Rhätischeland in Summer
25 - 29 August 2010
Report by Duncan Cotterill
My previous trips to the Rhätischebahn had been in autumn or winter so a late summer trip opened up some new opportunities due to the longer days and higher sun. My aim was to fill in some gaps in my coverage, notably on the Filisur - Davos - Klosters route, and to get some more Ge4/4i shots in the bag while it was still possible. For a change, I hired a car this time and based myself in Bonaduz, between Reichenau-Tamins and Thusis. I spent five days on the RhB, from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 August 2010. Full details of loco numbers and workings can be found here.
There have been few changes on the main 11kV system since my earlier reports in October 2009 and January 2010 so I won’t restate the basic position in detail, just the significant changes and the position of the classes under threat. I didn’t visit the Berninabahn this time, which is where the new class ABe8/12 units have had the biggest impact so far. The new units have one regular duty on the main system, covering the Davos portion of the Bernina Express throughout from Davos to Tirano and back. Five of the new units appeared to be in normal service at the time of my visit with another two undergoing trials or commissioning.
As others have noted, ABe8/12s have recently been turning up on the Albula route passengers. In my case, the first train noted was RE1149 from Chur to St. Moritz on the Saturday, comprising unit 3505, a six-coach Glacier Express portion and six conventional coaches. On the Sunday a unit worked train 908 comprising two six-coach Glacier Express portions. These may have been test runs but had the unfortunate effect of displacing the Ge4/4iii that would have normally worked these trains and that Ge4/4iii in turn displaced the Ge6/6ii booked to work trains RE1133 and RE1148.
At the other end of the scale, there are still a number of trains booked for Ge4/4i haulage and there were some additional workings due to an unexpected event (see below). In the Engadin, two of the four push-pull diagrams covering the Pontresina - Scuol-Tarasp trains are booked for Ge4/4i haulage and 608 and 610 were seen on these workings on the Friday and Saturday. The Landquart - St. Moritz trains via the Vereina Tunnel, RE1325 and RE1360, were worked by 607 on the Saturday and 911, the Davos - Chur leg of the Glacier Express had 602 on the Sunday. So all the trains seen that should have had a Ge4/4i produced. There’s also a weekday diagram covering an early morning trip from Chur to Arosa and back as well as the evening commuter run to Ilanz but that wasn’t seen.
Elsewhere it was largely a story of no change with Ge4/4iii covering most Chur - St. Moritz and 3 out of 5 Landquart - Davos diagrams as well as the Glacier Expresses (apart from Davos - Chur and v.v.). Ge4/4ii continue to cover most of the other passenger turns including the Disentis - Scuol-Tarasp and Chur - Arosa trains, 2 of the 5 Landquart - Davos diagrams, 2 of the 4 Engadin push-pull diagrams and the Chur portion of the Bernina Express (to Pontresina). The other class considered under immediate threat, the Be4/4 motor coaches, were still covering the Chur - Thusis and Schiers - Rhäzüns locals. Apart from the weekend turns on RE1133 and RE1148 mentioned above, the Ge6/6ii have no booked passenger work.
Freight traffic continues at impressive levels with several trains from Landquart to the Engadin, Ilanz, Disentis and Davos each weekday as well as more local workings around the Chur/Landquart area. Most trains are booked for Ge6/6ii with a few turns for Ge4/4i or Ge4/4ii. All the freights I expected to see ran, usually very close to right time as well and usually with the booked motive power or better.
Fideris - Küblis Closure
In the early hours of Wednesday 25 August, a crane derailed between Fideris and Küblis on the Landquart - Klosters line, closing the line until late on Friday 27 August. As would be expected, the RhB rose to the occasion. Passenger services ran as normal on either side of the blockage, with buses bridging the gap, and freights were diverted via Filisur. By the time I arrived on the Disentis line, late on the morning of the 25th, it wasn’t immediately apparent that anything was amiss.
Operating the revised service would have put the RhB loco fleet under some pressure. The Landquart - Davos and Disentis Scuol-Tarasp services would have each required an additional loco and set of coaches and one or two extra locos would have been required to operate the diverted freights. I thought it was just good luck when Ge4/4i 603 turned up on the Wednesday afternoon Landquart - Ilanz goods but it was probably due to the booked Ge4/4ii being required elsewhere. Freight 5336 from Zernez to Landquart was diverted from its normal route via the Vereina Tunnel to run to Samedan where it was combined with 5152 for the run down to Landquart via the Albula Tunnel. This resulted in the unusual sight of a train with a Ge6/6ii and a Ge4/4i at the front, although only the Ge6/6ii was working. Landquart - Davos freights were also diverted to run via Filisur.
The Chur portion of the Bernina Express was also affected with the train worked by Ge6/6ii 704 on Wednesday and Ge4/4i 604 on Thursday. In order to work the revised passenger service to Davos, an additional set was required on the Davos side of the blockage and a Chur area suburban set was sent via Filisur to fill the gap. Be4/4s aren’t unknown at Davos but it is unusual to see one with the motor coach at the east end of the formation.
This summer has been very poor for photography in central Europe with lots of cloud and rain instead of the required sunshine. Fortunately this trip was different. Wednesday and Thursday were mainly sunny with cloud only building up in the late afternoon on both days. Friday and Saturday started dull and wet but there were good sunny breaks on both afternoons and Sunday was sunny most of the day. On the Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday I followed my plan to cover new locations or those I hadn’t done justice to before. On Friday and Saturday it was a case of going where there was the maximum chance of sun, which didn’t fit badly with my priorities. Details of the locos seen and my day to day activities can be found here.
Comments and Conclusions
I had expected the new units to have taken over more of the Bernina line workings but there were still a significant number of workings booked for the older motor coaches. This offers some hope that there won’t be enough new units to have a significant effect on the main system this winter and, fingers crossed, no shortage of work for class Ge4/4i on the winter sports trains.
The urge to paint locos in unattractive liveries continues. There have been no Ge4/4iii repaints over the last year or so but a third Ge4/4ii now carries non-standard colours; 622 is painted off-white with a large slogan in Japanese on the side - something to do with the link with the Hakone-Tozan Railway.
One change that I noticed is that a number of short wheelbase bogie baggage vans have been fitted with pantographs. These were seen on Albula route services and the panto was raised on a few trains. What they supply power to is unclear but I suspect it’s hotel power for the train.
It was interesting to take a car to a line I’d previously only done by train and on foot. It did have its advantages, like providing somewhere to shelter when it rained, and made access to remote locations relatively easy but I didn’t feel as in touch with what was going on as usual. The biggest advantage was being able to change location whenever I felt like it, rather than having to wait an hour for a train to travel on and then another hour for the next train to photograph. On the other hand, the drive over the Albula Pass and down to Bonaduz at the end of the day was hard work compared with relaxing in First Class with a cup of coffee and watching the world go by.
After a gloomy summer it was refreshing to get more than 60% sunshine on this trip. It wasn’t just sunny, the light was really crisp and brilliantly clear most of the time. All in all an excellent trip to one of my favourite lines.