Obervaz is a ficticious HOm gauge layout based on the operations of the Rhatische Bahn or Rhb, the largest narrow gauge railway in Switzerland.
The layout is 16 feet long and 2ft 6ins deep. The boards are made from plywood and are filled in with polystyrene to give the mountain side effect. Various scenic accessories cover the polystyrene.
The catenary is from the Somerfeldt Rhb range while the buildings are mostly Kibri kits. The large bridge is from Vollmer and the small one from the Pola range. The track is Peco and duals as metre or TT gauge. Any stone on the layout is real and was “borrowed” from St Anton in Austria.
The layout operates on two levels, the bottom being a single “run through” track whilst the top has a station built to a typical Rhb design. The Rhb is predominantly a single track railway, hence the single track leads into the station. Stations are usually passing points for trains and often have at least three through tracks as per our layout.
Most of the stock operated on our layout comes from the Bemo range which is manufactured in Germany but a few items are from D & R, a much smaller German manufacturer who produce rolling stock but not Locos. Most of what you will see is prototypically Rhb but an occasional loco, wagon or coach will be from another network. Some of these would not normally appear on the Rhb although stock from the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) formally the Furka Oberalp (FO) and Brig Visp Zermatt Bahn(BVZ) does as the MGB is connected to the Rhb at Disentis/Muster and through trains operate, especially the world famous Glacier Express. The advertising liveries on the locos are not all current although all have been operated between 2000 to the current time.
The Prototype Railway
The Rhb operates almost entirely within the Canton of Graubunden, the largest Canton in Switzerland although the Bernina line extends across the border to Tirano in Italy. It has 370 route kilometres and at 70% it’s maximum gradients are the steepest possible without the assistance of rack. Operating mostly in mountainous terrain it boasts 115 tunnels and 485 bridges.
During the winter months when mountain passes are closed to road traffic due to heavy snowfall the railway continues to operate although an occasional avalanche might close a line temporarily.
The railway voltage is mostly 11KV AC although the Bernina line operates at 1000v DC. Until 2011 Bernina Express services were Loco hauled from Chur to Pontresina where the Loco would be replaced by a pair of single coach DC Railcars to haul the train on to Tirano.There are 2 DC Loco’s but these are rarely used on passenger services. Since 2011 New dual voltage Allegra 3 car units have taken over Bernina Express duties and can operate the complete route without change of motive power. These can normally be seen hauling up to 6 Bernina Express Panoramic cars.
The railway operates around 350 passenger coaches, 1000 freight wagons and 55 “main line” locos plus numerous shunting locos of which some are diesels with all main line locos being electric. It is common to see freight wagons tagged onto the back of passenger services although large numbers of freight trains are operated. The railway also has a number of heritage vehicles which can frequently be seen operating on railtours and specials.
The railway is joint operator of the world famous Glacier Express which operates from St.Moritz or Davos to Zermatt. The Rhb operates as far as Disentis/Muster where the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) takes over and a loco change is required. In 2006 the Glacier Express celebrated it’s 75th anniversary and in recognition of this both railway companies jointly invested in new GE coaching stock.
The RhB is currently embarking on a stock replacement programme. Some Loco hauled services such as Chur to Arosa and the Bernina Express mentioned above have been replaced with new Allegra units which are regarded as Loco’s and are the most powerful motive power in the fleet. However, at the end of 2014 a large number of passenger services are still Loco hauled which, together with freight operations sees the Loco fleet relatively secure, at least in the short term.
Thr Rhb Albula line recently won Unesco world heritage status.