Chemins de fer du Jura bernois

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Jura–Bern–Luzern in 1889
Route map

Basel Central-
Delle, France
Col des Roches
Le Locle
La Chaux-de-Fonds
Les Loges 3259 m
Le Creux
La Neuveville
Bödelibahn (BB): Därligen
Brünigbahn: Brienz
Intermediate stations and connecting tracks not shown.

Light red: Neuchâtel–Le Locle line, which was transferred to JN in 1886 and
Le Creux–Convers (closed 1888)

Dotted: routes jointly owned by the SCB
Giswil station about 1890. The rack section of the Brünig Railway starts in Giswil

The Chemins de fer du Jura bernois (French for Bernese Jura Railway, abbreviated Jura bernois, JB) was a railway company in Switzerland. The company was called the Jura–Bern–Luzern (JBL) from 1 July 1884. The Jura–Bern–Luzern merged with the Suisse-Occidentale–Simplon (SOS) to form the Jura–Simplon Railway (Jura-Simplon-Bahn), JS) on 1 January 1890.


Convers in 1874 with the Jura bernois line under construction.
Newspaper advertisement for the opening of the PorrentruyGlovelier section on 30 March 1877. The Jura–Bern–Luzern name was officially adopted in 1884.

The railway network of the Canton of Bern initially developed according to the interests of the Schweizerische Centralbahn (Swiss Central Railway, SCB). The Grand Council of Bern, decided to conclude a contract with the SCB in 1852. The Central Railway undertook to build the Murgenthal–Bern line and the Solothurn–Herzogenbuchsee railway within four years and in return received tax exemption and the privilege of being given preferential treatment in future grants of concessions to build railways. The Central Railway’s construction now concentrated for a period on the more populated areas in the Swiss Plateau. The rugged and economically less developed Jura had a much more limited railway network. The Central Railway had no interest in competing with its existing Hauenstein Railway.

Under the chairmanship of Xavier Stockmar, the Zentralkomitee für die jurassische Eisenbahn (Central Committee for the Jura Railways) planned a railway line from Biel/Bienne to Basel with a branch from Delémont to Porrentruy. Although the concession was granted, it was not built due to lack of funds. To connect the Bernese Jura to the old part of the canton, the Grand Council provided a subsidy of CHF 6,950,000 of the estimated construction cost of CHF 40 million in 1867. The Delémont–Delle railway, which was financed by French companies, was built and handed over for operations on 23 September 1872.

Capital procurement, construction and transfer of track[edit]

Route through the Taubenloch gorge between Biel and Reuchenette-Péry.
Goods locomotive No. 110 Doubs in Moutier station

A new situation arose in 1871, with the cession of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. A line built across French territory and through the Bernese Jura would connect the Paris–Belfort line directly to the Swiss Plateau. The Jura bernois was founded in 1874 as a joint-stock company, with the French Chemins de fer de l'Est subscribing CHF 4½ million and the canton of Basel-Stadt subscribing CHF 0.5 million. The municipalities and Bürgergemeinden of the Jura purchased a total of over 7 million shares, partially exploiting their forests to fund them.

The Jura bernois began construction and opened individual sections of its network between Biel, Convers (near La Chaux-de-Fonds), Delle and Basel between 1872 and 30 March 1877. It complemented its network through acquisitions. The JB bought the bankrupt Jura industriel (JI) for CHF 3.6 million on 1 May 1875 and the Chemin de fer Porrentruy–Delle (PD) for CHF 1.99 million on 16 August 1876. It took over the Bernische Staatsbahn (Bern State Railway, BSB), including the Zollikofen–Biel –La Neuveville line in 1877. The canton of Bern received JB shares worth CHF 11.56 million in return.

The JB was built during the railway construction boom after 1872 and interest rates and construction prices rose sharply. The recession of 1876 and the subsequent "railway crisis" almost bankrupted even the financially solid Swiss Northeastern Railway (Schweizerische Nordostbahn, NOB). Against this background, the consistent profits of the JB were unusual. The revenue from freight was higher than the revenue from passengers in each year from 1878.


The positive operating results allowed the Jura–Bern–Luzern, to pay a dividend every year.
On the other hand, the NOB like other railway companies, suffered a drop in profits during the "railway crisis".
Train of the Brünigbahn with locomotive for mixed adhesion and rack operation
Brienz in about 1888. For the onward journey to Interlaken, passengers had to transfer to the ship.

For the start of the operations of the Bern-Luzern-Bahn (BLB) in 1875, the BLB and the Jura bernois formed a joint operating company called the Jura–Bern–Luzern. This company continued to exist even after the bankruptcy of the BLB and, as of 1 July 1882, the JB leased the line from Bern to Lucerne, which now belonged to the canton of Bern. Thus, the Jura bernois came into possession of the continuous Delle–Bern–Lucerne line, which connected with the Gotthard Railway. This route competed with the route of the Swiss Central Railway (Centralbahn) via Olten, which lost direct access to the railway from Basel to France after the Franco-Prussian War. The extended route network prompted the railway to change its name to Jura–Bern–Luzern (JBL).[3]

Ten years after its construction, the Canton of Neuchâtel exercised its buyback right and acquired the NeuchâtelLa Chaux-de-FondsLe Locle line on 1 January 1886 for around CHF 5 million,[4]so it could lease it to the newly established Jura neuchâtelois (JN). However, the JN could not earn enough to pay its rent, which made support by the public sector necessary.

The Jura–Bern–Luzern built the Brünig Railway from 25 August 1886. With the opening of the first, over 44 km long section from Alpnachstad via the Brünig Pass to Brienz on 14 June 1888, the network of the JBL was significantly extended. The extension from Alpnachstad to Lucerne followed on 1 June 1889. The metre-gauge line with sections of rack connects the two tourist regions of Central Switzerland and the Bernese Highlands. In addition, it was considered to have great military importance.

The Jura–Bern–Luzern also took care of the operation of the Bödelibahn (Bödeli Railway, BB) DärligenInterlakenBönigen opened in 1872.

Merger into the Jura-Simplon-Bahn[edit]

On 1 January 1890, the Jura–Bern–Luzern including Gümligen–Lucerne line, which was owned by the canton of Bern, and the Western Swiss Railways (Suisse-Occidentale–Simplon, SOS) merged to form the Chemins de fer du Jura-Simplon or Jura–Simplon Railway (JS). From this point on it was the largest Swiss railway company; it was partly owned by the Swiss Confederation as a result of the purchase of shares on the market. On 1 January 1891, the JS took over the operations of the Chemin de fer Pont–Vallorbe (Pont–Vallorbe railway). Only the JS had sufficient resources to progress on the construction of the Simplon Tunnel that had been planned for decades.

The bridge over the Birs built by Gustave Eiffel for the Jura bernois collapsed shortly after the merger. The Münchenstein rail disaster on 14 June 1891 was the largest railway disaster in Switzerland to that time.

Graphical summary[edit]

Bwlow is an overview of the history of the Jura bernois and the Jura–Bern–Luzern (O: opening;   T: takeover):

Jura industriel (JI)
O: 2.7.1857   T: 1.5.1875
Ostwestbahn (OWB)
O: 3.12.1860   T: 1.6.1861
Bernische Staatsbahn (BSB)
T: 24.5.1877
Porrentruy–Delle (PD)
O: 23.9.1872   T: 16.8.1876
Jura bernois
T: 30.4.1874
T: 1.8.1875
Bern-Luzern-Bahn (BLB)
T: 15.1.1877
Canton of Bern
T (lease): 1.7.1882
from 1.7.1884
T: 1.1.1890
Jura neuchâtelois (JN)Neuenburg–Le Locle
T: 1.1.1886
T: 1.1.1890
Pont–Vallorbe (PV)
O: 31.10.1886
T: 1.1.1891
Jura-Simplon-Bahn (JS)

Route network[edit]

No. Route Section Opening Remarks Length[5]
1. Bern–Biel –Sonceboz–Moutier–Delémont–Basel Bern–Bern Wylerfeld (15 November 1858) Section of the Olten–Bern railway used jointly with the SCB (7.46 km)
Bern Wylerfeld–Zollikofen (16 June 1857)
Zollikofen–LyssBiel/Bienne (1 June 1864) Lyss–Busswil section taken over from the BSB
on 24 May 1875; 2 tracks since 1877
115.54 km
Biel–SoncebozTavannes 30 April 1874
Tavannes–Court 16 December 1876
Court–Moutier 24 May 1877
Moutier–Delémont 16 December 1876 Trains reverse in Delémont station
Delsberg–Basel Centralbahnhof[1] 25 September 1875
2. Sonceboz–La Chaux-de-Fonds Sonceboz–Le Creux–Convers[6] 30 April 1874 Connection to Neuchâtel–Le Locle-Col-des-Roches railway
Le Creux–Convers operations ended on 17 December 1888 and the line closed on 1 July 1895
29.55 km
Le Creux–La Chaux-de-Fonds 17 December 1888 Own access to La Chaux-de-Fonds after separation from the JN on 1 January 1886
3. Delsberg–Delle Delsberg–Glovelier 15 October 1876 39.84 km
Glovelier–Porrentruy 30 March 1877
Porrentruy–border (–Delle) (23 September 1872) Taken over by the PD on 16 August 1876
4. Bern–Lucerne Bern Wylerfeld–Gümligen (1 July 1859) Joint use of this section of the Bern–Thun railway with the SCB (5.38 km)
Gümligen–Langnau (1 June 1864) Originally BLB, bought by the canton of Bern at auction on 15 January 1877 and managed by the JB
leased from the canton of Bern since 1 July 1882
3.27 km
Langnau–Fluhmühle[7] (11 August 1875)
Fluhmühle–Lucerne (1 June 1859) Joint use of this section of the Olten–Lucerne railway with the SCB (3.27 km)
5. Biel–Neuchâtel (BE-NE canton border) (3 December 1860) Connecting in Lausanne to OS network,
taken over by the BSB on 24 May 1875
14.45 km
6. Neuchâtel–La Chaux-de-Fonds–Le Locle–Col des Roches Neuchâtel–Neuchâtel-Vauseyon (7 November 1859) Joint use of the section of the La Neuveville–Lausanne line with FS (1.37 km)
Neuchâtel-Vauseyon–Les Hauts-Geneveys[8] (1 December 1859) Taken over by the JI on 1 May 1875,
transferred to the JN on 1 January 1886
(38.21 km)
Les Hauts-Geneveys–Convers (15 July 1860)
Convers–La Chaux-de-Fonds (27 November 1859)
La Chaux-de-Fonds–Le Locle (2 July 1857)
Le Locle–Col des Roches–border(–Besançon) 4 August 1884
7. Brünig Railway Lucerne–Alpnachstad 1 June 1889 Metre-gauge, partly rack
Trains reverse in Meiringen station
57.64 km
Alpnachstad–Brienz 14 June 1888
8. Lyss–Fräschels (BE-FR canton border) 12 June 1876 Connection in Murten to the SO network 12.97 km
Total 269.49 km[9]



  1. ^ a b now Basel SBB
  2. ^ Junction with the Olten–Lucerne line of the Centralbahn
  3. ^ According to the JBL was created by renaming the Jura bernois. The Bern–Lucerne line was not taken over by the JBL, but continued to be leased from the canton of Bern.
  4. ^ Placid Weissenbach puts the purchase price at CHF 5,141,079, while an amount of CHF 5.25 million is mentioned in
  5. ^ determined by chainage
  6. ^ Trains reverse in Convers station
  7. ^ now Gütsch
  8. ^ trains reverse in Chambrelien station
  9. ^ Property length according to official railway statistics quoted in


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