Double electric locomotive Ae 8/8 272 of the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon-Bahn (BLS).
■ For the first time with new, finely-detailed pantographs of the type BBC 350/2
■ Both locomotive halves powered
■ Design with a silver roof
■ Light change according to the Swiss regulations
With the locomotive types Ae 6/8 and Ae 4/4, the BLS had extremely powerful machines in its vehicle fleet. Still, in freight transport, their use was more and more associated with double traction and shunting services due to the increasingly bulky and standardised design of the wagon material in the mid-fifties and thus longer and more massive trains.
The evaluation of a new traction unit up to 900 tonnes towed loads on a 27 per mille gradient, showed that doubling the proven Ae 4/4 would be the best solution. The resulting Ae 8/8 locomotives had an hourly power output of 8,800 hp (6,480 kW) at 76 km/h and reached a top speed of 125 km/h. Various technical improvements allowed an excellent application of the tractive power and finally gave the machines the nickname «Muni» (dialect for a breeding animal).
Significant advantages of the design with permanently connected locomotive halves were the saving of two driver’s cabs and the reduction of the frequent empty runs of returning double traction or shunting locomotives on the Lötschberg line, which at that time was still single track. The first three locomotives, 271 to 273, were delivered to the BLS by the SLM and the BBC between 1959 and 1963.
Due to the positive experiences with the machines, the BLS decided to have built two more units 274 and 275 in 1965. However, this time a method was used that strongly resembled model building practices (I wonder if the engineer in charge …?!): Two existing Ae 4/4 were assembled to form an Ae 8/8 locomotive identical to the first three while carrying out the necessary adaptations.
Although their main field of activity was the traction of heavy transit goods trains on the lines between Biel/Bienne, Bern, Thun and Brig-Domodossola, the «Munis» could also be found in front of long international passenger trains. With the trainloads, which admittedly continued to rise above the originally intended value of 900 tonnes, double traction with Ae 6/8, Ae 4/4, Re 4/4 and Re 465 was often necessary. The commissioning of the second Re 465 «Squadron» led to the provisional remobilisation of all Ae 8/8. Locomotive 274 was already decommissioned before that. A shed fire finally caused loco 271 and 272 to disappear from the scene. Locomotive 273 has been preserved as a historical locomotive. At the moment, the BLS Foundation is trying to raise funds to make the locomotive operational again.