Good to know

Full hydro power ahead

Full hydro power ahead - Good to know

100 per cent Graubünden energy
The first light in the Swiss canton of Graubünden to be powered by hydroelectricity shone in the dining room of a St. Moritz hotel in 1879. The energy was generated from the run-off of the local lake – a sensation! Today hydro power is everywhere and readily available, a fact which also benefits the Rhaetian Railway: since 2014, it has been using local hydropower to run its rail operations and supply its buildings with electricity.

Railway electrification: RhB played a pioneering role
At the start of the 20th century, what we now take for granted was considered highly innovative: the Campocologno 1 power plant was built at Lake Poschiavo from 1904 to 1907. The power plant boasted the highest gradient worldwide and attracted visitors from all over. From 1908, it supplied the Bernina Line with 750 V DC. Back in those days, RhB – which took over the Berninabahn company in 1943 – still used steam engines. Owing to a shortage of coal, the Rhaetian Railway finally switched to electricity: all the lines were electrified between 1913 and 1922, making the Rhaetian Railway one of the first proper railway companies in Europe to go all-electric. The Rhaetian Railway initially sourced all its electricity from the Campocologno power plant. Traction generators were later added at the power plants in Küblis and Thusis, providing additional energy to the rail network. However, this new technology still had a few snags: electricity production wasn’t always able to keep up with the new railcars’ constantly rising demand for power. Energy was in particularly short supply in the 1950s and 60s. Planning the construction of the power transmission lines proved especially intensive – planning periods of up to 20 years were not unusual. Agreements with individual power companies determined where the power came from. In 1954, the cantonal Water Rights Act was revised and the canton of Graubünden for the first time acquired a stake in newly created energy companies. And so electricity subsidised by the canton was fed into the Rhaetian Railway’s power supply for the first time in 1961. It came from the Sils sub-station at the Valle di Lei reservoir, where two generators still produce power exclusively for the Rhaetian Railway, thus covering around 40 per cent of the electricity needed for rail operations.

Fifty measures to reduce power consumption
Today, the Rhaetian Railway’s railcars and real estate use some 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year – that’s roughly equivalent to the energy consumed by St. Moritz. This energy consumption is to be kept in check, despite the gradual introduction of half-hourly services and constantly rising demand for energy. In future, the Rhaetian Railway would like to use energy more efficiently and has thus defined 50 energy-saving measures. These include modern rolling stock which feeds the energy that arises from braking back into the power grid. Furthermore, old light sources are constantly being replaced and automated points heating systems
optimised.