Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sursee-Triengen Railway

Frank writes...

Our other big railfanning stop in Switzerland was at the Sursee-Triengen Railway or Sursee-Triengen-Bahn (STB), which runs between the two cities in its name some ways north of Lucerne. They only operate steam on the last Sunday of the month but, conveniently, we were in Switzerland on that date. And it was my birthday so my wife had to go along with it, albeit reluctantly.

The STB is about 5.5 miles long and runs from Triengen in the north, which is the end of the line, to Sursee in the south, where it interchanges with the national SBB system. The shops (left, behind that locomotive crane) and main depot and office (right) are in Triengen. We showed up about an hour before train time and had lunch at the outdoor cafe at the depot.
The locomotive in steam for the day was this 0-6-0WT, a class E 3/3 well tank locomotive built in Winterthur in 1913. Well tanks, which carry water in a tank slung under the locomotive between the drivers, are more rare in the U.S. than in Europe I believe.

Here the locomotive has pulled away from the shed to the switchback at the very northern end of the railroad and is returning to the platform to run around the train. The three-car train consisted of a dining/lounge car, a three-axle goods car with tables and chairs placed near the open baggage doors, and a 1st/2nd class coach. Yes, there was a guy sitting in the cafe playing the accordion.
Boarding the train, rather than step boxes they used these nifty little things that hooked onto the car steps.
They didn't care where you sat so we sat in first class, shown here, of course. The second class section of the car had more typical 2+2 seats.
We were also right behind the locomotive. They let kids (and their parents) ride on the front platform of the coach, which seemed a bit odd given that it was just an open-platform car and didn't have a railing or anything, but the kids sure enjoyed it. The ride was very pleasant and between Triengen and Sursee there were a couple of stops. The trip runs by a timetable and passengers can board or get off at any station along the route. At Sursee, we stopped short of the station to get authority from the SBB dispatcher to enter the platform. Then it was into the platform, unload quickly, and continue out the other end to a siding so that we didn't foul the main line! Using a second adjacent siding the locomotive then ran around the train. 

Afterwards it was back into the platform to quickly load and then back onto the STB proper for a more relaxed ride back to Triengen.
Back at Triengen, one of the volunteers was kind enough to show me around the shop and yard. The locomotive was cut off the train immediately after arrival and was switched over to the shop lead, where it was coaled and watered. One disadvantage of well tank locomotives is that they tend to have lower water capacity than saddle tank locomotives. The shop is a two-track affair probably some 100' long. One track was in use for the service locomotive while the other held a rather elaborate speeder and a second locomotive that is currently out of service.
The second locomotive, 8522, is shown above - but this one is an electric locomotive! Now stop your scoffing; I know what you're thinking. "Hey, idiot, that's a steam engine, not an electric locomotive." Well, in this case, it's both - and the proof was posted right on the wall of the workshop.
Your eyes aren't deceiving you - it's a steam engine with a pantograph on the cab roof. One of Switzerland's problems back in the days of steam was that they had no coal mines and had to buy all of their coal from other countries. That was one of the reasons they electrified so many lines so early: hydroelectric power was plentiful so electric railways were domestically sustainable. During World War II coal became extremely expensive so they converted two E 3/3 0-6-0s into steam/electrics by putting pantographs on the roof and electric heating elements in the boiler. They were used to switch a yard that was electrified but also had some short freight branches, which the locomotives were able to switch because they could operate for some 20 minutes out from under wire as "fireless cookers." The two engines were converted to electric in 1943 and 8522 wasn't converted back to pure coal operation until 1953 - and today it's preserved in Triengen, where it just needs new tires before it can run again. Pretty neat, eh?


Anonymous said...

What was the reason for the well tank design, lower center of gravity or what?
C Kronenwetter
IRM Member

Anonymous said...

Converting a coal fired steam locomotive to electric! Now I have heard everything.

I did know that Switzerland went electric quite early; but not that they had to import coal.
Did not know that they had no local deposits. I wonder how the people heated their houses; somehow I can't imagine them carrying buckets of coal up the mountain?

Ted Miles