Swiss Glacier Express Holiday (Page 2)

Sunday 16 August 2020
Today we transferred from Brig to our next location, using the eastbound Glacier Express. Fortunately, our luggage was to be taken between hotels by SBB parcels service, arranged by John, so we only needed our personal effects in back packs.

Having checked out of the hotel, we walked for the last time to Brig station, in time for the 10:18 Glacier Express service to Chur (pronounced, I am reliably informed “Coor”).

Map Brig to Chur

The service was loco hauled, and comprised vista coaches, to obtain the best views of the scenery.

Glacier Express

Vista coach

Photography was not always easy, with reflections from inside the coaches due to the bright conditions, but a few shots follow –

Glacier Express

MGB Gradients

As can be seen, the route had several steep sections, so once again the train changed from adhesion to rack frequently. We were toward the back of the train, and the last coach had a window in the end door, so I was able to take this picture soon after we changed from adhesion to rack –

Rack rail

At Oberwald, the route diverged from the original Glacier express from the early 1900’s. This originally went over the Furka pass. Coincidentally, the Narrow gauge Railway Society published a booklet on the Furka Mountain Railway, shortly before we were due to take this trip, so I have been able to gain some information from that. The Furka Oberalp (FO) line was effectively built as a continuation of the Visp-Zermatt line (VZB), from Brig. The VZB extended from Visp to Brig in 1930 to meet the Furka. The FO continued over the Furka Pass, and then the Oberalp pass. Because of winter snows, the line was unable to operate during winter months. Construction of avalanche tunnels, and the replacement of one bridge with one that could be dismantled during the worst weather, enabled the service to be extended to all but the very deepest winter. It was not, however, until 1982 that a new tunnel, known as the Furka Base tunnel, was opened to bypass Furka summit. There is a sense of irony in this, as this change means that the Express no longer passes through Gletsch, within sight of the Rhone Glacier, after which it was originally named (although I am told that the glacier has largely gone)! The closure of the Furka section was a stepping stone to the formation of the Furka Mountain Railway, which now operates the section between Oberwald and Realp as a steam/diesel worked “heritage” line. Sadly, our trip was not to include a chance to take this, more interesting, option. Here is a view at Oberwald, with the FMR station and coaches in the background –


Having wizzed through the 15.4km tunnel, we continued on the original FO route. One of our party was Bridie, and she is seen enjoying the view in this picture by Janet –


The Oberalp pass is still spectacular, and steep. This is one of the lakes close to the summit –


Robert, from our group, took this picture of me at the Summit of Oberalppass.


Having descended once again, the line took us to Disentis. This is the station at the eastern end of the FO route, and here we handed over motive power to the Rhatische Bahn (RhB).

This is the best shot I obtained of the new loco –

RhB Loco

Our route continued, passing into the Rhine valley, and joined the Bernina line at Reichenua, before ending at Chur, where we were met by the owner of our next hotel, who welcomed us to the town.

That evening, dinner was in a local restaurant, to which we retired after a long day (and fortunately our luggage arrived in time to change!)

Chur from hotel

Monday 17 August 2020
Today was on the Bernina Express, the RhB service to Tirano in Italy, although we were only going to Poschiavo (Switzerland). An earlier start, at 8:32 saw us walk from hotel to station, where we joined the train in the main station.

Bernina Express at Chur

Bernina Route

Bernina Gradients

Our ascent and descent were achieved by loops and spirals, often in tunnels, so we sometimes passed the same view three times! Spectacular viaducts took us high above valley floors –


One of these viaducts is the Landwasser, on a curve, before entering a tunnel –

Landwasser viaduct

Once again, we saw lakes and reservoirs high in the mountains –


(Ospizio Bernina I think)

At Alp Grum we paused to view the lake below –

Alp Grum

The train below has gone round a loop from where we stood beside our express.

Loop below

This was our train, headed by an electric multiple unit. I am informed that the Bernina line of the RhB is 1000 volts DC from St Moritz and Pontresina to Tirano.Bernina train

More twists and turns led us down to Poschiavo, where I took this photo of Janet on the river bridge.

Poschiavo bridge

After wandering around the town, which is renowned for its Italian architecture, we had lunch with Bridie.

Poschiavo church

Then returned to the station, ready for the return trip, starting at 14:28. Here is a shot of the train sheds, with a three car Allegra unit. These are Dual voltage and powered on all three coaches and actually classified as locos.

Multiple unit loco

We were offered a diversion into St Moritz, but would not have had time to see the town, so our route included two changes, at Pontresina and Samedan, either side of the St Moritz “triangle”.

This is a view of the sinuous climb back to the summit.

Bernina curves

We then had dinner that evening in the same restaurant as the previous night.

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