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
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
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.