Absence of Tail Lights on the RhB
Someone asked why the RhB do not have tail lamps on the rear of their trains
during my presentation at last nights Swiss Railways Society "Zoom" meeting.
Searching various forums turned up the following which is a poor, but
understandable, translation of the original German. Is this correct or does
anyone know the real answer?
"With regard to the abolition of the train closing lamps at the RhB, there
is still the following writing down of a retired RhB train driver:
Sometimes the practice deviates from the regulations. The following
statements concern the permanently installed lights on locomotives and
control cars. Portable tail lights are no longer used. The RhB abolished the
finals in 1985. It owes its abolition to the then head of operations, who
completely revised the driving service regulations (FDR) in 1985, submitted
the complete works to the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) for approval and
no one there noticed the deviation from the Swiss signal regulations.
On the road routes in Chur and Pushlav, the red end is prescribed in the
In practice, all variants of rear lighting can be found: red, white, no
light. Shuttle trains occasionally show red at the end of the pendulum
composition but usually white or nothing at all, the end is switched from
the front, more distant driver's cab."
I will add the original in case it helps:
"Bezüglich der Abschaffung der Zugschlusslampen bei der RhB gibt es noch
folgende Niederschreibung eines pensionierten RhB Lokführers:
Manchmal weicht die Praxis vom Reglement ab. Die folgenden Aussagen
betreffen die fest eingebauten Lichter an Triebfahrzeugen und Steuerwagen.
Tragbare Schlusslichter werden keine mehr verwendet. Die RhB hat 1985 die
Schlusslicher abgeschafft. Die Abschaffung verdanke sie dem damaligen
Betriebschef, der das Fahrdienstreglement (FDR) 1985 total überarbeitet hat,
das Gesamtwerk dem Bundesamt für Verkehr (BAV) zur Genehmigung einreichte
und dort niemandem die Abweichung vom Schweizerischen Signalreglement
Auf den Strassenstrecken in Chur und im Puschlav ist der rote Schluss bei
In der Praxis sind alle Varianten der hinteren Beleuchtung anzutreffen: Rot,
Weiss, kein Licht . Pendelzüge zeigen hin und wieder Rot am Schluss der
Pendelkomposition jedoch meist weiss oder gar nichts, der Schluss wird vom
vorderen, weiter entfernten Führerstand geschaltet."
It's a fact that RhB at some point decided that red tail lights were of no use except producing costs. And it's a fact that nobody objected. It is still another fact, not yet mentioned, that at the point when operating rules became a national standard, the responsible persons of the FOT accepted that RhB (and MGB) continued without tail lights.
Another fact is that cabs at the end of a train were always able to show a red tail light. But for many years it was the personal taste of the driver that decided if he lit the light or not.
Introduction of more and more driving trailers after 1999 and then also EMUs changed the world again. More and more it's all automatic. The driver does no longer have to deal with these little details as head and tail lights. Thus today, RhB trains show the same lights as all other trains in Switzerland and it's the same for MGB. This leaves the exceptions: The few trains without driving trailers (Bernina Regios, BEX, GEX and freight trains) will continue to run without tail lights, except in the night on Chur - Arosa and Poschiavo - Tirano. (example attached).
As Markus explained, some single railcars carry tail lights, usually a
single white headlight on the right-hand side, whether or not a train has a
tail. I have examples of both on file.
I can report that on the Bernina at least, observations at
the Brusio Spiral currently still show tail lamps on all trains after dark,
normally 'static' on ABe but flashing when portable lamps are added to any
tail traffic; normally freight vehicles but sometimes also empty coaching
stock being taken to or from Poschiavo from Tirano.
As I understand it, there remains a requirement to show a
red light to the rear (or at least a single white one when single headlights
are used as tail-lights at the back of solo or paired ABe), anywhere they
are running on roads with other traffic. In particular, it appears from
photographic evidence that where empty flat wagons are being towed, going by
my photographic records, a flashing red tail light appears to be mandatory.
This, presumably, is to stop traffic following an ABe down the street
colliding with the back of a low or flat wagon hidden in the dark by a flow
of car and truck headlights travelling in the opposite direction.
I can't comment on the Arosa line where that uses public
roads but presumably the same laws would apply there too. I have long
assumed (always a risky thing to do, of course, but when enquiries fail to
elicit facts the only option), that the reason 'still-green and original
cabbed' Ge 4/4i #610 (and one other I can't remember the number of
off-hand), were given a pair of small additional red lights at each end was
so they could be used in push-pull formations on the Arosa and still show
red to the rear on the road sections. Afaik, all the rebuilt Ge 4/4i were
fitted with these on rebuilding; but I may stand to be 'corrected' on that
score - as I so often am !