The Waldenburg Railway

From the mid-1850s Gédéon Thommen and Dr Martin Bider, both of whom were very involved in the creation of the watch industry in Waldenburg, had pressed for the construction of a railway connection from the village. On 18 June 1871, the canton of Basel–Country granted a concession for the construction of a railway from Waldenburg to Liestal and, eventually, further to Langenbruck. Between 1871 and 1879 the concession was altered to give the commission to the Swiss Central Railway and the deadline was extended for financial reasons. In November 1879 an independent company, Waldenburgerbahn, was founded and took over the project.

After four attempts, the decision was made against a standard gauge railway (150cm) and the more cost-effective option of a narrow gauge line (75cm) was adopted. This had the advantage that almost the entire length of the road could be used and therefore there would be no need to purchase expensive land along the route.
The railway was completed in only eight months and on 1st November, 1880 the Waldenburgerbahn started running with two steam locomotives, named after the founders ‘Bider’ and ‘Thommen’, and four passenger coaches. The 13 km journey between Liestal and Waldenburg took just 60 minutes and this contributed considerably to the mobility of the workforce and the industrialization of the region. Initially trains ran three times a day in both directions and carried significantly more passengers than the horse-drawn post-chaise.

The outbreak of World War I stopped plans for the extension of the line and a 1912 proposal to electrify the line and re-gauge it to 100 cm. Even though electric street lighting was installed in Waldenburg in 1902, the railway was not electrified until 1953 at which time new rolling stock was acquired.
Today, the Waldenburgerbahn has 11 stops and the journey takes a mere 24 minutes. Within the Basel tram network the line is numbered 19 but this is not displayed on the carriages. Local residents still use the railway and from spring to autumn tourist trains are operated, hauled by the only operating steam locomotive on the line – the 1902 built engine ‘Gédéon Thommen’. There are plans to re-gauge the line to 100cm which make it possible for the line to be connected to Basel tram line 14 that currently ends in Pratteln.