30th January 2016 - Rhaetian Ramblings
Saturday 30th January 2016
With numerous visits to the RhB dating back to 2003 we had long since had all the railways locos in everyday service for haulage except for one; Ge6/6ii no. 703. These Bo-Bo-Bo locomotives usually work freight trains but have always had the odd booked passenger turn as well as being the favoured power to cover the occasional shortage of Ge4/4iii locos on the Chur to St. Moritz services. In early 2016 their booked turns were down to an early morning one way trip from Chur to Ilanz on Monday to Fridays, one St Moritz to Landquart service on Saturdays and a balancing service in the opposite direction on Sunday. As just about the sole purpose of the day was to do the Ge6/6 turn which departed St Moritz at 16:45, we just planned to have a general “bash” around sticking to Ge4/4ii locos as much as possible and aiming to end up at St Moritz some after 4pm.
Luckily the RhB is very “crank” friendly and will sell you a “Lokdienst” from most manned offices for 3CHF. This document lists all the items of motive power in service on the day and what trains they are working and, unlike the versions available on our previous visits, ran to 11 pages and covered the whole system including the Bernina Bahn.
Breakfast at the Grischuna did not start until 7:30, the ticket office opened at 7:45 and trains in both directions called there just after 8am meaning it would be a bit of a rush to eat breakfast, get a Lokdienst and catch one of the 8am trains. We had no real need to rush off so went across to the ticket office to purchase a Lokdienst just after 8 and digested it along with a leisurely breakfast before heading outside to catch the train to Chur just after 9am. 703 was shown under repair at Landquart but we decided to cover the 16:45 from St Moritz anyway and target some low-mileage Ge4/4ii locos; before that though we had to start off with 651 again, Ge4/4iii locos being a fact of life on the Chur / St Moritz trains.
From Chur, our next move was to Landquart with a choice of standard or narrow gauge trains to get there, we chose to stick with the metre gauge, not least due to the fact that although it was a longer journey it left earlier and would get there first leaving slightly more time to have a look round and maybe get some photos.
Our target from Landquart was 617 on the 11:20 to St Moritz via Klosters and some amusement was provided whilst we waited by some “normals” laden with skiing kit who appeared to be totally confused. We thought that they might have wanted Klosters or Davos but they managed to miss both trains heading that way whilst standing on the wrong platform, talking and gesticulating animatedly whilst their two pre-teen kids looked on, cringing at their parent’s antics.
617 duly appeared as booked on the 11:20 to St Moritz and we took it round to Zuoz where we popped into the Co-Op for lunch before doubling back with 618 to Klosters Platz where we intended to get the next Landquart to St Moritz train. Unfortunately we had noticed that there appeared to be some delays in the 19km long Vereina Tunnel which is mostly single track with two passing loops inside it. The tunnel was opened in 1999 to provide a direct route between Klosters and the Engadin valley and is very busy with car carrying shuttles, three sets in total which all looked to be fully loaded. We can only assume that ensuring the maximum number of cars could be loaded onto each train was causing delays to departures with consequent hold-ups to other trains waiting to cross in the two loops.
The upshot of this was that instead of having six minutes to double back at Klosters, we arrived at time the other train should have departed, we might have made it if the trains were cross-platform but there was no chance of making it under the subway. Never mind, at least it gave us the chance to photograph diesel 243 on the tunnel rescue train and a couple of other things before carrying out “plan B” which involved getting the Scuol-Tarasp train to Sagliains and changing there for a Scuol-Tarasp to Pontresina train.
This actually left a few minutes late and also suffered more delays in the tunnel but the connection with the Engadin Valley train at Sagliains is booked so we (and plenty of other passengers) made it with ease. There was no chance of our planned short break at Zernez now and we only just made it in time to Samedan to connect with the train to St. Moritz, we should have had 10 minutes there. Whilst changing trains we bumped into a fellow UK crank who was also after the Ge6/6 diagram but had other plans first so would be joining it later on in the journey.
At St Moritz, 643 was detached from its train and headed off into a siding beyond the station where it was attached to a restaurant car and proceeded to pull it out into an empty platform before carrying on to complete the run-round movement of its train. As we stood there pondering this strange move the shunter split the train and the half attached to the loco went across to the restaurant car, picked it up, then went back to the other half of the train, neatly sandwiching the catering facilities in the middle of the set. Simple, no fuss and just the sort of slick operation that endears the RhB to us.
Two of the older Abe4/4iii Bernina Bahn EMUs (53 and 56) arrived from Poschiavo next, then 701 arrived to work the 16:45 departure with a shunting loco (112) in tow. We guessed the latter was do some sort of swap with 114 as the latter was started up and thrashed down the platform emitting a large amount of black “clag” as it did so and whilst this was going on, 701 had been driven straight onto the coaches that would form its train. 112 was uncoupled and set off along the platform with 701 and train following whilst 114 went into the far end of the siding that the train had vacated, no doubt waiting to be collected and returned to Samedan with the next loco heading that way.
By now another UK crank had appeared who had arrived on the Bernina Bahn train and joined us for the short trip to Samedan. The first crank we bumped into got on at Madulain and we were joined by two more at Zernez. We took 701 all the way back to Landquart and had a quick change to a standard gauge IC train back to Chur where we had just over an hour for dinner, the idea being to dive into the restaurant just across the road from the station which we had been to a couple of times previously. There was one minor flaw with this plan however; the restaurant was closed – not just for the day but completely by the look of things as the rest of the building looked to be empty as well.
Knowing from experience that Chur is a little thin on the restaurant front we decided to have a very quick walk round the block before returning to the station and raiding the bakers that we noticed was still open but we stumbled on a Mc Donalds just round the corner. This place is normally the last resort for us food-wise and memories of the last one we visited in Uppsala a few months back came to mind (it was awful!). However, needs must and we didn’t want to gamble on what might be available at the station so we gritted our teeth and went in. There was no need to worry as this branch was pretty much to Mc Donalds normal standards and we easily finished in time to get a cup of tea from the Co-Op and catch the 19:58 back to Filisur.
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