From its beginnings in 1889, the Pilatus railway was a huge success. The initial goal of 15,000 passenger trips per year was broken in its first year when 37,000 passengers were transported. The 48% steepness of the Pilatus railway was a big draw but because of the steepness of the climb and the fact the locomotives had to be quite small to fit the route’s profile – its gauge/tunnels – there was little scope for more powerful locomotives, and the journey remained slow. Electrification was proposed in 1905 but was deemed too costly. One reason for wanting electrification was the steam railcars took an hour and twenty-five minutes for ascent.
By the 1930s, the eleven steam railcars were in serious need of replacement. and that accelerated the need for electrification. In 1936 the first electric railcars arrived and were soon seen at work side by side with the old steam railcars. From 1937 the new electric services fully began and the line’s posters dutifully advertised these – and their creativity got more imaginative too!
This is a follow up to the first part which covered posters and advertising related to the line’s steam operations to the 1930s.
Posters depicting the era of electric operation on the Pilatusbahn
Artist: Walter Läubli. 1937 poster advertising the new electric service. Source: Twitter
Artist: Otto Betschmann 1937. The new electric trains are depicted. The mountain’s Esel summit is also quite large indeed, no doubt to highlight that this is its highest point at 7000 feet (2132m) although in reality its 6949 feet in height! Source: Poster Auctioneer.
Another version for Italian audiences can be seen here.
The claim the mountain is 7000 feet in height comes from the fact the tallest of the mountain’s peaks, the Tomlinshorn, happens to have an elevation of 6983 feet.
Artist: Otto Betschmann, 1937. This is certainly a very imaginative depiction of the famous mountain. The fact the artist has placed a image of the new electric trains on the cliff face of the Esel and then instead of the Bernese Oberland being the backdrop at that location, Pilatus has been used! Source: Poster Auctioneer.
Artist: William Bordigoni 1937. Quite an imaginative poster, a rarity that it shows the route of the Pilatusbahn, but rather superimposed on the front of the mountain and partly in reverse! This of course because the line approaches the summit from the rear and not the front as is depicted. It seems somehow both Betschmann and Bordigoni were trying to outdo each other. They’ve both superimposed the new electric trains in front of the mountain as a starting point and then offered different interpretations on the concept. While Betschmann uses the Esel’s cliff face and flowers as a foreground, Bordigoni instead uses Luzern and its city walls/the Kappelbrucke. Source: Poster Auctioneer.
An English language version of the previous example. The original site that had this no longer exists but the image was fortunately saved by Pinterest.
Artist: Unknown. It could be Bordigoni for all we know. Note how this mimics the previous image, being that where the railway is superimposed on the wrong side of the mountain. Unlike the previous the Bernese Oberland have this time been brought into greater prominence. This (and the one below) they’re simply fantastic! Essentially minimalist in nature, these no doubt convey a powerful message, and its that the Pilatus line is now electrified. Its sort of saying like… ‘this is now the electric mountain!’ Source: Found Image Press.
The second in this great pair of images! One might think this view is impossible. It isn’t but its done with some artistic licence. This could well depict the section of railway along by the Wolfort viaduct as the vista from there includes this scene. The Burgenstock and the lake have been brought much closer than they really are, whilst the side of the mountain leading away towards the shores of the lake has simply been removed. No complaints though because its done very nicely! Source: Found Image Press.
Otto Betschmann (Switzerland) Pilatus Zahnradbahn/Luftseilbahnen 1958. Source: Germann Auktionshaus.
The same poster by Otto Betschmann, but aimed at Italian audiences. Source: Poster Auctioneer.
Another version for German audiences can be seen here.
In my opinion the mountain depicted here is one of the best I have seen. In fact the Pilatusbahn company thought so too because they used the image again and again over the next decade or so (in somewhat different formats and shadings.)
The first of those in the sixties would show a building at the top of the mountain – in fact that would be the Hotel Bellevue. After the hotel was destroyed by a major fire, the images were then redone to show the new Hotel Bellevue. I haven’t seen any of these images in poster format – however they do exist because they’re been rendered also as the front covers of leaflets covering the mountain and its transport systems and I have these leaflets in my collection. One of those can be seen in the post: Pilatus – A Leaflet’s 50th Anniversary!
And another version in English! No doubt Otto Betschmann created the image and it was up to the company how it would be used. Source: Twitter
Rare sixties cover showing the new Hotel Bellevue. I stress this is important because the website says this is particular specimen is from 1960. Its not because the old Hotel Bellevue was still extant then. According to the Pilatus Bahn’s own records, the old hotel got burnt down in 1963 and was rebuilt the same year. Thus this example is likely to be 1964 or later. Source: Poster Museum.
Some abstract posters related to the line:
I dont know the origins of this one and its clear there’s no other examples other than this. Nevertheless its nice and simple, no clutter or anything! Probably fifties. One I’ve never seen. Source: Twitter
Artist: Edgar Kung. 1967. This is one I have not seen and its great! I like how the built features eg train and cable car and kappelbrucke have been made so prominent, This poster is a rarity on the net fortunately Twitter had one!
Some of the other posters or advertising on the mountain and its transport systems were derived from Kung’s version such as the line’s souvenir matchboxes or other paraphernalia. As the above image shows, there’s a conceptual similarity between the matchbox (which was sometimes in blue too) and Kung’s 1967 poster.
Artist: Leonie Schmid 2019. Quite abstract poster for the PilatusBahn AG. I dont know if this was ever used. Source: Leonie Schmid.