News & Reviews News Wire Swiss gauge-changing GPX trains back in service

Swiss gauge-changing GPX trains back in service

By Keith Fender | June 16, 2023

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Black passenger train pushed by bright green locomotive in mountain community
The GPX train, operating on standard gauge, leaves Zweisimmen pushed by a BLS electric locomotive on Dec. 14, 2022. Keith Fender

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].

View of passenger car truck that adjusts for varying track gauges
The gauge-changing trucks on meter-gauge track in the MOB shops. Hydraulic rams mounted by the truck center push the frame outward 435mm to configure the truck for standard gauge use in the gauge changer at Zweisimmen. Wheels are attached to the frame via stub axles, not an axle that connects to the opposite wheel. Courtesy MOB

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.

Track equipment to change gauge of wheelsets with train in background
The gauge-changing equipment at Zweisimmen, with a GPX train with BLS standard-gauge locomotive at the rear. Keith Fender

4 thoughts on “Swiss gauge-changing GPX trains back in service

  1. The GoldenPass Express is a luxury railway service that operates between Montreux, on Lake Geneva, and Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland, in Switzerland. The train is owned and operated jointly by the Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway (MOB) and BLS AG (BLS). As such, it uses the MOB’s 1,000 mm gauge line between Montreux and Zweisimmen. In Zweisimmen, the train cars change gauges in order to operate on BLS’ 1,435 mm gauge lines from Zweisimmen to Spiez and then from Spiez to Interlaken. The automated gauge conversion, which adjusts both the track gauge and the height of the car body (to account for differences in platform heights), is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  2. As I previously commented on a recent Trains’ Swiss dbl-gauge article; if it were up to me, I would eliminate every worldwide 3’/3 meter or larger, narrow gauge railroad, everywhere that is or has (potential) revenue service, in order to encourage world-wide international trade and travel, via such “conduits” as the the proposed Bering Straight RR tunnel project and the Silk Road trade route(s), and Russia, who, with India, Spain, and Portugal, reminds me of the other 5′ broad gauge dilemma. I’m not holding my breathe at my old age, as I’ll probably never see all that happen…lol! Oh, and then there is that (former) Soviet Civil War intervention distraction. 🙁

    1. Was there any consideration of dual-gauging the standard gauge line by adding another rail ? For $90 million, it might have been cost competitive, and eliminate the complexity of the “magic” trucks.

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