Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saturday 15 October - Coming home

It was raining when we left the hotel early and before breakfast.  The walk up the hill to the station was not too onerous with our bags and we had enough time to get a coffee before boarding the ICN to Zurich Airport.  We made straight for the restaurant car and had a breakfast of croissants and breads with butter and jam, muesli and coffee.  The ride in the restaurant car was not particularly good with some hunting but the electric banking performed well.

Of course we arrived at Zurich Airport precisely on time. The last train we saw was a preserved small brown crocodile with its rods flashing around.  I think it was 15301.

The journey home required lots of waiting, first at Zurich then in London.  Zurich is a disaster because the only area to sit down is where you have to spend money at a cafe or restaurant, there is no seating in the shopping area.  In London the seating is in the center with the shops around the outside.

Both Air Canada and Swissair were on time and the Air Canada crew were almost pleasant for once apart from the man in charge who had had gestapo training. Karen came to the airport and spared us the suffering of the 97 OC Transpo 97 bus.

It was a great trip and Paul and I both enjoyed immensely.  The itinerary was very full but manageable and we saw what we wanted to see.  We couldn't see everything and already there are suggestions for a return.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday 14 October - Aarlberg Sugar Factory and the Waldenbergerbahn

The weather was not too promising this morning but it was certainly warmer and we managed to miss the rain which fell in the Neuchatel area during the day.

We first went to Aarlberg where there is one of the two sugar factories in Switzerland that process sugar beet. We had to change trains at Biel/Bienne and Lys but found there was not a great deal to see.
Aarlberg Sugar Factory
From Aarlberg we went via Lys and Bern to Liestal to ride over the roadside tramway to Waldenberg.  This line is laid to the 750 mm gauge which is unique in Switzerland.  The line has now been taken over by Basel and it seems the gauge will be changed to 1.00 meter so as to conform to the gauge of the Basel tramways.  All the tracks and trams will have to be replaced - it seems by 2020.
Oberdorf.  The red setter was looking forward to the ride.
We rode to the end of the line at Waldenberg than came back to Oberdorf where we found a restaurant that had lunch time specials.  I had fish and chips while Paul had bratwurst.

We returned to Liestal and spent an hour or so watching the trains and then went to Olten to catch the train to Neuchatel.  We took about an hour at Olton and were amazed at the number of trains, there were at least ten freights that had to be interleaved through the frequent passenger trains.
Liestal.  A BLS freight with a brown Re 4/4 in behind.
Liestal.  A BLS train with flatcars for trucks and a sleeping car for the drivers.
Back at Neuchatel it had just stopped raining.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday 13 October - Jura

Artwork on one of the Jura Railway's GTW trains.
We did a lot of travelling today on several different railways. The first train was the BLS to La Chaux de Fonds with a 465 locomotive pushing part way and pulling the rest.  It was very foggy on the Neuchatel side but cleared off after we had gone through the tunnel to La Chaux de Fonds. The Jura narrow gauge took us to Clovelier and back as far as Noirmont.  We passed a brand new train from Stadler which was still under trial.  It was delivered about two weeks ago.

Cab of Jura railway train
Trial movement of new Stadler train
From Noirmont we went to Tavannes and back.  The Jura scenery is very much cattle oriented with many green fields and a few stands of deciduous trees.  Towards Tavannes there are several horse farms.

From Noirmont we made our way back to La Chaux de Fonds.  The station here is notable in that from five minutes to the hour to five past all the platforms are occupied.  All the trains then leave and the station is silent for the next 50 minutes when the performance starts again.

We took a standard gauge train to Le Locle then the narrow gauge car to Les Brenets.  We had to wait over an hour for the return and it had started to rain.  However the cold wind has died down and it was not unpleasant out.  We found a small, but busy boulangerie where we had coffee and a pastry.

Les Brenets
Les Brenets
Les Brenets

Getting back on the car to return to Le Locle the driver's dog kept a sharp eye on us as we admired the James Bond silhouettes which were entertaining although the connection with the train evaded us.

The last trip of the day was a ride out to Les Ponts de Martel and back with the customary three minutes turn around.  This line has been closed recently because of a problem with crossing safety - now I wonder!!
Train to Les Ponts de Martel at La Chaux de Fonds
It was beginning to get dark when we caught the BLS back to Neuchatel.  Again, the weather was very foggy as we exited the tunnel from the Jura. Chinese food close to the station meant an easy walk down the hill back to the hotel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday 12 October - Vallorbe, Le Brassus and Orbe

It was cold again this morning.  It seems we are getting the Mistral early this year.  We took the ICN to Yverdon-les-Bains and changed to the local train for Cossonay where we took another local train to Vallorbe.  The station there is a large building obviously built with better times in view.  It was an important border crossing at one time.  It is also built high above the town and the Iron and Steel Museum is alongside the river.  It was quite a climb back later on in the day.
I found this hilarious - it is on every tv screen in the trains at present

The Iron and Steel Museum appears well funded and the exhibits are well displayed and well explained.  It also bills itself as a railway museum with some excellent models and a good presentation describing how Vallorbe developed.

There are a large number of working waterwheels and the thumps from the associated belts and machinery could be felt throughout the museum.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the railway exhibit was on the top floor where one could choose the O scale train to be sent out on a long run including a helix.

The most interesting part of the museum was the demonstration by a working blacksmith who was making nails.

We found a restaurant which had a good plat du jour - soup, spaghetti carbonara and pineapple.  It quickly became crowded with locals who were in the know.
These two SNCF Sybics were working Vallorbe
The TGV to Paris ran into difficulties at Vallorbe.  Maybe there were problems in changing over from the Swiss to the Franch voltage
While we had lunch the sky cleared and the sun shone brightly for our afternoon trip over the line from Vallorbe (Le Day) to Le Brassus.  This is in a very remote part of the Jura through pleasant country with a very large lake and much forest.  I was surprised to see a line of concrete tank traps on their sides used as a field boundary,  The line is run by Travys and we were surprised to see the driver getting the one and only Re 4/4 (ex-SBB) ready for our train back to Le Day.  Even better, he invited us into the cab while he was doing his brake test. There really is not much room in the cab but it was interesting to see the layout of the controls. Throttle and electric brake were on the right and the air brake on the left.
Cab of the Re 4/4
Le Day
We took the train back as far as Le Day and transferred to the train for Cossonay where we caught another local to Chavornay which is the junction of the third Travys line, the very short line to Orbe. This is run by an ancient railcar and trailer but seems well patronized.  At Orbe the train immediately left to go back to Chavornay for another run while we walked back to the small halt at St. Eloi and caught the return back into Orbe.  There was a very short turn around here but the driver came up to us, mentioned that he had seen us taking pictures at St. Eloi, and would be like to take a look in the cab of the railcar.  Two invitations in the same afternoon.
Cab of No. 51
Back at Chavornay we caught a local to Yverdon-les-Bains and the ICN back to Neuchatel.  Our day wasn't over however as we took a trolleybus out to the funicular to Chaumont.  This is a long line which takes about ten minutes.  However, it is mostly through forest and the views are not too good.  The attendant explained that we would have to come straight back or wait an hour.  We came straight back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tuesday 11 October - Biere, Apples, Morge (BAM)

We took the ICN directly to Lausanne and caught a local train to Morges.  The narrow gauge BAM train waiting for us was one of the old trains, all other trains were newly delivered by Stadler.  The weather was quite bright but the wind was very cold.  We climbed up through the vineyards and admired the Chateau de Vufflens before changing trains at Apples for L'Isle.  This is a pleasant place by the water but the cold wind quickly drove us back into the warmth of the new train.  When we arrived the kids were on break but they quickly went in as soon as the bell was rung.

L'Isle school and playground
Two new trains pass at Apples
The old and the new at Biere
We changed again at Apples for the train through to Biere.  We had thought to spend a little time in Biere, maybe even get lunch there, but out plans changed when we saw on of the big green electric locomotives waiting in the yard to leave for Morges with a couple of carloads of logs on narrow gauge skates.
Chateau de Vufflens
Locomotive with two loaded standard gauge cars.
We took the next train back as far as Vufflens le Chateau in the hope that the "freight" train would be following. This turned out to be the case and we were able to photograph it in the country.

We took the next train back to Morges and watched the whole process of putting standard gauge cars back on the standard gauge as well as moving them onto the narrow gauge skates. This was done in good light, at a reasonable distance and in safety from the passenger platform.

A small SBB locomotive arrived with a number of cars for the BAM, including eight strongly built flat cars which were likely used by the military to move tanks around,

These videos illustrate the process

Click here to see all pictures taken on the BAM

Even though we had had a break for pizza we were getting pretty cold by mid afternoon.  We took a train back into Lausanne, made our way through the metro (confusing) and caught a narrow gauge suburban train out to the end of the line at Bercher.  The hotel there provided coffee and cognac and we took the Post Bus through beautiful countryside with several small villages to Yverdon les Bains.

Downtown Bercher
A narrow gauge "freight" train was set up ready to leave as we caught the ICN back to Neuchatel.

There was still one more item to finish today.  We took the Neuchatel tramway out to the end and back.  The last time we were here we found the track was in very poor condition and gave a bad ride.  The track has been significantly improved and the ride is now very good.  At some time in the next few years the line will be re-equipped with trains from the Trogenerbahn which will become redundant with the St. Gallen S-bahn scheme.  The Neuchatel tramway has a brighter future.
Neuchatel tram

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday 10 October - Aigle and Bex

An ICN took us to Lausanne and we had a cross platform transfer onto the train for Aigle.  We ran along the shore of Lac Leman through Vevey and Montreux, past the Chateau de Chillon with which Mary and I became familiar during our stay last September.

At Aigle the first thing we saw was one of the new trams for the Chambery line which now has the same traction voltage as the other two Aigle lines while the rack system has also been altered to be the same.
New tram for the Chambery line at Aigle
We took a tram on the Sepey line through the town as far as the depot where there is a reversal of direction and the tram runs on to the rack.
Walking back into Aigle we caught an inbound tram in the old colors crossing the Place du Marche on its way to the railway station.
Old and new faces of the Aigle trams.
The SBB have now started using driving trailers on their trains between Brig and Geneva Airport via Montreux and Lausanne.  The 460 locomotive is now always on the Geneva end which is poor for photography.
We took a local train to Bex and found an Re 6/6 waiting to leave in the Brig direction.
With the light just right we started to take photographs.  The driver leaned out of the cab and laughed "Vous etes de Paris Match?"
We walked into Bex and watched a couple of trams go through the narrow street.

Love this street sign
We rode this tram back to the Bex station

We took a train back to Montreux which was strangely quiet for a station with three gauges.  We did see this new train built by Stadler for the MOB.  It is a meter gauge GTW unit.
We took our time returning to Neuchatel with pauses at Lausanne and Yverdon-les-Bains where the Ste Crois narrow gauge line had produced another carload of pit props. An empty gondola had been placed on skates in an excellent position to see how the system operates.

This evening we rode the funicular at Neuchatel and had lunch in the old part of town.