Trams of Bear Town: Bern 1.
My next trip in 2004 led me to Switzerland again for a few days, accompanied by Hamster and Rianna. My special reason was to come: it was the time when
the Combino-scandal broke out, all over the World the Combino trams were shut down due to
fatigue cracks of the car bodies. This year, we tried to see different towns which were dragged
along by the scandal. Of course, by the way we also met some towns where there is nothing to be
seemed of it: like Bern, the tiny little capital of Switzerland.
The pride of the town with only 135 000 inhabitants have been in service only since February
2003 with no similar problems yet. Besides the trams, there are also trolley buses. No wonder,
trolley buses are more familiar phenomenon in Switzerland than tramways - or as they call them
on their nicknames, the Tramli.
There are three groups of trolleybus lines in front of the main railway station: one of them
goes along the station building. You can see a trolleybus in the old, dark green-creme livery.
I think the flaming red color, the new livery since 2000, suits them much better, above all
The other branch of trolleys goes parallel with the backbone line of the trams in the inner city
(on picture: a Volvo B10 / Ramseier+Jenzer / Hess / BBC-Sécheron articulated car made in 1985),
you have to walk here a few hundred meters from the station.
And there is a trolley loop for the third group of lines. From the three lines which turn here
13 and 14 is likely to be shut down, the tram network will be lengthened in their direction.
The low floor trolleybus no. 8, type BGT-N was built in 1998 by NAW / Hess / Kiepe Elektrik.
Some of the trolleys (or maybe all of them?) has the capability to go by itself, without overhead
wiring, in case of special duties. When, for example, they come out from the depot to the lines,
they let the trolley poles go up at these oblique positioning plates easily, this way the poles
adjust themselves to fit on the wires properly. On one of the wires you can see an antenna which
I have already seen in Innsbruck, this can be used as switch
control, or send informations to the station displays etc. There is the own advertisment of
the Bernmobil company on the top of the car: "my car with my own driver". :-)
The location of the three line groups has further service connections around here as a
consequence, which is larded with a tramway loop around the temple as a plus.
Let's take a tram! This is an articulated car no. 712 class Be 8/8 which means that it has eight
powered axles. It was built in 1973 by Schlieren / BBC, hauling the trailer no. 322, built in
1951. A characteristic feature of the motor car is the air brake (also its periodicly working
air compressor), the high pressure air operated doors and a telescopic handbar inside the
We stop at Wander for a few shots. We saw that the town is pleasantly hilly, but this is nothing
to what we will see later!
Combinos run above all on line 3, some of them runs on line 9 to replace some older articulated
trams (in the last years the four-axle motor cars were sold to Romania). Their special feature
among other Combinos that the pantograph is mounted at front, exactly 7000 mm behind the
front edge, due to the switch control antenna is mounted on the overhead wirings.
The trailer operation with the articulated motor cars needs longer station platforms. The
preparations has begun. :-)
We go back to Hirschengraben, one stop from the railway station. Combino no. 761 slides down
...then another Be 8/8 + B4 train. The two old car seen on these pictures have been sent to
other towns. The trailer however is a bad experience: really loud, rattling, clattering on the
junctions, and its look is really simple with its box-shaped windows, looks like it was made in
the own schooling workshops of the company by trainees. :-) One more thing about the route
number displays: these are colored, plastic plates placed in their frames.
A trolleybus on line 14 goes crossing the tramway, and is about to turn into the loop seen
We're at the junction of tramlines 9 and 5. Am I right, is that a 15-18 metres long insulated
section on the trolleybus wirings? Well, who cares if there are vehicles which are able to run
in power failure, right? :-) Yellow signs between the rails indicate the tram drivers where not
to accelerate under the tram-trolley crossings.
The third motorcar type is seen on line 5, the grandfather off all _modern_ low floor cars,
class Be 4/8 (according to the general signature in Switzerland: second class electric motor
unit car, with eight axles from which four is powered), built by Vevey-ABB-DUEWAG in 1989-90.
All types at Hirschengraben. In the middle you can see a Be 8/8 without trailer on line 5, it's
quite interesting to me. On the right you can see the youngest car of the fleet at that time,
Combino no. 765. According to the network extension to the West, they are purchasing new, 42
meter long vehicles in the next years. Good question whether they stick to the Combinos further
or not, with the Combino scandal in mind...
This is the stop in front of the railway station: the two tracks of each direction are built
shifted to each other, to occupy less space in width. This cross-eyed tram with its two
headlights in the middle reminds me the underground tramcars on the Budapest line M1, so I feel
myself a little bit at home. :-) On the other hand they are not really low floor cars as we
know it today: it is high floor car at both ends above the powered bogies...
...and there are stairs even at the lower entrances, so it is really a middle-height floor
Let's go Eastwards, into the city core. This is maybe the most interesting part of the town.
Besides it is architectually beautiful, this is where the first tramline of Bern started. At
that time, not in electrical system, but powered by high pressure air! Today, sometimes the
steam powered historic train takes some turns here. And see how great they were able to fit
today's transport system into the medieval surroundings (here the Combinos turn around a few
hundred year old well)!
And that's not all, on the Bear square (Bärenplatz) one direction goes through the gate of a
...while the other direction is lurking between the tower and the neighbouring house!
And of course the trolleybuses have to be sqeezed into this gate, too, along with their wirings.
The trick: the trolley wirings are mounted a bit higher than the tram wire. Interesting is the
outfolding step of the trolleybus, this makes more efficient space in the interior.
Of course on the other side of the tower other wells are have to be passed.
The next obstacle is one of the town's symbols, the Zytglogge (Time Bells), but today only the
trolleybuses go ahead beside it...
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Text and photos by András Báti, except
where otherwise mentioned (C) 2004-2005