The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

Last Update

Talk Synopsis

16 April 2006

European Railways
Alan Walters
13 March 2006

Alan made an illustrated tour of European railways to an audience of 20 members. The tour covered the period from 1980 to 2000 and included over 200 slides.
Following a quick look at London and Paris, Alan really got into the tour with a look at the Spanish railway system. We saw the Madrid stations and museum before taking a comprehensive look at the Talgo trains. These were first introduced in the 1940s in an attempt to accelerate the service between Spanish cities. The concept involves short carriages with a small loading gauge, and a limited number of wheelsets, the latter achieved by sharing a single axle between adjoining cars. There have been a number of generations of this design, the latest having a capability to tilt a few degrees round curves. We saw them in service throughout the country and crossing the border into France, at which point the wheels ingeniously slide along their axles to change gauge from Spanish (5 ft 6 ins) to French standard (4ft 8½ ins). In this form, the units have traversed the European network to Paris, Zurich and Milan. Some even have sleeping accommodation - although Alan found the 5 ft 8 ins long beds somewhat cramped for his 6 ft frame. To some extent the driver is similarly constrained, the cabs of some of the types not allowing him to stand upright.
In France, we took a ride on the Rhone Valley line to Vivarais, a 33 km, 2 hour long journey into the mountains. This makes use of Mallet locomotives and near the main terminus, runs on mixed gauge track. The journey is leisurely, as is the lunch break at the top station, some 2 hours in duration in order to keep up French customs.
Then to Switzerland and a look at the B.L.S. route with its high-power electric locomotives. We saw the connections at Brig with the metre gauge Furker Ober-Alp railway, and took a look at the Zermot Matterhorn railway, before viewing the Glacier Express - according to Alan one of the slowest expresses in the world. But who want to go fast through such marvellous scenery? At San Moritz, we saw a "Pullman" set on a special train hauled by an old "Crocodile" locomotive, before moving to Luzern and a look at the S.B.B. narrow gauge rack & pinion route to Interlaken. Alan had taken a trip from there up the Jungfrau railway but he had few photographs since the top was in thick cloud. Finally, up the "Golden Valley" route to Montreux and then to Zurich. Here he showed the evolution of Swiss railway locomotive design over the years, including their version of the Trans Europe Express (T.E.E.).
A quick excursion to Italy to look at the evolution of the Pendillino, before moving to Austria to see a variety of trains including the Trans-Alpine feed to the TEE, a Czech 4-wheel railcar visitor and the Gmund-Gross Gerrungs tourist trains. The latter also caters for the local community, and even includes postal service connections.
Over the border and into German, just, to see the Prehen to Lakeside steam tram service. This has conveyed passengers on its 10 minute journey for over 100 years. In Germany proper, we saw modern expresses at Munich with the new, highly comfortable, I.C.E.s as well as the very effectively refurbished 1950's double-deck stock for local services. The new I.C.T. (tilting) trains were shown on the route to Dresden. Alan considered this a "spooky" place when he visited it in 2000, the inhabitants not seemingly realising that they were no longer in the GDR! Then on to the narrow gauge Harz Mountains on the German/Polish/Czeck border where it is like stepping back into the 1950s as Alan was the only one taking any photographs of the steam engines.
The Wuppenthal suspended railway also featured in Alan's travels. This unusual railway has recently had some significant upgrades, boasting new stations, carriages and track. We saw a close-up of the traverser mechanism which is used for the stock to enter the sheds. The old coach, which was used by the Kaiser to open the railway, is still used for private parties.
In Denmark, Alan photographed the the "IC3" high-power expresses, which are designed with relatively small carriages so that they can use the ferries between the islands. Now that most of the islands are connected by bridges, these trains no longer need to do the impressive exercise of splitting on the run, so that the two parts can rapidly follow each other into the hold. Denmark also has some BR-built Mark 3 sleepers, used on the longer journeys within the country.
Finally, over into Scandanavia, where Alan showed use some photographs of the Swedish tilting trains, and some of their older stock, which has definite similarities to Russian designs. In Norway, we saw the latest train, the Oslo airport express, and their Swiss-designed electric trains.

Return to Index

Diary of Events

Press Cuttings
Visit Reports
Lecture Reports
Product News


Tour of Europe

The map of the tour

1 France, Paris and Lyon - TGV
2 Spain, Madrid, Granada, La Coruna, Barcelona, Port Bou
3 France, Vivarais
4 Switzerland main line and narrow gauge
5 Italy, Milan
6 Austria, Gmund - Gross Gerrungs and Mariazellerbahn
7 Germany, Munich, Freiburg and Rhine Valley
8 Germany, Dresden narrow gauge
9 Germnay, Harz mountains
10 Germany, Bad Doberan
11 Denmark, train ferries in Sealand and Funen
12 Sweden, Stockholm
13 Norway, Oslo