Monday, June 5, 2017

Swiss Transport Museum

Frank writes...

My wife and I just returned from a visit to Europe and while there wasn't too much railfanning, of course there was some. Most of this was in Switzerland, one of our stops. We stopped in Lucerne at the Swiss Transport Museum, which is an extremely impressive publicly-funded place more comparable to the Smithsonian than to any private railway museum in the U.S.

The museum consists of four large halls arrayed around a central courtyard: one hall each for rail, road, water, and air transport. The railroad hall was, of course, the most interesting. It was impressively large, well-lit, and spacious. It also had quite a few displays and exhibits and nearly all signage was in German, French, Italian, and English. Here's a postal stagecoach alongside an 0-4-6T which according to was built in 1858.
And it's Switzerland so of course you need a Krokodil. This one, number 13254, was built in 1920 by Oerlikon. Other than the GG1 - or perhaps including the GG1 - this is arguably the most famous electric locomotive design in the world.
One of the things that's always impressive about museums like this is when the tracks aren't jammed with equipment. At the STM there was quite a bit of empty track in the display hall which was taken up with various exhibits. That jagged wall in the foreground is a huge graphic representation of elevation changes on one of the Swiss lines, possibly the Gotthard Pass line but my memory fails me.
Some of the exhibits are interactive; here, one of the local kinder learns how valve gear and side rods work.
This two-unit shovel-nose electric locomotive was one of a few pieces open to walk through. It was built in 1939 for the Gotthard Tunnel line and was so powerful that it tended to pull couplers out of freight cars. Nevertheless it lasted in service until a major fire in one of the cars in 1970.
The cab of the two-unit electric locomotive, CFF 11852. The steering wheel looking thing is the throttle.
The locomotive interior (of one of the units) is open to walk through. The components are very well labeled and described on plaques mounted at eye level.
I was impressed with how specific the descriptions were; nothing seemed "dumbed down" and they even included some pretty technical information including some circuit diagrams.
Moving along, they had this steam dummy built in 1894 along with a matching trailer. Everything on display in the railroad hall was immaculately restored.
This piece of equipment caught my eye. Sure enough, it's effectively an interurban car, built in 1911 for the Altstatten-Gais Railway. It's meter gauge and ran on 1000 volts DC. But what's that underneath it?
Well sure enough, it's a D2-EG. I couldn't see the pump badge plate, just the one for the motor (all in English so it was imported, not built under license), but I know one of these when I see it. Neat!
And they had a sectioned steam engine, something that is popular with some of the larger government-funded museums. Steamtown in Pennsylvania and the National Railway Museum in York, England also have examples of this. This one is an 0-6-0 built in 1909.
I didn't write down the specifics but this is an unusual piece of equipment; basically an electric locomotive and coach trailer built for a cog railway, but the trailer is "hitched" to the locomotive on a shared frame, almost like a tractor-trailer arrangement.
Here's a variety of exhibits. In the left background is a four-cylinder 2-10-0, SBB 2965, built in Winterthur in 1916. In the right foreground is a crank axle of the type used on locomotives with inside cylinders; these are pretty common in Europe, I believe, but not so much in the U.S. Behind it is an electric locomotive that was basically a smaller version of the famous Krokodil.
The only real streetcar, or tram, in the museum was this very early car, dating to 1888, from the Vevey-Montreux-Chillon line. According to the sign, this line used double overhead and the car picked up current using a double-contact "sledge" rather than two separate trolley poles.
This 2-B-2 switcher used the PRR DD1 method of propulsion, namely one very large motor inside the carbody. According to the signage, the advantages of relative simplicity were offset by poor reliability.
But at least when you break down your tools will all be easy to find!
Next door to the railroad hall was the automobile hall, a three-story behemoth in which attention (and a whole lot of money) had been lavished on a stunning wall stocked with beautifully restored cars and trucks on removable steel pallets. The yellow thing to the left is a robotic mover, and on the first floor there was a small theater with space for one palletized car. Every so often that robot would zoom over to some car, extract it (and its pallet, or shelf) from the wall of cars, and move it down to the theater, where a brief movie would play describing that car's historical significance. Geez.
Most of the contents of the auto hall didn't interest me much, but I have to admit I wouldn't mind taking this thing for a spin. It's a steam tricycle built by Charles Brown, later of Brown-Boveri, in 1887.
And then there was this thing, which I guess was an improvement on the two-wheeled rickshaw. And I thought my job was rough.
Next to the auto hall is the marine hall, which wasn't as big (insert Swiss Navy joke here). This large ship plinthed out in front looked pretty impressive; it turns out it's the SS Rigi, the world's oldest flush-deck side-wheel paddle steamer. Photos online show it much less, er, stripped down, so it appears to be undergoing restoration rather than simply incomplete as this photo implies.
And last there was the air and space hall, which had a few small airplanes and space capsules (or replicas thereof) on display inside. Outside was this Swissair Convair CV-990 Coronado coming in for a landing.
The central courtyard that was ringed by the exhibit buildings included a number of interactive exhibits. There was a go-kart track, an area with child-sized construction equipment kids could play with, and this boat pond with electric boats. There were also some displays including some more rail equipment, a large rail tunnel section, and a bus or two.
And for the bus guys, this thing was sitting out front and apparently going for short trips around the block or something; no idea whether it was giving rides. I wasn't sure I wanted to ride a bus signed "extrafahrt" anyway.

All in all, the Swiss Transport Museum really was an impressive place. It did a great job of appealing to a very wide range of visitors, mixing interactive exhibits for kids and general-interest railroad displays with some pretty technical and specific descriptions of some of the equipment on display.


Anonymous said...

A little internet translation search seems to indicate that extrafahrt is a special excursion. Nice set of interesting photos.

C Kronenwetter
IRM member

Chris said...

Other peoples money is tempting. Sometimes the government won't even let our museums keep our own though.

Anonymous said...

There is a steam locomotives in there that was built in 1848; older than most any steam locos in the US.

There are tram (streetcar) museums in other parts of Switzerland.

Ted Miles