LGB 28441 – Rhaetian Railroad Ge 4/4 II 629 Electric Locomotive
At the end of the 1960s the Rhaetian Railroad urgently needed new electric locomotives for its core network mostly to replace old units from the period of electrification, but also to add to the roster due to increases in service. The RhB's management advisory committee decided at the beginning of September 1970 to purchase 10 modern class Ge 4/4 II thyristor locomotives with road numbers 611-620. They were built by the Swiss Locomotive and Machinery Company (SLM) in Winterthur (the mechanical part) and by Brown Boveri & Cie (BBC) in Baden (the electrical part). Their external appearance was quite similar to the standard gauge SBB class Re 4/4 II locomotives. There were by contrast clear differences in the electrical part: Phase control with controlled rectifiers built up using thyristors and diodes supplied the traction motors with pulsating direct current. A special feature was the low mounted drawbars and cable equipment to compensate for the lower weight of the trucks. Together with the ingenious control of the pulsating current traction motors, this guaranteed optimal adhesion utilization. In line with the level of technology at that time, the locomotives also had electrical resistance braking.
Due to the strong growth in traffic, the RhB placed a subsequent series of 13 units in service between February of 1984 and January of 1985. This add-on series was largely identical to the first series and bore the road numbers 621-633. An add-on series of the class Ge 4/4 II allowed chiefly savings in maintenance costs and reserve parts. Several components were however adapted to the current level of technology. For the first time the locomotives had the red RhB paint scheme that is still in use today. This scheme was also applied to the green units of the first series as they came in for all the possible overhauls. Starting in 1999, new rectangular headlights were installed when locomotives came in for major maintenance, and between 2004 and 2008 all 23 units underwent a modernization program in which a modern computer-supported control technology replaced the analog control electronics. The RhB soon also recognized the potential of these locomotives as an advertising medium and a memorable advertising message has since adorned the locomotive bodies of more than half of the roster. Among them is the current Ge 4/4 II 629 that is now running as the advertising medium for the new construction of the Albula Tunnel and all the firms involved in the construction.