European Memories

| February/March 1997

20 Maddoxford Lane, Botley, Southampton, England S032 2DG

Last fall, GEM sponsored a European Tour arranged by Arena Travel which included Switzerland, Germany, Holland and England. GEM staffer Judy Whiteside participated in this venture and was a contributor to this article.

It seems not too long ago that I was busy assembling information and getting packed for what promised to be an exciting tour with the prospect of making new friends and meeting quite a few from previous trips.

On Thursday September 7, 'the team' from Arena Tours assembled at Felixstowe, England and boarded the cross channel ferry 'Pride of Norfolk' for the overnight sailing to Zeebrugge, Belgium. The weather was far from encouraging with gale force winds and quite a rough sea, I mention this because contrary to expectations the ship was rock steady and the only evidence of being at sea was the occasional sledge hammer like blows of waves crashing against the hull. To me this was a real tribute to the effectiveness of the stabilising system. After a good night's sleep we disembarked and drove in our coach through Belgium and France down to Zurich, Switzerland so as to be ready on Saturday morning to pick up the first arrivals. It was good to see a sprinkling of familiar faces, including those of Charles and Sheila Wendel.

To get the tour under way and distract everyone from the effects of jetlag, a trip was taken on the 'Grindelwald to First' chair lift in Switzerland. Fortunately the weather was perfect for viewing the magnificent Alpine scenery, and to give an engine related interest the manager gave a conducted tour of the cable driving machinery. This is the longest cable car in Europe and replaced its predecessor in 1991. Three hundred gondolas, each with six seats, populate the system and all are stored each night within the four station buildings. Control is by a computerized system which updates every three seconds using fibre optics embedded in the cable for data transfer from the various sensors. The system is 5226m long, is supported on 43 pylons and can convey 1200 persons/hour over an altitude change of 1105m.

Our visit to the Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern really excited railroad enthusiasts, with steam powered rack and pinion engines, a number of electric locomotives and numerous high quality models. In the aeronautical collection a number of rotary engines aroused much interest as did the Siemans and Halske in which both the cylinders and crankshafts rotated but in opposite directions. Another early solution to the quest for power with minimum weight was the Dufaux motor with five tandem in-line cylinders. Each cylinder was double-acting so it corresponds to a conventional 20-cylinder engine. It was interesting to compare this engine with a Junker Jumo 207 opposed piston six cylinder diesel standing close by.


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