Welcome to “Switzerland Railway Pictorial – SBB and RhB”, an image-rich feature of some of my photos of two of Switzerland’s fascinating railway systems.
The SBB is the Swiss Federal Railways, the national railway company of Switzerland, whereas the RhB (Rhätische Bahn) is the independent metre gauge railway of the Graubünden (or Grisons), the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland.
They say “a picture speaks a thousand words” – so I hope that the following photographs and commentary provide an insight into the railways of Switzerland – in Zürich, Grindelwald and the Graubünden area. So, let’s start the journey and take the 13:12 IR (InterRegio) train from Zürich Hbf to Chur via Sargans – the departure board tells us it departs from platform (gleis) 6.
The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB-CFF-FFS, i.e. German: Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, French: Chemins de fer Fédéraux Suisses, Italian: Ferrovie Federali Svizzere) operates a highly intensive and efficient passenger and freight system, in a pivotal location, at the heart of European railway networks. For those intending to travel by rail, the network operates a range of regional and intercity trains:
- RegioExpress trains link regional destinations with larger Swiss cities, whilst Regio trains connect local towns;
- InterCity trains link major Swiss cities like Basel and Geneva with non-stop express services;
- InterRegio trains connect Zürich and Geneva with other cities across Switzerland, providing stopping services, compared to InterCity trains;
- S-Bahn (suburban) trains operate within most big cities.
In addition the following international services travel into/through Switzerland:
- ICE services connect Switzerland to Germany and the Netherlands, whilst RailJet connects Zürich with Vienna (Austria);
- EuroCity connects Zürich, Basel and Geneva to Milan (Italy) and TGV connects Zürich, Basel and Geneva to Paris (France).
Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Zürich Hbf) is Switzerland’s largest railway station, being a major railway hub with services across Switzerland and neighbouring countries, including Germany, Italy, Austria, Belgium and France. It is also one of the oldest railway stations in Switzerland and one of the busiest railway stations in the world, handling around 2,900 trains per day, as evidenced by the approach tracks – an early clue of the 7-days a week intensity of train movements.
Zürich entertains local, regional and inter city passenger arrivals and departures, together with hi-speed international trains.
The following pictures are typical of what can be expected when travelling through Switzerland.
SBB provides connections to hundreds of tourist destinations. The Bernese Oberland is a major attraction, particularly the area around Grindelwald, Wengen and Mürren. The area is served by the SBB station at Interlaken Ost.
A few more photographs (click to view in a slide show), including the Schynige Platte region above Wilderswil.
Now, onwards to Chur – the capital of the Grisons – and the Rhätische Bahn.
Rhätische Bahn (RhB) Gallery
The RhB has the largest network of all the private/non-federal railways of Switzerland. The company operates a metre gauge system and provides most of the railway services in Graubünden as the Swiss Federal Railways reaches only a few kilometres, across the cantonal border, to the capital at Chur. Indeed, Chur station provides the main interchange between the SBB and RhB, having dual-gauge track to facilitate both passenger and freight connections between the metre and standard gauge systems.
First, what to expect when you are walking around Chur!
Chur provides a range of railway travel options – from ordinary carriages to the luxury of the world famous “Glacier Express“. It is in fact, one of the slowest expresses (by design), taking around seven hours to travel through untouched mountain landscapes, glamorous health resorts, deep gorges, delightful valleys, 91 tunnels, and across 291 impressive bridges.
Switzerland is also renowned for its integrated passenger transport system.
A mini slide show – four more photographs.
We’ve seen the RhB Glacier Express coaches – now for a bit of the RhB’s grand, heritage luxury.
More pictures of the Arosa train.
St. Moritz is a popular destination for both have’s and have not’s!
The journey from Chur to St. Moritz involves negotiating the impressive Albula Line. Don’t worry, the RhB uses it’s powerful 4,160 hp Ge 4/4 III AC electric locomotives – so enjoy! To put them into perspective, the RhB is a narrow gauge railway (1 metre) and yet these 60 ton locomotives are more powerful than many standard gauge locomotives – in the USA, GB and Europe! They also have the benefit of modern bogie design to cope with the tight curves found on the RhB – with self steering radial alignment of the wheel-sets.
Finally, a last glimpse of what to expect in Switzerland.
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the journey.