Fun in Switzerland - September 1999

During a visit to friends in Switzerland, and with the justification that, being car-free, they both have annual public transport passes (“ga”) in the first class, I treated myself to an eight-day SwissPass, a tourist ticket sold only to people resident outside Switzerland, with the same scope as the ga (most trains, boats and buses, free use of a few mountain railways/lifts and 25% off the rest).

Note: October 2009 — I found this on a backup disk, while looking for something else. Since I’ve just done another Swisspass trip (see Oberengadin 2009), I thought I’d repost it.


Notes from my Oberengadin 2009 holiday:

  • Samedan is a good deal less exciting than it used to be: passenger trains don’t do much shunting any more, and in normal service only the first island platform is used (tracks 2 and 3). 
  • Track 1 is only used as a through line for shunting.
  • Track 2 is used by Chur-St Moritz services (re1) in both directions, and track 3 by Scuol-Pontresina services (R7) in both directions. 
  • Track 4 is used for the through Bernina Express and for various morning and evening trains that start/end at Samedan. 
  • There is shunting of wagons going on in the yard practically all day, with at least four pairs of goods trains a day over the Albula line.
Samedan station

Notes on the Bernina line from my Oberengadin 2009 holiday

  • During the summer there’s a basic hourly service (departures at the Tirano end are slightly irregular, timed to give connections at Pontresina). Bernina Express workings replace the normal stopping trains at 0945, 1145 and 1545 ex St. Moritz and 0850, 1245 and 1445 ex Tirano, and a couple of extra Bernina Express paths are fitted in between trains for the through trains to Chur and Davos.
  • At Pontresina, the Scuol-Pontresina shuttle trains use platform 1, whilst Bernina trains use the two sides of the island platform (tracks 3 and 4). Thus there are always three trains in Pontresina station around the hour, then nothing much happens for another hour.
  • I didn’t see a through Bernina Express at Pontresina, but as far as I know track 3 is still the only part of the station that can be switched between ac and dc, so I assume they use that.
  • All the trains I saw were pulled by either two abe4/4 power cars or an abe4/4 and a Gem4/4. 
  • Normal load seems to be up to about eight or ten trailers. Regular passenger trains include B’s and a D (the set with the Gem4/4 also had an ab); Bernina Express trains are all observation cars. 
  • Most normal trains, and at least one of the Bernina Express workings, also convey freight: the wagons are placed at the end of the train. 
  • Most wagons seem to be going between Pontresina and either Poschiavo, Campocologno, or Tirano.
  • The two power cars were treated as a unit, being run round together at St Moritz and Tirano. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the Gem4/4 is at the front or not.
  • At Pontresina, wagons were attached/removed by the pilot while the train was in the platform.
  • At Poschiavo, the train had to draw out of the platform to give the pilot room to get out of the yard and attach/remove the wagons. The southbound train drew forward to just before the level crossing; the northbound train pulled completely out of the station (i.e. the shunting operation took place on the steep slope, which can’t have made coupling easy).

Observations from my Oberengadin 2009 holiday:

  • Normal hourly timetable needs three sets in service, leaving Chur at 08 and Arosa at 48 (journey time about 62 minutes).
  • Trains cross at Lüen-Castiel and Litzirüti
  • Each set consists of a fixed formation of a Ge4/4ii (at the uphill end) and four trailers. Two of the sets are D + A + B + Bt, one set is D + ab + B + abt. The blue “Arosa Express” coaches are enough to make up one set, but are not kept together (the day I was there, one set had the blue D, another the blue Bt and A, whilst the blue B was in the sidings at Arosa).
  • Extra passenger coaches or freight are always attached to the rear of the train. For descending trains, this means that the loco ends up in the middle. The most I saw was two coaches or four wagons.
  • At Chur, trains arrive in P1, then shunt forward to the yard. Wagons for Arosa are attached to the Chur end by the station pilot, wagons from Arosa are then shunted back into the bays between P2 and the sbb tracks (presumably to be picked up by the pilot and taken across to the RhB side later). The train departs from P2.
  • At Arosa, the pattern seems to be similar. I didn’t see which track was used for arrivals, but the wagon brought up from Chur was standing on track 4 with the pilot that had just run round it prior to propelling it to the yard. The train was ready for departure in track 2.

Footpaths above Zuoz

I spent a week in Bever in the Oberengadin (Switzerland), walking and enjoying the local railways.