This article covers three very different pre-war Swiss locomotives all bracketed under the “Ae8/14” classification – i.e. standard gauge electric locos with a maximum speed >80km/h with 14 axles, 8 of which were powered. Understandably, these were all double locos (they’d need to be with that many axles!).
11852 is seen ensconced in the excellent Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern, 29/10/18 (JW)
The thinking behind such a double locomotive was brought about by the need in the late 1920s to develop traffic along the steeply-graded Gotthardbahn, which had been electrified in 1922. Multiple working among electric locos was not yet a ‘thing’ and therefore a permanently-coupled twin machine would, in theory, allow greater tonnages to be hauled using just one crew, and reducing the need for banking or pilot locos and the associated time involved in attaching and detaching them, thereby also increasing the potential throughput of trains on this important north-south axis.
Three such machines were built, all of a prototype nature, and no production fleet resulted; developments in electric traction through the 1930s rendered that effectively a dead end.
The first Ae8/14 was 11801, which entered traffic on 22nd December 1931. Essentially it comprised of two single-ended Ae4/7 locos. It was taken out of traffic on 5th December 1976 and later passed to SBB Historic, being stationed at Erstfeld. In recent years, it has made very occasional operational appearances, but is very much treated with the kid gloves nowadays as befits its uniqueness.
A few months later, on 13th April 1932, 11851 followed. Externally similar to 11801, this machine was more powerful, with smaller wheels and a different type of drive (SLM-Universal as opposed to Buchli). It too was taken out of traffic in 1976, but was not as lucky as its sister machine, and was scrapped at Biasca in 1977.
Off the back of evaluation of 11801 and 11851, a further development of the Ae8/14 project was made, in the form of 11852. This was a development of 11851 but of a much more streamlined, futuristic design. It entered traffic on 1st July 1940. It became known as the “Landi-Lok” on account of its display at the Swiss Landesausstellung in 1939. It was an object of national prestige in worrying political times but its full potential could never be exploited; its 8,800kW power combined with the rickety rolling stock of the day apparently risked drawbars being stressed beyond acceptable limits.
The loco sadly caught fire as it was travelling south through the 9-mile-long Gotthard Tunnel near Airolo on 26th July 1971 and suffered severe damage. It was, however, rebuilt, but with a bill of upwards of a million CHF even at 1971 prices, this was done mainly cosmetically and not to operational condition. It is a long-term exhibit within the Swiss Transport Museum (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) at Luzern, adjacent to Luzern Verkehrshaus station. One of its cabs and reconstructed equipment compartments can usually be visited.
11852, interior view (JW)