60th Anniversary of the Ae 6/6 Entering Service
At the end of the Forties the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) grappled intensively again with the problems of hauling trains on the Gotthard route. Exhaustive studies led to the recognition that a new locomotive type with 6 powered wheel sets, without pilot or trailing trucks, with a weight of around 120 metric tons and a performance of 4,300 kilowatts / 5,766 horsepower had to be designed for the constantly increasing trainloads. After almost three years of development and build time, the two prototypes of the Ae 6/6 were finished in the fall of 1952 and in January of 1953 and placed into operation. The SBB introduced regular production of the locomotive after overcoming some teething problems and above all installing wheel sets with side-play as well as reducing the size of the flanges on the center wheels of the trucks. A total of 118 additional units were delivered in the years 1955 to 1966. It quickly turned out that the Ae 6/6 with road numbers 11401-11520 was certainly a big success and a new "new Gotthard locomotive" was glistening in the locomotive heavens. The only defect on the Ae 6/6 remained its trucks, which on certain routes proved to be downright "rail grinders" and thus caused excessive wear on the track and roadbed.
The first 25 locomotives were often called canton locomotives since they bore the coats-of-arms for the 25 Swiss cantons. Chrome decorative strips were located on the sides of the locomotive bodies and on the ends as a kind of nose. These decorations as well as the coats-of-arms were well received and made these powerful locomotives famous all over Europe. The other 95 production locomotives were given the coats-of-arms of cantonal capitals as well as important cities and towns.
In the Fifties and Sixties, the Ae 6/6 functioned as the Gotthard locomotive par excellence in passenger as well as in freight service. Real competition for them did not come of age until 1975 with the appearance of the almost twice as powerful Re 6/6. The onetime Gotthard stars now had to be content with lesser work and migrated to the middle areas of Switzerland and into the Jura Region. From the mid-Nineties on they were seen almost only with freight trains. The first big wave of retirement for these locomotives came in 2009/2010 and the last regularly scheduled use ended in December of 2013. The Ae 6/6 was gone.