Unknown electric veterans in the Jura
Around 1950, all the narrow-gauge and standard-gauge private railways in the Bernese Jura at the time were merged to form the “Chemins de fer du Jura” (CJ). One of the two standard-gauge lines, Saignelégier – Glovelier, was converted to metre-gauge, the other, Porrentruy – Bonfol, was electrified with the most modest of means. The existing narrow-gauge network between Tavannes, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Saignelégier (Glovelier from 1953) was equipped with state-of-the-art rolling stock and modern track and safety installations. While railway enthusiasts consider the CJ trains from 1953 (BDe 4/4 railcars and Bt driving trailer) to be “historic”, it is often forgotten that the narrow-gauge Tavannes – Tramelan (TT) line, which opened in 1884, was already electrified when the continuation Tramelan – Breuleux – Noirmont (TBN) opened in 1913. Two striking traction units from this early period have survived the total refurbishment of 1953 to the present day: The BCe 2/4 70 railcar, marketed as the “Train Belle Epoque”, and the inconspicuous Te 504 freight locomotive, which until 1966 had borne the somewhat classier designation Ge 2/2 as a genuine mainline locomotive. We took turns travelling the Tavennes – Noirmont – Glovelier lines with these two vehicles. We also stopped at Pré Petitjean to visit the rolling stock and depot facilities of La Traction. After a lunch break at the Hôtel de la Gare in Glovelier, we moved on to the standard-gauge Porrentruy – Bonfol line of the CJ, where we were already greeted by our special train consisting of the De 4/4 111, which is normally only used for freight transport, with a Bt driving trailer attached. This special vehicle was chosen because its usual task of leading a weekday goods train may soon be taken over by an SBB locomotive. This means that the existence of the unique De 4/4 is acutely jeopardised. Unique – why? The contemporary, elegant-looking coach body (1980) is a product of the CJ workshop in Tramelan, while the bogies come from the SOB CFe 4/4 62 railcar (1949), which had spent the last 30 years before its demolition with the Steiermärkische Landesbahn in Austria. The De 587 111 hauled the Bt 921 ex SZU Bt 996 driving trailer for SGEG, which is usually coupled with a CJ BDe 577 passenger railcar. Here, too, numerous photo stops were made on the open track.
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