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Behind the scenes

A niche profession

As a train driver, Andreas Kramer drives through picturesque landscapes, crosses spectacular viaducts and marvels at the fascinating views. He enjoys these moments almost every day. But there's no sign of a passenger.

Domenica Herzog, Corporate Communications trainee, 05. April 2022

Imagine you are a train driver for Rhaetian Railway and your train is empty. No train guard, no passengers, no luggage, no goods. You draw up your own timetables, choose your own route and drive in a wide variety of vehicles on the network. Never heard of this kind of train driver? Not surprising really because Andreas Kramer works in a niche profession.

The secret behind Andreas Kramer’s niche profession

Andreas Kramer does not transport goods or passengers. His job is purely to test drive trains. Commissioning train driver is his exact job title and requires many years of experience as a train driver. As a commissioning train driver, he not only goes on test runs with new trains, but also checks freshly overhauled trains coming out of the workshop. Those, for example, that have had their software updated or adjusted and first have to pass a commissioning run before being allowed back onto the RhB network again with passengers or goods. Such commissioning operations are extremely important in order to detect deficiencies and faults before they cause disruptions to the network.

Typical working day

In order to be able to travel on the RhB network, new trains must pass several checks. A distinction is made between static and dynamic controls. In a static test, a train is carefully checked while stationary. Once Andreas and his team have successfully completed these checks, nothing will stand in the way of a dynamic run. The dynamic check involves carrying out various tests on the moving train and checking that everything is working properly.

For the dynamic commissioning run, Andreas usually opts for the Landquart – Sagliains track because it has a gradient of 4.5 % and because the track passes through a tunnel, namely the Vereina Tunnel. On the way through a very peaceful Prättigau, there is always a lot of action on the train. While Andreas is sitting in the driver’s cab, driving the train towards Sagliains, keeping an eye on the timetable and various signals, his team is busy working through the protocol which often consists of several pages. For example, the emergency brake, the SOS switch, a system change, the smooth opening of the doors and their exit steps, as well as the lettering, are carefully tested, checked and any faults are noted down meticulously.

Several hours later, the inspected train and its control team arrive back in Landquart. The next steps are then discussed and any errors are rectified until everyone is satisfied with the result. The train is then ready to safely welcome commuters, goods and guests from all over the world.

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