Switzerland Railway Pictorial – SBB and RhB

Train departure board Zurich Hbf 13.09.2007
Train information at Zürich Hauptbahnhof in 2007, including the 13:12 InterReggio to Chur.

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.


SBB Gallery

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.

Station approach Zurich Hbf 13.09.2007
The Zürich Hbf approach tracks give an indication of the number of train movements that have to be managed.  As a major railway hub, with services across Europe, Zürich is one of the busiest railway stations in the world – handling around 2,900 trains per day.

Zürich entertains local, regional and inter city passenger arrivals and departures, together with hi-speed international trains.

ICE at Zurich Hbf 13.09.2007
A Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) hi-speed ICE at Zurich Hbf on 13.09.2007

The following pictures are typical of what can be expected when travelling through Switzerland.

Zurich SBB Euro 2008 Austria Switzerland championship 26.06.2008
Zurich Hbf SBB celebrated the Euro 2008 Austria-Switzerland championships by constructing this attractive display in the concourse – 26.06.2008

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.

BOB station Grindelwald 04-09-2004
The Bernese Oberland is a major attraction and is served by the SBB station at Interlaken Ost, which provides a connection with the Bernese Oberland Bahn (BOB). The picture shows the BOB station in Grindelwald, which conveys passengers onward towards Kleine Schiedegg, located below the magnificent north wall of the Eiger.

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!

Ge 4/4 II 630 Trun in Chur 16.09.2007
The perils of travelling on the right side of the road abroad, as metre gauge Ge 4/4 II, 630 Trun, proceeds through the streets of Chur en route to Arosa? Fortunately, a collision is not imminent – the cars are following the Arosa-bahn train, with the locomotive providing braking force as it travels down towards Bahnhofplatz, in front of Chur’s main station.

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.

Glacier Express coaches Chur 29.06.2008
A mixed line of modern Glacier Express coaches are about to leave for St. Moritz from Chur 29.06.2008. The slow “express” travels from Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz in approximately seven hours.

Switzerland is also renowned for its integrated passenger transport system.

Ge 4.4iii 645 Tujetsch at Chur 29.06.2008
Ge 4/4 III, 645 Tujetsch, being backed onto the next departure south at Chur – 29.06.2008. The Post Bus interchange can be seen on the station’s upper deck.

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.

Chur-Arosa gleis Alpine Classic Pullman 02.07.2008
Chur Banhofplatz passengers are about to enjoy the splendour of the RhB’s heritage Alpine Classic Pullman coach attached to the Arosa train – 02.07.2008.

More pictures of the Arosa train.

St. Moritz is a popular destination for both have’s and have not’s!

Ge 4.4iii 651 Fideris St Moritz 18.09.2007
4,160 hp Ge 4/4 III, 651 Fideris, has just arrived at St Moritz from Chur, on a wet day in September. The return journey will encounter a sudden snowstorm on the top of the Albula line – 18.09.2007.

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.

Ge 4.4iii 650 Seewis im Prättigau Unesco St Moritz 18.09.2007
Ge 4/4 III, 650 Seewis im Prättigau, sporting the Unesco World Heritage markings at St Moritz . This 4,160 hp locomotive will shortly encounter the snowstorm on the Albula line! – 18.09.2007.

Finally, a last glimpse of what to expect in Switzerland.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

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