Monday, 17 June 2019

Going to Gelterkinden (1)

In Switzerland Whit Monday is still Whit Monday, i.e. the Monday after Whitsunday, known, more usefully as Pentecost Sunday. In the UK we now "celebrate" the unimpressively titles "Late Spring Bank Holiday" which only occasionally happens on movable feats of Whitsun.

Movable because Pentecost is scheduled 50 days after Easter and Easter, for historical rather than practical  or spiritual reasons, gets jiggled about following complex mathematics designed to match the 12 month solar calendar with the Jewish 13 month lunar calendar.
Thus it was that on Monday June 10th, No 3 son, on an enforced day off in Basel (map top left), took a train ride to Gelterkinden (map bottom right).
No, fbb hadn't either!

Wikipedia (in English) offers little help with geography ...
Gelterkinden is a municipality in the district of Sissach in the canton of Basel-Country in Switzerland.

... and history!

Gelterkinden is first mentioned between 1101–03 as Gelterkingen.

The town's web site tells us why its inhabitants enjoy living there:-

Wer sich in Gelterkinden niederlässt, weiss warum:
Ein vielfältiges Dienstleistungs- und Einkaufsangebot wird durch zahlreiche Klein- und Mittelbetriebe sichergestellt.
Eine gute Anbindung an den ÖV und die zentrale Lage zwischen Basel, Bern und Zürich sind beste Voraussetzungen für Mobilität und Flexibilität.
Für Familien bietet die Gemeinde den Zugang zu allen Stufen der obligatorischen Schulzeit.
Gelterkinden verfügt über ein vielfältiges Freizeit-, Sport- und Kulturangebot sowie über annähernd 100 unterschiedliche Vereine für Jung und Alt.
Die moderne Bibliothek bietet für jeden Geschmack etwas und seit 01. Dezember 2018 ist das neue Hallenbad betriebsbereit. Mit einer langen Rutschbahn, einem Saunabereich und fünf Bahnen im Schwimmbecken werden alle Bedürfnisse abgedeckt.
Ein moderates Steuerklima runden das Bild eines lebendigen, traditionellen und charmanten Oberbaselbieter Dorfes ab.
Gelterkinden - nebelfrei und gemäss Tourismus Baselland das viert-sonnigste Dorf in der Schweiz - hat viel zu bieten.

So now we know. But the whole village has something like listed status, so we might expect at the least the central part to be, well, Swiss!
It is reasonable to assume that the former village is sort of swept up into the larger community of Sissach.

We will return to Gelterkinden for more "excitement" in tomorrow's blog, but for now let's look at how No 3 son got there.
Gelterkinden is a stop on the main line between Basel and Lucerne served by "InterCity" trains and the Basel S-Bahn (outer suburban) line 3.
At Liestal there is a connection with the narrow gauge Waldenburg line which will produce a separate blog in due course. Suffice it to day that it has a gauge of 450mm (2ft 5½in), the only such (non mountain) passenger line in the country.

At Sissach the S9 diverges, to reappear at Olten.
This steeply graded line was built by the Swiss Central railway company between 1855 and 1858. It was one of the first double tracked lines in the country and faced the huge obstacle of the Jura mountains at Hauenstein.

British engineer Thomas Brassey was in charge ...
... and the work was completed with little more than pick-axes and shovels.
Nobody thought it possible that the tunnel could be driven from both sides and meet in the middle after years of work. The English contractor Thomas Brassey decided to drive the tunnel from five points - both ends and from three perpendicular shafts from the surface of the mountain to the axis of the tunnel - in order to accelerate the project.

Flooding, dust, falling rock and fire were ongoing dangers, but the line was completed and opened with due ceremony.

Thus route remained the main line for nearly 50 years until the "new line" with a much longer Hauenstein base tunnel was opened in 1916.

Travelling the S9, you pass through some glorious Swiss countryside with views of pleasant villages as here at the Rümlingen viaduct.
There are three tunnels, the last of which runs below the village of Hauenstein.
Vertical scale exaggerated, obviously (?).

Near the northern portal is Läufelfingen ...
... where there is plenty of evidence of the locality's former freight workings.
Note the bus, as ever, connecting with the trains! Just past the southern portal is Trimbach, somewhat more basic in facilities.
Arrival at Olten is via a bridge over the River Aare.
Note the newer bridge decks built on the old two track piers.
The "S9" line was singled in 1938.

Olten is a major railway centre ...
... with huge yards and complex junctions. In the midst of all this is the Lindt chocolate factory and factory shop.
(pause for mouthwatering slavering)
Trains on the S9 "old line" are, as you would expect, new and modern ...
... but the interwebnet also records interesting steam excursions.
There have been several attempts to replace trains with buses and close the line; the most recent being only a couple of years ago. It is a story familiar to GB with costs being high, subsidy being vast and replacement buses saving sackloads of FrSwiss. But every attempt has been thwarted by a referendum voting to keep the line open.

But No 3 son was going to Gelterkinden, the first stop on the "new line"; new in 1916.

 Gelterkinden blog continued : Tuesday 18th June 


  1. I think you'll find that the Waldenburgerbahn is actually 750mm gauge, although it's still "2ft 5 1/2in" if you insist. It's due to be relaid to standard metre gauge shortly.

  2. Andrew Kleissner17 June 2019 at 11:06

    Nothing to do with your post: but today's "South Wales Echo" is wrapped around with this striking advert in its "Famous Five" series. But ... is this a real bridge? It looks like Maidenhead Bridge (or one of the two others on the same stretch of line) but isn't ... indeed the arches and balustrades are more reminiscent of road bridges nearby. Also - although we know that Class 800s are electro-diesel, who took away the overhead wires?

  3. Thanks Jim. typing error rather than total incompetence.