To get you in the mood for Werner Hardmeier’s lecture on the cross-border railways in the Jura, we would like to introduce you to the region with this railway story.
The main reason for this story, however, is the announced and repeatedly postponed closure of this short railway line, to which we would like to dedicate a small homage. Surprisingly, the severe storm damage of July 24, 2023 was repaired and trains are still scheduled to run in 2024…
The metre-gauge line RdB (Régional des Brenets), which is only 4.24 kilometres long, was built in 1890 to make the resort of Les Brenets and the lake of the same name more easily accessible. It was not electrified until 1950, after the 1947 merger with the PSC (Pont – Sagne – Chaux de Fonds) to form the CMN. Five new railcars were purchased for both railways, with cars no. 3 and 5 going to our line. The two railcars delivered at that time are still in use today. Since 2012 the line is operated by TransN.
The CMN BDe 4/4 5 waits for guests at the starting point in Le Locle on April 26, 1980. There is not a single switch here. This means that you can’t go round and at most can leave a carriage standing. April 26, 1980 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
There are exactly 4 vehicles available on the Le Locle – les Brenets railway line. Usually one of the railcars no. 3 or 5 commutes. Here, on April 26, 1980, the BDe 4/4 5 has the driving trailer Bt 11 with it as an exception for a photo run. The track ends in the ballast bed and later at a simple buffer stop.April 26, 1980 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
Overview of Le Locle station on April 26, 1980. Two stub tracks can still be seen on the right, one of which has a platform, both of which have disappeared today.
The BDe 4/4 5 had only recently been painted red with a white decorative band. April 26, 1980 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
Exceptionally a photo from more recent times. The BDe 4/4 5 is now operated by TransN. It has a new livery to mark its 125th anniversary and a completely renewed interior. Otherwise, it is largely in its original condition. In the photo, it is just leaving the first tunnel between Le Locle and Les Frêtes on August 9, 2022. There is a stop here, just 300 metres from the terminus. August 9, 2022 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach At the other end of the tunnel there is a 90 degree bend at the end of which Les Frêtes, the other intermediate stop on this line, appears. Here the BDe 4/4 3 railcar enters the stop on April 4, 1978 in its old livery. April 4, 1978 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
This unguarded level crossing forms the start and access to the Les Frêtes stop. It is located in the forest in a lonely intermediate valley with a few scattered yards, which is hardly enough for a large number of passengers. This photo with the BDe 4/4 5 was taken on August 9, 2022 August 9, 2022 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
This is the small shelter at the Les Frêtes stop. Newly labelled with the TransN logo and the proud signage of track number 1…
As I was about to board, the train almost passed despite the stop request being switched on. Obviously an unusual situation for the driver… August 9, 2022 Photo: Edi Meier
Just above Les Frêtes is this spot with the limestone cliffs typical of the Jura. Thanks to a photo run, the BDe 4/4 5 pushes the only freight wagon L45 (you can’t go round at Le Locle…) and pulls the driving trailer Bt 11. 75% of the available rolling stock is united in this photo! April 4, 1980 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
After passing under the main road, this is the only open area with gently undulating pastures typical of the Jura. On November 5, 1983 the BDe 4/4 5 presents itself in the most beautiful light. Unfortunately, due to a fallow deer farm, this section is now covered with high wire fences on both sides and can no longer be photographed. November 5, 1983 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
This is followed by a section in the forest on a steep slope above a ravine, at the end of which the train passes through another tunnel to reach the terminus at Les Brenets. On November 5, 1983, the BDe 4/4 5 leaves this tunnel in the direction of Le Locle. November 5, 1983 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
At the other end of the tunnel, the BDe 4/4 5 enters the Les Brenets terminus on November 5 1983 after a few metres of straight track. Anyone who thinks from these pictures that the railcars somehow deviate from the typical Swiss appearance is not wrong. The mechanical part was built in Italy by Reggiane in 1950. The electrical equipment, on the other hand, was produced domestically by BBC and Sécheron. November 5, 1983 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
If you turn 180 degrees at the location of the last photo, you can see the BDe 4/4 3 railcar, here still in its classic colours, passing the depot workshop. Here it leaves the Les Brenets terminus on April 4, 1978. Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
The representative station building of Les Brenets with the waiting BDe 4/4 5 was photographed by Urs Züllig on November 10, 1983. At Les Brenets there is a large track system with several hand points to connect the double-track depot workshop. November 10, 1983 Photo: Urs Züllig, Uerikon
Almost 40 years later, on August 9, 2022, it still looks almost the same at Les Brenets. Only the railcar has a new coat of paint. At first glance, the track layout with hand points is unchanged, but the track on the far right that led to the hillside wall in a tight curve in 1983 is missing. August 9, 2022 Photo: Edi Meier, Bülach
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