The Rhaetian Railway and its prestige trains

The Glacier and Bernina Express are without doubt the prestige trains of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB). Thanks to our comfortable observation cars, passengers are able to enjoy uninterrupted views of the unique Alpine landscape, as the train rolls along the century-old masterpiece of pioneering engineering work that constitutes the railway. Around half a million delighted visitors come from all over the world every year to take a trip on one of these famous express trains. The Bernina Express operates on the Albula and Bernina lines, which received, on 7th July 2008, the accolade of “The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina landscapes”. This identifies them as belonging to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. The Glacier Express likewise comes under the UNESCO World Heritage banner whenever it runs on the Albula Line.

Zdroj:  swiss-image.ch/ Rhaetische Bahn

Zdroj: swiss-image.ch/ Rhaetische Bahn

 

Bernina Express – From glaciers to palms

It is no accident that the prestigious American travel publication National Geographic Magazine has singled out the Bernina Express as one of the world’s most beautiful railway journeys. The train takes you from Chur (at 585 metres above sea level), through the wild valley of Albulatal and into the region of Upper Engadin, from where it climbs to the railway’s highest point at Ospizio Bernina (at 2,253 metres above sea level), before descending to Poschiavo-Tirano (at just 429 metres above sea level!), in an itinerary that takes about four hours. The line links extremes of climate, along with various cultures and languages. A blow-by-blow account of the highlights of the journey never fails to impress, as it includes winding switchback tunnels, the towering viaducts of the valley of Albulatal and, as you cross the Alps via the Bernina Pass, glaciers that look almost close enough to touch.

 

The Bernina Express has, since the summer of 2006, also been running trains consisting only of observations on its runs from Chur, Davos and St. Moritz to Tirano and vice versa. It does not however, in contrast to the Glacier Express, have its own on-board catering service. The train arrives in Valposchiavo at around noon – just in time to let you enjoy a typical lunch of the area’s famous pizzoccheri neri noodles in the historical old town of Poschiavo, or a pizza on the Piazza in Tirano. After their midday break in Tirano, travellers can choose between a return trip on the Bernina Express, following the Bernina-Albula route, or a ride on the popular Bernina Express Bus, which runs through the Veltlin region, via Menaggio and onwards to Lugano. The Bernina Express covers the entire 122 kilometre-long UNESCO World Heritage route from Thusis to Tirano, over the border in Italy.

 

Glacier Express – The slowest express train in the world

This train has been linking east and west ever since 1930, by providing a rail connection between the Bernina Massif and Matterhorn, and by supplying two-way access between the world-famous spa towns of Davos/St. Moritz and Zermatt. The Glacier Express also highlights the partnership-based cooperation between the two railway companies involved: the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn (MGBahn). Two Glacier Express trains consisting of completely new rolling stock have been covering the route between St. Moritz/Davos and Zermatt since the summer of 2006. These trains impress in terms of their fresh and daring new design, while also setting whole new standards when it comes to the passenger comfort and on-board facilities that travellers enjoy on their seven-and-a-half-hour journey between the two major resort towns that mark the line’s terminals. The new Glacier Express trains consist of fully air-conditioned observation cars, and meals are freshly prepared in the train’s own on-board galley for serving in the comfort of the passengers’ own seats. Passengers can listen in to information – in six languages – on the highlights of their journey. The new Glacier Express trains have likewise not gone unnoticed in the world of industrial design, as evidenced by the bestowing, by an international jury, of the 2007 iF Product Design Award.

 

On its run from St. Moritz to Thusis (about 60 km), the Glacier Express passes through the valley of Albulatal – a section of the Rhaetian Railway that became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. Another Glacier Express train has been providing a daily service between Davos and Zermatt every summer since 2006. This observation-car train also includes a dining car. A further summer service is provided by the Glacier Express train – with conventional carriages and a dining car – that makes the daily run from Chur to Zermatt.

 

UNESCO World Heritage – a masterpiece of railway engineering

On July 7th 2008, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO took the decision to include in its list of World Heritage Sites the Albula and Bernina lines of the Rhaetian Railway. This makes the “Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina landscapes” only the third railway worldwide (along with the Semmering and Darjeeling railways, in Austria and India respectively) to be awarded this prized distinction.

 

The sections of line between Thusis and St. Moritz (Albula) and St. Moritz and Tirano (Bernina) are outstanding, technically innovative examples of how to provide access to the high Alpine regions, while also being two of the most spectacular narrow-gauge railways in the world. The extraordinary significance of the Albula and Bernina lines likewise includes their respective geographical settings, in terms of the unique and direct symbiosis between landscape and railway, and also of the rich cultural zone through which each lines runs. The railway infrastructure has come to form a truly special bond with its surrounding topography.

 

For further information on this and other offers, please go to www.rhb.ch, ask at any railway station in Switzerland or contact RailService at the Rhaetian Railway (e-mail: railservice@rhb.ch; tel.: +41 (0)81 288 65 65).

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