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Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB)
Original drawing by Dampflokomotiv und Maschinenfabrik (DLM).
 Internal link     Introduction

Brienz, Switzerland, lies near the center of Switzerland at the eastern end of Lake Brienz, known to the Swiss as the Brienzersee. There are four ways to reach the town of Brienz, railway, steamship, bus, or car. If you arrive by either of the first three it's simply a short walk across the Hauptstrasse (main street) to the Brienz Rothorn Bahn base station. This rack railway climbs to the summit of Brienzer Rothorn mountain, a distance of 7.6 kilometres (4.7 miles), using a gauge of 800 millimetres (2 feet 7 1/2 inches) with the Abt double Lamella rack system on a maximum grade of 25 percent. The railway isn't electrified and normally uses steam locomotives to climb to the summit at 2,244 metres (7,362 feet) above sea level.

 Internal link     A Very Brief History

 Image The Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) was opened on 17 Jun 1892, after a two year construction period. The two designers, engineer Alexander Lindner and contractor Theo Bertschinger were supported by the mountain railway pioneer Roman Abt, who had responsibility for equipping the line with his newly developed Abt double Lamella rack system. This appears similar to the Abt rack system but there is a space between the two toothed plates.

The line connected at Brienz with the Brünig Bahn (now Die Zentralbahn), which had been opened in 1888 from Brienz eastwards towards Luzern. However the Brünig Bahn was not extended westward to Interlaken until 1916, so many early travelers to the Rothorn had to arrive by boat service on Lake Brienz.

The line was quickly in financial difficulties. It was designed to carry 25,000 passengers per year but only managed 5,000 in the first year. Tourist traffic was further affected by the opening of the Schynige Platte Railway in 1895 and the Jungfraubahn in 1898. The train service was suspended on 1 Aug 1914 as a result of the First World War but did not re-open when the war ended.

 Image Essential maintenance was carried out and a small amount of timber traffic was carried from Planalp in 1918. Carriages were rented to the Schynige Platte Railway in 1924 and 1925, providing money for the maintenance work. The line was finally re-opened on 13 Jun 1931. The first train to reach the summit in 17 years having run 4 days earlier. The railway was in good condition because of continuing maintenance carried out during those past inactive years.

Unlike other Swiss mountain lines, the BRB was not electrified and this made the railway a special attraction as from 1953 to 1990 it was the only steam-operated line in Switzerland. Although other Swiss mountain railways offer special steam trips this is the only line which offers a full steam service, the diesel locomotives only being used for additional trains and for light traffic periods - Wikipedia.

 Internal link     A Short Trip to Planalp

 Photo This year's operation opened on 14 May 2015. The reason being probably due to remaining snow at higher elevations so the steam powered trains only climb as high as Planalp, about halfway to the summit. The trip takes about 30 minutes to reach that elevation.

A ride on the 15th of May found the weather rainy and cool down at the base station. The cars have a round roof in which curved windows slide open over each compartment doorway permitting passengers to board. The cars are unheated, probably another reason to wait for warmer Spring weather before travelling to the summit. They tended to leak slightly around the edges of the windows but otherwise were perfectly dry during the ascent.

The train departs upgrade from the base station passing the coaling facility then crosses the Wellenbergbrücke (Wellenberg bridge) shortly after leaving the station. The ride in and out of forest and grassy hills was uneventful with the view restricted by the rain and fogged up windows, but that's the way it goes, you come to Switzerland to see the view from their high peaks, pay the train or cable car fare, and take your chances with the weather. Just below Planalp the three tunnels, or one tunnel and two windows, depending how you look at it, offered a quick glimpse south down to the Brienzersee far below. Upon reaching Planalp the rain turned to wet snow.

The passengers alighted upon reaching Planalp, some hiking up the mountain, while the remainder milled about while the crew serviced the locomotive with water prior to the descent. After ten minutes or so the train departed downgrade back to Brienz. Hot chocolate in that base station cafe warmed the hands and innards after this chilly trip.

Due to inclement weather the photos with this article were taken over three separate days. That's what accounts for the different lighting in these photos. Click on the camera icon at the top of this page to view all the photos.

 Internal link     Locomotive Roster

Note:  The steam locomotives are a 0-4-2 wheel configuration.

NumberBuiltServiceableFuelFuel use return tripWater use return trip
1 (i)1891ScrappedCoal300 kg2,000 litre
1 (ii)1892YesCoal300 kg2,000 litre
21891YesCoal300 kg2,000 litre
3 + 41892NoCoal300 kg2,000 litre
51891NoCoal300 kg2,000 litre
H 2/3 - Date unknown Heinz Stoll - Brienz Rothorn Bahn.
NumberBuiltServiceableFuelFuel use return tripWater use return trip
61933YesCoal350 kg2,000 litre
71936NoCoal350 kg2,000 litre
H 2/3 - Date unknown Heinz Stoll - Brienz Rothorn Bahn.
NumberBuiltServiceableFuelFuel use return tripWater use return trip
121992YesOil150 litre2,000 litre
14 + 151996YesOil150 litre2,000 litre
161992YesOil150 litre2,000 litre
H 2/3 - Date unknown Heinz Stoll - Brienz Rothorn Bahn.
NumberBuiltServiceableFuelFuel use return tripWater use return trip
81973SoldDiesel66 litre0 litre
9 + 101975YesDiesel66 litre0 litre
111987YesDiesel66 litre0 litre
Hm 2/2 - Date unknown Heinz Stoll - Brienz Rothorn Bahn.

 Internal link     News Articles

21 May 2008 - Snow Soon Melted So Locomotives Can Hiss and Snort Again
23 Apr 2013 - Brienz Rothorn Bahn Needs Coal
 6 May 2013 - BRB Goes Up to Planalp
22 Mar 2014 - Steam Trains in the Wings
25 Jul 2014 - Steam Operation Only to Planalp After Debris Flow
 9 Apr 2015 - Minus 22 Percent and Still in Positive Territory
27 Apr 2015 - Full Steam Ahead and Good Friends Forward
 1 Jun 2015 - Season Opener on Saturday

 Internal link     Three BRB Folder Covers
 Internal link        Internal link        Internal link
 Internal link     Associated Links

Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB)
BRB video
BRB downloadable wallpaper
Dampflokomotiv und Maschinenfabrik (DLM)
Model of Brienz Station
Rail Info Switzerland
Die Zentralbahn
Steamschiff Lötschberg

 Internal link     Bibliography
Clouds on the Brienzer Rothorn:  A Short History of the Brienz Rothorn Bahn
Peter Arnold
Plateway Press Grayingham Gainsborough Lincolnshire United Kingdom DN21 4FL
64 pages
(In English)
This book charts the story of the railway from first proposals in the 1870's, though construction in 1890-1892, to the opening in 1892, and on through the next Century. Chapters cover construction, route, accidents, staff, traffic, locomotives, carriages, and wagons. The narrative is supplemented with maps, diagrams, and photos from the construction era up to the present day.

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