INTERLAKEN, Switzerland — The innovative Golden Pass Express gauge-changing train is back in service after through operations were suspended in February.
The train offers one-seat rides from Montreaux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, to Interlaken in the heart of the Swiss Alps. It runs on the mountainous meter-gauge Montreux Berner Oberland Bahn (abbreviated MOB) from Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, before switching to standard gauge lines run by Switzerland’s’ second largest mainline rail company, BLS (formerly the Bern–Lötschberg–Simplon railway but now just known by its initials).
The new $95 million, Stadler-built cars incorporate gauge-changing technology allowing the widest change of gauge by a single rail car anywhere in the world: a 435-millimeter difference from 1,000mm to 1,435mm. They entered service in December 2022 [see “Swiss gauge-changing Panoramic express debuts …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 17, 2022], but were taken out of service after BLS detected abnormal wear to some standard-gauge switch components — especially the cast point or “frog” sections that divide the two possible directions of travel [see “Swiss gauge-changing train temporarily restricted …,” News Wire, March 22, 2023].
MOB has said that following extensive tests, a solution to the wear problem has been found. Spacing between wheelsets has been reduced “by a few millimeters,” meaning they are less able to move laterally when traversing switches, and therefore less likely to cause accidental damage to track components. The trains utilize stub axles mounted on a truck frame, and the frame moves when changing gauge, rather than using telescopic axles as is the case in other gauge-changing systems.Gauge changers have been installed at Zweisimmen where the two gauges meet.
MOB reintroduced one train pair between Montreux and Interlaken as of June 11 and plans to progressively increase the number of through services so that by August, four train pairs will operate daily.