Switzerland - WAB Wengernalpbahn

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Wengernalpbahn WAB takes people and goods from the villages of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald reachable by cars up to the carless villages of Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg and further to the Jungfraubahn railroad from Kleine Scheidegg (2061m) up to Jungfraujoch (3475m). Wengernalpbahn forms with its around 20 km of route length the biggest continuous network of pure rack railway operation in the world. The Jungfraubahn is the railroad which reaches the highest altitude in Europe. Both lines are owned and operated by Jungfraubahn Holding and its subsidiaries. As the area served by these railways, with the exception of the starting points at Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, do not have a road connection, the lines serve many kinds of needs. This is especially true for the short section from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, as Wengen has several thousands of year-around inhabitants in addition to its role as a tourist destination.
Wengen is a famous ski village with even European Cup ski events; there is also a marked need for goods transport, which is all handled by the WAB trains. Wengernalpbahn is built with 800 mm gauge. It is throughout built with a rack rail system according to the so called Riggenbach rail system. Maximum incline slope is 250 promilles or 25%. There are ten stations along the line. The electric system is 1500 V DC from an overhead catenary line.

This modern freight train locomotive He 2/2 no. 32 of the Wengernalpbahn WAB is one of the two built in 1995 to replace old and unreliable He 2/2s from the year 1909. It weighs 16 tons. Maximum speed is a modest 22 km/h.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen, May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The most unique element of Wengernalpbahn operations is the freight traffic. The railway is the most prominent, if not the last remaining railway in the world with commercial freight traffic on 800 mm gauge. The most frequently operated freight service is between Lauterbrunnen and Wengen, as everything needs to be transported to Wengen by reloading the freight from road to rail in Lauterbrunnen for the last bit to the village, and vice versa. The freight operation is dominated by locomotives He 2/2 31 and 32, built by Stadler, SLM and ABB in 1995. This one is the no.32.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


WAB's two cargo locomotives, one from 1995 and the one behind it from 1909. Both are still in active use.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The same locomotives as shown above, but now seen from their front.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


At the time of writing (July 2020), five of the older He 2/2 locomotives from 1909 to 1926 were still used in secondary duties, including shunting operations at Lauterbrunnen and track maintenance works trains. With a maximum speed of 11 km/h these locomotives are no longer suitable for regular passenger or freight services. Most if not all of these old locomotives are expected to be retired with the delivery of three new He 4/4 locomotives, ordered from Stadler in early 2020. In this picture, He 2/2 no.52 can be seen shunting at Lauterbrunnen.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 21.6.2019 by Johannes Erra.


The car free village of Wengen can only be reached by the the cog wheel, rack rail Wengernalpbahn from Lauterbrunnen. It operates like a tram, just slower. Here a WAB BDhe 4/4 2. series no. 123 from 1970 in pair with a more modern 1998 built unmotorised wagon no.243 at Lauterbrunnen station, just about to leave to Wengen.
Photo in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


A similar composition like the one pictured above, this is the motorwagon BDhe 4/4 no.122 from 1970 together with a new low-floor motorless steering cab coach.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


A closer look at the motorless new low-floor wagon no.243. It has a bending joint in the middle to help it to turn in the tight curves of the Wengernalpbahn route.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The front part of the same motorless wagon no.243 as shown above.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Wengernalpbahn is in the process of fleet renewal. In spite of this, some of the older equipment are still expected to serve for many years to come. This includes the EMUs BDhe 4/4 120 to 123 from 1970 that have been modernised thoroughly in two stages between 1998 and 2011, including asynchronous motors and equipment for operation with low floor trailers. This is the same BDhe 4/4 122 as shown above, again now with a new low floor steering cab trailer coach, which was also seen in the pictures above.
Picture from Wengen on 22.6.2019 by Johannes Erra.


The older livery of Wengernalpbahn was green below the windows and yellow around them. The majority of the EMUs changed colours in the early 2000s, but some of the older units still have the old colours. These include the remaining units of BDhe 4/4 series 101 to 118, built between 1947 and 1964. Motor wagon BDhe 4/4 113 is seen here with its trailer, serving as a standby unit at Kleine Scheidegg on 22.6.2019. The motor wagon is very similar to how the somewhat newer BDhe 4/4 120 to 123 looked like before their modernisations. Most of the older units are expected to be retired from service during the early years of 2020s.
Picture from Kleine Scheidegg 22.6.2019 by Johannes Erra.


These "Pano" trains are the newest trains of WAB. It is a three coach fixed composition and two such compositions can be coupled together, like here, to build a six coaches long train. The middle coaches of each unit have very large panorama windows so that tourists can have a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. The train type is officially called WAB Bhe 4/8. They were built in two series, first in 2004 and more in 2014-15. There are now 4+6 of these new three coach multiple units. The top speed of these trains is 28 km/h and they have 152 seats per unit. They were built by Stadler.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


A closer look at the front of the "Pano" train no.150.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


This BDhe 4/8 no 133 of WAB is built in 1988. It consists of two coaches, permanently attached to each other. Both coaches are motorised but only the one shown here has a pantograph for electricity. The two coaches weigh together 43 tonnes and this combination can climb the steep slopes at a maximum of 28 km/h. There´s a large cargo compartment for skis and other goods.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The Wengernalpbahn no. 243 is a motorless steering cab coach type of a unit consisting of two coaches, permanently attached. This new wagon set was built in November 1998 and it was the first low floor, tram-like train of WAB. Climbing on the snowy, steep hillsides along WAB´s cog wheel three rail railroad it looks like a thing of the future in the wrong place.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Wengernalpbahn WAB BDhe 4/4 2.series cog wheel electric motor unit no. 121 from 1970 at the Lauterbrunnen station. These EMUs were almost identical to the 1964 built 1.series wagons, except for a bigger windscreen and a bigger compartment for skis and luggage. Five of these EMUs operate to the Kleine Scheidegg sking resort, 2061 m above sea level.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


WAB BDeh 4/4 2.series no. 120 is from the same production series than the no.121 shown above, but here in 2016 this no.120 had already been thoroughly rebuilt and modernised whereas the picture above shows the train pretty much in its original state and livery.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen station 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The old Wengernalpbahn WAB He 2/2 1.series locomotive no. 54 from 1909 is still in use, but mainly only for switching wagons at the Lauterbrunnen valley station or when its two newer siblings, He 2/2 31 and 32 from 1995 are busy. WAB bought eight of these in 1909 and a further five in 1912. The speciality of this box-like locomotive is that its two engines are placed very high up, which helped when they were used as electric brakes while descending the slopes.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The same He 2/2 no.54 as shown above, but here seen closer by. This locomotive was built 1908 by Schweizerische Lokomotiv- & Mashinen-Fabrik Winterthur and Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft Alioth from Münchenstein near Basel. For tens of years these small locomotives took care of all traffic on the WAB route.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


BDeh 4/4 no.107 is from the very first production series of electric multiple units of WAB. This series was built during 1947-1958. This one is not normally used any more in passenger traffic, but it often hauls cargo loads up to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg.
Picture from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Wengernalpbahn WAB BDhe 4/4 2.series with a trailer wagon at Lauterbrunnen station.
Photo in May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Wengernalpbahn Hikt 302 is a cog wheel drive rail truck. Since no car traffic to the village of Wengen is possible, there is a lot of need for rail cargo equipment like this rail van.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Wengernalpbahn Hikt 307 is a similar rail van like the Hikt 302 shown above. Here it is seen from the other side.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


Special wagons for transportation and spreading of ballast and gravel.
Photo from Lauterbrunnen 1.5.2016 by Ilkka Siissalo.


One of the Wengernalpbahn WAB He 2/2 locomotives, no. 55 from 1910 is kept as a museum piece on the yard of the Elektra Birseck, the electricity company of Kanton Baselland. It operated until 1969 at the Lauterbrunnen-Kleine Scheidegg-Grindelwald route, 1969-93 as no.15 at the Schynige Plattebahn railroad, 1993-97 as a switcher engine at the WAB Lauterbrunnen station, like its sibling no. 54 still does.
Photo from Birseck May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.


The WAB He 2/2 no 55 museum engine shown sideways. It was built mechanically at SLM, Winterthur, in 1910 with all electrical parts from Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Alioth, Münchenstein - a predecessor of the company whose yard it now stands on. It´s 5,75 m long, weighs 16 tons, had a maximum speed of 12 km/h on cog wheel track and used 1500 V DC current, which is still used by WAB.
Photo from Birseck May 1999 by Ilkka Siissalo.
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