Trams in Neuchâtel
A line 5 (present line 215) composition, tram and
control trailer, of the type currently in use.
|Open||16 September 1892|
|Operator(s)||Transports publics du littoral neuchâtelois|
|Track gauge||1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge|
|Electrification||630 V DC, overhead lines|
|Route length||8.85 km (5.50 mi)|
|Website||Transports en commun de Neuchâtel et environs (TN) (in French)|
Opened in 1892, the tramway has waxed and waned over the years. Currently, it comprises only one 8.85 km (5.50 mi) long interurban line, which runs via Auvernier and Colombier to Boudry, and is designated as line 5. All of the system's urban tram lines were converted to trolleybuses, the last such closure and conversion taking place in 1976, leaving just interurban line 5 (present line 215).
The tramway is currently operated by Transports en commun de Neuchâtel et environs (formerly Compagnie des Tramways de Neuchâtel) (TN), which also runs three funiculars, the Neuchâtel trolleybus system and various conventional bus lines.
The line to Boudry, including an Areuse-to-Cortaillod branch line 830 m (2,720 ft) long, was opened on 16 September 1892 by the former company Régional Neuchâtel-Boudry Cortaillod (NCB). It was originally a steam tramway, until in 1902 it was electrified at 600 volts DC.
The branch line to Cortaillod was permanently converted to bus operation on 2 June 1984, and is now served by line 5b.
Since its modernisation in the early 1980s, the line to Boudry has mostly been called Littorail. This expression is a composition of the word Littoral (French for coast in general, or for the coastal region of Lake Neuchâtel in particular) and rail (French for rail). The modernisation included equipping the line with automatic block signalling.
Today, trams run to Boudry at rigid 20-minute intervals and serve a total of twelve stops. The average distance between stops is 805 m (2,641 ft). The line to Boudry is mostly single-track, and runs on its own right-of-way, independently of road traffic. In similar fashion to a classic railway, it is controlled by automatic block signalling, as previously noted, and equipped with push button interlocking. The line is operated with bi-directional vehicles, and the travel time is either 16 or 18 minutes, depending upon the direction of travel.
Until early 1988, the line's Neuchâtel terminus was a loop through the centre of Place Pury. The loop was abandoned at that time, to facilitate the planned construction (later) of an underground public parking garage, and replaced by a two-track stub terminus to the west. It is located about 40 metres (130 ft) west of Place Pury, but is still referred to by TN as Neuchâtel Place Pury terminus.
The now one-line system has two carhouses (or depots) for maintenance and housing of the fleet. One is at Boudry terminus, and the other is in Neuchâtel, called Evole depot and located along line 5, about 400 m (1,300 ft) west of the Place Pury terminus. The current Boudry carhouse was built in 1985, replacing a smaller facility.
The first urban tramway in Neuchâtel, to Saint-Blaise, went into operation on 16 September 1893, and was originally powered by gas. For this first line, the Tramway Neuchâtel–Saint-Blaise (NSB) was responsible. On 22 December 1894, due to technical problems with the gas-engined vehicles, the line was converted into a horsecar line (Alemannic German: Rösslitram). For the horsecar operations, the NSB procured six small lightweight trams, each of which was hauled by one horse.
In 1897, the first urban line was finally electrified. The following year, a Port–Gare (railway station) line was opened. In subsequent years, the first two urban lines were joined by the following lines:
- 1899: Place Pury–Serrières
- 1901: Place-Pury–Vauseyon
- 1902: Peseux–Corcelles
Meanwhile, in 1901, the NSB merged with the NCB to form the Compagnie des Tramways de Neuchâtel.
The city's tramway network was subsequently expanded further, and in 1926 reached its maximum route length of 27 km (17 mi). Up to six urban lines were in operation at any one time. They were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, and most started at Place Pury, in the city centre. Line 4 included interurban service to Cernier.
Between 1940 and 1976, the urban tram lines were progressively replaced by trolleybus lines, which kept the same numbers. First to close was line 2, to Serrieres, in 1940. Line 4 to Valangin followed in 1949, line 1 to St. Blaise in 1957, and lines 6 and 7 to Neuchâtel railway station (Gare CFF) and La Coudre, respectively, in 1964. The final urban tram line to close was line 3, from Place Pury to Corcelles. Its final day as a tram service was 11 July 1976.
The interurban line to Boudry always had a separate fleet from the urban fleet, but one small group of trams began service on the urban system and later moved to the interurban line after closure of the last urban line (3). These were cars 81–83, Swiss Standard trams built in 1947 by Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) and purchased new by TN. These four-axle cars were the only double-ended (bi-directional) Swiss Standard trams ever built. They were originally purchased for use on line 1, but were later used on line 3.
All other trams used on the urban lines were two-axle cars and trailers, most commonly operated in sets of one powered tram and one trailer. They were built between 1892 and 1931. The last two-axle cars were retired from service when line 3 closed, in 1976. Four-axle cars 81–83 of 1947 remained in service, running on line 5. They were renumbered 581–583 in 1980.
For the interurban line, the original fleet consisted of five steam locomotives, nos. 1–3 built in 1892 and 4–5 built in 1895 and 1898. They hauled passenger trailers of two or four axles. Locomotives 2, 3 and 5 remained in the fleet until 1903. For the introduction of electric tram service on line 5 in 1902, TN acquired seven double-ended, double-truck (four-axle) tramcars and four matching trailers. All were built in 1902 by SWS, the motored cars being numbered 41–47 and the trailers 51–54; the latter were renumbered 121–124 in 1911. The 1902 cars remained in service for almost 80 years. In 1967–68, they were joined by four articulated trams acquired secondhand from Genoa, Italy. Built in 1942 by Breda, these had carried numbers 1101–1104 in the Genoa tram system's fleet, and they kept the same numbers in Neuchâtel until 1980. They were the only articulated trams ever included in the fleet, and were used exclusively on line 5.
Except for the soon-to-be-retired 1902 cars, the tram fleet was renumbered into the 500 series in 1980. The ex-Genoa Breda cars 1101–1104 became numbers 591–594. After the arrival of the new cars in 1981 (see below), Swiss Standard cars 581–583 were relegated to evening service, as were the ex-Genoa cars on the main line to Boudry. However, the latter were in all-day service on the Cortaillod branch, which became operated as a shuttle service to/from Areuse only (on the main Neuchâtel–Boudry line), needing only one car at a time. After closure of the Cortaillod branch in 1984, the ex-Genoa articulated cars and the Swiss Standard cars were seldom needed for service, but remained available. They were withdrawn permanently after TN acquired two additional new cars in 1988.
The Neuchâtel tramway currently has an exclusively high-floor tram fleet, mostly built in 1981, comprising six four-axle power cars of type Be 4/4 with the numbers 501–506 and four corresponding, externally identical control cars (Bt) with the numbers 551–554. These two vehicle types are derived from the Tram 2000 vehicles of the Forchbahn. All were built by SWS in 1981, except the last two powered cars, 505–506, which were built in 1988 and had bodies built by Schindler Waggon (DE) (to the same style as cars 501–504) and trucks by SIG. The eight 1981 cars entered service on 29 June 1981, replacing all of the surviving 1902 cars, which were permanently withdrawn at that time.
TN has preserved the following cars (as of 2000):
- Two-axle tram 73, built in 1922 by SIG
- Two-axle trailer 143, built in 1897 by SIG, rebuilt in 1914 and 1954
- Two-axle trailer 1, ex-101 (II), ex-105, built in 1894 by SIG
Elsewhere, the Blonay–Chamby museum railway has preserved Neuchâtel cars 76 (two-axle tram, built in 1922 by SIG) and 121 (four-axle trailer, built in 1892 by Maschinenfabrik Burkhard, Basel). A large number of ex-Neuchâtel trams have been preserved in various other collections. These include 1902 four-axle cars 41 and 43–47; 1920s-built two-axle cars 72, 74 and 78; 1947-built Swiss Standard Trams 582–583; and ten trailers dating from 1892–1902.
None of the 1942 ex-Genoa articulated trams survives. Car 592, ex-1102, was initially preserved by the Association Neuchâteloise des Amis du Tramway (ANAT), which group also owns some of the aforementioned other trams, but was scrapped in 1993 due to its poor condition. All three others of the class had already been scrapped by 1988.
- Buckley, Richard (2000). Tramways and Light Railways of Switzerland and Austria (2nd ed.). Gloucester, UK: Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 37, 45. ISBN 0-948106-27-1.
- Wägli, Hans E; Jacobi, Sébastien (2010). Schienennetz Schweiz: Strecken, Brücken, Tunnels; ein technisch-historischer Atlas = Réseau ferré suisse: atlas technique et historique; toutes les lignes, les ponts, les tunnels [Rail Network Switzerland: lines, bridges, tunnels; a technical-historical atlas] (3rd ed.). Zürich: AS-Verlag. p. 93. ISBN 978-3-909111-74-9. (in German) (in French)
- Buckley, R.J. (1984). Tramways and Light Railways of Switzerland and Austria. Milton Keynes, UK: Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 10, 26, 29. ISBN 0-948106-27-1.
- Vogt, H. (November/December 1984 issue). "Verkehrsveränderungen in Neuchâtel" (Operations changes in Neuchatel) (in German). Der Stadtverkehr, pp. 444–447. Bielefeld, Germany: Werner Stock. ISSN 0038-9013
- Modern Tramway and Light Rail Transit, November 1988 issue, p. 398. Ian Allan Ltd./Light Rail Transit Association.
- Vogt, H. (October 1989). "Veränderungen bei TN in Neuchâtel" (Changes at TN in Neuchatel) (in German). Stadtverkehr, pp. 28–30. Freiburg, Germany: EK Verlag. ISSN 0038-9013
- Wansbeek, C. J. (December 2005). "Neuchâtel: Swiss lakeside city with tram-train ambitions". Tramways & Urban Transit, pp. 476–479. UK: Ian Allan Publishing/Light Rail Transit Association.
- "Eisenbahn Bilder: Neuchâtel–Boudry Be 4/4" [Railway Pictures: Neuchâtel–Boudry Be 4/4]. Eisenbahn-Bilder website (in German). EBFÖ/DEF Inc.
- Roggenkamp, Helmut (January 1978). "85 Jahre Straßenbahn in Neuchâtel" (85 Years of the Neuchatel Tramway) (in German). Strassenbahn International, pp. 16–18. Vienna: Spurkranz Verlag. OCLC 13135315
- Modern Tramway and Rapid Transit Review, November 1976 issue, p. 394. UK: Ian Allan Publishing/Light Rail Transit Association.
- Modern Tramway and Light Rail Transit, October 1981 issue, p. 382.
- "Motrice Be 4/6 1102" [Type Be 4/6 power car 1102] (in French). Association Neuchâteloise des Amis du Tramway. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Bernet, Ralph (2000). Trams in der Schweiz: von Basel bis Zürich: Strassenbahn-Betriebe einst und jetzt [Trams in Switzerland: from Basel to Zurich: Tramway Operators Then and Now] (in German). München: GeraMond-Verlag. ISBN 393278507X.
- Willen, Peter (1978). Strassenbahnen der Schweiz. Triebwagen [Tramways of Switzerland. Vehicles] (in German). Zürich: Orell Füssli Verlag. ISBN 3-280-00998-7.
- Schwandl, Robert (2010). Schwandl's Tram Atlas Schweiz & Österreich. Berlin: Robert Schwandl Verlag. ISBN 978 3 936573 27 5. (in German) (in English)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Trams in Neuchâtel.|
- Association Neuchâteloise des Amis du Tramway (ANAT) (Neuchâtel Association of Friends of the Tramway) – official site (in French)
- History of line 5 at the ANAT website (in French)
- TN Neuchâtel – history of the Neuchâtel tramway (in French)
- TN Neuchâtel – the Neuchâtel tramway fleet (in French)
- Picture gallery at railfaneurope.net
- Picture gallery at urbanrail.net
- Neuchâtel database / photo gallery and Neuchâtel tram list at Urban Electric Transit – in various languages, including English.