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MY Train TraVelS In Europe - 1995 and 2009
First Class Electrics and Ancient Steamers

This photo essay covers an escorted tour I took in 1995 through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in 5 followed by a reprise of Switzerland in 2009. Both tours covered quite different routes and scenery.

Germany - 1995
My photos were lost in a house fire but about 50% of the negatives survived. My brother Ian scanned and cropped the useable film and here they are. The mix is about equal parts real trains, large scale model trains, and scenic images. I hope you enjoy the trip.

The route started with Calgary to Frankfurt by Lufthansa/Air Canada, then by train to Nurnberg where I joined the tour group from the USA. After a sumptuous meal and an overnight in an ancient hotel, we toured the LGB model train factory. There is a very impressive display railway built by Malcolm Furlow. The factory is huge and full of fascinating machinery.

Unlike North America, train watching at the passenger station is a busy pastime most of the day. At Nurnberg and Munich, we watched various classes of passenger trains glide in and out almost silently under their electric overhead wires. These are standard gauge (1435 mm) trains.

Train Watching in Nurnberg

DB Local Passenger Train

ICE Intercity Express

More DB Locals

DB Express Passenger Train

LGB Factory and Display Railways

Malcolm Furlow's LGB Display Railway at Nurnberg

More Displays at the LGB Factory

Ships and Castles at Regensberg
Next stop was Regensberg by our tour bus to visit the castle and Josef Schmaltz's world renowned garden railway (45 mm gauge representing meter gauge at a scale of 1:22.5). Regensberg is halfway between Nurnberg and Munich (Munchen).


Regensberg Scenes

Josef Schmaltz and his Large Scale Garden Railway
Richard Schafer, our tour leader, passed away in September 2002 and is sadly missed by the readers of Garden Railways Magazine. You can see more about the Schmaltz railway in the April 1999 issue of Garden Railways. Richard Schafer's Galena Railway and Navigation Company was pictured in the July/August 1992 issue.
The Schmaltz Garden Railway and some of our tour group.  

The Munich Transportation Museum
We stayed in Munich a couple of days to see the old city, take part in pre-Octoberfest, and visit the Munich Science Museum. Many fabulous antiques, from trains to automobiles to airplanes to ships, are on display, along with many large scale working models. There is much more to see: art galleries, the old walled city (now shops, boutiques, and restaurants), ancient and modern streetcars on the U-Bahn, and the modern trains on the S-Bahn.

We took a day trip by train to Augsberg and returned to Munich. Outbound was a classy second class through train with a super ride and lots of interior comfort. The return was on a third class local that made every stop. The ride was surprisingly rough when you consider it uses the same track as the 1st and 2nd class trains.

An elaborate automatic model train is a "must-see" display at Munich Science Museum

These photos are from the Munich Science Museum website, as mine were lost in the fire.

Chiemsee and King Ludwig's Palace
Our last stop in Germany was near the German-Austrian border at Chiemsee to visit the antique railway (meter gauge) and the Palace of King Ludwig II on Chiemsee Island. He had the palace built to mimic Versailles and it is very well preserved. King Ludwig was also known as Mad Ludwig. He may have been crazy but he built a beautiful country "home"! Later that day, we moved on to Salzberg in Austria.

Across the Lake to the Island

Approaching the Palace

Inside the Palace

Fountains and View from the Palace Steps

Chiemsee Bahn

My photos of the Chiemseebahn were lost. These are close to what I had, swiped from various web pages.

The original steamer was built in 1813 and is still running. A diesel with similar shape to the original is used for a spare. We rode behind the steamer.


Austria - 1995
The Austrian segment of the trip took us to Saltzburg, St Wolfgang, Berchtesgaden, Jenbach, Achensee, Innsbruck, and Feldkirk where we entered Switzerland through Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world.

The mainline through trains in Austria are standard gauge run by OBB. There are large meter gauge installations like the Zillertahlbann and many small restored tourist lines. Click here to see a map of Austria's rail network.

In Salzburg, we toured the fortress and the ancient town streets. Salzburg is the home of Mozart and the inspiration for "The Sound of Music", in which the Von Trapp family's trials and tribulations are sung. Much is made of both these tourist attractions, but there are many other sights.

Salzburg Scenes

My photos of Salzburg were lost in the fire. These come from the Salzburg official website.

St Wolfgang and Schafberg bahn
Next day, we headed a short distance to St Wolfgang, on Wolfgangsee, via ferry, to visit the Schafbergbahn, a really steep narrow gauge rack railway still using steam engines. This is a beautiful spot with tiny streets and tiny hotels - the largest has 12 rooms. The Weisse Rossl (White Horse) is best known and most visible. Tourism is the only industry here.

Schafbergspitz and St Wolfgang Scenes

"Prunel" and "Anemone" Rack Locos on Display

Berchtesgaden and Konigsee
From Salzburg, our bus took us to Berchtesgaden and Konigsee, the vacation retreat of Adolph Hitler more than 60 years ago. It is now a National Park and a major tourist destination for its scenic beauty and unspoiled natural setting (there are no trains, darn it). We were serenaded at lakeside by an Austrian band playing Hawaiian music!

Views from the Eagles Nest

Jenbach  and Zillertal bahN
Our bus got us to Innsbruck in time for a late supper and bed. In the morning we backtracked to Jenbach to watch the Zillertalbahn operations and ride the train part way up the valley. The entire Ziller valley is a great train watching venue, The famous Bier Keg tavern car of the Zillertalbahn was in the shed at Jenbach, but we didn't get to ride in it


Zillertalbahn Trains at Jenbach

More Variety at Jenbach

Achensee and Achensee BAHN
Next day, we returned to Jenbach to board the Achenseebahn, another narrow gauge rack railway with steam locomotives. The Achenseebahn terminates at the lake, where a steam paddle-wheel ferry can be taken to the other shore. This is a big lake with imposing mountain peaks and glaciers. The town is small, very neat, and offers a decent lunch.

On return to Innsbruck, we spent another night and toured the town a bit. The Winter Olympics were held here in 1964 and they are still very proud of the fact, The OBB mainline and the yards at Innsbruck are also great train watching sites. As well, there seems to be more operating cable cars per square mile here than anywhere else in the world.

This picture is from the web - there's no time to set up for this photo or you miss the boat! All transportation connections are timed to the minute with Germanic precision.

En Route to Achensee

Innsbruck Scenes

It was either too dark or too rainy to take pictures in Innsbruck, so I grabbed these to give you an idea of what we missed.

Switzerland -1995
 Here, we rode on a lot of trains and saw a lot of scenery. The Swiss National Railway (SBB) is standard gauge (1435 mm). Click here to see a map of the Swiss rail network.

First stop was in St Galen to ride the Appenzellbahn and visit the St Galen LGB Club large scale outdoor railway.

Many trains in Switzerland operate almost like interurban streetcars. The Appenzellbahn is one of them. It heads into pastoral farmland on a narrow right of way, sometimes encroaching onto the equally narrow automobile roads.

Swiss train, bus, ferry, and even airplane schedules are highly integrated. The bus is timed to meet the ferry which is timed to meet the train - often with only a minute or so to spare. This clockwork efficiency over-rides corporate and state boundaries, something we could use a lot more of in North America.

Landwasser Viaduct

Narrow Gauge Steam  

Paddle Wheeler
As a souvenir of my trip, I purchased 3 Swiss railway prints and framed them for my living room. You can see more of  Gerald Savine's paintings HERE. 

St Galen LGB Club Layout
The St Galen LGB Club layout is a work of art and it's hard to tell how many trains are running; there are quite a few. It rained just a bit, so some trains would spin a bit on the grades, but all performed extremely well. There are more than 1000 meters (3300 feet) of track, all of it with automatic block signals and station stops.
I took a full roll of film here. These are the best.

Train Watching at Chur
Next stop was Chur, the headquarters for the Ratischebahn (RhB), and our tour group for a few days. The city is the most ancient in Switzerland, dating back at least 5000 years. Some of the cathedrals are more than 500 years old. The library has documents written by Irish scholar-monks dating back more than 1000 years!

Chur to Arosa and return is a day trip with lots of time to wander around town, shop, and view the lake. The trains are short groups of modern self-propelled cars running on a narrow, sometimes steep, right of way. Most passengers are tourists but the local citizenry are also regular travelers.

Variety is the spice of train watching.

The Bernina Express
Chur to Tirano (in Italy) and return on the Bernina Express is a long day trip. Leaving about 6 AM and arriving in Italy in time for a short lunch (I chose spaghetti carbonara). The return leaves at 1 PM for a 7:30 PM arrival in Chur. The scenery is breathtaking and, frankly, more interesting than on the Glacier Express. The circular viaduct at Brusio is an amazing structure. The Italian language and architecture, once the train passes the summit of the Alps, is a real surprise for the uninitiated.

This map shows the entire RhB portion of the Glacier Express as well as better detail on the spiral tunnels and loops on the Bernina Express between Filisur and Preda.

My Bernina photos were lost, so here are some good ones from the web.

The Glacier Express
The Glacier Express is actually a number of trains on a number of routes. One route is from St Moritz to Disentes via the RhB, which meets another Express from Chur. When merged, they head to Andermatt on the Furka-Oberalpbahn, then to Brig and Zermatt on the Brig-Viss-Zermattbahn. The latter two railways use rack locomotives and every second car on the train must have rack braking systems. Locomotives change at each change in railway ownership, and passenger cars are added or deleted as necessary. Through coaches stay connected so you hardly know anything is happening.

We rode the Chur to Zermatt route in a first class observation car. The "box-lunch" comes in a box all right, but contains enough food and wine for several days. Scenery along the Rhine is interesting and cannot be seen by car or bus. Once onto the rack lines of the Alps, the scenery is a combination of spectacular to barren. The Bernina route is prettier.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn are beyond words - visualize your fondest dreams of the classic Swiss chalet backed by the most sinister mountain peak. A lot of people have died on the Matterhorn; the cemetery is beside the main street. The only internal combustion engine in Zermatt belongs to the garbage truck. All other vehicles are electric and scarily quiet.

We rode the Gornergratbahn closer to the Matterhorn, but it snowed so we didn't see much of the mountain. This is a steep rack line with one-way traffic.

No buses reach Zermatt. You have to take the train back at least one stop to the bus parking lot, where we departed for Lucerne on our faithful German tour bus. In Lucerne, we visited the Swiss Transportation Museum, cruised Lake Lucerne on the old steam powered ship, and rode the Rigibahn from Vitznau to Goldau.

Train watching from the Panoramic Observation Car.
Hotels, Matterhorn, Cemetery, and electric cars.

Lucerne and the Lake

Misty day around Lake Lucerne.

Rigi bahn and Goldau
Travel down Lake Lucerne by steamship, take a slow trip up the Rigi by rack and rail, and return by a local train from Goldau - a classic day trip in the heart of Switzerland.

Swiss Transportation Museum - LUCERNE
I could have spent a week at the Museum - thousands of preserved full size and working models.

Schaffhausen and the Rhine
After a farewell dinner with the tour group, we were bused to Zurich where the group boarded for home. I then spent a week in Schafhausen with friends, viewed the Rhine Falls, floated down the Rhine for a sumptuous lunch, toured the towns, countryside, monasteries, and coffee shops. Finally, I trained it back to Frankfurt via SBB and a DR ICE with only one train change at Munich.
Schaffhausen and Rhine River scenes were a fitting finale to a fabulous trip. Special thanks to Lise and Rene, my gracious hosts for the week.


Zurich - Interlaken - Montreux - Lake Geneva 

In the 14 years between my first trip to Switzerland and this one, in 2009, some changes were noticeable. The trains are more modern and more numerous, English speakers are more common, and tourism is a bigger business. The country is still clean, safe, and positively beautiful. The trains still meet the planes, the buses meet the trains, and the ferry boats meet the buses - on time and for a fair price. The rest of the world should take note.

This trip was run by LGB Tours and guided by the owners, John Rogers and his family. Centered around Interlaken, jt covered a lot of new ground for me, but I extended the tour for a week to repeat the Bernina and Arosa trips I had taken in 1995, at a more leisurely pace. Sonja took more than 600 photos and the tour guide provided another 1200; a few of them are shown on this page to serve as memory-aids to a fabulous trip.

We flew Calgary - Frankfort - Zurich, met our group for dinner, and caught up on sleep. After an overnight in Zurich, we set out for Zurich HauptBahnhof on a commuter train from the airport to downtown. Here we wandered a few streets admiring the architecture and the streetcars before boarding the ICE, traveling  via Bern to Interlaken. We stayed at Hotel Krebs for a week. From here we radiated out and back on a series of one day excursions. On our first day, we explored Interlaken on foot,  watched trains speed through the downtown streets, rode the funicular, and hiked along the river walkways.

Zurich HauptBahnhof - Modern Electrics

Zurich HauptBahnhof - Modern Electrics and a Diesel Shunter

SNCF - fastest train in the world 574.8 km/hr {357 mph)

Zurich BahnhofStrasse - Streetcars

En Route to Interlaken

At Interlaken

UK Bentley Car Club also stayed at Hotel Krebs, in transit through Interlaken. Spectacular autos!

We rode the funicular to the top of Harder Kulm for a picnic lunch and the views across Interlaken and the Jungfrau.  You can also hike the route, up or down.





INTERLAKEN to Montreux and lake geneva
The "Golden Pass Line” counts as one of the spectacular railways of Switzerland.
From Interlaken, the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon (BLS) runs on standard gauge to Zweisimmen, where the line meets the Montreux-Berner Oberland-Bahn (MOB), which brought us in modern panoramic cars to Montreux at Lake Geneva, the Swiss Riviera. Montreux is in the French speaking region of Switzerland and is the vacation home of numerous film and rock stars. Because of the mild climate, unique Mediterranean scenery has developed with palm trees and cypresses around the lake.

We changed trains at Zweisimmen because of the change in gauge, but this is about to be overcome. By 2015, the panoramic cars will have wheelsets that can change gauge and car height to suit the portion of the road they are running on. Sounds complicated but it is cheaper than rebuilding the rugged lines and all the stations. A prototype car was under test in spring of 2010.


 Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon (BLS) Railway scenes

Montreux-Berner Oberland Bahn (MOB) scenes    

Leaving Interlaken Ost

Golden Pass locomotives

On the Golden Pass and  Lake Geneva cruise to the Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle and Montreux on Lake Geneva


Interlaken and Jungfrau Glacier

This section covers 5 small railways near Interlaken including the Jungfrau Glacier- Top of Europe trip.

Using three different railways in the right order, we can make a "circle tour" of the Alps. The Berner Oberland Bahn (BOB) meter gauge line connects Interlaken with the towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The line opened in 1890 and was electrified in 1914. Normally the trains going to Zweilütschinen consist of two connected engines. Here, the engines are disconnected and one train travels to Grindelwald while the other train travels to Lauterbrunnen. Both towns offer train connections to the Wengernalp Railway.



On the way to Jungfraujock

Wengernalp Bahn (WAB), with 800 mm gauge track, is the world's longest continuous rack railway, connecting Lauterbrunnen, Kleine Scheidegg and Grindelwald, but the trains do not travel directly from Lauterbrunnen over to Grindelwald. Kleine Scheidegg is the starting point of the Jungfrau Railway.  





Wengernalp Bahn lnterchange at Kleine Scheidegg with the Jungfrau Bahn

Wengernalp Bahn lnterchange with BOB at Lauterbrunnen

The Jungfrau Bahn (JB)  connects at Kleine Scheidegg station with the Wengernalp Railway. The first track section from Kleine Scheidegg to Eiger Glacier was opened in 1898. In 1903 the section to the Eigerwand Station, and in 1905 the section to the Eismeer Station was completed. Finally in 1912 the railway reached the end destination at 3454 meters (11333 ft), just below the summit of the Jungfraujoch (4158m / 13642 ft). The majority of this line is in a tunnel and the Jungfrau station is underground. At the summit is a hotel, two restaurants, the Sphinx observatory research station, and the glistening "Ice Palace" carved into the living glacier. Called the "Top of Europe" the Jungfrau is the highlight of any trip to Switzerland.



On the Jungfrau Glacier

Kleine Scheidegg station

Jungfraujock station - Top of Europe 3454 meters

Still steaming on 800 mm track in 2009,
It took only a year to build the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) in 1891. Regular service continued until WWI forced an end to it in 1914. Then the line stood still for 16 years. As a result, it became the last steam operated cog railway, because all other cog lines had been electrified. Even after 16 years, all the rolling stock was still fully functional and operation started again in 1931. The ride starts at the restored Valley Station just 15 Km from Interlaken. Our locomotive, #12, was built in 1992.




Old #1 (2nd) built 1892

Swiss chocolate on the hoof

The Schynige Platte Bahn (SPB)  was opened in 1893 and electrified in 1914. Many of its carriages and locomotives were first in service on the Wengernalp Railway. The 800 mm gauge cog railway starts in Wilderswill, near Interlaken,  and climbs 1420 meters over a distance of 7.25 km. Fog and rain obscured views of the Lakes Thun and Brienz, and the peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. The alpine garden is a highlight at the summit station.





Interlaken - Visp - Zermatt - Gornergrat
And Mount Pilatus - Lake Lucerne

This section covers a trip taken from our hub at Interlaken to reach the Glacier Express at Visp, then on to  Zermatt, up the Gornergrat Bahn to the base of the Matterhorn and return to Interlaken. Next day we traveled to Mt Pilatus and Lake Lucerne.

We cruised through the Gotthard Tunnel to Visp on a sleek high-speed ICE, where we reached the route of the Glacier Express, then headed for Zermatt and the Matterhorn
on the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn (MGB) (meter gauge). It was created in 2003 through an amalgamation of Furka-Oberalp-Bahn (FO) and Brig-Visp-Zermatt Bahn (BVZ). The name comes from the Matterhorn and St. Gotthard Pass. Its network is 144 km (89.5 mi) long and stretches from Disentis to Zermatt, by way of the Oberalp pass and Andermatt, the Furka tunnel, Brig, and Visp. From Andermatt, a branch line (the former independent Schöllenenbahn) extends to Göschenen, at the northern end of the Gotthard rail tunnel.

Between Realp and Oberwald, the line formerly crossed the Furka pass, at a crest elevation of 2162 meters (7093 ft) with a 1.87 km (1.16 mi) tunnel passing beneath the peak. Today, a new tunnel crests at just 1564 m (5131 ft) and is 15.34 km (9.53 mi) long. I was on the old line in 1995 and it was far more interesting than the present one.

The old line is operated by the Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke (DFB) using veteran steam engines. There is a connection to the Rhaetian Railway in Disentis and the Glacier Express runs from Zermatt to St. Moritz, using stock from both companies. Unfortunately, there was no time to get to this scenic trackage.








From Zermatt, we headed uphill on the meter gauge Gornergrat Bahn (GGB) cogwheel route. The construction  commenced in 1896. A total of 2400 workers were employed over a 2-year period. In 1898, the train on Switzerland's first electrical cog railway made its way towards the Matterhorn. 100 years ago, in 1909, the summit station was re-sited around 70 meters further up the mountain. This in turn made the Gornergrat Bahn Europe's highest open-air cogwheel railway. The Jungfrau is higher but in a tunnel.





Gornergratbahn to the Matterhorn


After a cruise on Lake Lucerne we climbed up to the summit of Mount Pilatus on board the steepest cog railway in the world, the Pilatus Bahn. First built in 1889, it changed to electrical operation in 1937. We then descended on the aerial cableway -- the last trip of the day for the gondola due to gusty winds -- a very exciting ride. After a brief bus ride and a walk around downtown Lucerne, we traveled back to Interlaken on another ICE.



Lucerne and the Lake




Mt Pilatus - Straight up on the cog and straight down on the cable.


Interlaken - Zurich - Chur - Tirano - Chur - Arosa - Zurich

After the tour, we headed theough Zurich to Chur tocatch the Bernina Express to Tirano in Italy. On the return to Chur, we took a sidetrip to  Arosa, then back to Zurich for the plane home. All this was covered in a leisurely 4 day self guided excursion. 

The tour itself was extremely well managed by John Rogers and his wife at LGB Tours. Their constant guidance each day was very courteous and helpful. They also arranged all the details of our self-guided extension, which made the finale to our trip completely trouble free.


We left Interlaken on the ICE via Bern to Zurich , said good bye to the tour group and continued on to Chur. It was a Saturday and the trains were nearly empty - we essentially had a private car for the Zurich to Chur leg of the journey. Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland, dating back at least 1000 years. We stayed at the Post Hotel (now managed by Comfort Inns), much modernized since my previous stay 14 years earlier. The railway station was also new and just a short walk from the hotel.



The Bernina Express is still the best train ride in Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Glaciers, lakes, spiral tunnels and viaducts, all leading to semi-tropical vineyards in Italy. Tirano (not to be confused with Torino farther south) is a border town, probably as ancient as Chur, and is the connection point to the Italian State Railway.

Grades of up to 7% are handled without rack and pinion traction, and the line handles considerable freight as well as the better known tourist traffic.









The Bernina is easy to see from inside the panorama cars.

The Bernina arrives at noon and leaves again at 1 PM, so we stayed overnight at Hotel Bernina to give us time to explore the old city and cathedrals. Compared to the gleam and polish of the Swiss counterparts, the Italian trains looked beaten-up and grubby.






The Italian trains are not as pretty as the Swiss.



Work trains and log buggies mingle with the Bernina at Tirano Station.

This is a beautiful trip to a beautiful lakeside town - if they would have me, this would be my retirement home. The Chur-Arosa railway was founded in 1889 as an independent company (ChA) and its network had always been linked to the main network of the RhB in Chur. This link enables the exchange of passenger coaches and freight cars. The merger with the RhB was the beginning of the modernization of the ChA railway. 

Leaving Chur, the route follows the streets of the upper part of town to gain access to the Plessur River valley. There are 41 bridges and 21 tunnels on the  25 Km of the meter gauge line.




Slow and easy is the the only way to move in Arosa

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