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LRTA Tour of North Eastern Switzerland 2003

John Laker, 17 June 2003

A total of 56 people went on the LRTA Convention Tour organised through Timeline Travel from 29th March to 6th April 2003. Travel was by coach utilising the Seafrance ferry from Dover to Calais. An overnight stop was made at the Ibis Hotel, Charleroi situated opposite Sud station. Those willing to skip Dinner or breakfast had time for a brief look at the TEC trams. One car on route 89 was noted in service in the old orange and cream livery, the others being in the TEC livery of red and cream.

At 8.00 a.m. on Sunday morning the coach departed for Nancy, where we were dropped at the Vandoeuvre terminus of the guided trolleybus route. Here everybody tried to work out how to purchase tickets from the machine. Whilst this was going on one of the vehicles arrived running on its diesel engine off the guideway. The helpful driver assisted everybody to buy their tickets, but in the process made himself several minutes late departing. The journey to the other end of the route at Essey was made both on and off the guideway. Ride quality was variable and there was some noise when using the guide rail. At Essey terminus vehicles seemed to abandon the guideway and run on diesel around the terminal loop, but put their poles on the overhead wires before departing again in guided mode. Progress on the ninety-degree curves by the railway station was observed to be painfully slow, probably due to a severe speed limit imposed following earlier derailments.

After lunch the party continued its journey to Zurich, which was to be our base for the next six nights. On Monday morning the group assembled at Hard depot for a tour of the Zurich tram system in preserved “Elefant” car 1350 and trailer 645. Unfortunately the morning turned out wet, but this did not detract from the enjoyment of the tour, which covered most of the central area trackage as well as a spirited climb uphill to the Zoo terminus via route 6, and a visit to the terminus of routes 3, 8 and 15 at Klusplatz. The rest of the day, which brightened up, was free for members to explore the rest of the system, or to ride the Forchbahn, and other light rail lines and funiculars.

Tuesday was a warm sunny day and the coach took us to Weissenbuhl Depot in Bern where preserved two axle car 37 and trailer 204 were brought out for a tour. Bern has changed its livery to red, white and black, although a few Swiss standards on route 5 are still in the green and cream colour scheme. Three new Combino cars were noted on the system. Number 755 was in service on route 3, 756 was in the depot and the third un-numbered probably 757 was out on test. The tour ended at lunchtime and free time given to visit route 5 not covered by the tour, or to ride the RBS route G to Vorb Dorf and to return via the alternative route W to the Hauptbahnhof.

There was no formal programme on the Wednesday and more time was available to explore the Zurich area. Some members rode one of the two experimental Cobra trams operating on route 4. A visit was arranged in the evening to the Tram Museum Zurich located towards the outer end of route 13 in the former depot at Wartau. The depot contained 5 cars, the oldest being car 1 of the Zurich-Oerlikon-Seebach tramway dating from 1897, and painted in the original two tone green livery. The latest addition is car 2 from the Limmattal Strassenbahn dating from 1900 and this has been restored in its original striking yellow ochre colour scheme.

On Thursday the coach deposited the party in the centre of St.Gallen to enable us to ride the Trogenerbahn, and the Appenzeller light rail lines. Starting at the SBB Hauptbahnhof the Trogenerbahn runs for some distance on street through the city before climbing out into the hinterland As the tram gained height we ran into a blizzard and several centimetres of fresh snow. It was a similar story on the Appenzeller Bahnen line to Gais, from where some of us rode on the shuttle to Altstatten Stadt. The views were spectacular as we descended on the rack and the snow gave way to green grass and farmland.

On Friday we were dropped in Luzern to visit the splendid Swiss Transport Museum.which includes a number of trams. The oldest is one of the early double deck cars from the Montreux-Vevey system that utilised the Cedes Stoll system of current collection. Later most of us took the lake steamer in glorious sunshine to Vitznau, from where we took the red car of the standard gauge Rigibahn rack railway to the summit at Rigi Kulm,1800 metres above sea level. Again we ran into a magical wonderland of snow covered mountains and fir trees and finally into cloud. After a welcome cup of hot coffee we changed to the blue and white car for the 45 minute descent to Arth Goldau, where we changed to a Transalpino tilting train for an impressive ride back to Zurich. The Convention dinner was held at the Novotel Hotel that evening. On this occasion no guests were invited but Geoffrey Claydon gave a short address.

The next morning it was time to start our return journey with a 740km drive to Lille. The coach arrived there in late afternoon enabling us a chance to ride the tramlines to Roubaix and Tourcoing or to sample the VAL metro.

On Sunday morning a visit was made to the AMITRAM museum near Lille. The museum’s operating line is in an attractive setting along the banks of the canal. It had just been extended and we rode the first two passenger cars to use it. The leading car was Neuchatel 2-axle car 74 followed by ELRT bogie car 420. We were told that the farm at the end of the line is to be refurbished and stocked with animals as a tourist attraction. Back at the museum depot Fribourg car 5 was driven out for photographs. This was the last visit on our itinerary and it was time to head for Calais and the ferry. It was a successful tour with plenty of interest and our thanks are due to Ian Longworth and his team for the organising it on behalf of the LRTA.

John Laker, 17 June 2003

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