BLNI Extra 45 November 2018 – Switzerland
[D45] Switzerland - Transports Publics du Chablais lines from Aigle
Aigle is an historic town in the Swiss canton of Vaud, situated in the upper Rhône valley. Its station is
on the main line from Genève to Brig (opened through Aigle in 1857), between Montreux and
Martigny, but it is also served by three metre gauge lines operated by Transport Publics du Chablais
(TPC), which also operates local buses. The station was rebuilt just over a decade ago, bringing the
three metre gauge lines into the main CFF station; there are four standard gauge through tracks
(one without a platform), and six metre-gauge (four bays and two through tracks) at the south end
(on the east side of the standard gauge). Completion of this work was marked with a ceremony in
October 2007. All three lines are now electrified at 1,500V DC.
General view of the metre-gauge platforms at Aigle, with the station building in the background. AL trains use the two tracks on the right
(car 311 is stabled between duties at platform 16; departures were using platform 15), ASD trains the two in the middle (cars 403 and 434
depicted were the author’s train), and AOMC trains the two on the left (unit 541 is one of the new Stadler articulated EMUs).
The three metre gauge lines were originally separate companies, and used different voltages. The
first to open, in 1900, was the Aigle-Leysin Railway (AL) which used 650V DC, increased to 1,300V in
1946. In 1907 a line opened from Aigle to Monthey via Ollon, with the line from Monthey to
Champéry opening the following year; the two companies merged in 1946 to form the AOMC.
Electrification was at 850V DC, and remained as such until 2016. Third to open, in 1914, was the
Aigle-Le Sépey-Diablerets Railway (ASD), electrified at 1,350V DC. In 1975 the three companies,
along with the Bex-Villars-Bretaye Railway (BVB), which runs from Bex (further east) and opened in
stages between 1898 and 1913, joined forces under a common management as “Transports Publics
du Chablais”, albeit remaining separate companies and retaining their own identities; it was not
until 2000 that they formally merged to form TPC, and another ten years before a unified brand
(with a livery comprising five shades of green) was introduced. BLNI (then known as Rinbad)
reported on these lines in 2001 and 2002, the main items being R.1381, R.1666, R.1814, R.2434 and
Two BLS members and a Canadian friend travelled the three TPC lines from Aigle on a Friday in late
August 2018. Arriving late morning, they found the Co-op store in the main station building was
able to provide them with a late breakfast/early lunch, and even had a self-service coffee machine.
The metre gauge platforms are numbered 11 to 16, with 15 and 16 being on the eastern-side
through tracks which continue across the station forecourt. AOMC trains use platforms 11 and 12,
ASD trains platforms 13 and 14, and AL trains platforms 15 and 16, while there are bus stops along
the other edge of platform 16. The track layout at the south end of the station allows AOMC trains
to access only the four bay platforms (11 to 14), with 11 and 12 accessible only from the AOMC line
– a hangover from this line still using a different voltage at the time of the station remodelling.
All three lines were running a basically hourly service (at approximately but not always exactly the
same minutes past each hour), although at certain times of the day there were some additional
short workings on the AOMC between Aigle and Monthey-Ville, giving a roughly half-hourly service.
Trains departed on the AL and ASD lines at almost the same time and arrived 20-25 minutes before
that – giving nice connections between the two. However, trains from Champéry arrived just
minutes after AL and ASD trains departed, and departed just before they arrived, giving connections
of 55 minutes or more. Time constraints therefore meant the travellers were unable to do the
whole of the AOMC line.
First on the agenda was TPC Line B to Les Diablerets, worked by a two-car train formed of type
BDe4/4 (motor car) 403 and type Bt (driving trailer) 434, the former dating from 1987 and the latter
from 1966 (but rebuilt in 2000). They were marked for use only on the ASD line, although they could
probably now also work the AOMC. Trains from Aigle to Les Diablerets depart southwards, but
immediately turn left to head eastwards down the centre of the Avenue de Loës and Avenue du
Chamossaire, where they occupy a central, dedicated lane of the road, at least at first. At Place-du-
Marché halt, the single track is on the north side of a less-important road, but then moves to the
south side along Avenue Veillon, and after about 1km of street running moves onto its own
alignment. 1.4km from Aigle station is Aigle ASD depot, after which the line begins to climb, looping
round a couple of times in order to help it to gain height; it then heads roughly north-east, high
above the Grande Eau (river) on the south side of the valley with a road (and its avalanche shelters)
visible on the north side. Trains cross at Plambuit, and on the outward journey the timing was such
that neither train actually stopped! 12.8km from Aigle the line from Les Diablerets trails in from the
right, and the deep ravine is crossed on a tall bridge in the carriageway of a road. A kilometre
further on is Le Sépey station, where trains must reverse; six or seven minutes was allowed for this.
The terminus at Les Diablerets.
After crossing back over the river, the line continues to climb to a summit at Sur-le-Buis, 1,131
metres above sea level (Aigle station is 404m a.s.l.), but the next section of the line goes up and
down a few times with the highest station (Le Bovets) shown as at 1,157m a.s.l. and the terminus at
1,155m a.s.l. Another train was crossed at Les Aviolats, and the line crosses to the north side of the
river east of Vers-l’Eglise. Les Diablerets is a small ski resort, and was therefore fairly quiet. There
are some impressive mountains and cliff faces a few miles to the east, including a waterfall. The
station has one platform and a small two-road shed. A single journey takes 52 minutes (up) or 55
minutes (down), and there was about 40 minutes at Les Diablerets before the train returned. Three
trains are needed to operate the hourly service.
Back at Aigle, the train on TPC Line A to Leysin was formed of type BDeh4/4 (motor car) 312 and type
Bt (driving trailer) 362 and 361, all dating from 1987 and marked for use only on the AL line. Trains
to Leysin run northwards out of the station, and immediately turn right across the station square to
head east, initially along Rue de la Gare. The road used by the AL is narrower than that used by the
ASD, and at least part of it is one-way with cars parked along one side – and the train was heading in
the opposite direction to the direction of the moving road traffic, resulting in cars having to reverse
out of the way! After the AL’s Place-du-Marché halt, just 50 metres or so from the ASD halt of the
same name, the road widens; a little further on, the line (and road) turn sharp left to cross the river,
and, after a total of 1km of street running, the railway curves further to the left to enter the AL
depot. The train reverses here, putting the motor car on the downward end of the train, and then,
after passing the AL Depot passenger platform, the Abt rack is engaged for the climb to Leysin. The
line climbs about 1,000 metres in about 5 kilometres, initially on the north side of the valley of the
Grande Eau (with clear views of the route of the ASD). An hourly service on the line requires two
trains, and the other train – today formed of a motor car and just one trailer, but both still wearing
the old AL brown and cream livery – was crossed at Rennaz.
Cars 302 and 351 still carry the old AL livery; they are pictured departing from Aigle bound for Leysin. The station building is off to the left,
and the photographer is stood in the rear doorway of the train to Les Diablerets, which was about to set off in the opposite direction.
There are four stations in Leysin, over a 1km distance with the railway climbing 183m. Leysin-
Village is at the start of a double-track section, and between Leysin-Village and Versmont about half
the line is on a steeply-graded viaduct that dominates views of the village from further away.
Versmont station is above the streets below and still on a steep gradient, with extensions to the
original platform being stepped, such is the gradient. The main station is Leysin-Feyday (1,398 m
a.s.l), and the railway immediately plunges into a 233-metre-long tunnel and the track singles. The
line turns through almost 180 degrees before emerging at Leysin-Grand Hotel station, which is the
terminus. The Grand Hotel, situated on the hillside just below the station, was a tuberculosis
sanatorium, and there is a level entrance from outside the station into the back of the hotel a few
storeys up. Since the 1960s, the hotel has been the American College of Switzerland. There are plans
to close this last section of line, and reroute it to a new more-useful terminus.
The terminus and end of line at Leysin Grand Hotel. The platform is partly in tunnel and partly in the open. The hotel is off to the right.
The third line travelled was TPC Line C, the former AOMC route, but only the non-rack section
between Aigle and Monthey-Ville, which runs along the wide Rhône Valley. This line has undergone
some changes in the last few years, including the introduction of new rolling stock in 2016 when the
OHL voltage was increased (the newer of the old stock was converted to the new voltage). The new
trains are Stadler GTW2/6 articulated units (three bogies), with two passenger sections and a “pod”
between for the electrical equipment; their lettering indicates they can be used on all three lines
from Aigle. The Schweers + Wall Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz shows the original AOMC route heading
east for a short distance before turning right to cross the ASD line on the flat, with both lines
running down the street (BLNI R.2433 reported that there was a short break in the AOMC’s wires,
since they used different voltages), and visible on Google Satellite View is a curved property
boundary which looks like it follows the course of the old AOMC line. In conjunction with the
remodelling of Aigle station, in 2006 the AOMC was moved out of the street and now runs alongside
the CFF line for almost 1.5km. Just after the original route converges, as the line curves away from
the standard gauge, is the new TPC depot, opened on 22nd June 2001 (BLNI R.1666). All the ASD, AL
and AOMC passenger stock is serviced here (the other depots are now just used for engineers’
trains), and before the voltage on the AOMC line was increased to 1,500V DC in 2016, ASD and AL
trains ran there under reduced power. (The Strub rack on the Monthey - Champéry section was
replaced by Abt rack at the same time as the voltage was changed). The line heads roughly south-
east for about three kilometres, via Ollon, following the gentle undulations of the land, before
turning roughly south-west. After another mile or so it runs parallel with a main road, crosses the
CFF main line (close to the now-closed St-Triphon station), the A9 motorway and then the River
Rhône – entering the canton of Valais in the process. Over fifteen years ago the line here was
moved to a new alignment on an embankment, crossing road junctions on bridges rather than going
through the middle of them. Just after Corbier station, the CFF line to St-Gingolph is crossed, with
the latter’s Collombey station very close by.
After turning sharp left, most of the last two kilometres is alongside a street; although not in the
carriageway itself, it runs in front of properties and there are several level crossings, with the line
from Champéry trailing in across a major road junction. Monthey-Ville station is a terminus with
four dead-end tracks, but until 1976 the line ran along the road on the east and continued through
the town to the main CFF station (and until 1921 there was also a branch to the market square).
There are plans for a new route, allowing the street section in Monthey to close and trains to serve
the CFF station rather than Monthey-Ville; this involves 3.7km of new track. The new alignment will
go underground just before the current halt at Corbier, a new underground station providing
interchange with CFF’s Collombey station, before emerging on the west side of the standard gauge
and running alongside it to Monthey CFF station. There will be a new station at Monthey-
Giovanola, where the branch to Champéry will diverge to link up briefly with the old route into
Monthey-Ville before taking a new north-to-west chord onto the existing Champéry branch. A plan
of this can be found on the TPC website at https://bit.ly/2pst1HG.
The small tables on the new Stadler-built EMUs have maps showing the four TPC lines (AL in brown, ASD in blue, AOMC in red and BVB in
yellow, with rack sections shown dotted) as well as cable cars, gondola lifts and certain other public transport, plus the names of the
[D46] Switzerland - Less freight on the old Gotthard route
Swiss Express reports that following a review of clearances on the old Gotthard route, some
intermodal trains that previously ran that way now have to use the base tunnel. As a result of that
seasonal and additional passenger trains are more likely to use the old route.
[D47] Switzerland - Le Châble changes
The original line into Le Châble closed on 7 October 2018. The new underground terminus station
which will give direct access to the local cable cars will open at start of traffic 5 November 2018.
[D48] Switzerland - Ruckhalde tunnel opens
The Appenzellerbahn railway line between St. Gallen and Teufen has been closed for engineering
work with buses replacing trains over the affected section. This ended on 5 October 2018 when the
new 700 metre-long Ruckhalde tunnel opened with a VIP train, passenger services commencing the
next day. The tunnel replaces a winding and very steep section of railway which had 940 metres of
rack and pinion. The route will be slightly shorter – St. Gallen to Teufen will be 6.98 km by the new
route, the old route being 7.16 km, but trains will be two minutes faster.
At present trains from Teufen or beyond terminate at St Gallen. Passengers for Trogen must change
there, but through trains and a 15 minute acceleration are promised from the new timetable in
The changing scene at the AB platforms at St Gallen. The platforms have in effect swapped sides, the former tracks have been lifted and
work is in progress in connection with future use.
[D49] Switzerland – New Albula tunnel breaks through
The existing 5864 metres long tunnel on the Chur – St Moritz route opened in 1903, so perhaps not
surprising that an inspection in 2006 found it required major rehabilitation works. The Rhätische Bahn
decided in 2010 to build a new tunnel because this would not be significantly more expensive than
renovation of the old tunnel and would enable services to continue to run during the construction
period. The new tunnel will be 5860 metres long, and broke through on 2 October 2018. Train services
are expected to commence in late 2021 or early 2022. The old tunnel will be adapted as an emergency
escape route, with 12 cross passages to the new tunnel.