RhB engines travel to foreign lands
RhB steams through Thailand
The electrification of the section of track from Bever to Scuol-Tarasp in 1913 marked the beginning of the end of the steam age at RhB. Slowly but surely, the remaining lines in the rail network were converted to electric power, leaving the old steam engines surplus to requirements. What to do with these functioning locomotives, some of which had barely been in service for eleven years and were almost good as new? RhB found a solution: in 1926-27, the company sold a total of 18 steam engines to the State Railway of Thailand – the powerful G 4/5 class, saturated steam locomotives numbers 112 to 129. Before being sent abroad, the engines were given an overhaul in Landquart, converted for use in Thailand, taken apart and packed ready for shipping: a whole 288 pieces of freight weighing 624 tonnes and loaded onto 44 normal gauge carriages were required to send the first twelve locomotives on their way to the kingdom in south-east Asia. The Thai rail operator was delighted to receive the 'new' engines, some of which embarked on a second life at the head of express trains and sleepers. Some of the steam engines remained in service in Thailand until 1965, before finally entering well-deserved retirement. Locomotive 118 has been preserved as a memorial in Chiang Mai.
On the rails in Brazil and Spain
The G 4/5 class didn't just get to explore the metre-gauge network in Thailand: in 1924, locomotives 101 and 103 travelled to Brazil, where they remained in service until the 1960s, and RhB sold a further seven steam engines to Ferrocarril de La Robla, thanks to which they remained in operation in north Spain until 1970. By selling off its good steam engines, RhB not only extended their useful lives by many more years, it was also able to reinvest the proceeds of the sale in the procurement of new electric locomotives.
In museums – or back in service
The first generation of electric locomotives, the Ge 4/6 class, arrived at RhB around 1913. All were built by Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works (SLM) in Winterthur and fitted with electronics by Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO) or Brown, Boveri & Cie. (BBC). Number 391 was the only locomotive to be fitted with electrical equipment abroad, by German company AEG. In 1980, seven years after it was withdrawn from service, this engine was handed over to the German Railway History Company and thus once more became the property of AEG. It is now on display at the German Museum of Technology in Berlin. Another RhB locomotive also found its way to Germany: since 2001, the 'Crocodile' Ge 6/6 I 411, commissioned in 1925, has been delighting visitors to the Deutsches Museum in Munich alongside RhB saloon car As1154. The 'Bernina Crocodile' Ge 4/4 182, which had travelled the Bernina Line for almost 50 years, made a trip to France: the French metre gauge railway 'St. Georges- de-Commiers — La-Mure' acquired the engine in 1984, but it was never actually put into service as the locomotive, built for 1,000 volt DC power, could not be adapted to that railway's operating voltage of 2,400 V DC. In 1999, Graubünden's 'Club 1889', which is committed to the preservation of historic RhB vehicles, brought the Bernina engine back to Switzerland – it's thanks to this association that, following successful restoration, the locomotive is once more back in operation as a heritage vehicle used for special trips on the Bernina line.