Switzerland 1935

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The Swiss Tour  - 1935:

© by W.J Skinner.

The tour to Switzerland that had been talked about for some time had now become a reality and to those who took part in it, there will be an unforgettable memory impressed on their minds.  What they saw, what we heard  and the way we were received and treated was so grand, that it almost seems like a dream when we think about it.

I do not suppose there was one of the party who took part in the tour that had not read, or had been told during his school days the story of "William Tell" and the country he was so proud of.  This to some of the party, was looking back 50 years, and yet all were as eager as a lot of school-boys to see that country and its associations, that they had sp often read about.

Now it had been possible by this tour, to go and see and its people.

Not only from the historical point of view, and the pleasure side of the tour, but as we were going to see one of the foremost nations in the world of engineering, especially electrical, and of course in the clock and watch making.

They have shown the world, by their engineering feats in making use of the natural water supplies, in harnessing the water and then using it by passing it through turbines and generating electricity, both for light and power purposes, they do not feel the lack of coal.  The whole of the railways are worked by it, trams, and the works all over the country are using this power.

The cleanness of everything, building, housings etc. as well as the whole country has to be seen, to fully realise what is achieved by doing away with smoke and from from the use of coal.

The party of 100 met at Victoria Station at 4.0pm on Sunday May, 26 to commence their journey to Switzerland and with good send off from our friends, we left at 4.30 pm. for Folkestone and arrived their at 6.15 pm.  We were soon on the boat, and at 6.35 we left Folkestone for Boulogne on the S.S. Canterbury.

The sea was a bit choppy, but we had a good crossing, and arrived at Boulogne at 8.10 pm and were soon on the train, and we left there at 8.31 pm.  We passed through places that had been impressed on our minds during the great war, Ameins,  Laon, and arrived at Belport at 4.35 am.  It had been raining, and was dark most of the way, and most of the party had been trying to get a little sleep.

After a short stay, we were soon away again , and after another good run, arrived at Basle at 5.56am, right on time.  Here it was a beautiful sunshine, and the town and the country looked very nice and clean and everthing looked freshly painted.  Basle is a very important junction, trains meeting and going to all parts of Europe.  Here we changed from the steam engine to electric , and after having time for a cup of coffee and little refreshment, we were soon on the way again.

During the journey from Paris to Basel we had a practical demonstration of the communication chain being pulled, with the brake whistle sounding the train was brought to a stand.

We passed through a long tunnel soon after leaving Basle, 5 miles long, taking some 9 minutes to get through.   Soon after we stopped at Oulton, but in a few minutes we were away again.

As it was now daylight we were able to see the beautiful country as we passed through it.  We had also left the steam engine at Basle so there was neither steam nor smoke to obstruct the view.  The electric engine was very quick at getting up speed and we were often touching over 60 MPH.

The valleys were very flat in some places and every bit of land seemed to be cultivated.  The slopes of the mountains were well wooded and every now and then we got a view of the snow-capped peaks looking very pretty as a background for the valleys.

The houses we passed were nearly all standing in their own grounds looking clean and fresh, as if they had just been painted.  A good many were built of wood, with a brick foundation and the usual veranda running right round the house.  We also noted that most of the houses had a good stack of wood piled up close to the house, ready for the winter fuel supply.

Electric wires and pylons were seen all over the place and some of the large railway yards seemed a maze of wires.   We also saw a view steam shunting engines in some of the depots.

All the main line express trains are worked by electric engines which are very powerful, weigh 120 tons and have 8 wheels geared.

Some of the electric engines look very peculiar when moving and at first glance you think the wheels are skidding and the side-rods on the coupled wheels seem stationary.  What is actually taking place is this: the framing over the wheels is so built that you cannot see the wheels and framing is coupled together and this part looks like the side-rod coupled onto the wheels, so giving the optical illusion.  Two men are present on the footplate of the express trains, but only one on shunting locomotives and less important trains.

It was also very noticeable how nice the discipline was amongst the railwaymen.  The porters, shunters all seemed appreciative of their own job and got on with it.  The uniforms of the staff were smart, the porters and platelayers wearing long dungaree smocks.

To some extent the scenery reminds one of the West Highlands of Scotland, but the mountains are higher and more snow is seen.

We arrived at Lucerne at 8.33 am.  Everybody was feeling very much in need of a wash and brush up and was getting hungry as well.  We were soon on our way to our respective hotels, our party going to the Hotel Cecil were we arrived at 9.0 am.

Here breakfast was soon served and soon after that was over we were taken around the city by a guide to see the places of interest including specimens of 15th Century buildings and the famous sleeping Lion of Lucerne.  This is a piece of sculpture carved in a big rock over an ornamental pond in memory of fallen Swiss Soldiers in an early war.  It was a wonderful bit of rock sculpture and is in very good condition.

We were then shown some fine specimens of old buildings.  Then we were taken to the Chapel Bridge, this is a lovely old bridge crossing the River Reuss.  It was built in 1333 as part of the City’s fortifications.  On the roof of the bridge are some beautiful paintings by the Swiss artist, H. Wegman in 1611 representing stirring needs of men of the Swiss Federation and the martyrdom of St. Leger and St. Maurice, Patron Saints of Lucerne.

The water tower close to the bridge was once used as a torture chamber, but it is now put to better use as the location of the town’s archives.  The station buildings are on a very grand scale and the approach very fine with view of Mount Pilatus forming the background of the view.

The chestnut avenues of the shores of the lake are also very fine.  They are kept well trimmed and it is lovely walking along the shore under these chestnut trees in the cool of the evening.

Lake Lucerne is 28 miles long and 4 to 5 miles wide in places.  There is fine fleet of steamers and plenty of small craft on the lake.

After lunch, the party met at 2.30om and were taken for a trip on Lake Lucerne.  The steamer was a paddle boat, about the same size as a Loch Lomand steamer, very clean and smart in appearance.   We had a very good trip, and saw some beautiful scenery from the boat including the Tell’s Chapel, the Schiller stone in memory of the famous dramatist from Horsham, the wonderful Elevator and the aerial railway and the town of Vitznau looking towards the snow capped Gersanerstock Mountain.

We arrived back at the pier at 6.00pm, having being some five and a half hours on the lake – giving you some idea of the size of Lake Lucerne.  The lake is 1400 feet above sea-level and the mountains around range between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.  The plants on the shores of the lake seem almost tropical, however the peaks beyond are covered in snow.

After dinner we were invited to Kursaal where a British programme had been arranged in honour of our visit to Lucerne.  The Union Flag was hung in a prominent position and the concert was opened by singing God save the King.

After a full and enjoyable day we returned to out hotels, tired.

During the journey from Paris to Basel we had a practical demonstration of the communication chain being pulled, with the brake whistle sounding the train was brought to a stand.

Later on in the week we also had a demonstration of the automatic train stop, that is in use on the Swiss Railways.  The driver had instructed to pass certain signals at danger and the train was stopped by the automatic train stop, in about 300 yards when running about 50 miles per hour.

Tuesday Morning:

We met at the station at 8.15am and left by train for Neuhausen at 8.35am. The first stop was Zug were we saw Lake Zug, we then passed through Thaiwil and arrived at Zurich at 9.40 am. and left there at 9.45 am.  Here we saw several large steam engines, 10 wheeled coupled.  It is a wonderful site a large shunting yard covered with the overhead electric wires.

We also saw several blocks of workman's dwellings.  They were well painted and looked very smart and clean and by the looks of the people on the verandas, they looked as if living in them was appreciated.

Soon after leaving Zurich we passed over a very high and fine built viaduct, over the Rhine and entered Germany at 10.15 am.  Although we were now in Germany, this part of the railway is controlled by the Swiss and works at Neuhausen  are managed by the Swiss.

Before leaving the train, we got a glimpse of the Rhine Falls and which we visited after going over the works.