After our magnificent first big rail trip around Scandinavia the year before, my best friend suggested we went to discover Switzerland by rail in 2013. He was inspired by his aunt’s trips to Switzerland and always wanted to go there himself, of course I couldn’t say no as the country spoke to me too. So off we went on a second rail adventure together.
After arriving from Locarno via Italy in Brig via the Simplon tunnel we exited the standard gauge railway station to catch our connecting train on the narrow gauge line on the station square in front of the station building. The line running from Brig up to Zermatt is operated by the Matterhorn Ghottard Bahn running the line between Disentis and Zermatt. The Disentis to Brig portion of the line I would be travelling on a few years later on my France – Italy – Switzerland railtrip of 2018. The line is also part of the famous Glacier Express route.
On our trip up the mountain we had a classic locomotive hauled train with older coaches of which all windows could be opened.
On the way back down after our time in Zermatt we travelled on one of the newer airconditioned EMU’s with panoramic windows, both providing us with some excellent views along the route.
The first part of the route between Brig and Visp runs along the standard gauge mainline and follows the Rhone river valley and as such is not very spectacular. After the city of Visp the line turn south into the Matter Valley and runs along the river Visp.
The terminus in Zermatt is at an elevation of 1602 meters and thus the line has to climb a long way from the 658 meters elevation of Visp. To makes this possible the line makes use of section of rack rail where a cogwheel under the train clicks into a toothed rail in the middle of the track to enable the train to climb steeper sections of track.
The views along the line are fantastic and a trip on the line is an adventure in its own right.
As the city of Zermatt is completely car free the only way to get there is by train or Helicopter. When travelling by car you have to leave it at the big parking in Tasch and take a shuttle train the remaining distance to Zermatt.
In Zermatt we would be staying a few nights, to explore the region of the Matterhorn, but more on that in the next chapter.
Have you travelled on a rack railway? Did you like it? Let us know in the comments below!