Rhaetian Railway ABe 4/4 III

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Rhaetian Railway ABe 4/4 III
ABe 4/4 III 55 and 56 at Tirano station.
Manufacturer Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works and ASEA Brown Boveri
Constructed 1988–1990
Number built 6
Number in service 6
Operator(s) Rhaetian Railway
Line(s) served Bernina Railway
Car length 16,886 mm (55 ft 5 in)
Width 2,650 mm (8 ft 8 in)
Maximum speed 65 km/h (40 mph)
Weight 47 tonnes (103,600 lb)
Power output 1,016 kW (1,360 hp)
Electric system(s) 1000 V DC
Current collection method Overhead
UIC classification Bo′Bo′
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)

The Rhaetian Railway ABe 4/4 III is a class of metre gauge electric multiple unit railcars of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB), which is the main railway network in the Canton of Graubünden, Switzerland.

The class is so named because it was the third class of railcars of the Swiss locomotive and railcar classification type ABe 4/4 to be acquired by the Rhaetian Railway. According to that classification system, ABe 4/4 denotes an electric railcar with first and second class compartments and a total of four axles, all of which are drive axles.

Acquired in 1988 and 1990, the six railcars in the class are numbered 51 to 56. They operate on the 1,000 V DC powered Bernina Railway, where they have helped to cope with increasing traffic. Over the years, they have also displaced the earlier ABe 4/4 I class railcars into lower level services.

Technical details[edit]

The ABe 4/4 III class was manufactured by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works (SLM) and ABB in two series, each of three cars. They were the first motive power on the Rhaetian Railway to use frequency changer technology together with AC induction motors. In addition, they were the world's first DC powered railway vehicles with GTO thyristors.

Each ABe 4/4 III class railcar has a top speed of 65 kilometres per hour (40 mph) and weighs 47 tonnes (46 long tons; 52 short tons). At the time the class was delivered, it had, at 1,016 kilowatts (1,362 hp), the highest hourly power output of any Rhaetian Railway DC motive power. The class's towing capacity is 90 tonnes (89 long tons; 99 short tons) at a gradient of 7%, and 95 tonnes (93 long tons; 105 short tons) if only bogie coaches are being hauled. The ABe 4/4 IIIs are also equipped with 12 seats in first class, and 16 second class seats.

Thanks to multiple-unit train control, each individual railcar can be operated in combination with other members of the class, and also with older ABe 4/4 II class railcars, as well as Gem 4/4 class electro-diesel locomotives. Much use is made of the ABe 4/4 IIIs' multiple unit control systems in the Bernina Railway's daily operations. Combined operation of two ABe 4/4 IIIs under multiple unit control theoretically leaves sufficient power reserves for the haulage of no more than a further 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons), as the maximum towing capacity of 140 tonnes (140 long tons; 150 short tons) cannot be exceeded.


Unveiling of the special livery of ABe 4/4 51 in Tirano on 5 May 2007.

For the ABe 4/4 III class of railcars, the Rhaetian Railway chose a livery that corresponds with that of the Ge 4/4 I, Ge 4/4 II and Ge 4/4 III class electric locomotives. The dominant colour of the railcar bodies in this livery is red. Each cab front is emblazoned with a Graubünden coat of arms. Underneath a low level white coloured cheat line surrounding the railcar bodies, the chassis is dark grey. This livery was also subsequently applied to the ABe 4/4 II class railcars and the Gem 4/4 locomotives.

Two Rhaetian Railways ABe 4/4 III multiple units with a local train from St. Moritz to Tirano are just crossing the Brusio spiral viaduct

Apart from its traffic number, each member of the class carries the name of a community and its coat of arms.

In 2007, ABe 4/4 III no 51 received a special advertising livery publicising the subsequently successful candidature of the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. All other members of the class have since also been painted in an advertising livery.

List of railcars[edit]

ABe 4/4 III 55 and another ABe 4/4 III pass with their train underneath the spiral viaduct at Brusio.
List of the ABe 4/4 III railcars of the Rhaetian Railway
Traffic number Name Commissioning Status Notes[1]
51 Poschiavo 1988 in service UNESCO promotional livery
52 Brusio 1988 in service 100 Years Bernina Railway promotional livery
53 Tirano 1988 in service Credito Valtellinese promotional livery
54 Hakone1 1990 in service Graubündner Kantonalbank promotional livery
55 Diavolezza2 1990 in service RE-Power (Rhätia Energie) promotional livery
56 Corviglia3 1990 in service RE-Power (Rhätia Energie) promotional livery

1 The Japanese Hakone Tozan Railway has a friendly association with the Rhaetian Railway.
2Ski resort connected by the Bernina - Diavolezza Cableway with Pontresina.
3Part of the St. Moritz - Corviglia - Piz Nair ski resort connected by cableway with St. Moritz.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Fahrzeugwerbung" [Vehicle advertising] (PDF). Haribu website (in German). Retrieved 8 December 2010.  External link in |work= (help)


  • H. Furgler: Triebwagen ABe4 / 4 51 bis 53 für die Bernina-Linie der Rhätische Bahn "Elektrische Bahnen 87 (1987-7)" (in German)
  • Hans Furgler: Die neuen Triebwagen ABe 4/4 51-53 für die Bernina-Linie der Rhätischen Bahn. In: Schweizer Eisenbahn-Revue. 6/1988. (in German)
  • Claude Jeanmaire "Die elektrischen und Dieseltriebfahrzeuge Schweizerischer Eisenbahn Rhätischen Bahn: Stammnetz - Triebfahrzeuge" (Verlag Eisenbahn) ISBN 3-85649-219-4 (in German)
  • Patrick Belloncle, Gian Brünger, Rolf Grossenbacher, Christian Müller "Das grosse Buch der Rhätischen Bahn 1889 - 2001" ISBN 3-9522494-0-8 (in German)
  • Wolfgang Finke, Hans Schweers "Die Fahrzeuge der Rhätischen Bahn 1889-1998 Band 3: Triebfahrzeuge" (SCHWEERS + WALL) ISBN 3-89494-105-7 (in German)
  • Hans-Bernhard Schönborn "Schweizer Triebfahrzeuge" (GeraMond) ISBN 3-7654-7176-3 (in German)

This article is based upon a translation of the German language version as at January 2010.