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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Gotthard mountain route has seven spirals in it’s route …
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.
A church in the middle of it all, provides a perfect vantage point for all the railfans gathered there …
and while they waited for the steamers to arrive, a steady procession of freights kept them busy.
The middle Meienreuss bridge was a perfect setting to capture the steam locomotives from the air.
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.
and once again at the Biaschina step spiral 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.
The locomotives were parked right at the end of the yard and I spent a bit of time watching the locomotives being shunted.
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.
First on the scene is SNCF 141r …
Here seen on the Pianotondo viaduct…
BR01 202 and 01 150 followed closely on it’s heels…
and here seen on the middle level having just exited the Travi tunnel ….
Traffic held up the steamers at Ambri-Piotta and that meant another chance for shooting the steamers….
Next stop was back at Wassen where BR01 202 and BR01 150 posed on the middle Meienreuss Bridge…
A quick shift of location and i was able to catch SNCF 141r at the now defunct Wassen station…..
The beautiful lakeside village of Sisikon forms the final location…..
for viewing the steamers as they head back to Rotkreuz and beyond.
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….