Schatzalp funicular (1899 – 1939)
This historical review of the first 40 years of the Davos-Schatzalp-Bahn (DSB) was written in May 1940 by the then director Alfred Amberg.
On 28 October 1929 a short historical review appeared in the “Davoser Zeitung” on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the collaudation of the Schatzalp Railway. If, after the completion of 40 years of operation – instead of the usual 50 – the writer believes he is entitled to do a somewhat more comprehensive review for those who are close to the company, then perhaps the present time provides the justification for this, a justification, among other things, insofar as the company is consolidated. The delay in the issue of this small publication is justified by the desire not only to report up to the 40th anniversary of the official start of operations – 25 December 1939 – but to conclude the year 1939 and also to include the events of this year in the attached static tables.
How the DSB – always closely connected with the fortunes of the health resort and the sports ground Davos – passed its first 40 years, you may now take from the following explanations which stick to the files. Since 1911, the author has personal recollections at his disposal, for in October of that year he entered the service of the DSB.
Efforts to build a railway from Davos-Platz to the Schatzalp go back at least to the year 1894. On 24 November 1894, A.G. Kurhaus Davos – originally Kuranstalt W.J. Holsboer – submitted an application to the Federal Council for a concession to build a cable railway, possibly an electric rack railway, to the Schatzberg.
On 10 December of the same year, a competing project was submitted for concession by the Stiffler, Issler and Beely consortium.
The minutes of the meeting of the board of directors of the A.G. Kurhaus on 29 January 1895 explain the priority of the concession application on the part of the Kurhaus and the reasons for the opposing proposal, which was supported by the Graubünden government. With the message of 7 June 1895 and the draft of a federal decree, the Federal Council, after thorough examination, approved the granting of a concession to the Kurhaus A.G. Davos-Platz. On 16 October 1895, however, the Federal Assembly concessioned both applicants together on the basis of a consultation by the Graubünden government, despite the fact that the project of the above-mentioned consortium took up the entire length of the Kurhaus forest, so to speak. However, the railway was not built within the concession period, mainly because the efforts of the aforementioned consortium were obviously aimed at making this project of the Kurhaus impossible; for it cannot be concluded from the entire course of events that the consortium was seriously thinking of building the railway. In the years that followed, the Board of Directors of the Kurhaus A.G. repeatedly dealt with the question of building the railway, and it was always Willem Jan Holsboer, the economic founder of our health resort and of the narrow-gauge railway Landquart-Davos and thus of today’s Rhaetian Railway, who kept his eye on the question and also brought it to a conclusion with his characteristic perseverance, after the project to build a sanatorium on the Schatzalp had also taken shape from within the Kurhaus Board of Directors with Dr. Luzius Spengler. By 12 April 1898, the Kurhaus Board of Directors had held 12 meetings to discuss the railway issue, and after lengthy, tedious and patient negotiations with the opposing initiators, the documents for the foundation of a company and the general plans for the construction had also been prepared. The concession granted by federal decree to both applicants was then renewed on 15 April 1898 under the same conditions and transferred to the Kurhaus A.G. for this or for the attention of a joint-stock company to be founded, with the obligation that within eighteen months of the date of the decision the prescribed financial and technical documents and the company statutes had to be submitted. After the company had already been founded and the construction of the Schatzalp Sanatorium had been decided, the constituent general meeting of the Schatzalp Railway took place on 24 June 1898. The statutes written by Dr. Eduard Kern were approved, the share capital of Fr. 150,000 was fully subscribed and the following gentlemen were elected to the Board of Directors:
Dr. Ed. Kern, lawyer and notary in Basel, Chairman
Engineer Ed. Riggenbach, in Basel
Alfred Sarasin, Banquier, in Basel
Willem Alexander Holsboer in Davos
Peter Jakob Bener in Chur
The initiator and actual founder W.J. Holsboer went to Basel in April 1898 – already seriously ill – and from there to Schinznach for a cure, where he died on 8 June, i.e. before the DSB was founded. Dr. Andrea Clavuot created an honourable memorial to him in the commemorative publication “50 Years of the Rhaetian Railway 1889 – 1939”.
In several subsequent meetings, the Board of Directors of the Kurhaus dealt with the transfer of the concession to the railway, which was done free of charge; the transfer of land, for which the Kurhaus was issued apport shares in the amount of Fr. 50,000, and the handing over of the financial and technical documents created so far. The Kurhaus also subscribed to shares for Fr. 30,000, so that it held the majority with 160 shares.
As early as 25 June 1898, the newly elected Board of Directors began the preliminary work for the construction of the railway. It elected a construction committee consisting of the board members Ed. Riggenbach and W.A. Hoelsboer, as well as the engineers A. Schucan, who agreed to act in an advisory capacity, and C. Wetzel. At the same time, a contract for the construction management was prepared with engineer C. Wetzel, cleared by the construction committee and approved by the Board of Directors on 14 July. In the meantime, the purchase contract with the Kurhaus had also been concluded and one prepared with E. Michel concerning the Mad.
On the basis of the general financing project, new terrain surveys were carried out in the autumn of 1898, which resulted in a relocation of the Axen railway with reduced construction costs and a system – the present one – that took better account of the snow conditions.
Before the detailed project planning could proceed, the question of the power supply had to be clarified. Like the board of directors of the Kurhaus, the building committee proposed that the power required for the operation of the cable car should be generated in a separate control centre using Dowson power engines, and that this power should be transmitted to the Schatzalp in the form of direct current. In an enlarged project, it was planned to supply light and power to the Kurhaus and the Schatzalp Sanatorium. The importance of the choice of power supply for the later profitability of the railway will be explained in a later section.
In the course of the winter, a whole series of further construction orders were clarified, among other things the construction of a stop was not considered opportune and the installation of electric carriage heating was also decided against.
On 15 February 1899, the contract with Schweiz. Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik Winterthur as general contractor for the mechanical and electrical part of the railway. The delivery and assembly of the electrical part was to be carried out by A.G. vorm. J.J. Rieter & Cie. in Töss and the mechanical part of the actual cableway system with the rails, superstructure and carriages was entrusted to the v. Roll’sche Eisenwerke, Bern works.
With construction contracts dated 20 and 21 April, the earthworks and masonry work for the substructure and the station buildings were awarded to the construction companies formerly G. Issler and Joh. Caprez & Cie. and on 19 May the buildings for the power and light centre were awarded to A. Baratelli.
On 29 April 1899 the first sod was turned for the substructure, on 13 May the foundations for the lower station began, on 20 May for the upper station and on 23 May for the power station.
The construction work on all four sites was promoted so quickly that the first test runs could already be undertaken on 10 October. The pre-collaudation took place on 12 October and the actual collaudation on 27 October 1899. The immediate start of operations was hindered by the fact that the Federal Assembly had not yet approved the tax increase over and above the concession rates that had become necessary due to cost overruns. However, the new concession fares were then ratified by the Federal Assembly on 24 December and scheduled operations commenced on 25 December 1899.
About the railroad itself, the most important data may follow here, whereby it is expressly noted that the information about the original power supply is taken from an essay by engineer C. Wetzel in the Schweiz. Bauzeitung of 1901.
The Schatzalp-Bahn starts directly behind the Kurhaus Davos at Cote 1557; the final point Schatzalp is 1861 meters above sea level. The structural length is 716 meters with an initial gradient of 36%. A cubic parabola takes over the gradient compensation and from m. 91.50 the gradient is uniformly 47.39% up to the terminus. In consideration of the cubature of the substructure, the line was given a deflection of 8 1/2º at 300 meters radius in its upper half. The gauge is 1 meter.
The rope came from the Felten & Guillaume works in Cologne/Mülheim. This first rope, made of crucible steel braided in long lay, had a breaking strength of 42750 kg at a weight of 2.8 kg per m¹, giving a 10.17 safety at a maximum rope pull of 4200 kg.
The cars, equipped with three closed and one open compartment and two cabs, had a capacity of 36 passengers. The braking system was the usual one of the time, with two automatic caliper brakes and one hand brake. In principle, the braking mechanism on the von Roll cars is still the same today, except that the design has been significantly improved and refined by the patent for the quick-acting brake. However, under conditions such as those prevailing at DSB, the 40-year-old, little-changed design still gives good results.
The stations were built according to the simplest operating conditions. The construction of the bottom station encountered difficulties because of the Holsboerstrasse underpass. Two service apartments were attached to the Schatzalp mountain station from the very beginning.
The choice of the power supply was briefly reported. Connection to the lighting network of the Davos power station was out of the question, as explained above. On the other hand, the power supply was constructed in special buildings on the property of the gas factory belonging to the Kurhaus, and the construction of the buildings was for the account of the Kurhaus, while all the machines and apparatus were procured by the railroad. The DSB thus rented its power station at Fr. 3000.- per year, but took over the existing gas factory for operation as a secondary business of the railroad with the obligation to supply the gas to the Kurhaus at cost price.
Power gas (consisting of carbon oxide, hydrogen and nitrogen) was produced in two generators with the necessary purification and cooling apparatus, steam boilers to provide the necessary steam for the generators’ blowers and a gasometer.
The power gas was fed to two four-stroke engines with electric ignition, separately installed in the machine hall. These engines each had a power output of 50 horsepower at 175 rpm. Compressed air was used for starting and mufflers were installed to prevent annoying noise.
The electrical equipment included two four-pole DC dynamo machines with shunt winding, driven by the gas engines by means of belts. The machine power was 33 KW each at 720 rpm and an operating voltage of 420 volts, which could be increased to 600 volts for charging the accumulator battery. The accumulator battery, consisting of 240 Tudor elements from the Örlikon accumulator factory, worked in parallel with one of the two dynamo machines and, thanks to its capacity, acted as a buffer battery.
The complete equipment also included the usual switching and measuring apparatus and later a remote-controlled cell switch for keeping the battery voltage constant.
The electrical energy was taken up by two main busbars and led by means of ground cables to the valley station and from there on an overhead line to the Schatzalp, where the energy for the drive of the railroad on the one hand and the lighting of the sanatorium on the other hand was delivered.
The equipment of the drive station consisted of a DC shunt-wound motor of 50 hp power at 400 volts voltage and 600 revolutions per minute. The mechanical part is partially still in operation today, after more than 40 years.
With the buildings and installations described above, the construction of the railroad was completed for the time being, at a cost of 456,000 francs. Already in May 1899, in view of the expected increased construction costs, the bond capital was increased from Fr. 200,000 to Fr. 250,000 at an extraordinary general meeting, and the Riggenbach banking house in Basel took over the placement. However, the additions and expansions quickly followed.
In March of 1899, the decision was also made to build the Schatzalp road. The three companies Sanatorium Schatzalp, Kurhaus Davos and the DSB each contributed Fr. 10,000 to the estimated costs of Fr. 30,000, but already in April an offer from Joh. Caprez & Co. resulted in a higher construction sum. A large part of the transports for both the construction of the sanatorium, which was opened on December 21, 1900, and the railroad were then carried out on this road.
It would now be obvious to mention the renovations and additions, which would continue to recur for many years, under the title “Construction”, but the general overview allows me, despite some shortcomings, to give preference to the chronological presentation in connection with the other events.
Operation and financial matters
The official and scheduled start of operations on December 25, 1899, already mentioned in the construction report, was still preceded by a number of difficulties. Still in November 1899, the question of the approval of the increased fares did not make any progress. It turned out that the report of the Graubünden government was based on the view that the railroad company should for the time being adhere to the concessionary rates for one year and that, depending on the operating results, it would still be possible to come back to the requested rate increase if this proved to be necessary. This statement of the government was undoubtedly the result of a corresponding negative consultation of the municipal board of Davos. A delegation of the Board of Directors, consisting of Dr. Kern and Mr. W. Hoelsboer as well as the engineers Mr. Schucan and Mr. Wetzel, to the head of the Railway Department, Federal Councillor Zemp, succeeded in having the agenda item dealt with in the December session of the Swiss Parliament. In view of the behavior of the opponents, it was decided from the outset to postpone the opening of operations until the increased taxes had been approved. As already mentioned in the chapter “Foundation”, the Federal Assembly had approved the request of the DSB after all. After the start of operations, the prepared contract with engineer C. Wetzel regarding the management was signed.
Already in the first winter of operation, the need for a restaurant in connection with the mountain station became apparent. Since Stocker’s restaurant was closed down, a temporary restaurant was set up in the shell of the sanatorium and in June 1900 the decision was made to build a restaurant connected to the station and also Michel’s Mad was acquired by the owner after final agreement with the Hotel Belvédère. The first construction proposal was for Fr. 33,400; however, the cost increased several times over the course of the year due to enlargements and additions.
In 1901, the boards of directors of all three companies again dealt with the Schatzalp road. The construction of 1900 had proved to be completely inadequate for a road. After completion of the construction of both the sanatorium and the railroad, it was initially thought that the road could be dispensed with in the future and the possibility of handing it over to the community or the canton for maintenance was examined. According to later reports, this solution did not materialize, and so it was decided to reconstruct the road, primarily in order to have a safe access to the sanatorium in case of a possible breakdown of the railroad. The railroad, however, no longer contributed to the new costs; the sanatorium and the Kurhaus assumed the cost of Fr. 36,680. In the following year, it was decided to build the so-called garden veranda, for the time being without structural connection to the restaurant; estimate Fr. 10,000-. In the DC center, besides minor changes, the batteries of the accumulators had to be enlarged at a cost of Fr. 12,850.
All these structural extensions meant that the General Assembly of June 28, 1901 authorized the Board of Directors to take out a new loan of Fr. 200,000.- and that the total capital expenditure at the end of 1901 amounted to Fr. 575,000.-. In 1902, upon request, the Schatzalp Sanatorium assumed the interest guarantee for the obligations of the DSB in the total amount of Fr. 28,000.-, having previously assumed bond and bill interest in the amount of about Fr. 17,000.-. This willingness of the Sanatorium to provide financial aid to the DSB recurred again and again; the relevant negotiations run like a red thread through the minutes of the DSB, and the aid became most necessary and also most effective in the war and post-war years from 1915 to 1921.
The year 1903 did not bring any significant structural additions. It seems strange to us today to read a report in the minutes that music and toboggan tickets were no longer issued in order to limit the frequency, because the wire rope had some wire breaks.
In 1904, a floor was built on the station building Davos-Platz, creating living quarters for two married and two single employees. The open terrace (now the south terrace) in front of the restaurant received full-height glass walls with sliding windows for better protection. The improvement of the automatic car brakes and additions to the control room were other expenses. Once again, the request for the construction of a stop was not granted.
The so-called gas factory and its operation was a constant problem child of the DSB. In 1900, the railroad took over the operation of the gas factory as a side business, because it was necessary for them to establish their headquarters on the land of the gas factory. The operating deficit from 1900 to the end of 1903 amounted to Fr. 11,784.33. After the problem had been discussed in several meetings, the General Assembly of July 8, 1904 instructed the Board of Directors to sell the gas factory, which had already been taken over by the Kurhaus as a bad business. The Board of Directors had contracts ready for a sale. At the same time, the suggestion was made from another side to build a gas factory outside the spa town of Davos in order to supply Davos with lighting, heating and cooking gas and to combat the smoke plague. The Kurverein asked directly whether the DSB would be inclined to enter into sales negotiations. In the meantime, however, National Councilor Dr. A. v. Planta, later President of the National Council and Minister of the Swiss Confederation in Berlin, submitted a concession application to the municipality for the right to lay gas pipelines in the public streets. Nevertheless, the Board of Directors was subsequently authorized to sell the gas plant and temporarily participate in the establishment of a transitional company. DSB was then able to sell this ancillary business to a newly formed company “Gasfabrik Davos” without profit and without loss with retroactive effect to January 1, 1904. The shareholders were Bankhaus A. Sarasin in Basel, the engineering company Rothenbach & Co. in Berne and DSB. This company then operated the gas factory until its liquidation in the summer of 1905. The “Gaswerke Davos”, a later foundation on a broader basis with a gas factory in the Laret, started operations in 1906 and was rather called upon to combat the smoke plague in the health resort. In 1905 the property “Gas Factory” was acquired by the DSB from the Kurhaus for the price of Fr. 85,000 against a first mortgage. Later, the gas plant was merged with the electricity plant by the mainly same shareholders into a single company, and today, in accordance with the new mandatory conditions, the electricity plant has also taken from the gas plant a large part of the smokeless heat demand for the kitchen and similar purposes, so that the gas production in Davos is not a “business” even today.
In the meantime, toboggan traffic had developed more and more on the Schatzalp road in winter and brought good income. In addition to the original toboggans, many bobsleds soon used the toboggan run. The toboggan run was built up in the curves with strong ice walls made of blocks from the lake like a brickwork. The number of bobsleds increased to 1087 in the winter season 1905/06. On March 20th, the “Davos Tobogganing Company” was constituted from the circles of the hotel business and the sportsmen and with the active participation of the Kurverein with the main purpose to build and operate a race track for the bobsleds completely separate from the toboggan run. The DSB participated in the share capital of Fr. 40,000 with six titles of Fr. 500 each. One year later, the “Tobogganing Company” approached DSB with the request to rebuild both stations, especially the lower one, as well as the two cars for the purpose of a favorable bobsleigh transport. The Board of Directors then decided that these essential alterations should be carried out “when it was certain that the new run would be built”. The bobsleigh run was built in 1907 and in the same year the DSB carried out the aforementioned modifications in the interest of the bobsleigh transport. The costs for stations and cars amounted to Fr. 34,114. Great hopes were placed on the increase in traffic due to the bobsleigh transport, but these were not fulfilled.
To these construction tasks was added in 1906 the construction of two more service apartments and magazines on the Schatzalp and on the 3rd floor of this annex the rear terrace of the restaurant, at the same time as a connection to the so-called garden pavilion. The total expenses of the years 1906 and 1907 amounted to Fr. 93,588.91. A joint request of the Kurverein and the Ärzteverein for the construction of a bus stop in connection with the forest roads was rejected for the second time in March 1906, despite the fact that both applicants had promised subsidies for the construction costs.
The increasing construction costs led already in 1905 to the fact that the general assembly authorized the board of directors to take out a loan with 2nd right in the opinion that the Schatzalp Sanatorium would take over the guarantee for it. By the end of 1908, after small additions to the headquarters and drive station, the own and external funds had risen to Fr. 838,238, with the own funds, i.e. the share capital, only accounting for 14%. As compensation for the free tickets provided to the Sanatorium, subsidies to the DSB appear in the resolutions and the accounts, which were agreed to be Fr. 9200.- annually from 1908.
In the same year, the railroad department demanded the establishment of a “renewal fund” and the deposit backdated to the years until the start of operations. The resulting amount of Fr. 16,520.- was debited to the account “uses to be amortized”, which thus already rose to Fr. 27,000.-. Despite these significant external funds and despite the impossibility of charging even a small part of this fund contribution to the operating account, the company was nevertheless considered to be so consolidated that since 1905 dividends of 4% on the share capital of Fr. 150,000.00 were paid out year after year.
The years 1910 to 1912 were again rich in measures of all kinds to help improve the result. In the summer of 1910, on the basis of a contract with the Davos gas works, the mixing valves of the engines were rebuilt, illuminating gas was purchased from the new gas works for the operation of the gas engines, and the company’s own gas works was closed down. The illuminating gas was supplied at 17 1/2 centimes per cubic meter on the basis of a 10-year contract, the duration of which was to cause us difficulties later on. At least this was the first step towards simplifying the operation. A plot of land adjoining the engine house to the southeast could be sold at a price of about Fr. 24,000; the proceeds were then used in the same year 1911 for the construction of an office building for the director, which was purchased from the old gasworks building, as well as for the installation of a workshop and magazines.
To increase the frequency in the railroad restaurant, a concert organ was installed in 1910, and the annual report of 1911 states that these concerts were well attended – in addition to the Sunday concerts that had already been customary before.
Regarding the two sports facilities of interest to and serving the DSB, the Schatzalp toboggan run and the bobsled run, the following can be reported for these years. In settlement of existing differences, a regulation was agreed with the Schatzalp Sanatorium concerning the summer and winter maintenance of the Schatzalp road and a new payment to DSB. Proposals by the Director for measures aimed at increasing the frequency of roller skating on the Schatzalp road in summer did not meet with the interest of the Board of Directors.
The operation of the bobsleigh track by the Tobogganing Company and the demands of the bobsleigh riders meant that the bobsleigh track became a distinct racing track and could be used relatively little due to the required meticulous maintenance and constant repairs – for example, in December 1910 and January 1911 together only on 19 days. This frequent closure meant of course a damage to the interests of the DSB and the transfer of the bobsleigh track in 1911 to the Kurverein with assets and liabilities, which was also requested by us, meant the release of a heavy burden for all those involved in the Tobogganing Company, but – as time then taught – a new burden for the Kurverein. As a result of the increased demands of the bobsledders, the more frequent closures and the increasingly heavier and more expensive bobsleds, the frequency had decreased as follows:
In 1908, 2787 bobs were transported
1909, 1780 bobs were transported
in 1910, 1080 bobs were transported
It is then necessary to talk about the bobsleigh track and the sport of bobsleigh in a later context. After the opening of the bob run in 1907, only sleds were allowed on the Schatzalp sled run.
The necessary funds for the structural improvements inside the restaurant and the terraces, as well as the bank’s request for increased securities, led to the proposal to increase the share capital. The extraordinary general meeting of December 1, 1911, approved the increase from CHF 150,000 to CHF 300,000, with a corresponding change in the statutes. Of the new capital, Fr. 107,000.- was taken over by the Schatzalp Sanatorium. In the summer of 1912, the aforementioned reconstruction of the restaurant was carried out. Later building projects of the then director, such as the construction of an underground station to improve the hidden location of the valley station on the promenade, which was made even worse by the new road layout of the Kurhaus, a roller skating rink and an aviary on the Schatzalp, like other earlier projects, did not meet with the approval of the Board of Directors. The unfavorable result of the year 1913 and the outbreak of the World War in August 1914 meant that such and other construction projects were finally postponed. After a dividend of 2% was paid out for the year 1914, the Board of Directors began to worry about the prolonged war, a worry that became even more pressing as time went on, because the external funds required interest rates that were far from being affordable. In 1915, the Schatzalp Sanatorium took over a loan previously placed with the Curhaus and, in addition to its share capital, was now committed to DSB with 200,000 francs. In later years, the interest on this loan in the amount of 9000 francs was deferred. This critical period also saw the repayment of the callable bonds I. and II. Mortgage. Since new funds for the repayment were not available, the only remaining option was to request a deferral. Then, in the summer of 1918, on the basis of the “Federal Law on the Pledging and Compulsory Liquidation of Railway and Shipping Companies of September 25, 1917,” the Federal Council approved the deferral of repayment of the principal, but not of the interest, on the I. rank bonds and the called II. rank bonds until January 31, 1920. The business situation and the operating results made it clear at an early stage that new funds would not be available on this date either. Upon a renewed request, the deferral was finally extended until January 31, 1922. The Schatzalp Sanatorium also assumed the guarantee for the two bonds for the duration of the deferral. Before the expiration of the deferment, the bondholders of the DSB were offered the exchange of 5% titles of the railroad against 6% of the sanatorium and this offer was also made use of in a satisfactory manner.
The war period also brought difficulties with regard to the power supply of the railroad. As early as August 1914, the director believed that he would have to take the necessary countermeasures in anticipation of a probable coal or gas shortage. In pursuit of this idea, a 15 hp alternating current to direct current converter group was set up in the headquarters in the same month with connection to the 125 volt lighting network of the Davos power station. This group was put into operation 1 day a week. The Federal Council’s gas contingent of 1917 and the associated cancellation of all gas supply contracts later brought about the increase of the gas price from 17.5 to 28 and then to 34 centimes per cubic meter. This gas price then prompted the Board of Directors to make increased use of the cheap alternating current of 4 Rp/kWh for conversion to direct current and to purchase a second converter group of 24 HP. We believed we were entitled to take this measure because the aforementioned Federal Council decision cancelled the gas supply contracts; nevertheless, this resulted in a lawsuit with the Davos gas works, which was then settled amicably after the departure of Director Wetzel in 1919 through the mediation of the delegate of the Board of Directors, Mr. Hoelsboer.
In the same year, the difference with the Kircherbannwaldgesellschaft, which had been pending since the start of construction of the Schatzalp road – the actual process had lasted since 1912 – was settled amicably. In any case, the costs for us amounted to 4000 francs.
The war period also required measures of a tariff nature. In 1916, after the year 1915 had shown the poorest income, it was decided to increase the passenger tariffs by 20%. From this year on, the German prisoners of war interned in Davos also brought a certain frequency. After the Federal Council resolutions of 1917 and 1918 had generally increased the rates for passenger traffic, the equalization of the rates for baggage and goods took place in 1920. With a maximum of 140% also permitted by Federal Council resolution, an increase of 25 – 33% was implemented in our case. After the federal law of 1920 concerning working hours in the operation of railroads and other transportation facilities came into effect, the Schatzalp Sanatorium also granted an increase in the operating subsidy to approximately the same extent.
During the war, engineer C. Wetzel, the designer and construction manager of the railroad and its first director, resigned. He was replaced by the author of this report on July 1, 1918. The first years after the war were times of constant concern about the financial balance, but through the subsequent simplification of operations, the first prerequisite and opportunity to achieve a rational and cheap railroad operation.
Some kind of operational simplification had already been envisaged by engineer Wetzel after the loss of value that had become apparent as a result of the gas quota system. However, the demolition and sale of the gas engines in 1917 and 1918 was not only for reasons of gas supply and gas price, but also because the plant was already technically obsolete and was operating so poorly economically that its continuation could no longer be justified. However, this project of simplifying operations was still based on the use of direct current while retaining part of the old central station as a converter station. A Wetzel variant, which envisaged the utilization of the little waters of the Tobelmühlebach and some other tributaries as a hydroelectric power station, was assessed by the engineer P. Lorenz as technically and economically unfeasible and rejected by the board of directors.
The writer then sought the urgently needed operational simplification in a direct connection to the alternating current network of the Davos electricity plant and abandonment of the conversion to direct current and thus also of the 7 hotel elevators connected to our small direct current network. The construction of the power line with the prospect of the close and direct purchase of high-voltage three-phase current caused us to immediately cancel the electricity supply contracts concerning the hotel elevators in the years 1919 and 1920, in the opinion that immediately after the expiration of these long-term contracts the conversion to direct current would be completely cancelled and the buildings of the “Tobelhof direct current center” would be utilized.
How justified the abolition of this conversion operation was with reference to the control center alone is shown by the following description, which refers to the year 1922.
|AC current drawn at the engines||42339 kWh|
|Generated direct current in the generators||31418 kWh|
|Electricity output in the control center||24392 kWh|
|Electricity output to the railroad and elevators||19079 kWh|
The reported overall efficiency of 45% justified this conversion to a greater extent when one considers that an entire building complex with its own personnel was required to deliver not even 20000 kWh.
The fruit of this measure was then many-sided. First, in the fall of 1923, the drive in the Schatzalp machine house was converted from direct current to three-phase current; just in time to cope with the sudden increase in frequency that occurred at Christmas 1923. With one of the small converter groups each, there would undoubtedly have been difficulties in the power supply for the railroad. Because of a few elevators, the converter operation had to be maintained until New Year’s Day 1924. Immediately afterwards, the converter groups, the accumulator battery, the switchboard and the apparatus, which was at its lowest point in terms of maintenance, were dismantled and sold at the best possible price. Of course, these sales, for which for the most part only old material prices were paid, resulted in considerable losses, which had in fact already occurred long ago and which were now reflected in the balance sheet. The account “Uses to be redeemed” increased at the end of December 1923 to Fr. 157,600.45 and the liability balance to Fr. 76,381.62. With a share capital of Fr. 300,000, the fixed bonds and pending debts at the same time amounted to Fr. 710,570.40. The liability interest for this year amounted to Fr. 38,317.00.
And yet, this very moment of the most serious financial worries of the Board of Directors and also of the Sanatorium for the Railway was at the same time the starting point of the financial improvement of the company. In this context, a look at the purely technical side of this reconstruction may be of interest, since it gives reason to compare the plant of 1899 and the technical progress made in the later years – even before our reconstruction. The original plant for the power supply of the railroad as a central station without an actual power gas plant required two buildings for an electrical machine output of 66 kilowatts on a surface area of 340 m² and an enclosed space of 3400 m³. After the reconstruction in autumn 1923, the electrical power supply including a reserve is accommodated in the Schatzalp engine house on a floor area of 2.6 m². The weight of a 50 HP gas engine with all accessories was still 13500 kilos in 1889.
The simplification of the operation was continued by moving the office and the magazine to the lower station and the workshop to Schatzalp, all in existing premises; only for the magazine a small shed was built later on Michels Mad. In the fall of 1924, we had completely vacated the entire Tobelhof property; the director’s house had already been rented out since October 1918, and the other rooms were subsequently rented out as well.
The desired simplification of operations could be realized in connection with savings of a general nature and is most clearly shown in the following personnel table, whereby it should also be emphasized that the Federal Law on “Working Hours in the Operation of Railways and Other Transportation Institutions” brought more difficult conditions and a temporary increase in personnel compared to 1919.
* Number of employees according to duty roster in 1901 = 10 men
* Number of employees according to the duty roster in 1913 = 11 men
* Number of employees in 1924 according to service divider = 6 men
* Number of employees according to duty roster in 1939 = 6 men
Initiated by the stabilization of the German currency in October 1923, the economic years followed, which brought a significant upswing in traffic until 1930, the hallmark of which was not only good winter results but also summer results that had never been achieved before. The hotel industry, and with it trade and commerce, flourished, and this in turn enabled us to sell the old “Tobelhof DC” at a favorable price. In the years 1926 to 1929 the property was sold in 3 securities and for a total price of Fr. 165,000. The proceeds were used to pay off mortgages, primarily that of the Curhaus, and with the surpluses generated in these years, also thanks to the operating subsidy, the liability balance was paid off at the end of 1925. In the same year – despite the partial existence of the account “Uses to be repaid” – the dividend payment was started, which was paid in 1929 and 1930 at a net rate of 6%.
The high-frequency years brought necessary renewals for the railroad, which had now been in operation for 30 years. After a partial replacement of the drive had already become necessary in 1920, it became necessary in the fall of 1930 to replace the large drive wheel with the associated pinion and the deflection wheel. These mechanical parts and the rope Nº 4 were dimensioned in the new design in such a way that they would be sufficient for a later substantial increase in the power of the railroad. Over the years – partly caused by the supply of three-phase current to the sanatorium – a larger transformer was installed and successively also the motor with resistor and controller was adapted not only to a preliminary but also to a later increase in power. Today, the railroad system, which is 40 years old in some parts, is used far beyond the capacity for which it was built in 1899. By shortening the travel time from the original 12 -12 1/2 to 7 minutes and increasing the capacity of the cars, the hourly output in each direction has increased from about 150 to 300 passengers in each direction. It is self-evident that the undersigned already in the years 1925 – 1930, on the basis of the frequencies at that time, on the one hand, and in view of the age and the wear and tear of the installation, as drive and cars in particular, generally considered the reconstruction of the railroad for increased capacity. The fact that in the winters of 1937/38 and 1938/39 this question was also addressed by the public has its reason in the rapid increase in frequency and the resulting waiting times for the public – with the exception of the sanatorium guests – and is understandable. A reconstruction, as it would have to be carried out on the basis of last year’s two frequencies, would not only affect the remaining part of the drive, but would also require completely new cars and a comprehensive structural adaptation of the stations, especially the lower ones. The expansion would have to represent an optimum, whereby it is clear on the part of the railroad that waiting times cannot be avoided in the future under all circumstances. Conversion to a “maximum” hourly capacity would lead to inefficiency. Fortunately, a conversion to greater capacity has not been carried out; with its great cost, it would severely disturb the financial equilibrium now achieved in this time of war.
Here is a review of the measures that have been taken to promote traffic, and this review relates to a longer period of time. We have already seen in the report about the first years how bobsleigh sport has experienced its ups and downs. In the first years after the war, it gained a certain importance and then gradually declined. Today, it is interesting to note that the decline coincides approximately with the emergence of skiing. It is remarkable, however, that the sport of tobogganing – the cradle of which was in Davos – still survived after the complete disappearance of the bobsleigh run in 1934 and after it had served as a toboggan run for several years, not least thanks to our own participation. The number of 9288 toboggans transported in the winter of 1936/37 still justifies the extension of the toboggan run, which in the first winter of the war was now greatly simplified and made cheaper and at the same time opened as a ski run. The simple keeping open of the Schatzalp road as a toboggan run corresponds to the necessity to have a practicable driving connection with the sanatorium at any time during the winter in case of an unexpected disturbance of the railroad operation.
The old postulate of a stop has been realized in 1920. Halfway up – above and below the turnout, primarily for the bobsleigh traffic and subsidized by its friends – 2 platform stairs were built. This also fulfilled the long-cherished wishes of the resort circles. In 1930, the “Hohe Promenade” was built and the station – with a subsidy from the Kurverein – was moved to it, where it is also better used.
The Schatzalp Sanatorium has always been and will always be a major factor in our income. From the 1920s onwards, however, skiing has had an increasingly important influence. In 1924 we co-subsidized the Strela hut of the Davos Ski Club, and this small base became the starting point for the Strela as a skiing area next to the strongly emerging “Parsenn”. The increasing ski sport then called for railroad projects in the Parsenn area over the years. In 1929, the writer also presented the board of directors with a general project for a cable railroad to the Strela Pass, whereby a rock gallery was envisaged as a further stage for the connection behind the Schiahorn to the watershed, and only as the final stage, with sufficiently assured frequency, a railroad connection. The board of directors did not take a closer look at the project and did not submit a concession application. In December 1930, the municipality of Davos was granted a concession on the basis of a project by engineer H.H. Peter, and the Parsennbahn-Gesellschaft was founded in March 1931. According to a contractual agreement between the two boards of directors, the writer took over the management of the Parsennbahn in addition to the management of the DSB.
The topographical conditions meant that skiers’ valley traffic from Weissfluhjoch was almost exclusively to the Prätigau and to a lesser extent to Wolfgang. This fact was of such importance for the Davos hotels and the business world that the efforts to seek a direct valley connection from the Weissfluhjoch to Davos met with general approval, especially in Davos-Platz, and led to the formation of the “Committee pro Strela”. From the very beginning, the undersigned was a member of the committee on behalf of the DSB, and the DSB, with the help of the sanatorium, paid the amount of 10,000 Swiss francs towards the costs of the Weissfluhjoch-Strela connecting path, which was prepared, financed and built by the committee. Already the first winter had a favorable effect for the Schatzalp-Bahn, as the winter frequency in 1934/35 increased by 28,193 persons compared to 1933/34 and also influenced the revenues accordingly. At the same time, the importance and suitability of Strela as a ski resort was made generally clear. November 1934 also brought a change in the management of the Schatzalp Sanatorium, with Dr. G. Maurer replacing Dr. Neumann as head physician.
The mentioned Strela Committee – with A. Stiffler-Vetsch as president – in an effort to raise the sporting and thus also the winter business life in Davos, decided to build a ski lift from the Schatzalp to the Strelapass and thus to create for Davos-Platz an easy ski run with cheap transportation. In the spring of 1937, the “Schatzalp-Strela Ski Lift Cooperative” was founded, and in the same summer and fall, the ski lift was built and put into operation in December 1937. The board of directors of the cooperative included, as representatives of DSB – which was also the majority shareholder – the delegate of the board of directors W.A. Holsboer and the director A. Amberg. Since then, the company has developed well, operates only with its own funds and, with solid reserves, has so far enabled the cooperatives to earn a reasonable return on their shares. It is worth mentioning the significant increase in frequency and income that the Schatzalp-Bahn has received from the operation of the ski lift, and which, in particular, has made the 1939/40 winter season a satisfactory one.
With this we can conclude the review, as far as it concerns the operation and the financial aspects. This may be done by pointing out that in the years from 1899 to the end of 1939, the DSB transported 3,936,911 passengers in 386,382 double trips. We have used up three wire ropes to handle this considerable number of journeys; the fourth is still in service and has been since the end of October 1930. There is every prospect that it, supplied by Kabelwerke Brugg, will continue to provide faultless service for several more years.
A review of the financial situation is both reassuring and interesting. In connection with the worries brought about by the war of 1914/18, I have shown you that at the end of 1923, in addition to the share capital of 300,000 francs, mortgaged and pending debts totaling 710,570 francs weighed heavily on us and that the interest on liabilities at that time required 38,317 francs. Of the debts at that time, the Schatzalp Sanatorium alone was burdened with 426,300 francs through bonds, exchangeable bonds and deferred interest; in addition, it had a shareholding of 107,000 francs.
As of December 31, 1939, with unchanged share capital, our mortgages and pending debts amount to 265,987 francs, which, however – after complete amortization of the account “uses to be redeemed”, through which the item “Schatzalp-Strasse” was also redeemed – are offset by assets and credit balances in the amount of 74,457 francs. In the balance sheet, our debts as of December 31, 1939, amounted to 191,530 francs, including a loan of 50,000 francs offered to us by the Schatzalp Sanatorium in the interest of a mutually agreeable interest agreement. This loan is still on the books today with 25,000 francs.
Following a principle of our new president Dr. Oscar Miller-Spengler, the dividend payment has been resumed for the year 1938 only after the complete disappearance of the account “uses to be redeemed”, i.e. after a fundamental and complete balance sheet adjustment. The dividend of 4% can also be maintained once again for the war year 1939.
About the staff
The following table shows the members of the Board of Directors who have served during the past 40 years and those who are still active. Among the members of the Board of Directors, Dr. Luzius Spengler, the first Chief Physician and Director of the Schatzalp Sanatorium, Dr. Ed. Kern, our first and most deserving President for 34 years, Engineer Eduard Riggenbach and Banquier A. Streichenberg have passed away. All of these gentlemen have given us their sympathy and many-sided support throughout their lives, for which we thank them. In this context, I may pass over the activities of those who are still with us and only note that Mr. W.A. Holsboer is still the only one who was already present at the foundation in 1889.
In this context, it is also appropriate to remember those of our employees who have been in the service of the Schatzalp Railway for more than 25 years. These are:
Hermann Sigg, railroad foreman, in service since 1902
Albert Wyssmann, wagon driver, in service since 1908
Heinrich A. Regner, bookkeeper, in service since 1911
Alfred Amberg, in service since 1911, since 1918 as director.
This concludes the short historical review “40 Years Schatzalp Railway”. It shows the foundation and the further development of the company, in short how the DSB passed its first 40 years. The conclusion falls in the heavy and gloomy time of the Second World War. We hope to the Almighty that he may protect and shield our dear Swiss country with the help of our army and save it from the heaviest of hardships, so that DSB, despite all present dangers, may enter the next 40 years with some confidence and survive them as well.
Davos-Platz, May 1940
gez. A. Amberg
Administrative bodies (1899 – 1939)
1. Chairman of the Board of Directors
Dr. Eduard Kern, Basel, 1898 – 1934
Dr. Oscar Miller, Solothurn, since 1934
2. Members of the Board of Directors
Eduard Riggenbach, engineer, Basel, 1898 – 1930, Vice Chairman
Alfred Sarasin, Banquier, Basel, 1898 – 1901
W.A. Hoelsboer, Davos-Platz, since 1898, Delegate
P.J. Boner, Chur, Secretary, 1898 – 1916
A. Streichenberg, Banquier, Basel, 1901 – 1936
Dr. Lucius Spengler, Davos-Platz, 1911 – 1923
Dr. Ed. C. Neumann, Davos and Lucerne, since 1923
P. Lorenz, Engineer, Filisur, since 1924, Vice President
B. Sarasin, Banquier, Basel, since 1937
C. Wetzel, Engineer, Davos-Platz, 1899 – 1918
Alfred Amberg, Davos-Platz, since 1918
Dr. med. G. Lorenz, Chur, 1899 – 1915
F.S. Gautschi, Director, Davos-Platz, 1916 – 1924
H. Mühlemann, Director, St. Moritz, 1924 – 1934
“Fides” Trust Association, Zurich, 1934 – 1937
J. Alder, Vicedirektor, Feldbrunnen, Soloth. since 1937
P. von Planta, Fürstenau, 1899 – 1906
F.S. Gautschi, Director, Davos-Platz, 1906 – 1915
P. Lorenz, engineer, Filisur, 1916 – 1924
L. Wunderlich, Director, Chur, 1924 – 1934
Control office for the bookkeeping
Ad. Wohler Sr., accountant of the Rhaetian Railway, Chur, 1899 – 1907
Ad. Wohler jun., head of department of the Rhaetian Railway, Chur, 1907 – 1918