In the spring of 1990, the Gornergrat Railway ordered four new twin-coach multiple units. Before the company was able to use them, however, various modifications had to be made.
Double the speed
The company sourced the new rolling stock from SLM Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik AG and ABB Verkehrssysteme AG. This was an interesting assignment for Walter Steinacher, project manager at SLM. The GGB wanted the trains to run at twice their designed speed – 28 km/h. And among other things, he had to redesign the vehicles’ infrastructure, passenger compartments and driver’s cabs.
Anniversary locomotive for SLM
Steinacher was happy with the result. For him, the delivery of railcar 3054 was a special occasion, it being the 5500th vehicle to roll off SLM’s assembly line. The commemorative plate marking this special occasion can still be seen on the vehicle.
Numerous modifications required
The Gornergrat Railway began running the new ultra-modern, comfortable multiple units (3051 – 3054) in the 1993/94 winter season. A number of measures were required to enable the high-performance railcars to operate: the railway had to change the catenary power supply, extend the station tracks and platforms, and lengthen the depot shed (where the trains were parked) to 240 m. As the new multiple unit trains had a gross weight of over 67 tonnes, the Findelbach Viaduct had to be reinforced.
Thirty percent more capacity
The four new twin-coach multiple units saw passenger accommodation across the company’s fleet increase from 2,760 to 3,784 seats. It meant the Gornergrat Railway could carry some around 2,400 passengers an hour from Zermatt.
Introduction of double traction
As Hans Tribolet, formerly in charge of rolling stock and traction, reveals, the idea of connecting two twin-coach multiple units was discussed. The company introduced double traction in 1998 with the vehicles it had taken delivery of five years previously. This involved the driver controlling two coupled trains seating 512 passengers. Gornergrat Railway railcars continue to operate in double traction mode even now, except when demand is low.