31st August 2008

Charters Helvetia
The Gotthard Pass & Ticino Limited

Locos Used BLS: 171, 173, 181, 465007, 485001 & Club di San Gottardo: 500-2
Stock Used ????

33027 : Erstfeld to Lugano Vedeggio
33227 : Lugano Vedeggio to Mendrisio
??? : Mendrisio to Stabio
??? : Stabio to Mendrisio
33045 : Mendrisio to Chiasso Smistamento
33052 : Chiasso VG to Erstfeld
33066 : Erstfeld to Spiez
33068 : Spiez to Interlaken Ost

Loco(s) Route
485001 (1) Erstfeld [P4] - Wassen - Goschenen [Track 5] - Ambri-Piotta [Track 4] - Bodio - Biasca Yard [Track 5] - Bellinzona Depot [Track 654, 683 & 747] - Taverne-Torricella [Track 4] - Lugano Vedeggio [Track 33]
465007 (2) Lugano Vedeggio - Taverne-Torricella [Track 4]
485001 (1) Taverne-Torricella - Lugano - Mendrisio [Track 5]
500-2 (3) Mendrisio - Stabio [Run-Round Loop]
500-2 (3) Stabio [Run-Round Loop], Propel back through Loop to Main Line - Mendrisio [Track 6]
485001 (1) Mendrisio - Chiasso Smistamento, to SBB/RFI Voltage change point [via Track L2, U1 & U51]
465007 (2) Chiasso Smistamento - (via Turning Loop) - Chiasso VG, to SBB/RFI Voltage change point [via Track U51, U1, L1, K3, K4, N1, N12, 705, 755 & 53]
485001 (1) Chiasso VG - Mendrisio - Lugano - Taverna-Torricella [X-Over to Down Line] - KM Post 170.0 [X-Over back to Up Line] - Rivera-Bironico [Track 2] - Bellinzona Depot [Track 747] - Bellinzona Yard [Track 505] - Biasca Yard [Track 7, then via Down Line] - KM Post 126.0 [X-Over back to Up Line] - Bodio - Goschenen [P1] - Erstfeld [P4]
171 + 465007 + 485001 (4) Erstfeld - Schwyz - Arth-Goldau - Immensee - Rotkreuz [Track 4] - Wohlen - Hendschiken - Gexi VL - Lenzburg [P3] - Aarau - Olten - Langenthal - Burgdorf - Bern Avoider - Thun - Spiez [P1]
173 + 181 Spiez - Interlaken West - Interlaken Ost [P5]

Notes :
(1) 465007 on rear.
(2) 485001 on rear.
(3) The two BLS locos remained in the train consist during this section of the tour.
(4) 465007 not providing power.

Source : Stuart Smith

Tour Review
(by Stuart Smith, including photos)

With the 425 being exchanged for a 485 overnight, we were expecting a new loco to start the day. However, things didn't quite turn out as expected, as when the stock re-appeared from it's overnight stay it had 485001 at the helm (this loco had worked back in April).

On a positive note, it was new track for a 485, as BLS locos don't usually work the Gotthard route.

So today we were heading South over the Gotthard Pass, and through the 15,003 metre Gotthard Tunnel. At Pollegio we passed the massive construction site for the new Gotthard-Base Tunnel, which is now on course for opening in 2013.

The spectacular scenery and numerous spiral tunnels 'over the top' brought us eventually to Bellinzona. Here we were routed via the depot, using tracks 654, 683 & 747, where we passed many SBB locos and units stabled.

At Taverne-Torricella we ran through track 4, and branched off onto the freight-only Lugano Vedeggio line. This line is used for the loading of HUPAC lorry trains bound for Singen in Germany. Just prior to the end of the branch we stopped briefly in the exchange sidings, before continuing to the end of track 33, which except for one parked up wagon we would have 'kissed the buffers'.

Upon reversal, we retraced our steps to the main line, before continuing South through Lugano and onto Mendrisio. Here we had another branch to traverse, except this time we would be using traction from the Club di San Gottardo. Waiting for us was diesel loco 500-2, which topped the BLS electric for the run along the branch.

At Stabio, we ran into the run-round loop, where the diesel ran round for a short photo stop.

500-2 at Stabio after running round.

Beyond Stabio the track continues to the Italian border at Landesgrenze (but the way beyond is blocked by a gate). After a short discussion, it was decided that we could propel the 500 yards (or thereabouts) to the gate. However, the translation between German/Italian/English only resulted in us going back through the run-round loop and then pulling forward via the through line...... Oh well, nevertheless, new track for most.

So now with the diesel on top of the 465, we headed back a short distance to perform a run-past on the curve adjacent to some loading compounds. Again, a slight language breakdown only resulted in a run-forward, but the results were reasonable nonetheless. The only downside was that everyone had to walk along the track to rejoin the train.

Back at Mendrisio, we had a 'longer than expected' break, which most people used to visit the garage (about the only thing not closed in the town) to buy supplies and beers. However, a few lucky people (or those desperate to get a few rare chains of track) were able to ride up and down the yard on TM725.

So now for the final highlight of the day - a run to Chiasso, and in particular into the yard itself.

Passing through Balerna we forked off left and dived down under the mainline. This took us into the Swiss part of Chiasso marshalling yard and onto the extreme right hand track. (Basically the yard is divided between the two border countries by their respective 'overhead' differences). Our routing on this section took us via lines L2, U1 & U51, where we were forced to stop due to the neutral section between the 3kv/15kv change over point. After a brief photo stop, we retraced our steps a short way, before branching off into the second part of the yard, which eventually brings trains parallel with Chiasso VG (the main station). For this part of the route, we traversed lines U51, U1, L1, K3, K4, N1, N12, 705, 755 & 53. Again, our reversal point was just short of the 'neutral section'.

485001 during a photo stop in Chiasso marshalling yard.

From here we had hoped to enter the main station, but time was starting to beat us, so we headed North, and the start of our journey back to Interlaken.

The return routing was done in a similar fashion to the outward (i.e. with plenty of loops, relief lines and yards to pass through), and this had again been requested by Charters Helvetia to 'enhance' the routing for those wanting more than just passenger track. Just prior to Taverne-Torricella (KM Post 173.9), we crossed on to the Southbound track for a spot of 'wrong line running'. We regained the Northbound track at KM Post 170.0, just before Mezzovico station. At Bellinzona we again ran through the Loco stabling point via line 747, but then crossed over all the running lines to run through the freight yard via line 505 - much to the dismay, or so it seemed, of the staff shunting trains on the adjacent tracks. At Biasca we again ran through the yard, but took line 7 on this occasion.

At Goschenen, we were being looped for a 'fast' service to overtake, and for this we used the rarely used Platform 1.

Once on the move again, it was a normal run back up to Erstfeld.

14270 'plinted' outside Erstfeld depot.

BLS Staff, Tour Reps and Catering Staff 'Seminar' at Erstfeld prior to the return to Interlaken.

Back in the station, and 171 had re-appeared from it's overnight stay, and a decision was taken to have all three loco's at the head of the train for the remainder of the journey back to Spiez. This resulted in a fine display of BLS motive power at the helm, in the shape of 171, 465007 & 485001. The only slight down side was that the 465 would not be able to power due to a 'mislaid' jumper cable. Before departure, I (and Lizzie) had been offered a cab-ride for the run back to Aarau, which we duly accepted and climbed aboard.

(After the hours journey, I can confidently say that the Swiss signalling confuses me totally).

Cab-Riding is a regular feature of Swiss tours, and over the two days, probably in the region of 30 passengers were able to enjoy the views from the drivers cab - another reason these tours are popular.

Our route from Erstfeld took us back up to Arth-Goldau, then across to Rotkreuz, where we ran via the non-platformed centre road (Line 4). Turning North from here, we passed through Wohlen and then used the freight only curve from Hendschiken to Gexi. At Aarau we had another photo stop, before continuing via Olten and then Bern Avoider.

171, 465007 and 485001 at Aarau in the evening sun.

Up to now, over the two days, we had never really been more than about five minutes adrift of our schedule, however, it would seem that the Signallers in Bern (apologies to them if it happened to be controlled by another box) wanted to change that, and decided to run an engineers train right in front of us, and then delay us further by allowing three Southbound passenger trains to overtake us at Gumlingen. Once we were finally underway again, we were around 20mins late by now. Now we headed for Thun and Spiez.

Before the final run of the weekend back to Interlaken Ost, we would have a quick loco change to a pair of 'brownies'. Duly appearing from the depot were 173 and 181, as had been rumoured during the afternoon. So after waiting for the late running ICE to depart first, we concluded an excellent weekend with a quick dash back along the shores of Thuner See to Interlaken West, before terminating in Platform 5 at the Ost.

So that was that, from here most people headed back to Ringgenberg and a farewell dinner at the 'Baren'.

Much thanks must go to Alan Spencer (again) for organising another superb weekend of railtouring. In addition, mention must be given to Stefan Michel, Willi Frauenfelder and all the staff at BLS who ensured that everything went to plan........ Roll on April 2009 and three more days of fun.

Stuart Smith

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