September 25th, 2022, was a very special day for members of the Brünig Dampfbahn (BDB) and indeed, for that matter, anyone interested in Swiss railway history. This was the day that witnessed the resumption of steam over the Brünig Pass and the return of HG 3/3 N°1068 to passenger service. Following a 59-year retirement and 34 years sat on a plinth at Meiringen station, this was quite an event, to say the least.
The operation of BDB steam services between Interlaken and Meiringen have been a regular event for several years now. These duties have been performed by G 3/4 No. 208. Extension over the Brünig section to Giswil however involves the rack sections and these of course require a suitable locomotive. With the return of No.1068 from her re-build at the RhB in Landquart, the suitable motive power is now to hand.
Following successful test runs and crew training, the date was finally set for the 25th of September 2022. Normal departure from Interlaken was, as usual, with No.208 heading the train to Meiringen. The only difference this time, being the order of coaches, there had to be a rack-braked coach at each end of the train!
Arrival, as expected, was on time accompanied by the greeting whistles of No.1068 impatiently waiting to reverse onto her first train in nearly six decades!
With No.208 uncoupled, departure was cautious, until the rack just outside Meiringen was engaged. 1068 then did what she was built to do. Mike Ellis (Brüning Dampfbahn) was standing on the front coach balcony directly behind the loco and it was quite stunning for him to watch and hear the action.
For the technically minded: the used of the rack-motion involves shifting the locomotive from simple to compound operation at very low speed whilst the pinion rides into the rack-rail. The non-inclined boiler is also something the fireman must keep in mind when water levels are considered on the rising and falling gradients.
Ellis: I’ll not go into further technical detail here about the trip and the emotion those on board experienced. You simply must live that for yourselves! Please therefore forgive me for the following few words of ‘sales-pitch’: The BDB have hereby proven the concept of steam services as an excursion package from Interlaken to Giswil. They now offer a monthly excursion for the public to ‘re-live’ the journey in a period train that operated this section in the 1920’s.
No.1068 dates from 1926 and is the final steam locomotive that was built for the SBB. Think of her like a Swiss ‘Evening Star’. A return trip is a full day out and includes the very best scenery of the Bernese Oberland and the Lake of Brienz. With numerous in-between halts there are plenty of photo-ops, and always something happening. It really is as ‘Swiss’ as it gets.”
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