In the early 20th century SBB built a power station on the north and south sides as well as five substations in all to electrify the Gotthard railway. The predecessor company of ABB, Brown Boveri & Cie (BBC), had a large share in this: they delivered different components for the installations. One of the substations was located in Steinen.
The central transfer station for the Gotthardbahn was located in Flüelen. For instance the regular boats from Luzern docked there. In order to further improve the development a tram line was opened between Altdorf, the main town of the Canton of Uri, and Flüelen in 1906. The electrical equipment of the carriages (type Ce 2/2) came from the Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft Alioth AG, whose factory was sold to BBC in 1912. The operation was discontinued in 1951. Since then busses are used.
In 1916 SBB decided to electrify the Gotthard railway with current from the Amsteg and Ritom power stations. The power station in Amsteg became operational in 1922. BBC delivered the central components such as generators and transformers.
In the early 20th century SBB built a power station on the north and south sides as well as five substations in all to electrify the Gotthard railway. The Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), which was taken over by BBC in 1967, delivered transformers for the Göschenen substation.
In 1916 SBB decided to electrify the Gotthard railway with current from the Amsteg and Ritom power stations. The natural lake Ritom near Piotta was dammed for the Ritom power station and used as a reservoir. Operation started in 1920. The installation proved to be a pioneer for later power station designs in Switzerland. It supplied the entire Gotthard route with electricity, before the Amsteg power station was completed. The Ritom power station fed 15 000 V of current directly into the catenary at the Ambri-Piotta station. At the same time it channeled 60 000 V of current to five substations, where the electrical power was again transformed to the operating voltage. BBC delivered important components for the installation such as generators, fast controllers, instrument transformers or relays. In addition an automatic parallel switch gear with a BBC synchronoscope was used to synchronize the generators (after short circuits) and connect them to other power stations. The conditions in the railway power stations were particularly hard. The generators were subject to high load fluctuations and had to be extremely reliable at the same time.
In the early 20th century SBB built a power station on the north and south sides as well as five substations in all to electrify the Gotthard railway. The substation in Giornico was completed in 1921. BBC built and installed the transformer system there.
In 1895 BBC delivered the electrical equipment for the world’s first rotary current railway, the tram in Lugano (Tramvie Elettriche Luganesi, TEL). The four type TEL Ce 1/2 trams were operated with 400 V AC. The conversion to 1000 V DC took place in 1910. Afterwards, the vehicle fleet consisted of twelve vehicles of type TEL Ce 2/2, for which BBC again supplied the electrical equipment. The operation ended in 1959. Trolley busses replaced the trams. The existing power supply was used again. Central components for this came from the Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft Alioth AG, which was bought by BBC in 1912. The Société Anonyme des Ateliers de Sécheron (SAAS), later taken over by BBC, as well as more recently BBC and ABB delivered the electric equipment for the trolley busses.
In the early 20th century SBB built a power station on the north and south sides as well as five substations in all to electrify the Gotthard railway. BBC delivered two transformers for the Melide substation.
In 1913 SBB decided to electrify the Gotthard railway. They ordered four test locomotives. BBC and the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO) delivered the electrical equipment for this. The coal shortages during WW1 confirmed SBB’s course of action. The Amsteg and Ritom power stations were constructed and the mass production of electric locomotives started. The electrification of the Gotthard railway was a pioneering project. Proceeding from the first expansion phase, the Erstfeld-Bellinzona stretch, SBB electrified additional stretches of the Swiss railway network one after another, for instance the entire Luzern-Chiasso section and later the Zurich-Basel stretch. By 1960 SBB operated the entire railway with electricity. With the delivery of components in the area of catenary, power stations and rolling stock BBC and MFO significantly shared in this achievement. In 1967 BBC took over MFO.
BBC and the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), which was taken over by BBC in 1967, operated from the start as a manufacturer of components for electric locomotives. The Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik (SLM) mostly built the mechanical parts, BBC and MFO provided the electrical equipment. In 1917 SBB ordered four test locomotives, two from BBC and two from MFO. As a result newer types were always used which were in part specially constructed for the Gotthard railway. By clicking on the link below, the three locomotives can be seen: the Be 4/6, the first ever electric locomotive built in the series for the Gotthard railway, the legendary Ce 6/8 II (called the “Crocodile”) and the last standard gauge locomotive produced in Switzerland, the Re 460 (known as “Lok 2000”).
If lighting in railway carriages seems a simple matter today, it turned out to be a tricky task at the start of 20th century. The traction current was unsuited to the lamps. Therefore DC generators were used which were driven via wheel axles. Additional problems arose through the fluctuating voltage when starting up and braking as well as when controlling the batteries which delivered current when at a standstill. A groundbreaking invention by BBC completely resolved the problems: the designer Heinrich Güttinger developed the roller bearing sector controller. It could balance decreasing or increasing voltages and switch on and off the generator at the right moment. Güttinger is supposed to have had the brainwave on a walk one Sunday morning in May 1907. It was quickly shown that the roller bearing sector controller was not only suited to the train lighting. A whole range of application areas were opened, for the regulation of generators in power stations, satellite substations, in industry, on ships and likewise on railways. Without the fast controller the electrical operation on the Gotthard railway would be unthinkable. The product made a decisive contribution to the good image of Brown Boveri. In 1963 BBC produced the 100 000th System Güttinger fast controller. In the 1970s modern electronics quickly replaced the apparatus.
From 1917 the Schöllenenbahn connected Andermatt with Göschenen and therefore the Furka-Oberalp-Bahn (FOB) to the Gotthard railway. The 3,75 km route had been electrified from the start (1200 V DC). BBC equipped the four railcars with the electrical equipment and installed the catenary. The electricity was supplied by the Arniberg power station near Amsteg, for which BBC delivered components such as generators, fast controllers or pump groups. In 1939/40 the Schöllenenbahn was converted to 11 000 V AC. BBC acted as a general contractor for the three new type BCFe 2/4 railcars and also delivered the electric equipment.
BBC was not only heavily involved in the production of locomotives and the building of power stations for the Gotthard railway. They also installed the catenary, not least in the Gotthard tunnel. The first electric train passed through the tunnel on 1st July 1920. At first steam locomotives also continued to run alongside the electric locomotives. As a result the insulators of the power lines got covered in soot and could therefore only be run on half voltage. This problem disappeared with the adjustment of steam operation on the Erstfeld-Bellinzona stretch in May 1921.