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Scenic Swiss Trains in a Nutshell

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Jul 5th, 2008, 08:51 AM
  #1
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Scenic Swiss Trains in a Nutshell

SCENIC SWISS TRAINS IN A NUTSHELL

I've been riding trains around Switzerland practically since they began laying down rails in this Alpine Wonderland. And although any rail line in Switzerland, slicing thru cow pastures, past flower-bedecked chalet houses and hills or mountains always in the background, etc., is scenic and often awesomely scenic some of course are more scenic then others.
What follows are what i, subjectively of course, consider to be my most scenic lines - others will have varying opinions however and as always are welcome to incorporate their opinions here and this will be must appreciated as i love insights of others on a topic i love so much.

1- Bernina Express
2- Jungfrau Railways Interlaken-Grindelwald-Kleine Scheidegg-Wengen-Lauterbrunnen-Interlaken
3- Gornegrat Railway Zermatt
4- Grutschalp-Murren
5- Martigny-Chamonix
6- Chur-St Moritz
7- Brig-Zermatt
8- Interlaken-Spiez-Lotschberg (old line)
9- Brunig Pass Interlaken-Lucerne
10- Golden Pass Interlaken-Zweissimmen-Montreux
11- Gotthard line Lucerne/Zurich to Lugano
12- Glacier Express Chur-Brig
13- Lausanne-Montreux-Brig up the Rhone Valley
14 - Lake Lucerne to the summit of Rigi
14- Centovalli Domodossola-Locarno
15 - Landquart-Davos-Filisur
16 - Lake Lucerne to Rigi
and others
Note - Alpnachstad to summit of Mt Pilatus; Appenzell Train and St Moritz-Scuol Tarasp lines not rated - not yet taken yet.

As always interested in others opinions on these or other scenic Swiss trains!
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Jul 5th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY MORE DETAILED THREAD ON SCENIC SWISS TRAINS AND SWISS TRAINS IN GENERAL:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...jsp?fidAuthor: .com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fidv
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Jul 5th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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Thank you for this. I've only been on a few of your Top 16 but will save this list in hope of getting back to Switzerland some day. I was an au pair there about 30 years ago; have been back 3 times since. Great memories--the Jungfrau in particular. Thanks again.
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Jul 5th, 2008, 09:56 AM
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i am still waiting to take one of these swiss trips..

i will certainly use your advice, among that of other swiss posters.

thank you for taking the time!
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Jul 5th, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Hello Pal, how I would love to be taking some of your listed train trips right now. I have Italian friends in Italy that try to take a train trip in Switzerland once a year but I don't know which train routes that have gone on except for the Bernina Express.

I too love trains and just wish we had good train service here in California.

Will you be going to Switzerland this year?
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Jul 5th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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Thanks for the thanks. LoveItaly - not sure - i will be going to Europe as usual but have been going in January and February lately and as i am not a skiier maybe will only pass thru Switzerland - i'd like to experience the least scenic line in Switzerland the new long tunnel under the Lotschberg Pass - that goes in tunnel from Fruitigen to Visp i believe.
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Jul 5th, 2008, 01:33 PM
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I too am thinking of going to Italy in winter Pal. I have never done that. But perhaps the airfares will be lower (said with crossed fingers) and there will not be the crowds. I hope you can make your trip to Switzerland and the train trip! Best regards.
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Jul 6th, 2008, 09:50 AM
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LoveItalia: I've gone to Italy two winters now in a row and really liked it - yes cheap air fares and i got nice hotels near the rome and florence train stations for about 35 euros - en suite with breakfast - rooms would cost 85 euros in other seasons.
Now back to Scenic Swiss Trains and the fantastic BERNINA EXPRESS.

Back Soon.
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Aug 24th, 2008, 05:43 PM
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Travelling to Switzerland in May 2009 and at this stage using the rail network arriving from Paris in Geneva and eventually moving on to Austria from Zurich. It's the bit in the middle that is flexible - my husband would like to travel on at least one of the mountain railways. Do you have one that you would recommend for May and easily accessible from Geneva or Lucerne?
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Aug 26th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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THE GOLDEN PASS SCENIC TRAIN
Since Susanne07 asked about scenic trains she could fit in on her itinerary i'll start this coverage of Scenic Swiss Trains with the Golden Pass route between Montreux and Lake Geneva via Interlaken to Lucerne, which rolls through some of Switzerland's most bucolic scenery, if not thru high mountains like some other rail lines do.
The first portion includes a dramatic zigzag climb of hundreds of feet from Lake Geneva thru vineyards and then trekking thru picture-postcard Alpine valleys with high peaks in the distance to Interlaken, going along the shores of placid Lake Thun just before Interlaken.
From Interlaken, the train slugs along the shores of idyllic Lake Brienz to Meiringen, where the train reverses to climb over the steep Brunig Pass, before descending along dreamy Alpine lakes and valleys to finally hugging the shore of Lake Lucerne to Lucerne.
The Meiringen-Lucerne portion to me is the most dramatic as this entails a narrow-gauge mountain climbing train where the wheels continually squeal as the cars negotiate tight curves. This part is a cog railway, meaning that the train employs a cog wheel on the steepest climbs in order to gain added traction that is also used descending to increase breaking.
(Therefore a 'cog railway' is a real mountain railway.)

But if you are thinking of 'mountain trains1 as those few that go to mountain tops (like the one from Lucerne up Mount Pilatus, the Jungfraubahn to the Jungfraujoch or the Gornergrat Railway up above Zermatt, then this is not that type of more breathtaking mountain railways like those that climb to mountain peaks.

But in other regards the Golden Pass to me is better because of the varied and constantly pleasant scenery and the rather dramatic up and down over the Brunig Pass.

But if you have time break your journey in Interlaken and take the mountain trains from it to Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen or Wengen, from where you can also take the Jungfraubahn and another day take the rest of the Golden Pass route to Lucerne over the Brunig Pass.

TBC - More on the Golden Pass - the official Golden Pass trains with observation cars and vaunted VIP seats and itinerary planning with the Golden Pass.

Any questions will be happily entertained???
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Sep 3rd, 2008, 01:31 PM
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GOLDEN PASS DETAILS

There are official 'Golden Pass' trains that run the route all the way from Montreux to Interlaken to Lucerne (necessitating two changes of train because of track width differences - in Zweisimmen and in Interlaken-Ost. (Ideal to break you journey at Interlaken-Ost and head for Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen or Wengen and the fantastic Berner Oberland)

Reservations seem to be only required on the Montreux-Zweisimmen portion but should be made to guarantee seats in the Observation Cars (larger windows and glass ceilings) and certainly for the VIP seats (first class only, these are seats right next to the driver so you think you are driving the train. There are only a few VIP seats on each train - some in the front and some in the back - book very early!

the Montreux-Zweisimmen portion has unique revolving seats, at least in first class.

In addition there are regular trains running about hourly over the whole route - same appetizing views and large enough windows - no reservations even possible.

Swiss and Eurailpasses are valid the whole route.

reservations can be made at www.swisstravelsystem.com (which has a link to the Golden Pass web site or at any Swiss rail station or thru RailEurope in U.S. - i always recommend BETS www.budgeteuropetravel.com for their personal service and expertise IME. Reservations for observation cars are often easily made in Switzerland IME but VIP are typically sold out months in advance.

I have written a much more thorough look at the Golden Pass route and reservations, etc. on my much more detailed thread Palenque's Scenic Swiss Trains (along with valuable inputs of others!)
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...jsp?fidAuthor: .com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fidv
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Sep 4th, 2008, 01:38 PM
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THE BERNINA PASS TRAIN LINE: Switzerland's most scenic regular rail line.

And one of Europe's most scenic rail rides IMO - for a real train that actually takes you somewhere - not just up to mountain tops and back.

The Bernina Pass line begins in St Moritz and slowly climbs, with occasional use of cogs i believe, up to the summit of the Bernina Pass before slowly descending thru a rather lush semi-tropical valley to the Italian border town of Tirano, its terminus.

The fantastic scenery comes near and around the actual pass - by the Alp Grum and Bernina Ospiz stations, where a popular walk goes to a glacier on the other side of a pristine glacial lake. It's popular to walk between the two stations just a few miles apart.

The Top of the World Scenery is unparalleled IMO on any other 'regular' Swiss train and really rivaled by few in Europe.

For a much much more detailed look at my other Scenic Swiss Trains thread: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...elect.jsp?fidv

NEXT - PRACTICAL DETAILS OF THE BERNINA PASS ROUTE:
Official Bernina Express trains
Regular normal regional trains
Open-Air Cars
Connections and Itinerary Planning
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Sep 5th, 2008, 02:58 AM
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Pal, the Bernina trains do not use cogs at all. That's what is so special. The gradient is up to 7% and so it is the steepest non-cog railway in Europe.

Keep the info coming!

I.
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Sep 5th, 2008, 03:13 AM
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Susanne07 writes: "Travelling to Switzerland in May 2009 and at this stage using the rail network arriving from Paris in Geneva and eventually moving on to Austria from Zurich. It's the bit in the middle that is flexible - my husband would like to travel on at least one of the mountain railways."

Years ago, we took the Arlberg Orient Exprés Zurich to Innsbruck in late-May. The scenery was awesome! Skiers were still on the slopes at Saint Anton & other ski resorts north of the route and there were numerous waterfalls, too many to count, along the south side of the route.
I would equate that 4.5 hours to a trip thru Disney's Wonderful World of Color


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Sep 5th, 2008, 05:07 AM
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Just to add to PalenQ's wonderful thread on Swiss trains, on the Bernina Pass section, there is a lovely "historic train" walk from Preda to Bergün that follows the train line for most of the way. It took us roughly 2 1/2 hours at a moderate pace, lots of cows, flower filled meadows, gushing streams with little wooden bridges and those fabulous viaducts. We even managed to be underneath one when the train went over. Great photo opportunities too.

Also the walk from Filisur down to the famous Landwässer Viaduct, with perfect timing you can see the Bernina Express cross the viaduct and enter or leave the tunnel.


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Sep 5th, 2008, 07:02 AM
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Maudie, Nedsireland and Ingo thanks for the notes

Ingo - the Bernina Pass train line is said to be the only train line that goes up and over the Alps from north to south - all others tunnel under the peaks. That it does not use cogs is all the more amazing. Thanks for that.
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Sep 5th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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OFFICIAL BERNINA EXPRESS TRAINS
A few times a day there are special tourist-oriented trains named the Bernina Express that run between St Moritz and Tirano and also from Chur to St Moritz/Pontresina and Tirano

There are also about hourly regular trains that run the same route with, obviously, the same scenery. The Bernina Express trains however have a hostess, fancy doilies on the seats and some panoramic observation cars - they are also marginally faster since they do not stop at every tiny station like regular trains do.

Reservations are mandatory on the official Glacier Expresses and can be hard to make (since often groups book up many cars) - a discussion of pros and cons on regular vs official Glacier Express appears on my much longer thread referenced above, as well as how to make reservations. Regular trains do not even accept reservations and you can always board and usually find ample empty seats IME

On regular trains you, in summer have some open-air cars that to me were a real thrill - riding a platform basically thru such scintillating scenery (again someone provided great details on which trains these run in the longer Scenic Swiss Trains thread).

TBC:
BERNINA ITINERARY PLANNING - rail links at Tirano, Italy and St Moritz - Majola Pass bus to Lake Como and Lugano; Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano (and Lake Como)
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Sep 10th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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BERNINA ITINERARY PLANNING
- rail links at Tirano, Italy and St Moritz - Majola Pass bus to Lake Como and Lugano; Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano (and Lake Como).

Incorporating the Bernina Pass trains into an itinerary can be challenging due to the relative remoteness of the area from where most folks are going. It's in far southeastern Switzerland - (3.5 hrs from Zurich/Lucerne) and a long all day ride from Brig-Zermatt area via the Glacier Express train.

GOING TO ITALY WITH BERNINA
The Bernina route is however a novel way to go between Switzerland and Italy as at Tirano, Italy, southern terminus of the Bernina trains, there are rail links to Milan (2.5 hrs) and on the way you can get off at Varenna and take boats to anyplace on Lake Como. At Milan of course you can connect to anyplace in Italy.
So though this route takes longer than other routes that largely burrow under the Alps for a really scenic route go via Tirano and St Moritz

Note in Tirano there are two train stations - the Swiss Bernina route one and cater-corner to it and practically touching it is the Italian station. Currently you still must go thru Customs when entering and exiting the Swiss station until Switzerland fully implements the border-free Schengen Accords next year i think.

Tirano is a transit town where some key highways go along the southern flank of the high Alps - there are some hotels right on the square where the train stations are (and usually much cheaper than hotels in Switzerland) - Tirano's town center is OK and the mountains are there but generally not much here except to sleep over.
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Sep 11th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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MAJOLA PASS AND BERNINA EXPRESS BUS LINKS
Besides taking trains to St Moritz to Tirano to connect with the Bernina Pass train route you can also hop one of two buses:

The Majola Pass bus route links Lugano with St Moritz (4 hrs) and goes along the western shore of Lake Como, stopping at Menaggio on that lake, before heading up the rugged Majola Pass to St Moritz - this was one of the finest Alpine bus routes i've every taken in Switzerland. Note this bus has also been called the Palm Express.

BERNINA EXPRESS BUS
This bus goes between Tirano and Lugano (also via Menaggio on Lake Como) and takes 4 hours. It ties in with the official Bernina Express trains only, running usually once a day in each direction.

BERNINA TO LAKE COMO
Besides taking the train from Tirano to Varenna, from where boats go to Bellagio and Como and other ports around Lake Como, both the Majola Pass and Bernina Express buses stop in Menaggio too - so Lake Como is an easy first or last stop when doing the Bernina Route. (And also a possible day trip up and back from Lake Como.)

The Buses are spiffy Swiss Postal buses with that unique goo-gah horn that is blasted when going around curves to tell oncoming traffic to get the heck of out the way.

Swiss Passes are valid on both routes (even though they go thru a part of Italy) and Eurailpasses are valid on the Bernina Express buses. Eurailpasses are also valid on the whole of the Bernina Pass rail route.
Buses do require reservations and for those with a pass a minor supplement. For reservations try the swisstravelsystem.com or in the U.S. i always advise calling www.budgeteuropetravel.com and asking for Byron, a Swiss rail expert IME who can do the bookings. Depending on the time of year bookings can be hard to make - especially on the Bernina Express bus since that runs once a day and ties in with the group-ful official Bernina Express train.

Note - these buses, reservations, etc. were covered in much more detail in my original Palenque's Scenic Swiss Trains thread referenced at the beginning of this thread.
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Sep 11th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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Excellent info, Pal. But please note the spelling: It's Maloja Pass.

I'd like to add that hopping on the Palm Express Bus is limited. You can't get on the bus in Menaggio e.g. to go to Lugano, or in the Bregaglia Valley to go to St. Moritz. It's basically really a long-distance bus between St. Moritz and Lugano.
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