spiez
Tm97 (4) Spiez - Hondrich Süd - Heustrich-Emdthal
235 093-2 (5) Heustrich-Emdthal - Hondrich Süd - Keistag Quarry (loading stage)
Tm97 (4) Keistag Quarry (loading stage) - Hondrich Süd - Heustrich-Emdthal
235 093-2 (5) Heustrich-EmdthalHondrich Süd - Spiez
307 (6) Spiez - Spiez BLS depot (road 54 in shed, to far end doors)
307 Spiez BLS depot (road 54 in shed) - Spiez

Route (06/11 'The Lotschberg & Simmental Belle'):
34039 : Spiez to Domodossola (Italy)
33048 : Domodossola (Italy) to Spiez
34071 : Spiez to Zweisimmen
34076 : Zweisimmen to Interlaken Ost (1)

Loco(s) Route
485 020-2 Spiez - Frutigen - Blausee-Mitholz - Kandersteg - Ausserberg - Brig - Iselle Frontier (CH/I) - Domodossola
485 020-2 Domodossola - (reverse of outward route) - Blausee-Mitholz - Steinbruch Blausee (7)
485 020-2 (6) Steinbruch Blausee - Blausee-Mitholz
485 020-2 Blausee-Mitholz - (reverse of outward route) - Spiez
251 (8) Spiez - Boltigen - Zweisimmen - end of line (touching buffers!)
258 (9) end of line - Zweisimmen - Boltigen - Spiez
251 (1) Spiez - Interlaken West - Interlaken Ost (1)

Notes :
(1) Officially an Empty Stock working but was made available in advance for passengers to use.
(2) 205 on rear.
(3) 273 on rear.
(4) 235 093-2 on rear.
(5) Tm97 on rear.
(6) Propelling move.
(7) Blausee-Mitholz - Steinbruch Blausee (a quarry, about 750m from Blausee-Mitholz in the direction of Spiez) was offered by the train operator (BLS) during a pathing stop at Blausee-Mitholz.
(8) 258 on rear.
(9) 251 on rear.

Source : Gary Thornton (on the trains throughout)

Tour Review
(from Janet Cottrell)

5th NOVEMBER 2005

How about something a little different? I had been to the Spiez area of Switzerland a couple of times previously but this pair of tours promised the opportunity to get a few unusual engines from the BLS (Bern–Lötschberg–Simplon) Railway in the book as well as some freight and unit only lines.

First off was a trip to Interlaken West and return topped and tailed by two “museum locos” (205 & 273), both very much required by myself and with an excellent photo stop at Leissigen to record the event, shame about the weather though. We could only go as far as Interlaken West due to capacity restraints on the single line between here and the Ost (East) station, however the carriage sidings are located down there so the “ECS” to Spiez was made available to those who needed the track or were staying down there.

On our return to Spiez, the two historic locos made way for something more modern in the shape of “freight sector” 465 018. I am not sure how much the BLS adhere to their “sectorisation” , as I had two of the “freight” 465’s for haulage earlier this year – fortunately 018 was not one of them!

There followed a pleasant journey to Burgdorf via the Bern avoiding line (used by very few seasonal passenger trains) and part of the original line to Olten, only used by stopping trains since a cut off was opened a few years back.

After running round at Burgdorf, we headed to Solothurn on he tracks of the RM (Regionalverkehr Mittelland), normally unit only but with the added interest of seasonal sugar beet trains at this time of year. A further reversal at Solothurn saw us traversing the secondary line to Moutier where we joined the main line between Biel and Basel, by now, the weather had perked up and the sun actually made an appearance at our next stop at Grenchen Nord. Onwards to Biel where we had to run round again as the requested route via the avoider was not available due to the yard (of which the north end of the avoider is part of) being closed at weekends.

Following this perambulation, we were now heading back towards Bern and the avoiding line was duly done in the opposite direction to get us back to Spiez and what was (for me) the highlight of the day, a trip to the local quarry with top & tail diesel shunting tractors.

Although nominally of the same class (235) the two locos were different sizes, the larger of the two looked to be a double version of the smaller one – perversely, the latter (Tm 97) was leading up the hill, but showed a surprising turn of speed. Reference to the home-made illustrated stock list thoughtfully handed out to everyone at the start of the tour revealed the maximum speed of both machines to be 80 kph (50 mph).

We reversed in the station at Heustrich-Emdthal and proceeded towards our objective, passing en route a line which dived into a tunnel. Our informative BLS representative said that it was the remains of the original main line which was bypassed by a cut-off and that the short remaining section of tunnel was used to practise emergency exercises. I got the impression that they would have been more than happy to take our train up this short stub except that there was a stop board attached to the rail just past the points.

The quarry line itself was just over 1km long from the junction with the current main line and included an impressive concrete bridge over a river. Our way to the buffer stops was barred by an ex DB (German Railways) V60 class loco, still bearing the number it was withdrawn with (260 355) and recently painted in a very close match to the old DB “Ozeanblau” blue. The question had been asked if it could be started up and used to drag the train up to the stops but this was not possible as it is owned by the quarry operators and not the BLS. Just for good measure though, the train was drawn up to the quarry loco once everybody had taken their pictures – at this point anybody exiting the coaches on the left hand side would have fallen a considerable distance into the quarry itself!

Once we had all finished taking pictures and generally exploring the site the train returned to the loop near the old tunnel entrance to await our path back to Heustrich-Emdthal and Spiez. If all this wasn’t enough we still had a depot visit to come and another loco to go in the book, the 1920 vintage Ce4/6 no. 307. Unfortunately this loco could not be used for more than the 600 or so metres from the station to the shed as it is confined to “station limits” at Spiez, nevertheless it was nice to be able to have it at all. The icing on the cake came when the whole train was propelled right into the shed to the doors at the far end of no. 54 road, and no, we didn’t knock the doors down!

We were given the run of the shed but had to go round in small groups with a guide outside, which was a little restrictive, but there were enough guides provided and it would be churlish to complain as there are plenty of other railways who would not even allow enthusiasts anywhere near their running sheds let alone provide guides. It was getting quite dark now but a few photos were managed before 307 hauled us back to Spiez station to end what was an interesting and well organized tour.

6th NOVEMBER 2005

A slightly later start than yesterday saw all the tour participants gathering at Spiez for a run into Italy. Our loco for this trek was German built 485 020, which I am sure was a winner for everybody on board as the 485’s are definitely confined to freight work. Despite this, the locos can provide power for the ETH lights and door opening facilities so we were in no danger being cold or left in the dark.

The weather today was better than yesterdays, although there were still a few clouds around to hide the sun but all in all, it was a pleasant day for November. We had to go a fair distance for our first photo stop at Ausserberg perched on the side of a mountain with views over the valley carrying the line between Brig and Sion. Just to prove how high we were, a plane was noticed flying along the valley BELOW the level at which we were standing.

Carrying on Southwards we had a short pause at Brig before plunging into the Simplon Tunnel (the longest in Switzerland) which actually crosses the Italian border about halfway through. Emerging into Italy, we continued to drop downwards to Domodossola where the Italian system proper starts. To explain, although the line from the border is FS (Italian Railways) and the three stations on this stretch are owned and manned by them, the actual track and overhead lines are run and maintained by the Swiss so that the loco changes can take place at the first large town (the Swiss OHL uses 15,000v AC whereas the Italians use 3,000v DC). The voltage change is roughly in the middle of the platforms at Domodossola and there does not appear to be any facility to switch voltages so our loco had to be shunted round from one end of the train to the other by an Italian diesel gronk. A bold attempt to get it to drag our train the length of the platform was politely refused, well it was worth a try.

We had nearly an hour here, plenty of time to photograph everything on hand. Thankfully nobody appeared to have any trouble doing this as there were a few tales of the police or railway staff preventing people from photographing railways in Italy in the past. I presume that the local staff had been advised of our presence in advance and were happy for us to carry on as normal (for cranks) with the usual proviso that we did not stray off the platforms onto the track.

The journey back north was punctuated by a couple of lengthy stops, firstly at Brig where we were overtaken by an EC from Milan, causing much interest as this is one of the trains booked to be hauled by an SBB freight sector class 484. The next stop was again at Ausserberg where we were treated to a “false arrival”, the train backing out of sight down the hill before returning to the station and providing a nice “arrival shot” with the mountains as a backdrop. Through the Lötschberg Tunnel and another stop was had at Blausee-Mitholz, where those of us that had wandered over to the other platform were exhorted to hurry up as a trip into the local quarry was on offer. This proved to be little more than a siding off the main line but was greatly appreciated by most if not all on board, especially as they were busy loading what looked like cement wagons at the time. In fact we buffered right up to these wagons and the rumour was that the man loading them commented to the BLS man that he wasn’t expecting us just yet as he hadn’t finished! No matter, it was everybody out for a look and photos and mind the large digger trundling around and please don’t fall of the rather high loading platform.

The train propelled back to the station (shunting radios had been brought along for this purpose) then set off for Reichenbach where another prolonged stop gave the local hotel some business, they had even brought a table and some refreshments across the road for us.

Back at Spiez we exchanged our modern 485 for the two remaining serviceable Ae4/4’s (251 & 258) for a top & tail trip to Zweisimmen. This route had only just reopened after being heavily damaged by the floods which hit Switzerland in August, the damage was readily apparent at Därstetten where the passing loop was still out of action.

At Zweisimmen we had time for a brief look at the narrow gauge MOB (Montreux Oberland Bahn) before being called back to the train to “do the end of the line”, about 150 metres off the platform, it was confirmed that 251 had actually made contact (gently!) with the stops. That just left to 258 to take us back to Spiez in the dark and return the stock to Interlaken Ost, except that it was failed at Spiez because it’s whistle was not working. Not a problem as the train was booked to wait for 25 minutes to detach the rear loco, this gave plenty of time for 251 to run round instead but I had to leave at this point due to an urgent appointment with Re4/4 number 167 (required) on the preceding service train to Interlaken.

Overall it was a great couple of days, many thanks to Keith and Alan for organising the tour and the BLS Railway for being such excellent hosts, I think they enjoyed it as much as the rest of us. I shall be eagerly awaiting the announcement of next years trip.

Janet Cottrell

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Gary Thornton)

Saturday 5th November

km Location Booked Actual
0.00 Interlaken Ost 08.05d 08.05
Spiez 08L28a ~ 08L46d 08.28 ~ 08.47 [P5]
8.71 Leissigen 08p54a ~ 09p11d 08.56 ~ 09.11
Interlaken West 09.26a ~ 09.34d 09.19 ~ 09.34
Spiez 09L53a ~ 10L12d 09.53 ~ 10.12 [P2]
9.80 Thun 10/21 10/21
? Ostermundigen 10/43 10/43
Burgdorf 11.00a ~ 11.15d 11.01 ~ 11.15 [P4]
? Utzendorf 11.29a ~ 11.35d ?
Solothurn 11.50a ~ 12.03d 11.41 ~ 12.04
Moutier 12.35a ~ 12.40d 12.32 ~ 12.40
10.68 Grenchen Nord 12p49a ~ 13p11d 12.49 ~ 13.11
Biel 13.20a ~ 13.32d 13.28 ~ 13.42 [P5]
? Lyss 13/41 13/50
17.91 Schüpfen 13p48a ~ 14p01d 13.56 ~ 14.01
? Ostermundigen 14.12a ~ 14.16d [GL] 14.13 ~ 14.15
40.15 Thun 14.32a ~ 14.34d 14/33
Spiez 14L44a ~ 15L08d 14.46 ~ 15.10
Heustrich-Emdthal 15.15a ~ 15.20d 15.16 ~ 15.19 [P2]
2.70 Hondrich Süd 15.23a ~ ??.??d ?
(3.6) Keistag Quarry ??.??a ~ ??.??d 15.28a ~ 15.56d
0.00 Hondrich Süd ??.??a ~ 16.15d 16.01 ~ 16.16
Heustrich-Emdthal 16.18a ~ 16.23d 16.21 ~ 16.23 [P3]
Spiez 16L30a ~ 16L40d 16.29 ~ 16.41
Spiez depot 16.45a ~ 17.40d 16.46 ~ 17.39
[shed road 54, to buffers]
0.25 Spiez 17.45a 17.47

Sunday 6th November

km Location Booked Actual
0.00 Spiez 09.03d 09.03
13.54 Frutigen 09/13 09/14
31.75 Kandersteg 09/28 09/29
48.44 Goppenstein 09/38 09/38
61.26 Ausserberg 09p50a ~ 10p09d 09.53 ~ 10.10
73.82 Brig 10.20a ~ 10.33d 10.23 ~ 10.33
92.64 Iselle Frontier (CH/I) 12/16 12/14
Domodossola 11.05a ~ 12.00d 11.08 ~ 11.59 [P6]
18.82 Iselle Frontier (CH/I) 12/16 12/14
40.80 Brig 12p30a ~ 12p53d 12.26 ~ 12.53 [P7]
53.36 Ausserberg 13p03a ~ 13p40d 13.04 ~ 13.41
66.18 Goppenstein 13/50 ?
82.87 Kandersteg 14/01 14/02
Blausee-Mitholz 14.09a 14.11a ~ 14.22d
Steinbruch Blausee DIV 14.24a ~ 14.36d
Blausee-Mitholz 14.52d 14.42a ~ 14.49d
101.08 Frutigen 14/59 14/56
106.33 Reichenbach im Kandertal 15p03a ~ 15p43d 15.08 ~ 15.43 [P2]
Spiez 15L50a ~ 16L30d 15.51 ~ 16.30 [P5]
11.32 Erlenbach im Simmental 16p44a ~ 17p08d 16.43 ~ 17.08
25.90 Boltigen 17.30a ~ 17.40d 17.24 ~ 17.40
Zweisimmen 17.49a 17.50a ~ 18.12d
end of line DIV 18.07a ~ 18.10d
Zweisimmen 18.12d 18.12a ~ 18.13d
18.80 Darstetten 18.35a ~ 18.42d 18/35
23.58 Erlenbach im Simmental 18.48a ~ 18.53d 18.41 ~ 18.42
Spiez 19.06a ~ 19.31d 19.00 ~ 19.31
5.62 Krattighadle 19.36a ~ 19.38d ??/??
18.17 Interlaken Ost 19.51a 19.51 [P8]

Back to "The Railtour Files"