Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Odd Small Locomotive - Mystery Solved - Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn

We received this delightful letter from a customer of ours regarding the date and subject matter of a photograph they recently purchased from our Jay Parrino's The Mint Archive. This photo turned out to be a rare 1871 photo of the Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn. Thank you Tommy for the wonderful information!

We love hearing from our customers. If you have information about a photo you've purchased  that you'd like to share please email us.

Hey there, 
I recently bought a photo from JP-Themint on ebay. 

Since my dad likes those kinds of trains it immediately caught my attention. By the architecture in the background and the type of locomotive (with upright boiler) I identified it as a cog railroad from Switzerland. 
A bit of research in that direction confirmed that it's a very early photograph of the "Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn" which opened in 1871. This photograph was most probably taken around that time, because two years after the line opened, a hotel was built there which would be seen in the photograph. 
Further evidence for dating the photograph comes from this picture, which must have been taken within a few days of the one I bought:
There are several additional photo links here as well.

I'm assuming the one I bought is a little older, because the pile of track and building material bottom right had been removed. The photo I linked to is dated to a few days before the opening in 1871. 
Here is another photograph (a later one, notice the building in the back):
It's an extremely rare photo and now a priced addition to my father's collection. 
All the best!

A little further research came up with the following from Wikipedia and others...

Vitznau – Rigi Railway

Aware of the scenic location of Mount Rigi, Swiss engineer Niklaus Riggenbach masterminded the construction of a railway from Vitznau, on the shores of Lake Lucerne, to a point close to its summit. He already had the technology as he had patented, in France in 1863, a system of toothed racks set between the railway tracks interlocking with cogwheels fitted under the locomotives.
Historic steam on the Rigi. RigibahnNo.16, built by SLM (Works No.2871) in 1923.
As of 2009, this locomotive is still used in historic rides. Built in 1858 (the plate on the loco and other sources show the later date, 1873), it is the oldest Swiss loco surviving and also the only remaining standard gauge rack fitted vertical boilered loco in the world[1]. The two cylinder steam engine provides 196 PS power under 7.5 km/h speed. The loco was removed from service in 1937, when the railway was electrified, but has been returned in 2009 [2].
Jointly, with fellow engineers Olivier Zschokke and Adolf Naef, he submitted an application to the Canton of Luzern (Lucerne) for permission to build his line. The Canton administration already knew of the Mount Washington Railway in the United States using a similar system devised by Sylvester Marsh (and known as the Marsh system in the USA) and saw the advantages in this construction, granting permission on 9 June 1869. The construction itself began in the following September, the limited liability company, which had offered 1250 shares was greatly over-subscribed on the first day of issue. On 21 May 1870, Riggenbach’s birthday, locomotive No.1, named Stadt Luzern, made its first trial run. Exactly one year later the first mountain railway using rack and pinion technology was officially opened, Riggenbach, never noted for missing an opportunity, drove the first train to the upper terminus at Rigi Staffelhohe, the boundary of Cantons Luzern and Schwyz. As no application for the line had been submitted to the Canton Schwyz authorities this was the limit of operation.
The line, from Vitznau to Rigi Staffelhohe was 5 km (3.1 mi) long and climbed a total of 1,115 m (3,658 ft) to reach a height of 1,550 m (5,085 ft) at its summit, the maximum gradient being 1 in 4 (25%).

Some additional photos and links... - 1875: Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn - Circa 1890

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