This report is just one of a number from James Waite about the narrow gauge
railways of Switzerland with a strong emphasis on steam operation. See also:
James Waite reports from visits in July and November 2010. The railway's own website is http://www.blonay-chamby.ch:
The Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Bahn, one of Switzerland’s metre gauge main lines, was authorized in the last years of the 19th century and its first stretch, following a sinuous course up the mountainside from Montreux as far as Les Avants, opened on 17th December 1901. With this in mind the railway which became the CF Electriques Veveysans (“CEV”) was authorised to build a railway inland from Vevey, on the shore of Lake Geneva a short distance west of Montreux, through the hillside towns of St. Legier and Blonay to connect with the MOB at Chamby. The railway opened on 29th September 1902 and was electrified from the start. A long branch from St. Legier to Chatel-St. Denis opened on 30th April 1904. A final extension, using the Abt rack, was built curving sharply away from Blonay station up the steep hill to Les Pleiades, opening in 1911.
The CEV got into financial difficulty in the 1950’s. In an effort to cut costs the final part of the original line between Blonay and Chamby closed in 1966 followed by the Chatel-St. Denis branch three years later. The sole remaining route accordingly became the Vevey-Les Pleiades line. It’s still open today though most trains from either end now terminate at
Blonay. The Blonay-Chamby closure coincided with the first stirrings of the preservation movement in Switzerland. It was an obvious candidate for rescue, being one of the country’s few lines to be closed and, at just under
3km long, it would not be unduly expensive to operate. With its wiring still in place it would provide a good home for stock from the country’s many metre-gauge electric lines as well as being suitable for steam operation. It’s also a very scenic route with spectacular views over Lake Geneva and a substantial stone-arched viaduct mid-way along the route.
The collection grew rapidly. The railway now possesses eleven steam locos, a not inconsiderable number but by far the greater part of the collection consists of elderly electric railcars, tramcars and trailers, nearly all of which have been restored in the elaborate liveries common in Switzerland eighty years or so ago. They make a most impressive sight even if, like me, you have only a hazy idea about most of the lines where they ran. There are also a small number of electric locos and several carriages used with the steam trains. To my mind pride of place here goes to a Bernina coach, immaculately restored to its original condition and livery. Certainly it was the most popular amongst the passengers on the train. Look out also for the ex-Reseau Breton carriage with no fewer than four classes of accommodation including a locker for dogs underneath the third class seats with its own access from outside.
The line operates at weekends between May and October. On the last Sunday of the month a through train operates between Vevey and Chamby. The depot and museum are at Chaulin, off a short branch at the Chamby end. Trains from Blonay reverse at Chamby station to run into the depot – the only way of getting
there, as there’s no public road access.
Steam locos - the first two are not illustrated here.
0-10-0T DB 99 193 (Esslingen 4183/1927) ex-Nagold-Altensteig
0-4-0Tm Ferrovie Padane 4 (Krauss 4278/1900)
0-6-0T Régional des Brenets 1 Le Doubs (SLM 618/1890) The RdeB had three of these pretty locos. "Pere Frederic" (SLM 619/1890) is preserved in a glass case at Les Brenets station on the RdeB. "Les Brenets" (SLM 716/1892) fared less well. It is rumoured that a disgruntled ex-employee blew up one of its cylinders after being sacked and it was never repaired. Part of the chassis is preserved at a technical college at Le
0-6-0T CF Lausanne Echallens Bercher 5 Bercher (SACM 4172/1890) See the Chemin de Fer Lausanne-Echallens-Bercher
2-4-2Tm Tramways de Mulhouse 7 (SLM 316/1882). left below
0-6-0T SBB Brünigbahn no. 109, later CF Bière-Apples-Morges no. 6 (SLM 1341/1901),
see the Brünigbahn, centre
2-6-2T 23 (1926) MTM 282 - ex-CF Olot-Gerona (Spain), right below
0-6-6-0 Mallet tank Zell Todtnau Bahn 104 (Hanomag 10437/1925) from one of the last West German steam-operated metre gauge lines which closed in 1967,
0-4-4-0 Mallet tank Zell Todtnau Bahn 105 (MGK 2051/1918), left below
2-6-0RT Brig Furka Disentis Bahn, later Furka Oberalp Bahn, 3 (SLM 2317/1913), similar to the locos at the
Dampfbahn Furka Bergstrecke.
At first seen on
the CEV main line between Vevey and Blonay, then crossing the viaduct en
route to Blonay. Finally just about a night shot as it was well after dusk
as it runs round its train at Blonay. Note the elderly red and cream
railcar working the service on the rack line to Les Pleiades.
0-6-6-0 Meyer snowblower RhB Xrot d 9214 (SLM 22/1913), the sister of the Bernina machine still in service
on the Rhätische Bahn.
Full details of the extensive stock of electric railcars are at http://www.blonay-chamby.ch/matbc09.pdf
(link is dead).
Three examples of the electric railcars and trailers are shown below.