In winter, the train drivers of the Schynige Platte Railway overhaul the historic rolling stock. They apply the same methods as they did a hundred years ago.
Samuel von Känel grips the long handle of the iron pan with both hands. He heaves it off the forge and props it up on a pole that a colleague holds out to him. This gives him a steady hand to empty the silvery, bubbling liquid right into the slot of the mould.
Handmade spare parts
Von Känel is pouring new bearing coatings from white metal. He and his colleagues from Schynige Platte Railway (SPB) use the winter to prepare the twelve locomotives that are over one hundred years old for the summer season. Each one is different. Because spare parts are not available, the workers in Wilderswil manufacture their own, thereby maintaining traditional craftsmanship that is long extinct elsewhere.
Experience is the best teacher
They have now manufactured around 20 different moulds. Von Känel learned this from his older colleagues. Every year he learns more. The SPB does not have a training manual. They have only recently begun writing worksheets for operations that should remain unchanged.
Inventing instead of buying
Von Känel and his colleagues cannot always rely on experience. An original part can be in operation for a hundred years. If it suddenly gives up the ghost, then they have to improvise. For example, they have replaced the defective steel housing of a pendulum axle with a welded construction; you cannot melt steel in the small workshop.
Ten to twelve work steps
While the white metal solidifies in one mould, von Känel loosens a bearing with an already hardened coating from another. The surface is still uneven. He scrapes it with a spoon-like spatula until it is perfectly smooth. Ten to twelve times, he checks how the bearing sits on the shaft. Depending on the locomotive, he must use the shaft again and drive a short distance.
Too short a winter
This all takes time. In fact, it takes so much time that von Känel sometimes wishes that winter would last longer. But somehow he and his colleagues always have things ready. The historic carriages are back on the Schynige Platte in time for the summer season.