From the Sensetalbahn to the Operating Group Railcar 101
This railcar was ordered by the Sensetalbahn from the Société anonyme des Ateliers de Sécheron (SAAS) and the Schweizerische Waggonfabrik Schlieren (SWS) and delivered to the STB in 1938 as CFe 2/4 101. It is the only vehicle in the history of the Sensetalbahn that is not second hand but was built for them. The railcar was used in all-purpose service on the Flamatt-Gümmenen line, where it could also be seen with freight cars on the hook. When the STB ran out of money for maintenance after 48 years, it was sold to Wohlen-Meisterschwanden, which used it as BDe2/4 3 in commercial service. Even then, fate was not so kind to the railcar, and it was converted into a saloon car due to a lack of passengers. Until 1997, the BDe2/4 operated as such, until the Wohlen-Meisterschwanden Railway was also discontinued and it once again lost its home. However, with 59 years already on its wheels, it seems too old for commercial service.
Rescue came in the form of the Zürcher Museumsbahn ZMB, which operates in the Sihl Valley, because they bought the railcar to use it for special trips as a historic vehicle. In 2010, dark clouds once again gathered over the railcar when the ZMB was able to put an original Sihltalbahn railcar into service. The decision which railcar would stay in Sihlwald was quickly made and the BDe2/4 3 was again parked with an uncertain fate. Rescue came in the form of the Compagnie Ferroviare du Léman, chaired by Alain Primatesta. On 15 January 2011, the railcar was towed to the workshop in Lausanne with a Re420. After an overhaul, the railcar was christened La Dame du Léman on 5 October 2012 in Villeneuve.
Sensetalbahn , June 1938 Source: our Facebook page
From then on it was used for extra trips in the Lake Geneva region and stationed at Geneva Airport when the SBB Lausanne depot was closed. However, despite the good efforts of the CFDL, interest in the train declined and it was now parked at Geneva Airport and left to be defaced by vandals. When a member of the Operating Group heard about this, a few messages were hastily sent to a friendly locomotive driver, who got a friend on board and the Operating Group for Railcar 101 was born.
Laupen, undated Source: unknown
On 24 April 2020, due to the Corona crisis, a trip was made to Geneva with a small number of staff to inspect the vehicle and assess its condition. We quickly agreed that the BDe2/4 3 is technically in top condition. However, the vandals have done their bit with the graffiti. The decision to repaint was therefore also made. We also decided to restore the Dame du Léman to its original 1938 livery. However, we will leave the baptismal name as it is. Since she was also built by SAAS, we believe she is entitled to bear this name. In the night of 19 to 20 June 2020, the old lady was transferred from Geneva airport to the BLS workshops with the help of the Verein Pendelzug Mirage, where she will have her colour scheme renewed and undergo a technical inspection by members of the Operating Group.
When this technical inspection was successfully completed and the interior was renewed, the railcar went into the hands of BLS to have a repair carried out on the bogie, where cracks were discovered in all four wheel discs. So the whole project came to a standstill for a moment, as the replacement of the wheel discs cost a large amount of money and we could no longer manage it with our private funds. Nevertheless, we did not give up. After a board meeting convened at short notice, it was decided that a crowdfounding would be launched, as well as to look for donors and sponsors elsewhere to replace the defective axles. We succeeded in this thanks to many sponsors at the crowdfounding. BLS has done a great job of reassembling the railcar, which means that the starting shot has been fired for the commissioning after the long standstill period. This was of course planned with full vigour and so it came about that a small contingent of our group arrived early on Monday morning of 08.03.2021 to complete the acceptance with BLS. It turned out that BLS more than fulfilled our expectations. The railcar looks like it has just been delivered. After successful acceptance, the group went straight to commissioning, which was completed without any problems, after which the railcar was ready to set off in the direction of Romanshorn, where it will be housed for the time being and where our Operating Group will meet on a weekend to reach its goal: the original condition of 1938.
Source: Archives M. Polier
Laupen copyright: Tramclub Basel