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BLS Photo Gallery

The Bern Lötchberg Simplon railway in Switzerland is one of my favourite railways outside Britain. I love the combination of the spectacular scenery, heavy traffic, and the attractive livery of chocolate brown locomotives and blue and cream coaches.

The BLS main line runs from Thun to Brig through the famous Lötchberg pass with it's 9-mile summit tunnel, and carries heavy international passenger and freight traffic between northern Europe and Italy. A branch from Speiz serves the popular tourist resport on Interlaken, while another long branch heads east along the Simmental to Zwiesimmen.

These photos were taken in 1991, when some of the veteran electric locomotives were still in service.

1939-built Ae6/8 stands at Goppenstien, at the summit of the line. These venerable 1-Co-Co-1 locomotives were relegated to local freight services like this one by the early 90s. They have now been withdrawn.

A car shuttle emerges from the Lötchberg tunnel at Goppenstein. The leading vehicle carries bicycles and their riders. Compare these trains with the sealed hi-tech trains used under the channel.

SBB Re4/4 IV locomotive emerges from the same 9-mile tunnel with an international express, made up largely of German stock. This four-strong class of experimental prototype locomotives were being used extensively on BLS passenger work at the time; they've since been sold to the SOB, a regional line in eastern Switzerland.

A pair of BLS Re4/4s plod up the grade south of Frutigen with a heavy freight. A third loco was cut into the centre of the train as a banker. These 8000hp locomotives were the principle workhorse of the line at the time, working everything from heavy international passenger and freight to the tunnel car-carriers and local passenger trains.

A few minutes later a northbound freight passed heading down the grade, hauled by a pair of SBB locomotives, an Re6/6 Bo-Bo-Bo and an Re4/4III Bo-Bo. SBB locomotives were a common sight on the BLS main line, mostly on heavy freights such as this one.

At Frutigen station yet another southbound freight stands in the yard with an Re6/6 at the head, while the banking loco is attached. Frutigen marks the start of the steep incline to the northern portal of the summit tunnel at Kandersteg.

BLS Re4/4 No 181 heads out of Interlaken with a train for Bern. This single track branch carries heavy passenger traffic, including a lot of long-distance international services.

An Ae8/8 Bo-Bo+Bo-Bo double locomotive stands at Speiz with a northbound freight. These locomotives date from the late 1940s, some of them rebuilds of pairs of Ae4/4 Bo-Bos. Although these venerable locos were still in front-line service in 1991, they only seemed to come out at night, and this is the only photo I managed to take of one hauling a train.

The BLS retain one "kettle", this little 0-6-0 shunter, which pulls the occasional steam special. Here it's seen shunting coaches at Speiz.

All photos © Tim Hall, 1991, 2000, 2001

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