To some people, this picture captures the appeal of the railways of continental Europe. It’s Euro-City Train 91, carrying the name “Vauban”, which at the time ran from Brussels to Milan, and seen here at Kandersteg in in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Like a lot of international trains at the time, it’s a heterogeneous mix of coaching stock from different national systems, the leading coaches from the Belgian state railway SNCB, the rear ones from the Swiss federal railways. And the train is running on the metals of the private Bern Lötchberg Simplon.
Over the years I’ve managed to accumulate a fair few N-gauge SNCB coaches from Arnold and Roco in assorted liveries with a view to modelling this train, most recently some unboxed Arnold factory clearance stock for a fiver each! I can’t recreate the exact formation of this train because no manufacturer has ever made the newer I11 coaches (second, fourth and fifth in the formation). But a few Google image searches have brought up pictures from a few years earlier showing formations I can represent with the coaches I’ve got.
To the uninitiated it looks like a random jumble of coaches. But every coach is there for a reason, and once you get your head round the carriage workings it starts to make sense. Like many long-distance trains passing through Switzerland it’s made up of an international portion plus a Swiss portion for local passengers within the country. I don’t know the exact reason the Belgian through coaches are a mix of types, but the more modern I11 coaches were used predominately on internal Belgian services rather than longer-distance workings. Perhaps there weren’t enough left over for international use for a complete train? Likewise the Swiss portion has one first class EWIV coach, and three much older EWIs for second class.
Researching train formations for a prototype-based layout can be as interesting as building and operating the actual model. Any parallels with software testing or analysis is left as an exercise for the reader.