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Important construction helper: engine no. 8

Story 8

From day one, the train compositions of the Gornergrat Railway operated on three-phase alternating current, or three-phase current for short. But this was only possible thanks to a steam engine: it helped the workers transport materials for the construction of the route between Zermatt and Gornergrat. 

Engine no. 8 brings steam to the Gornergrat 

Known as engine no. 8, the steam engine was built in 1892 by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Factory (SLM) for the French mountain railway “Chemin de fer du Revard” in Aix-les-Bains. However, the railway company had made a mistake when purchasing the rolling stock and ordered too many engines and coaches. Engine no. 8 was practically never used in France. 

In 1897, the Gornergrat Railway purchased the steam engine as a construction locomotive. After the opening of the electrified line, engine no. 8 was used as a reserve engine for a few years and was in service for a maximum of 10 days a year. During this phase, it was mainly used to repair the overhead lines at the beginning of the summer season. From 1912, it was rented out and used as a construction locomotive for the Villars-Bretaye Railway

Eventful years in Spain 

Finally, in 1920, the Gornergrat Railway managers sold the steam engine to the “Ferrocarrils du Montserrat” (FMGP). Engine no. 8 set off on a new journey: in 1921, she was transported by ship via Genoa to Portbou, Spain.  

When the engine arrived at FMGP, it was named after the Swiss engineer Johann Fuchs, who was also the builder and first director of the Montserrat Railway, and was given the new number 6. Northwest of Barcelona, it then transported the carriages of the rack railway up the Montserrat until 1957, and between 1930 and 1931 it was also used as a construction locomotive for the Ribes-Nuria Pyrenean railway. 

In 1953, there was a major industrial accident on the line to Montserrat, killing 8 people and injuring 160. The steam engine survived the accident without damage, but the misfortune and the “Teleferico de Montserrat” cable car built in 1930 led to the closure of the rack railway on 12 May 1957. 

In 1972 the engine was rediscovered by enthusiasts and used as an exhibit for the newly planned “Railway Museum of Catalonia”. 

Return to Zermatt 

In 1998, the Gornergrat Railway presented the “Johann Fuchs” on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. On Bahnhofplatz at the foot of the Matterhorn, it was given a place of honour on a specially made platform.  

In 1999, the engine, now renovated on the outside, was on display with a historic royal carriage at Barcelona train station. Today it has found a place in the Pyrenees in the Railway Museum at Ribes de Vila station, where it was once used as a construction locomotive.

Lokomotive Nr. 8 Johann Fuchs im Museum in Spanien

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