Suchard chocolate factory funicular (Switzerland)

The 'Suchard' funicular



Description of the funicular

The Henri Ladame project consisted in a inclined plane to link the Jura-Simplon railway to the bottom of thee Serriere dale from the Serriere station.

The Serriere dale in 1895.
In the foreground, the Neuchatel lake, then the little train 'Régional du Vignoble' which is still in used... today it is the Line 5 (Neuchatel - Boudry) of the Neuchatel transportation.
Then the alignment of houses: the Cité Suchard.
Then the Suchard chocolate factories, just before the Berthier bridge... and in the background the Jura-Simplon viaduct with the Serriere station and the funicular inclined plane .

This inclined plane is a water powered funicular with two carriages on one track and a siding in the middle of the line.

But the great originality of this funicular is that it was designed to transport Decauville trolleys on the two carriages. With that configuration it was possible to move to Decauville trolleys from the Serriere train station to the fabrics without any discontinuity. The trolleys were pushed by the workers.

The gauge of the trolleys and the Decauville network is 50 cm.

The funicular was not the property of the Suchard chocolate factories... in fact it was built for ALL the different factories of the dale... even the private individuals were allowed to use the funicular to send or receive parcels with the Jura-Simplon railway.

The Henri Ladame funicular, called 'Suchard chocolate factory funicular'.
Stuck between the railway viaduct on the left and the Suchard chocolate factories on the right. It started from the Serriere railway station on the top, going down under the Amandiers street and finally crossing the Serriere river.

Details of the Serriere dale in 1896, in red the funicular.

The best to describe this funicular is to reproduce what Quartier-la-Tente wrote about it in 1897 into "Le canton de Neuchâtel".

<< This unique construction needs some description:
The top station of the funicular (60 % gradient) has two loading platforms. It is located on the south side of the Jura-Simplon railway, at the east end of the Serrieres viaduct, in the middle of a 400 m plateau. Two water ballast carriages, with turning platform, one going in, the other one going down alternatively. They run on a one track line (gauge 1 m), with a 15 m length passing loop in the middle. The carriages (weight 3600 kg each) can transport three Decauville trolleys each which can carry 800 kg of freight each, that is 2400 kg of freight per carriage. The going down carriage stops below the level of the street and the trolleys are moved on the rails, distributing the goods to the different's factories, and receiving those which have to be sent.
Only one employee controls the ribbon brake at the top of the inclined plane, watches to the progress of the carriages; if, for some reason, he loosens the brake, then the brake would be automatically engaged and would stop the carriages in a few seconds. In addition, each carriage has automatic spring brakes, strong enough to instantly stop the carriage by gripping the rail with jaws in case of a cable break. The cable (a partitioned type), built by Felten & Guillaume, is the first cable of this type used in Switzerland. The length of the inclined plane is 54,7 m, the speed is 1,5 m/s, it takes 36 seconds to bring the goods to the Jura-Simplon station.
The capacity of the tank of a carriage is 3500 liters. Empty, 600 liters is necessary to move the carriages. The water comes from the river Serriere.>>

Details of a carriage with its turning platform which can transport three Decauville trolleys. The carriage is stopped at the intermediary stop.
The inclined plane with its lower carriage stopped at the intermediary stop.
Note the platform which is turned to the left so it can load and unload the Decauville trolleys.
In the foreground, the Decauville rail network with a sliding plate and the track which goes to the right to the Serriere dale.

The main special features of this funicular are that it was designed to carry 3 Decauville trolleys and also that there was an intermediate stop located just below the passing loop.
This intermediate stop was created to serve another Decauville network located under the funicular at an intermediate level between Serriere station and the bottom of the dale. That network reached the funicular with a 45° angle from the axle of the track. The platform of the carriage had to turn 45° to match the rails of the trolley to the rails of the Decauville rails.

Continue the 1897 Quartier-la-Tente's text which describes the mechanism designed to manage the intermediate stop:

<< For the intermediate stop, the goal was reached with a hydraulic stop (Hydraulischer Puffer). To stop the carriage at that intermediate stop, the carriage #1 is moving down, filled with one cubic meter, to the bottom station, then at the intermediate stop, the employee raises a lever fixed to a a pulley, that raises the buffer which is between the rails, the buffer is made of an hydraulic piston; during that time the carriage #2 is loaded at the top station and moved down, it pass the carriage #1 at the passing loop and it touch the buffer which press the hydraulic piston. The cylinder which contains the piston is lightly cone-shaped, inside that cylinder the oil pass to the other side of the cylinder with more and more difficulty, the consequence is that the carriage stops without any jolt. The employee turns the platform of the carriage, and push the trolleys on the rails of the track which lead to the factories, the trolleys are replaced by empty trolleys; he empties out the water from the carriage and releases the brake, the carriage #1, loaded with one cube meter of water, starts to go down and pulls the carriage #2 to the top station where it is loaded again.
That up-and-down movements of the carriages continue as long as there are goods to bring down or up from the intermediate station. When it is finished, at the bottom station the mechanism, which commands the emptying of the carriage, is raised; at the intermediate stop the buffer of the hydraulic stop is pulled down; the movements between the top and bottom stations can start again as before. >>

The "Société du plan incliné" was dissolved on December 31, 1950. The CFF (Federal Railways) took over the funicular which will operate until 1954, then the Suchard chocolate factory ceased to use the funicular.

The funicular and the top station seem to be demolish in August 1954.

Detail of the mechanism which stopped the carriage at the intermediate station.
Note, on the left, the level with its pulley which commands a cable which was raising the buffer (with its hydraulic piston) located between the rails.
(photo Musée d'art et d'histoire de Neuchâtel)

Another view of the intermediate stop.
Note, on the left, the level with its pulley which commands a cable.
Note also, behind that lever, the rails of the Decauville network which disappears behind the wooden door.
(photo Musée d'art et d'histoire de Neuchâtel)

Details of the top station of the funicular with the advertisement "FABRIQUE DE CHOCOLAT PH. SUCHARD".
The top floor of the building was used as a water tank to fill the carriages with water.
(photo Musée d'art et d'histoire de Neuchâtel)

Click to enlarge.
Suchard13x.jpg Old photo of the funicular with part of the Suchard chocolate factory buildings (P.S.).
Wonderful photo of the funicular passing under Amandiers street.


Very interesting photo showing sideways the funicular at the level of the siding (1904).
You can see one carriage with its turning platform still on the bias. On the platform, three trolleys!
This is also very interesting to see the intermediate Decauville 50 cm railway network passing under the funicular. You can see two parallel tracks and just under the funicular, you can see two circular sliding plates (one per track) and a track going to the left... this track is going to the intermediate funicular stop!


The Serrières Jura-Simplon train station in 1904.
The building, on the left, is the top station of the Suchard funicular.
The trolleys were lifted by the funicular and the chocolate cases are waiting to be load in the train.

Technical Datas
Start June 2, 1892
End August 1954
Status Etat1.gif
Type of funicular typfuni5.gif
Type of tracks typvoie1.gif
Energy elecc.gif
Bottom station Vallon de Serrières (453,8 m)
Top station Gare de Serrières (482 m)
Length 54,70 m
Difference of levels 28,20 m
Maximum gradient 60 %
Number of carriages 2
Weight of a carriage 3500 kg
Tank volume 3500 liters
Total weight 7000 kg
Payload 3 trolleys of 800 kg each = 2400 kg
Diameter of the main pulley 2,50 m
Volume of water necessary to move the carriage 600 liters
Speed 1,5 m/s
Gauge 1 m


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# Funimag 27 #

Suchard chocolate factory funicular


The 'Suchard' funicular
- The Serriere dale
- Description of the funicular
- Today status

Les Battieux inclined plane

Game 27