A new signaling system on the Gotthard Base tunnel route  will soon prevent the use of non ETCS signalling system equipped trains on the approaches to Erstfeld and Biasca. This was then as a good a time as any to stage a steam locomotive event touted as one of the last steam runs on the Gotthard.

For the uninitiated, the Gotthard railway connects Italy & Southern Europe to Switzerland and Northern Europe. The route cuts thru the Alps through the 15 km long Gotthard Tunnel and is one of the main transportation arteries connecting Europe. The mountainous portion of the route with numerous bridges, tunnels and seven spirals, lies between Erstfeld in the north and Biasca in the south.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - GBT map 2
click on pic

A photo gallery can be viewed here.

Below is a video on YouTube….

The south bound run took place on Saturday, the 27th of  June and I caught with steam trains at Rotkreuz. One of the trains had earlier in the day originated at Frankfurt and the other at Luzern. First to arrive was BR01 202 hauling some vintage SBB coaches. The 183 tonne locomotive was built in 1936 by Henschel & sons, Kassel. It is currently owned and maintained by Verien Pacific, a steam tour operator in Switzerland.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Gotthard Dampfspektakel 2015 01 - BR01 202 Pacific arrives at Rotkreuz

The 120 tonne SLM built, electric AE6/6 number 11407 and named Aargau after one of the cantons of Switzerland rolls into the yard. It will provide helper services to the steam trains today.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Gotthard Dampfspektakel 2015 06 - AE 6 6 number 11407 will perform banker duties today

Finally SNCF french railways class 141r number 1244, an oil fired 2-8-2 locomotive coupled with another BR01 pacific number 150 comes into Rotkreuz. It is hauling vintage Deutsche Bahn stock.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 141r arrives heading BR01 150 and some Deutsche Bahn vintage stock

The three steam locomotives along with the AE6/6 electric and the vintage coaches are shunted together as one train. An inclined curve outside of Rotkreuz forms a perfect location to view the train.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - A steam loco triple header is a rare treat

Regular traffic on the Gotthard is very dense with as many as 100 trains a day. Heavy traffic at Arth Goldau delayed the steam train, which  meant that I was able to catch up with the triple headed train again at Schwyz.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - aerial view of the triple header at Schwyz

Next stop was Fluellen on the southern edge of the Urnersee where an Ae4/7 electric  had arrived with it’s train from Luino, Italy. Another steam locomotive ,  a BR50 was supposed to be a part of this train but pulled out at the last minute… reasons unknown.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Vintage electric AE4-7 number 11407 at Fluellen

The steamers in the meantime had reached Erstfeld and they made a long watering stop here. The locomotives were pulled into a siding and the rail fans got up close and personal with them.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - The steamers stopped at Erstfeld for waterGotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Gotthard Dampfspektakel 2015 15 - They were the center of attraction for all

The Gotthard mountain route has seven spirals in it’s route …

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - spiral complex map 1
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Of these 3 lies to the north of the Gotthard tunnel and 4 to the south. Wassen is home to two of these spirals and  is a special place for all rail fans. Its two spirals, the Wattinger and the Leggistein spirals provide 3 levels of track with numerous bridges and tunnels.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Wassen and 3 levels

A church in the middle of it all, provides a perfect vantage point for all the railfans  gathered there …

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - railfans at wassen church waiting for the steam trains

and while they waited for the steamers to arrive, a steady procession of freights kept them busy.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - nice display of freights at Wassen whilst awaiting the steamers

The middle Meienreuss bridge was a perfect setting to capture the steam locomotives from the air.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - double header on the middle meienreuss bridge at Wassen Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 141r on the middle meienreuss bridge

The trains were traveling fast and i was eventually able to catch up with them on the South side of the Gotthard at the Prato helical tunnel.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 141r emerges on the lower level of the Prato tunnel Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 01 202 with 01 150 on the lower level of the Prato helical tunnel

and once again at the Biaschina step spiral tunnel….

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 01 202 with 01 150 on the middle level of the Biasca steps Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 01 202 with 01 150 on the lowest level of the Biasca step tunnel complex having just emerged from the Travi tunnel

The trains went on to Bellinzona and Locarno and i was unable to catch up with them again.

The return leg was planned for Monday, the 29th of June from Bellinzona. Bellinzona has a large yard to it’s north.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 01 202 with 01 150 reverse back onto the passanger coaches at Bellinzona yard

The locomotives were parked right at the end of the yard and I spent a bit of time watching the locomotives being shunted.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - The steamers at the north end of Bellinzona yard Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Awaiting departure at Bellinzona

The Biaschina step spiral complex consists of 2 helical tunnels, the Pianotondo tunnel and the Travi tunnel. Trains can be viewed at three levels here making it an obvious choice to view the uphill workings of the steam locomotives.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Biaschina and 3 levels

First on the scene is SNCF 141r …

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - close quarters with SNCF 141r at the Biaschina step complex

Here seen on the Pianotondo viaduct…

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 141r on fire on the Pianotondo viaduct

BR01 202 and 01 150 followed closely on it’s heels…

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - up close and personal with the 01 202 at the Biaschina steps

and here seen on the middle level having just exited the Travi tunnel ….

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 01 202 with 01 150 climb up the Biaschina step spirals complex

Traffic held up the steamers at Ambri-Piotta and that meant another chance for shooting the steamers….

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - the steam twins dpearting Rodi Fiesso Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 14r follows suit and departs Ambri

Next stop was back at Wassen where BR01 202 and BR01 150 posed on the middle Meienreuss Bridge…

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - 202 and 150 pose on the middle meienreuss bridge in wassen

A quick shift of location and i was able to catch SNCF 141r at the now defunct Wassen station…..

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - SNCF 141r glides smoothly thru wassen station

The beautiful lakeside village of Sisikon forms the final location…..

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Sisikon at the edge of Lake Lucerne or the Urnersee

for viewing the steamers as they head back to Rotkreuz and beyond.

Gotthard Dampfspektakel blog - Last of the steamers at Sisikon

This possibly then is the last time trains headed with steam locomotives would run on this section before the impending conversion to ETCS signaling. Once the Gotthard base tunnel opens for service in 2016, capacity on the mountain route would free up considerably and one can hope to expect many more such runs originating from Erstfeld and Biasca.

I for one , certainly look forward to more such events….

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